Friday, 2 March 2012

Tribute to an old friend: Perfect Dark

When I was a youngster, I used to read “Official Nintendo Magazine”. I imagine it was the British equivalent of “Nintendo Power”, but truth be told I have no idea how the two compare. I stopped reading it towards the end of the Gamecube’s lifespan, which also marked the time I became less of a fanboy and more of a serious gamer. I should point out that both of these concepts are relative, since I am currently writing for a video game blog.

“ONM”, to my memory, used to give out its scores as percentages, the highest they ever awarded being 97%. As I recall, only two games ever received this honour. One was “Ocarina of Time” , and the other was “Perfect Dark”. Whilst the latter has dated a lot worse than the former, I wholeheartedly believe it deserved that score at the time.

This was the definition of badass in 2000.

Now I genuinely worry that most people’s knowledge of this franchise comes from the apparently-not-very-good Xbox 360 entry, “Perfect Dark Zero”. I am yet to play this game, and likely never will, as I had such a good experience of the first “Perfect Dark”. Moreover, unlike “Pikmin”, I fear me merely recommending it isn’t going to give you a fair experience of this Rare masterpiece.

So I will just give you some of the reasons, in no particular order, why I love “Perfect Dark”. Hopefully I can bring you round to give this game a go; failing that, I’m sure me and Jak can do a Let’s Play of it.

The first thing you should know is that when it came out it was often referred to as “Goldeneye", but better”. Yes, really. “Perfect Dark” had that honourable comparison conferred on it, and not without good reason. It features the same mission-style gameplay, is built on a similar engine (and thus contains a lot of the technical innovations that “Goldeneye” did), has branching pathways, and even features numerous references to its predecessor.

So why was it better? Well, firstly, there was much more of a narrative drive than existed in “Goldeneye”. Perhaps more importantly, this narrative is told in a much better way; there are cutscenes, voice acting, and even some rudimentary moral choices. Secondly, it adds on even more content to an already packed single player campaign. There are challenges, co-op, counter-op (awesome, btw), target ranges, and, of course, unlockable cheats.

...yep, really running out of these images now.

Whilst we’re on the subject of unlockable cheats, why don’t more games do this? It annoys me. Ok, back to “Perfect Dark”.

But none of this is going to swing it, is it? Let’s be honest, if I’m going to claim it matches “Goldeneye”, it needs to have as a good a multiplayer. And does it? Well, yes. It adds all the new weapons and levels of “Perfect Dark”, lets you use old ones (RCP90 plus Facility equals FPSgasm), adds bots, new game modes, pretty much everything you could want.

So why has this gem been all but forgotten? I can think of a few reasons. One is that the frame rate can get a bit chuggy, unlike “Goldeneye” which is simpler but smoother. Another would be that it was a transitional game between classic and modern, and thus has been lost between the gap. My personal theory is people are all sexist and only want to play as a male character.

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