Review by ABlaster
The most addicting multiplayer game I've ever played, and superior to it's predecessor in every single way
First person shooters (FPS) in general got popular and powerful at the release of games such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D in the early 90's. The mission was to shoot everything in your way and get to the end of the level. In 1997 Rareware (now Rare, Ltd) released a totally revolutionary first person shooter for the Nintendo 64 which allowed gameplay features never seen before. The game was called GoldenEye 007 and was based on the James Bond movie itself. GoldenEye allowed players to choose between a number of different weapons and gadgets such as auto rifles, hand guns, rocket launchers and lasers. Each level offered a bride spectre of mission objectives and three difficulty settings, and the enemy AI (artificial intelligence) were much more advanced than ever seen in any FPS out there. GoldenEye soon became the most popular game for the Nintendo 64 along with Super Mario himself.
Because of the success with the first game, Rare decided to make a sequel for the same platform. The game got finished and released in 2000 and old fans of the GoldenEye started to buy it right away. The official reviews were strong, and the audience were thrilled. Or, actually a number of them said they were disappointed. And in total, Perfect Dark didn't end up selling nearly as much as it's predecessor. Even though Perfect Dark sold over 2.5 million copies world-wide and is often referred to as one of the best FPS out there, I still think it's underrated. Especially when taking the hype around GoldenEye in consideration. The fact is that Perfect Dark is superior to it's predecessor in every single way, and that it is truly one of the best multiplayer games of all time. At least comparing to other non-online games. Let us get into the details.
The year is 2023, and a special agent under the codename Perfect Dark is dropped down on top of a building consisting of an evil corporation called the dataDyne. The mission is to investigate suspicious reports coming from a dataDyne insider. And the objective is to steal vital information stored in this building. In the middle of all this, agent Dark discovers a conspiracy between dataDyne and an evil alien race called the Skedar. It turns out that there is a war going on between two alien races, and that the worlds fate is in the hands of this special agent. Her name is Joanna Dark.
The story itself consists of several plot twists which often motivates the player to keep playing the game until the end. In my opinion, the plot in Perfect Dark is more well written and motivating than GoldenEye's. First of all, Perfect Dark has pretty good voice acts in their cut-scenes, something that GoldenEye doesn't have at all. Mentioning cut-scenes, actually I can't even remember any "real" cut-scenes from GoldenEye at all. Also the story in Perfect Dark is original. The plot in GoldenEye is, as mentioned, based on the movie. The point is, some people prefer GoldenEye to Perfect Dark simply because you control James Bond himself, and that the setting doesn't contain various sci-fi elements. This is totally subjective, and opinions like these doesn't really belong in reviews at all. To sum it up for you, Perfect Dark has a pretty good plot. Well, maybe not the best seen in the genre of FPS games overall, but still high above the average FPS-plot.
Graphically Perfect Dark is superb, and maybe the best on the entire platform. To run the game at full utilization you need an expansion pak (which can be bought for a mere 3-4 bucks at eBay). You can still play the game without it, but only the combat simulator mode, and just with a single friend at a time. I think you get about 30 % of the game contents without the expansion pak. Anyway, the game looked awesome when I bought it myself (which was in 2001 or 2002). It wasn't really that far from some of the earlier Dreamcast games visually, which is amazing considering the strength differences between the platforms. The game runs smooth from beginning to end at most parts, the textures looks better than I've ever seen on the N64, and in lots of the levels the draw distance is simply impressive. However, a game with as many details and advanced AIs as in Perfect Dark isn't really always supposed to run on such a "weak" console as the N64. And therefore the game sometimes suffers from minor slowdowns. I have to mention that this is a very overrated problem, and that these frame rate "problems" doesn't really take away any gameplay joy. The only reason why they originate, is because the game simply have to keep track of more AIs and better graphics than the N64 can handle. They occur fairly rare, and can't even compare to the online game's lagging problems.
The story mode in Perfect Dark would be the most addicting part in any FPS in my opinion if it weren't for Perfect Dark's superb combat simulator. There are 17 different levels and 4 bonus levels (one for each difficulty you complete, and one for completing the shooting range). Also, like in GoldenEye, there are three difficulty settings to choose between on every level in the game. Agent, which is easy enough for anyone to complete. Special Agent, which can be pretty challenging at some parts. And Perfect Agent, which only the best players get to finish. According to Rare, only 5 % of all Perfect Dark owners do actually finish the game on Perfect Agent. Also, when completing the Perfect Agent you get another difficulty setting called Perfect Dark mode. Some kind of level editor where you can customize the difficulty setting exactly as you want. You do this by choosing the guard's accuracy, damage and health.
In addition to the plot and challenge in the game itself, each level has at least one secret cheat in one of the difficulty settings that motivates the player to play even more single player. To get a cheat you'll have to complete a level within a time limit. Even though not all of the difficulties on each level are containing un-lockable cheats, you can still accomplish time based records in all of them. This is a great tool for the replay ability of the single player. The cheats in Perfect Dark are made so that you can play the missions, and sometimes multiplayer, with "special settings" just for the fun of it. DK-mode (everyone in the mission gets a gorilla shaped body), Slo-mo, All weapons, Psychosis gun (when you shoot an enemy with this, they will be hypnotised to help you on your mission) and much, much, more. Another thing you can earn by completing missions within time limits, is the co-op mode helpers. That's right, you can play every mission (all difficulties) with a computer controlled helper. A man with one gold and one silver gun maybe? Maybe an alien? There's up to five of them. But as mentioned, you'll have to earn them (except of the first one).
