Nostalgia is a funny thing, whether it’s that movie you saw as a kid, or burning ants with a magnifying glass, or that old videogame you spent all your spare time on. Today, most of us wouldn’t even give a few minutes to those pass times but occasionally a real gem in the videogame world rears its head again. Welcome to Perfect Dark.
Developed by Rare, Perfect Dark appeared back in mid-2000 on the Nintendo 64 when the studio was at its peak. A lot of fans looked forward to what was being touted as the spiritual successor to the highly successful GoldenEye 007 - which at the time had broken new technical ground. But we aren’t talking about the N64 version today, this review is about the updated Xbox LIVE Arcade version released last Wednesday.
The game is set in the year 2023 as two alien civilisations, the Maians (classic "Roswell" style aliens) and the Skedar (reptilian shape-shifters), war against one another. You control secret agent Joanna Dark (codenamed Perfect Dark due to her immaculate qualifications), the newest recruit for the Carrington Institute. Perfect Dark is on a mission to investigate mysterious reports from an insider working at a rival defense contractor, DataDyne.
The campaign is spread over nine missions. Each mission can range from one to four maps with each map having different objectives and locales. The game can be played singleplayer or cooperatively with the computer or a friend either splitscreen or online. The game also offers a "counter-op" mode which sees another player controlling the enemies on each map. This mode is a great addition to any game and has rarely been taken to its full potential over the years.
On top of the massive singleplayer campaign are a multitude of multiplayer modes and challenges. The multiplayer modes can be played solo with up to eight bots - each of which can have different characteristics that you choose - or split screen with thee other friends. On top of that it can be played over Xbox LIVE with up to eight players, or with additional bots as required. There are over 30 weapons to choose from and a variety of custom game modes over 16 different maps.
But that’s not all: Almost everything is customisable from creating one-hit kill matches spread over five minutes, or "first to 500" rocket launcher-only matches.
Another feature that Perfect Dark and GoldenEye were praised for were their control configurations. They were pretty much the pioneers of southpaw and many other controller set ups of the era, but sadly this remake only gives us three options: Classic, Spartan, and Duty Calls. No prizes for guessing which games the last two are modeled after, but for Southpaw fans, you’re out of luck this time around (although Rare have stated they’re "looking into it").
As mentioned before, Perfect Dark is a remake and it shows. Geometry isn’t that flash looking but all the textures have been redone, faces remodeled (Hello Peter Molyneux!) and runs in 1080p at a constant 60fps. In short, the game performs much better and looks much crisper than it did while looking nostalgically familiar.
I had hoped nostalgia wouldn't get in the way of this review but that’s a tough ask when the memories of such a classic game are all fond ones. This was made for fans but the community response from old hands and newcomers alike has been extremely favourable. At the time of writing, the leaderboards have reached almost 100,000 players after just a few days, which goes to show, it’s still worth playing. The fact that this game offers so much content - much more than many releases today - and all for an extremely low 800 Marketplace Points, I have to say, check out the demo: you may be pleasantly surprised.