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Perfect Dark Review

by GaryTun

Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing, allowing people to wallow in self indulgence, claiming things were better in days gone by. While that might apply to some forms of entertainment, it can be incredibly cruel on those revisiting some older games, resulting in a shattering of cherished memories. In an attempt to rejuvenate a star from yesteryear, Microsoft has applied some Botox to their resurrection of the N64 classic, Perfect Dark.

Ported directly from the source code by 4J Games (who recently converted both Banjo-Kazooie titles to XBLA), Perfect Dark could quite easily be defined as the FPS that almost had too many ideas crammed into its cartridge when it came out in 2000. Yes, a cartridge. Take a moment to think about that and how far things have come since its release. 4J have given the game a hi-res update and, while looking antiquated in places, it still retains a certain charm.

Perfect Dark does a fine job of keeping the player entertained across seventeen different levels, even when the limitations of the time are laid bare and a high definition lick of paint can`t hide them fully. The hammy voice acting and character models not articulating their dialogue haven`t survived the ravages of time and provide some unintentional laughs at just how bad it can be.

But, as any seasoned fan will attest to, there is tremendous replayability contained within Perfect Dark. Each subsequent difficulty in singleplayer adds new challenges into the mix and when the player plucks up the courage to attempt the Secret Agent difficulty, they’d better be good because death means being dumped back to the beginning, with none of the checkpoints and mid-level saves we’ve all become reliant on. Thankfully co-operative mode means you can bring a friend along both over Xbox Live and locally, but it still doesn`t diminish the difficulty one iota.

The Combat simulator is an almost limitless playground crammed full of options to tweak and tinker with. The ability to indulge in eight player online combat, thus doing away with the need to go split-screen (although if you wish, you can do this as well) and the rather superb Challenge Rooms, which will become the bane of many players lives as they become horribly addicted to trying to clear all thirty of them (in itself, no mean feat), will all consume a large chunk of playtime.

Ultimately, for those who want to relive the halcyon days, the real fun will come in the form of speed runs. Looking to complete a mission in the least time possible and with the ability to compare times with people on your friends list will become a truly addictive proposition. No longer will people be able to hide behind idle boasts of how quickly they completed a certain level; it`s right there on screen, cataloguing their triumphs and horror as friends wipe vital minutes and seconds from their previous best times, throwing down the gauntlet left, right and centre.

The controls were always going to be the most obvious issue, in as much as the N64 pad was a three pronged affair, and there have been some concessions to those who might be more at home playing contemporary shooters, with configurations labelled as “Spartan” and “Duty Calls”. The default configuration is more than adequate even if it won`t satisfy the die hard fans, which realistically it never could.

The real surprise after all this time, and just how spoiled we are with the quality of games today, is how much fun there still is in Perfect Dark. Yes, nostalgia plays a part, but there`s something deeply enjoyable about it all, something that when it clicks is moreish and keeps the player coming back for a little bit more.

Perfect Dark manages to push so many buttons in those of a certain age, when games had to last a long time due to price and platform preference, and every last ounce of gameplay was wrung from a title. It will certainly be as cherished and derided as it was upon its original release, but the wealth of content on offer for the price of admission make it as an attractive proposition today as it was ten years ago.