The Xbox 360â€™s long long-awaited prequel to the hit Nintendo 64 game Perfect Dark has finally arrived as Perfect Dark Zero. Set in 2020, three years before the original, youâ€™ll step back into the stylish shoes of Joanna Dark â€“ a talented and fashionable bounty hunter turned super spy. Forget ideas of a rugged, tobacco-chewing female Clint Eastwood though. Joanna Dark is definitely more of a futuristic James Bond dressed by Gwen Stefani.
Perfect Dark Zero sees Joanna take on the evil dataDyne corporation, in an attempt to stop a power hungry businessman from finding and using a mysterious artifact. Sound like an Indiana Jones movie? Jo and a handful of others are flung into the far corners of the earth as the sometimes shaky plot becomes more twisted and complicated. With a dozen or so levels to make your way through, youâ€™ll be guiding Jo through exotic jungles, across city rooftops, through creepy underwater labs and into ominously grand mansions.
As you battle your way through each setting, youâ€™ll acquire a veritable arsenal of weapons and gadgets. Even the most basic pistols are equipped with secondary functions that would make Q green with envy. Some of the bigger guns can double as machine gun turrets, have radar functions and even have the ability to project a diversionary holographic image of you. The inventory systems is sensible, with limited space for bigger weapons. As heart wrenching as it might be, you will be forced to leave some amazing guns behind. A dash or two of lock picking, hacking and demolitions are thrown in along the way, each with a tiny mini-game to master. Fortunately, these mini-games are quick and unobtrusive, so the gameplay isnâ€™t overly interrupted, yet it provides a break from running and gunning.
A few of the levels encourage you to use stealth tactics in order to progress with as little fuss as possible. Unfortunately, the stealth system is pretty vague, so if you attract attention, be prepared for some hairy situations of firing off as many bullets as possible, as enemies come pouring out of every nook and cranny.
With the average time targets for each level sitting between 4 and 6 minutes, thereâ€™s not a whole lot of time for sitting around and pondering your options. The levels are big, and well designed to keep you heading in the right direction, but at times itâ€™s inevitable that youâ€™ll find yourself hopelessly lost. Handy glowing navigation arrows will intermittently light up on the floor to give you a helping hand. While you have the option of toggling this feature off, floundering around lost for 20 minutes just doesnâ€™t seem sensible, or even much fun.
Each level has a number of difficulty settings that can be unlocked by completing the level on the previous setting. Agent difficulty is designed for beginners, or players who simply want to race through each level without much resistance. Youâ€™ll need to beat the entire game on the third difficulty setting to open up the near impossible Dark Agent difficulty. On a normal setting, the enemies are intelligent enough to warrant some care during your explorations. Enemies will attack you in numbers, use objects to shield themselves, or simply take accurate shots at you from a distance. You can take a fair amount of damage before your health starts to suffer, but even one troublesome sniper you canâ€™t locate quickly enough can end things swiftly. This is where the secondary functions on your weapons will come in handy.
Perfect Dark Zero is without a doubt one of the best looking shooters to grace our screens. Granted it has the advantage of being released on the latest console to hit the market, but even so, it still manages to impress within the field. Played on a HDTV, these striking graphics look even more impressive. The sheer amount of detail on each surface combined with the large scale settings creates an imposing and often gorgeous effect. With such varied locations, the graphics are pushed further and further to create realistic jungles, urban cities and underwater labs. The artificial environments come out best, with metallic surfaces looking ultra shiny, and glowing buttons aplenty. Some of the more natural environments can look a little odd occasionally. Even the dark colours look bright, and it can be unnerving to walk across snow that is so luminous it looks to be radioactive.
The sound featured in Perfect Dark Zero provides polished support to the graphics and gameplay. The soundtrack spits out a huge range of music for each level. Thumping electronic rock beats will have you in a frenzy in the middle of a shootout, yet five minutes later youâ€™ll be sneaking along in the dark, accompanied by a gentle wave of soft string music with clear Asian influences. The sound effects littering the game are also equally well done. The gunfire is loud and realistic, and most other generic sounds are spot on. Some of the voice acting from the main characters can border on cheesy at times. The communication between enemy characters is reasonable for each situation. Theyâ€™ll shout out instructions, egg each other on, and yell out updates if they manage to injure you.
Though the campaign mode will undoubtedly entice you back, the online multiplayer mode is where this game really shines and leaves you happy to have paid over a hundred bucks for a single game. The multiplayer options seem endless, and along with all the standard game modes, youâ€™ll be able to hop into Deathmatch modes with up to 16 other players and 15 bots on the smaller maps, and 32 players and 15 bots on the large maps, assuming of course that your connection can handle it. During Dark Ops matches, youâ€™ll only be facing other players, which can be a relief â€“ those bots are notoriously hard to beat on the higher difficulty settings. With one of the unlockable achievements being awarded for playing 1000 Deathmatch games, itâ€™s clear that this game is intended to be enjoyed online. What makes Perfect Dark Zero stand out, however, is that you will enjoy playing online, and with so much to do, this is undoubtedly one of the best-value games available for the 360.
With such a build up surrounding the long development time for Perfect Dark Zero, itâ€™s easy to criticise this game for not being perfect. With a sometimes vague and confusing storyline and A.I that could always be improved on, itâ€™s indeed far from perfect, but the small flaws are unnoticeable in comparison to the enjoyment the game manages to provide. This game will be one of the 360â€™s star pupils for a while to come, and rightly so.