Perfect Dark has, and always will be, one of my favourite classic shooters. It did a number of things previous unseen on the N64. GoldenEye, also by Rare, was a decent FPS but Perfect Dark seemed to perfect it. However, playing it now, it’s difficult to not notice many of the things lacking that modern FPS games have. It’s not the fault of Perfect Dark but merely the advance in technology in the past 10 years since Perfect Dark was released. As such, it might be hard for some gamers who have grown up with the likes of Halo and Call of Duty to get use to a lot of the design choices which made PD such a classic in its day. Fans of the original will be in for a spectacular treat and probably aren’t even reading this as they’ve already bought the game, but it is my job to try and persuade the undecided to dive into the past to take a bite out of the retro shooter era.
For the newer players, some adjustments are going to needed; layout of levels, finicky aims and graphical glitches all might come across as poor design but, to me, it’s like playing the original but a slightly prettier version; one of the main changes to the game. Look back at the N64 version and you can see how horrible it is visually. Everything is extremely bland and textures were a bit weird. The sprucing up is very obvious with colours popping out, alien hangars looking like alien hangars and the floors of the Carrington Institute looking like they’ve been polished a little bit too much.
The game runs extremely smoothly even with multiple explosions occurring. The quirky animations and sometimes weird glitches do still appear but it gives it that retro charm, sort of like having a Wingback chair in your house. Mouths won’t move when people talk and guns will pop through doors and walls, showing the game’s age, but these are hardly noticeable when you’re having this much fun. The quirky animations add to the humour. Bad guys will limp around if you shoot them in the knee, they’ll run around looking for weapons and then spin around into a James Bond-esque pose before firing at you. It’s all very camp but brilliant.
One thing likely to put people off is the level design. Some might think it contains a lot of empty space; you’ll often find yourself, on your first go at least, running around in circles trying to find an objective which is not very clear. One mission set in a Crash Site is known for causing frustration after players have become lost quite easily. Normally, however, this exploration does come with a number of rewards. Some rooms which are empty on Agent difficulty, may have something in it on Perfect Agent; and that’s something I really love. Your objectives are relative to the difficulty: play an easier setting and you will have less of them to complete, play a harder one and you’ll need to finish more. It really is a nice incentive to go back through the levels to try and complete them all fully.
Running through a level a second time is also extremely rewarding thanks to the addition of leaderboards. Your time and scores will be posted for all your friends to see and to try and beat. Once you get a hang of the layout of a level and the objectives, then you can easily shave time off your previous run to climb up the ladder. The faster you go through, the more cheats you unlock for use in single and multiplayer.
One annoying part of Perfect Dark that even gets at me is the aim. Looking down the sights especially becomes pointless as you can never get a precise aim on your target. This makes head-shots seemingly random as well as shots to the knee or to the hand (to disarm the enemy). Long range weapons, such as the Sniper Rifle, are thus rendered useless. The controls do work well enough for close quarters shooting which is really what Perfect Dark was created for. Taking a room of bad guys out with the Laptop Gun is all very rewarding and easy to do. Perfect Dark is more about fast and frantic gun fights than waiting for an opportunity to shoot from far away.
Perfect Dark, as well as GoldenEye, were both known for their fantastic multiplayer back in the day. Getting a group of friends round for some beers and some split-screen Perfect Dark was the highlight of the game. There are six different game modes and sixteen maps with co-op, counter co-op and numerous takes on Deathmatch all present here for both offline and online play. Online does lag a bit, but split-screen is exactly as it used to be. Excellent arena design and ridiculous weaponry makes this one of the most fun multiplayer arena based FPS of the past 10 years.
Of course Perfect Dark is going to feel outdated, it’s 10 years old! But what we have here is one of the best remakes in a long long time. I might be looking at it through rose-tinted glasses but for fans of the original, this is a no-brainer: just go and pick it up now. For those unsure I say this; it might not be up to scratch compared to of some of the more modern First Person Shooters, many of the innovations you’re used to hadn’t even been dreamt of at the time, but for 800 points, you’re getting a crap-ton of content, more so than many recent games, and is a generally fun shooter. Sure, Carrington sounds like Sean Connery having a stroke but it’s all part of the campy retro fun.