360 XBLA Review - Perfect Dark

2nd April 2010 - We all remember Goldeneye from back on the ‘64 right? You know, that little shooting game that completely redefined 3D gaming and shooting all in one? Well one that no where near as many people will remember is Perfect Dark. But for what reason? The game was the spiritual successor to Goldeneye and improved on literally every aspect of the great Goldeneye gameplay mechanics, graphics and level design. Whatever the reason may be, be it the fact you play as a female (believe it or not, this puts off a lot of gamers, me being one honestly), or simply it was a new IP rather than a game based off the immortal James Bond, one thing is for sure; Perfect Dark paved the way for console shooters we know and love today, and although the 360 got itself a somewhat horrid sequel to the gaming classic, we now get to replay and relove the mighty original in all its glory, that is, if it lives up to all we remember and loved about it in the first place?

You should all know Perfect Dark for what it is; a First Person Shooter. And that’s exactly what it plays like. Of course it doesn’t push and boundaries, considering all the boundaries that have been pushed in the genre stared here. Yet it still has magic, and not just for nostalgia purposes.

Step into the head of Joanna Dark, a secret agent with some high-tech weaponry and an attitude to match. On the hunt to bring down a modern terrorist threat and some unexpected villains from… well, I wont ruin it for you. The game feels very ‘at-home’ on the Xbox and with a modern controller, plays better than ever. However, near the very start of the game you will notice that it has some pretty major aiming problems, with trying to auto lock some targets in an odd fashion, sometimes resulting in your gamers reflexes making you miss the shot, and especially when you first get your hand on a sniper rifle, you will notice more aiming problems with an extremely frustrating free-aim system.

But deal with that for a while and you will adapt accordingly, balancing out the issue with severe enjoyment. And that’s what this game is. Plain and simple enjoyment that modern games just don’t deliver anymore. Its not a nostalgia thing, Perfect Dark is a more enjoyable shooter than many on the market today, and its all down to how simple it is. With no shortage of weapons in the massive 30-something gun arsenal and an ever-stocked supply of ammo, the game is all about having fun. The missions can sometimes be annoying as unless you’re really on-ears, as the game doesn’t clearly outline objectives and will have you running amuck until you stumble across what you were supposed to 10 minutes ago, but all up, they are very well designed and take you through many different and equally fun environments and buildings. Some dark and gloomy, while others a tropical paradise of sunlight and white-brick villa’s. Its just one fine example of the massive amount of variety in the game.

As I said, you have your hands on a massive arsenal of weapons, but also at your disposal is an array of gadgets and accessories. These range from objective helping cameras, to fully usable defence utilities. Another fine example of just how much content is within this game and its large (not to mention very replayable) campaign. As you play, you unlock all manners of cheats, some for the good of the player, some to make things a little harder or just for some fun, which means the game will always be fresh and everyone experience can be different. Just experiment with these cheats and see the outcomes, you never know, you may just enjoy it.

Another thing the classic GoldeneEye was known for was reinventing multiplayer and being the most influential shooter to today’s modern standard of deathmatch and objective game types. Well like most other things in the game, Perfect Dark took it and improved on it. And that’s exactly what this lovely port does. It features all the original Perfect Dark maps, and even the few Goldeneye maps that were included in the original too. It may take quite a lot of getting used to and be very difficult to new comers and those used to the realism of modern shooters, but the multiplayer portion of the game is just as great as the single player, if not better. Its got all the classic modes, and the maps are still immortal. The level designs even rival, if not downright slaughter that of the majority of the modern multiplayer shooters.

While keeping the classic look and feel the original Perfect Dark, the graphics have undergone a slight HD update, and it does look good if I don’t say so myself. Its all still and bright and colourful as always, just with more defined colours and contrast ratio. It really is the best looking port I’ve seen on the XBLA by keeping it all looking classic yet still giving us modern gamers some decent visuals.

There’s something very distinct about the character models too, as they have some almost photo-perfect faces, yet have no facial animation, and their clothing textures are almost as perfect as their faces. It just goes to show the power of the classic way of game development, but to think that if a modern game were to have such real faces yet no animation, it would be shunned from the gaming community altogether, yet this classic re-releases with it and people still love it? This is where nostalgia kicks in and us who lived by the original just want a few sure-fire reminders of what we used to play and just how far games have come, yet how ones like Perfect Dark shouldn’t be played any other way.

With the old voice acting and sound effects still in tact, just as models and environments are, we are given yet another look at just how certain games, even though developed 10 or so years ago are still of top-quality to today’s game industry. The voices shine through the emotion of the character (some games still cant get that right!), and the sound effects are, while obviously unrealistic, very individual from one another. The music is still the same-old, same-old which suit’s the games style and futuristic setting, but is nothing special enough to worth mentioning above anything else. In honesty, the sound department of the game is the weakest part of the game, but while still not being a weak enough link to break the games chain of awesome. Its just too bad the sound bytes weren’t updated to the extent of the games graphics, which would have made the whole shebang all the much better.

The game is priced at an extremely reasonable 800 Microsoft Points, which equals out to about 10-12 Aussie dollars. Lets get something straight, Perfect Dark has more content than practically every other game on the XBLA, and I personally would have gladly fished out a full-priced retail price tag for this little beauty. You cannot go wrong by investing in this game unless of course you outright do not like FPS games, in which case you would be pretty silly to buy it anyway. Everyone who played the original will love this, and even those who missed out on it will still have very likely played GoldenEye, so they too will be able to connect with the nostalgia purposes of this.

Perfect Dark is a fine example of how classic games still have a place in out hearts and hands today, even against the modernization of the recent gaming industry, still play as good as the day we first got our hands on them. Apart from a few controlling issues due to the aiming systems, and some frustrating missions caused by lack of information about what it is you are and are supposed to be doing, the game is a slice of gaming gold, and should be looked at as such. If you were a fan of the original, you will enjoy giving it a go once again and will get a deep feeling of nostalgia.

But know this; nostalgia isn’t the reason you should be investing in this. This is one of the games that started the massive 3D shooter transition, and easily one of the most important games of all time. It showed the world the power and potential of consoles rather than PC, and now you, the latest generation of gamers, get to experience the reason behind most of your most beloved shooting games, from Halo to Call of Duty; Perfect Dark.


+ Classic style and level design still feels good enough to play over and over
+ Updated graphics look great while still keeping enough of the old stuff to notice
+ Heaps of game modes both single and multiplayer, to choose from - tons of hours of enjoyment

- Botched free aiming and auto target systems become annoying
- Lack of information on missions and objectives can frustrate
- Outdated sound doesn’t match up with updated graphics


Reviewed and Written By John Elliott


"Read other reviews at TestFreaks. Overall media score 7.5/10"