When I first played Perfect Dark Zero, or PDZ, I wasn’t too excited. I expected a normal, or should I say average, first person shooter. One that didn’t bring anything new to a played out genre and a game that took all of the good stuff and wore it out even more. I never played Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64, so quite honestly I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. . . then I popped in the game disc.
The game starts out with Joanna Dark executing some fairly simple missions for her ‘employer’. Joanna is somewhat of a secret agent and follows the footsteps of her father, Jack Dark, who is an ex-marine and current bounty hunter. One may say that Joanna is an amateur in the industry, but her gun skills are as sharp as a tack and her athletic body, keen senses and sharp wittedness initially help her survive. At any rate, the beginning of the game finds Joanna being lead through the level by her assistant Chandra, who tells her what to do via a headset. In many ways, the game introduces itself with a bang, but at the same time it teaches you how to play.
In total there are 16 missions that complete the story mode of the game. Each mission takes place in its own unique environment. Joanna’s missions will lead you through cities, corporate buildings, Chinese towns, deserts, jungles, snowy mountains and more. Each level is impressively large and detailed, and each level has an entirely different feel to it. Some games have a very repetitive level design to them - PDZ is definitely not one of them. Your enemies come in all shapes and sizes also! PDZ comes equipped with a selection of different enemies. Sometimes you’ll be shooting at guards, spiderbots, and sometimes even Jo look-a-likes. Even on the easiest difficulty setting, my enemies were quite a task to get ride of. Not all of the time though - sometimes you approach an enemy while he’s off guard, leaving nothing to do besides snipe him in the head or crack him in the back with a melee attack. Doesn't that sound like Halo to you?
Well this game isn’t Halo. In fact, the game stands well on it’s own two feet, and establishes clearly that it’s not just another first person shooter. First of all, you can’t jump. I know it sounds kind of dumb, but the jumping has been substituted by rolling. If jumping was aloud in the game then people would explore areas that weren’t meant to be seen and bring about bugs and glitches in the game. Rolling is just as efficient as jumping when it comes to being tactical in the midst of battle. Another cool feature is how you carry, equip and acquire your weapons. You are given 4 slots to carry weapons and each weapon takes up a number of slots. Pistols only take up 1 slot, whilst other weapons vary up to 3 slots. I usually chose to have a 2 slot assault weapon with two identical 1-slot pistols. This enabled me to dual wield pistols at close range and hammer the guys with my assault weapon from afar. If you ever need to switch weapons, just scroll through them with the ‘Y’ button and pick your choice. You can also hit down on the D-Pad to drop a weapon for him or her. This usually takes 4-5 seconds .
At the end of every level, you keep what ever weapons you are equipped with and they go into your inventory. Your inventory is where you go to choose what weapons you want to equip before every mission. So, if all you use through out the entire game is two pistols and a shot gun, and you pick nothing else up, then that is what you are going to be fighting the final boss with. It’s a new and innovative feature. The same innovation goes into how you revive your friend. If your ‘n00b’ friend dies in co-op mode, then you have to take a device and revive them which adds another dimension to instant respawns.
The controls of PDZ fit very well into the game. Though they are very similar to Halo’s controls, they still have their own unique additions. The use of the left and right bumpers on the controllers come into play when you want to use your secondary fire and also for rolling. After you get past the learning curve, you don’t even have to think about which buttons you have to press to play. I think any changes in the controls would hurt the game; they are perfect just the way they are.
After you’ve completed all of your missions, you feel the need to want more. It’s not that the game wraps up too quickly or abruptly, because it doesn’t. You want more because the story line is good and it really does embrace you. The good thing is that the fun doesn’t stop after you’ve completed all of your missions. In addition to playing co-op with friends and upping the difficulty level, you can also play multiplayer matches through system link or take the battles online through Xbox Live.
Xbox Live with PDZ is such a blast. Although there isn’t too many multiplayer maps at this time, there will be some available through content downloads. Right now the coolest part about the maps are that they can change sizes depending on the amount of people that are playing. There are, however, many different game variants and all of them add up to an incredible experience. First of all, you have Quick Deathmatch, which picks a random Deathmatch game on Xbox Live. Deathmatch consists of Killcount (slayer), Team Killcount, Capture the Flag, and Territorial Gains. Quick Darkops consists of more strategic game types. Eradication is a game type in which your team must wipe out the entire other team before they do the same to you. Once you die, you have to sit out or watch another player. Onslaught is where you take turns defending and attacking a base. Infection is a free for all where infected players get points if you infect other people. The uninfected players get points if they survive the round. (Like the Last Man Standing game mode in many other titles -Ed) The last game type for Quick Darkops is Sabotage, where you take turns protecting your equipment while the other team tries to destroy it.
The graphics on PDZ are beautiful. Although the character models and other players aren’t exactly made in a realistic art style, they still look great on the Xbox 360. The environments are what truly look stunning. If it wasn’t for being in constant gun fire, I would have just simply walked around the levels to satisfy my eyes a little more. I did find a few glitches though. Once I was on a rooftop of a city building and I sniped someone who was on another building top. He instantly lost all consciousness and fell over the railing and onto the streets. Then his body started bouncing all over the map. It was quite funny actually, but it also gives us a window to see that the game was rushed to be released on time. Another hilarious glitch I noticed was when me and a friend played on Xbox Live. We were on team dataDyne, men dressed in weird green armour. When we rolled or got shot at, we heard out character’s voices grunting and screeching in pain. What’s so glitchy about that? Well, as I mentioned we were men, the only problem was that our characters voices came from a women.
The music in the game is, in every way, what I wanted it to be. The soundtrack varies from dance music, rock and roll, techno and classic espionage music. When the battles heat up, the music does too. The high quality voice overs were outstanding, as well as the gun fire effects and melee combat effects. Each gun has its own distinct sound when it fires. You can hear the ricochet of bullets and the beat of your heart when you’re getting hit in battle.
In every way PDZ has exceeded all of my expectations. Maybe because I didn’t really expect anything from the game besides the normal first person shooter features. I expected guns, lots of shooting and . . . more shooting. What I received was quite different. Instantly, I was thrown back into my chair and gripped by PDZ’s immersing world of corporate conspiracy. Recommended launch title? Most definitely!