Perfect Dark Review
Perfect Dark box art
System: X360 (XBLA) Review Rating Legend
Dev: 4J Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Microsoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: March 17, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Imperfect Dark
by Andrew Groen

I know what most N64-junkie, Perfect Dark fans are thinking. "PD is the greatest FPS evar!" But, let's take off the rose-colored glasses for a few minutes and remember that this is a pretty old game, and old games tend not to age well (except for freak cases like Mario games). The FPS genre is particularly vulnerable to this effect. Since it's very popular, and dozens are released every year, the iteration rate is extremely fast, and games that are only two years old can seem positively ancient.

Perfect Dark screenshot

That's what you have to keep in mind with this remake of Perfect Dark. It's not that it's a bad game, or that it wasn't a great game in its own time. It's that the times have changed so much that the modern gamer will find it borderline unplayable.

The old Rare FPS games like Goldeneye and PD are structured much differently than modern games. Love it or hate it, modern games have us weaned on hour-long tutorials and overzealous narrators who explain every detail to us ad nauseam. So, when you jump into an older game like Perfect Dark, you'll be surprised at how self-sufficient you're asked to be. The level itself is like a puzzle. "Disengage the internal security alarm" they'll tell you. But, they will give you neither a picture of what it looks like, nor any idea of how to do it once you find it (oh, and they won't tell you where it is, either).

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It's based largely on trial and error. You'll often completely ruin the entire mission without realizing you did anything at all. It can be frustrating at times, but it's also a very rewarding achievement to master a level. It's no easy feat, and there are zero assists whatsoever to aid you in that quest. This is not a game for the faint of heart or the impatient.

It may take up to two hours for you to get acclimatized to the old school style of gameplay, but once you do, the whole game gets quite a bit better and more easily enjoyable. That said, the trial and error nature of the game never gets any easier, and you'll still be stumbling over yourself for a long time until you learn every level backward and forward.

Perfect Dark screenshot

This is essentially a remake for fans of the original, not something intended to woo a new generation of fans like, say, Bionic Commando Rearmed. The gameplay itself has been purposefully left completely alone, with only the graphics having received an update.

The problem with an update like this is that if you're a fan of the original, you likely still own it. It's probably worth spending a few minutes to hook up an old N64 rather than pay another $10. The update to the graphics, while noticeable, is not jaw-dropping. Most of the textures have seen an coat of paint, and character models all look quite a bit better, though, unlike many other remakes of the past few years, these graphics are nowhere close to being called "good" or on par with any full releases. Whereas Bionic Commando Rearmed and Super Street Fighter 2 HD Remix got a full graphical overhaul, PD's graphics are just as boxy as ever.

Much of the rest of the game remains as archaic as ever too. Classic odd animations persist, and it's not uncommon to see enemies jump up in the air and do a 360 as they die (I guess it looked cool back in the day).

Perfect Dark screenshot

The most surprising aspect of PD is actually how well its gunplay holds up. It may not be Modern Warfare, but getting into firefights is still a lot of fun. The "sticky" targeting system remains a satisfyingly challenging gameplay mechanic.

Screenshots / Images
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