If this doesn't impress you, I must to tell you that all of this, you can also do with a friend. Not only can you play solo missions with another human player, but you can also play against one. The rules are simple. One of the players get to control Joanna, and the other player get to control random guards from all over the level. Joanna's mission is still to complete all of the objectives and finish the level. The other player has to prevent Joanna from completing the mission (by killing her). Of course you start of with almost no health at all when controlling a guard, but when you're killed, you re-spawn as another guard. Anyway, both the co-operating and counter-operating modes offers lots of fun to both you and your buddy.
Now, the only thing you won't be able to do with another human player is the Carrington Institute parts. Some of the first things you'll probably do in Perfect Dark, is to explore Carrington Institute and complete several training-levels. There's the gadget practice with one task per gadget. Also there's a combat & movement training mode, where you practice moving and hitting enemies. And there's of course the firing range, where you can complete three different "levels" (bronze, silver and gold) on each weapon in the entire game. Perfect Dark offers a huge number of quality weapons and gadgets. All of them with an unique B-function in addition to the regular function. The Laptop gun for example, can be used as a sentry gun (in addition to the regular auto rifle function), the Super Dragon can either be used as a grenade launcher or a machine gun. And so it continues with almost 40 different weapons. People who sometimes complain about Perfect Dark, saying that GoldenEyes weapons were better are laughable. Perfect Dark actually offers most of the weapons from GoldenEye as gameplay cheats.
Now on to the part where Perfect Dark shines more than any other game (I'm sure of it). The multiplayer. In Perfect Dark they called it the Combat Simulator. The first thing you do in the combat simulator, is to create a character profile. You get to combine a head and a body as you wish, and then you give your character a name. Then you get to customize detailed battle set ups. You get to choose all of the weapons if you wish to (unlike GoldenEye where you only got the opportunity to choose a set of them). If you want to play with just mines or knives, you get to. You can choose music, if you want to have radar enabled, slo-motion, one hit kills, paint instead of blood etc. There are 5 different and unique scenarios to choose between in addition to the regular combat mode (a normal death-match). And in Perfect Dark you're not forced to always play against humans. That's right, it contains computer controlled simulants. You can play with 8 of them at a time (in addition to 3 other human players if you wish). You can customize how you want each of them to look like, their difficulty setting (there are 6 to choose from) and their speciality (if you want them to have any).
There are 16 different stages to play at and lots of team settings, handicap and limit settings and so on. There are no boundaries. And the point of making a character profile for each human player, is that every single thing they do in battle gets stored in a detailed statistics page. Every kill, death, headshot and even bullets you use and steps you take. You also earn several medals from playing combat simulator. Accuracy medals, headshot medals, killmaster medals and survivor medals. Each one of them gets stored in your statistics page. If this weren't enough, you also get a rank. You begin at 21 and have to work your way through to 1 (which is near impossible). Personally I'm 6: Assassin right now, and I've played the combat simulator for over 100 hours. In addition to all of this, you get 30 challenges which can be completed with friends if you'd like to. You'll get a 1 player star for the challenge if you complete it alone, a 2 player star if you co-operate with a friend, and so it continues up to the 4 player stars. The multiplayer is simply the greatest I've ever played personally. Just keep in mind that Perfect Dark doesn't contain any online facilities. But taking this in consideration, this game must be to longest lasting non-online multiplayer game ever created.
We're closing in on the end. I could write about this game for days and still there would be more to say about it. As you must have discovered by now, I love this game. And that's not because I'm a huge fan(boy) of mission based FPS games like PD. Because normally I wouldn't actually prefer first person shooters at all. However, the last thing I want to mention before I close, is the music in Perfect Dark. Even though FPS games rarely focus too much on the music, it sounds great in this one. Actually, I think Perfect Dark does it far better than any other FPS game out there, musically. And now I'm comparing to games such as TimeSplitters 1 and 2, GoldenEye and Halo. Rareware simply manufactured a whole new gaming atmosphere by composing lots of great and unique tunes. There are maybe 6-7 great and sci-fi atmospheric songs in this game. Don't get me wrong though. You won't find tunes of MP3 or orchestral quality in Perfect Dark. And compared to some of the best RPGs and action-adventure games out there, the music in Perfect Dark is nothing more than great. But that would almost be an unfair comparison, considering the genre of this game. Perfect Dark truly contains the most atmospheric track list I've ever heard in a FPS. And some of the greatest tunes I've ever heard in my gaming-life.
You should know it by now. Perfect Dark is one of the few games out there that is actually worth an entire console. Should you buy Perfect Dark? Yes. Even if you're sceptical to FPS games? That's up to no-one but yourself. Some people just don't get first person shooters at all, despite their quality. You can always try it out first if you get the opportunity to, but Perfect Dark would probably be worth the money anyway.
Graphics: 9.5 - Considering you're used to next gen games before you buy Perfect Dark, but still is aware that this is a game for the Nintendo 64.
Gameplay: 10/10 - Even though Perfect Dark doesn't contain any online facilities you might as well end up playing it for hundreds of hours.
Challenge: 10/10 - I think everyone who has played Perfect Dark would agree on this one.
Replay and last ability: 10/10
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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