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Perfect Dark

Rated M for Mature

Platform:

Nintendo 64 (N64)

Publisher:

Rare

Developer:

Rare

Released:

May 2000

ROM Size:

256 megabits

Players:

One to Four Simultaneous

Genre:

3D Action/Shooter

Save:

Cartridge and Controller Pak (28 pages)

Optional:

Expansion Pak, Rumble Pak, Transfer Pak

 

 

> Final Rating: 4.9 out of 5.0

Introduction

Dark. Joanna Dark. Never heard of her? She'll become a household name in the world of video games soon enough. From the same development team that brought you GoldenEye 007 comes the unofficial follow-up: Perfect Dark. Perfect Dark retains the same style of gameplay that made GoldenEye 007 a timeless classic while adding all-new missions, original characters, and an engrossing storyline. If you loved GoldenEye 007, then there's no doubt you'll enjoy Perfect Dark at least as much.

 

In the year 2023, Joanna Dark, a young field operative, is sucked into a conspiracy surrounding the dataDyne Corporation. Her adventure will take her from Chicago skyscrapers to subterranean laboratories to top-secret air bases. Perfect Dark ups the ante in the spy thriller genre in every aspect, with a more ambitious story, more rigorous objectives, more ingenious gadgetry, and more vicious enemies.

Gameplay & Control

Before anything else is discussed about the game, you should realize that the Expansion Pak is a must for Perfect Dark. (The Expansion Pak adds more RAM memory to your N64.) Technically, it's not required, but the only thing you can access without the Expansion Pak is the Combat Simulator—and only the one-player challenges and the two-player deathmatch at that. You cannot play the one-player missions, the two-player cooperative mode, or the four-player shootout without the Expansion Pak. Get one now. You won't regret this purchase.

 

If you're familiar with GoldenEye 007, you know what to expect with Perfect Dark The same three-dimensional perspective in which you only see your gun is back. In fact, many of the same guns have returned—but redesigned and renamed—along with plenty of new ones. You also can expect brand new objective-based missions. And, of course, the four-player option that put multi-player deathmatch on the console map is better than ever.

 

From the "Perfect Menu" screen, you can choose Carrington Institute, Solo Missions, Combat Simulator, Co-Operative, or Counter-Operative. Pressing left or right will bring up an Options screen, which includes Audio, Video, Control, Display, Cheats and Cinema. On the audio side, you can switch sound modes between mono, stereo, headphones, and surround. On the video side, you can change the picture ratio or turn on a high-res mode.

 

Under the Display menu, you choose what indicators you want on the screen and you can turn on Paintball mode without a cheat. The Cheats option is self-explanatory; it works nearly identical to the way cheats were acquired in GoldenEye 007. In addition, because Perfect Dark contains over an hour's worth of cinema scenes, you can replay any cut-scene you already have viewed.

 

The same control methods as GoldenEye 007 are found here, too. Whether you used 1.1 (Honey), 1.2 (Solitaire), 1.3 (Kissy), or any of the other ones in GoldenEye 007, they're available—even the dual controller settings. One new difference has been included, however. By holding down the weapon select button during a game, you bring up the "Quick Menu." When this button is held down, you can use the Control Stick to move over a different weapon or item and select it quickly without cycling through all the weapons. Pressing the Z button with it held down flips to the next page in which you can pick a secondary fire mode or issue Simulant commands for computer buddies (if applicable).

 

An interesting note is that while you still cannot jump in Perfect Dark, you now can run and fall off ledges. This is especially noticeable in the Combat Simulator mode, as it allows for quicker escapes and for unexpected suicides if you fall into the abyss. Thank you for allowing this, Rare.

 

Joanna Dark is a field operative from the Carrington Institute. From the main menu, you can select Carrington Institute, walk around the building, and participate in training programs. Training rooms in the Institute include a firing range, a device lab, a hologram room, a hangar and an information lab. Even GoldenEye 007 veterans will want to explore the building and become reacquainted with the gameplay.

 

The Solo Missions are the heart (but not the soul) of Perfect Dark. Like GoldenEye 007 before it, objective-based missions populate the game. Several levels of difficulty—Agent, Secret Agent, and Perfect Agent—increase the number of objectives and make the game more challenging. Similar objectives to GoldenEye 007 can be found here: disabling security devices, gaining access to areas, locating important people, acquiring items, photographing things, etc.

 

An awesome new gadget makes things interesting. The aforementioned photography is accomplished by using the CamSpy (a DrugSpy and BombSpy exist, too). The innovative gadget, which is controlled separately from Joanna Dark, is sometimes needed to reach areas too small or too dangerous for the agent herself.

 

You'll also find that the enemy characters are more intelligent than ever. They retreat, summon other guards, duck behind structures, dodge bullets, and more. The ability to shoot individual body parts is back, too, and because of Perfect Dark's "Mature" rating, it's a little more violent. It's nowhere near the level of violence as the Turok series, but enemies lie in pools of blood and stay on the screen much longer after they die than in GoldenEye 007.

 

The Co-Operative and Counter-Operative modes are related to the Solo Missions. The Co-Operative mode is a two-player cooperative journey through the same single-player missions. The screen can be split horizontally or vertically. You can choose if you want radar on or off, if you want the second player to be human- or computer-controlled, and if you want to be able to harm your "PerfectBuddy" or not. An important note is that reaching new levels does not open them up for the single-player game.

