Perfect Dark was Rare's followup to the phenomenally successful GoldenEye on Nintendo 64. GoldenEye was, arguably, the first FPS on consoles that was actually any good. Designed with the console in mind (rather than a frustrating interface tacked on to a designed-for-PC experience) GoldenEye (and Perfect Dark, for that matter) was not only playable on console: it was awesome.
Perfect Dark added a lot of cool multiplayer aspects into the mix, all of which are retained in this up-res-ed XBLA version. Developed by 4J studios (the people behind the Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie ports, amongst others) Perfect Dark seeks to revisit the magical place that those of us who owned N64s first visited ten years ago. It's an interesting trip back in time, that much is true, but the game has not aged well. Whether it's a good time or not, well, you'll probably need to decide that for yourself.
Your goal as agent Joanna Dark is to take on various missions for the Carrington Institute which generally involve you killing anything that moves. Or should that be, anything that moves erratically. The AI in this game, you see, is monumentally stupid and awkward. They move around idiotically, with the finesse of a wooden marionette manipulated by a disinterested monkey. This turns out to be a good thing, however, as the "ground breaking" (well, ten years ago maybe) control scheme makes actually hitting them quite challenging despite their inability to move intelligently or shoot back at you.
It's also quite hard to see them, with the "default" brightness setting being very low indeed. Unfortunately, the only controls you have to adjust the brightness are those that ship with your TV as the game itself provides next to no ability to tweak anything through its meager (and ugly) interface.
Graphically it's a definite upgrade on the original, which wasn't helped much at the time by a lack of anti-aliasing or the fact that a "big screen" tv in 2000 was around 29". Now it's much easier to tell what's going on, with good use of texture and modern rendering techniques. It's still very obviously an up-res-ed retro game, but some care has been taken here and fans should be happy enough with the treatment.
The multiplayer support over Xbox Live is solid, with support not only for the competitive stuff but for co-op play as well. Even more impressively, it still supports offline competitive and co-operative multiplayer as well, so if you've got some friends somewhere that are keen for a retro buzz, you're well served by what's on offer here. The controls are quite different to a modern shooter, however, so best be prepared to learn the ropes before attempting to go toe-to-toe with experts online.
Ultimately, like watching an old episode of "The Goodies". Perfect Dark XBLA serves best as a pointed reminder of how far things have come. Like watching "The Goodies", however, playing Perfect Dark today will permanently impact your perception of the game (and probably not positively at that). This might be one title that is best left in the past, where rose tinted glasses and time itself can protect it from the games that it no doubt inspired. Those which have long since (and far) surpassed it.