 

The two-player cooperative mode is an excellent addition. Obviously, the split-screen doesn't look as impressive graphically. Detail has been reduced, lighting effects disappear, and the speed is slower. But it's not bad any stretch. Another reduction is in the number of enemies you face. You'll notice far fewer enemies in the levels. Moreover, you'll honestly only want to play this game with a human buddy, not a computer buddy. The computer buddy is more intelligent than Natalya in GoldenEye 007, but it dies too quickly and makes the game less interesting.

 

The innovative Counter-Operative mode takes the two-player, split-screen aspect of the Co-Operative mode. The catch, however, is that the second player inhabits the bodies of the various enemies in the level. The enemy characters don't have much health, but they do have weapons and a suicide pill (this is used to move to a different guard). When the enemy character is killed, the player automatically takes control of another enemy close to Joanna. It's a great addition to the game.

 

Although the single-player missions in GoldenEye 007 were great, the multi-player mode was what made the game legendary. Perfect Dark includes a multi-player mode—called the Combat Simulator—that takes everything to the next level. You can tackle Challenges, load Preset or Saved games, dive into a Quick Start, or use the Advanced Setup option to customize and save your own multi-player experiences. The Combat Simulator is unbelievably awesome.

 

Challenges are preset scenarios for you to conquer of increasing difficulty. By completing them successfully, you can unlock additional Combat Simulator features. Alternatively, you can choose Quick Start to dive into the multi-player mode quickly. You even might want to pick from a number of Preset games that Rare thinks would provide entertaining battles.

 

The best part of the Combat Simulator mode is that you can customize your own player and choose your own battle options—and save both to the Game Pak and/or Controller Pak. For example, you can include or exclude any weapon in the game. You can switch various limits (time, kills). You can add and remove up to eight computer-controlled Simulants. You can name your players and teams. You can include a "choice lock" option so only the loser can setup the next scenario. You can pick the Arena, including several updated arenas from GoldenEye 007. Other options are available, too, but the fact that you can customize everything and save it (including statistics for players) makes the game that much better. Yes, much better.

 

Perfect Dark includes the option to include up to eight computer-controlled Simulants. It's not the first time 'bots have been included in an N64 game, though. Interestingly, the Simulants come in two varieties: normal and special. Normal Simulants range from "meat" to normal to hard to perfect. Special Simulants might go around and pick up every weapon (Peace), or might come at you full force no matter what (Kazi), or might pick one person every match that it will go after all the time (Vendetta). You have to unlock most of the Simulants through the Combat Simulator Challenges. You also can create teams and give each individual Simulant special commands such as attack, follow, protect, defend and more.

 

How practical are Simulants? Even though Rare included the option for eight Simulants, let's say that you won't be including that many in any game, not even in one- or two-player deathmatches. The option is there, however, because different people have different ideas of tolerable frame rates. For starters, the multi-player mode feels about the same speed as GoldenEye 007. The frame rate drops a little more with each Simulant you add. Therefore, if you're playing a four-player game, you may be able to tolerate adding one or two Simulants—anymore would be doubtful. At least the option exists, because Simulants certainly make battles more interesting, especially because they're challenging to defeat.

Graphics & Sound

It's no surprise that Perfect Dark looks fantastic. By requiring the Expansion Pak for the Solo Missions, you can picture a vivid, detailed world unlike most first-person shooters seen on the system. With lighting effects abound, lifelike animation, painstaking detail, and incredible touches, this world comes alive. Furthermore, level and texture design vary greatly for an even more unfamiliar experience. And what about the frame rate? If you enjoyed GoldenEye 007, then you'll have no problems with this game.

 

With licensed Dolby Pro Logic Surround Sound, Perfect Dark sounds better than its already impressive predecessor. With the proper setup, you can pinpoint where an enemy is in relation to you. Even those with a simple stereo setup will benefit from hearing where enemies are located as you strafe around levels.

 

Musically, Perfect Dark obviously doesn't include the classic Bond theme. Similar spy-type music has been composed, however, and the music can be quite mood setting at times. In the sound effects department, everything sounds realistic again. There is one important addition, too: voice. Yes, all the cinema scenes are voiced over. You'll receive vocal in-mission updates from Daniel Carrington, too. And even the enemy guards all speak now—everything from saying they "don't want to die" to calling for backup to swearing at you. Yes, there's some mild profanity in the game.

Conclusion

GoldenEye 007 is now considered one of the best games of all time. How will Perfect Dark compare without the Bond license and with it coming so late in the N64's life cycle? Only time will tell. But one thing can't be ignored: Perfect Dark is better than GoldenEye 007 in every aspect, making it the best first-person shooter at the time of its release. With much deeper Solo Missions and a completely customizable Combat Simulator, Perfect Dark definitely was worth the wait. If you only add one more game to your Nintendo 64 library, it should be this game.

 

Graphics:

4.8

Sound:

4.7

Control:

4.6

Gameplay:

4.9

Lastability

5.0

OVERALL:

4.9

 

DOWN THE ROAD

Not available.

 

Review by: Scott McCall

First Reviewed:

Appendix Added: N/A

 

 

 

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