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Perfect Dark Zero Review for Xbox 360
Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2005 @ 01:51:39 pm E.S.T

With the release of a new console, there is typically a flagship title that ships with it. The 360’s much-hyped Perfect Dark Zero has finally arrived, and depending on your expectations, it may or may not live up to the hype. In this prequel, you’ll assume the role of Perfect Agent and famed heroine Joanna Dark of the Nintendo 64 classic. With the help of her father Jack Dark, Joanna will attempt to uncover a global conspiracy that will shape the future. The original Perfect Dark sported a gripping single-player and an extremely customizable multiplayer game. In Zero, you’ll come to find that the multiplayer is as strong as its predecessor, but the single-player doesn’t quite get the job done.

Perfect Dark was one of the best games on the N64, and clearly one of the best shooters. Rare, the team behind the beloved GoldenEye 64, had come up with another gun-toting gem. While the storylines of the two were drastically different, Zero seems to have taken after its 007 ancestor. The story, which takes place three years prior to the original game, follows the somewhat clichéd path of a Bond flick. From the gadgets to the final boss battle, the similarities are very comparable.

PD veterans will feel right at home, as Zero plays much the same way as its N64 precursor. On the contrary, Halo vets will need to take some time to become accustomed to the new control style – most specifically, the lack of the ability to jump. Joanna can, however, hop over short walls by walking into the wall and automatically doing so. This isn’t a very intuitive system, as there will be times where you think you can jump a wall but cannot, which will leave Joanna open to enemy fire. Replacing the jump is the roll, which is mapped to the left bumper. It may seem a bit strange, but it works extremely well. It accomplishes the goal that many use the jump for in dodging enemy fire, and perhaps does the job better. While in mid-roll, it’s nearly impossible to be shot in the head, although your weapon is temporarily disabled and damage will be taken more easily. When you roll, the camera zooms out into a third-person perspective, and then comes right back to the first-person view. Initially I found it distracting, but given time you’ll adjust. All in all, while it would have been nice to be able to manually jump, you’ll find you don’t really need it in Zero. The A button now is used for various actions, most often to take cover. This can be done with nearly any wall or surface that you can hide behind. Taking cover allows you to stand behind a wall with a third-person perspective, giving you a view of what’s around the corner, and also enabling you to pop out, fire at your enemies, and then come right back to your hiding spot.

Outside of those significant differences, Zero’s controls are very similar to that of Halo and Halo 2. You can still melee attack with the B button, reload with X and swap weapons with Y. Much like the Halo series, you can only hold a certain amount of weapons at a time, although that amount is not restricted to two. Instead, you are given four slots, with different weapons taking up a different number of slots. While a pistol will only take up one, a rocket launcher will require three slots.

Speaking of weapons, there’s a whole lot of them in Zero. From the classics like the Magsec 4 and the RCP-90, you’ll come across more than two dozen weapons. While many of them are weapons you’d see in any game, what makes Zero’s arsenal unique is the inclusion of a secondary fire in every weapon. Some even have a tertiary function, such as the ability to attach a silencer or activate a radar scrambler. Primary fire is mapped to the right trigger, secondary to the right bumper, and tertiary is activated by holding the right bumper and hitting the left trigger. Certain weapons are especially handy, such as the combat shield which can be used in conjunction with a pistol, grenade or small SMG.

Throughout the single-player, you’ll be required to use various gadgets, which range in usefulness. While a novel idea, most of them felt more like you had to use them in a specific place, as opposed to instinctively using them where you feel like they could help.

Vehicles make a brief appearance in single-player, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any use of them. In multiplayer you’ll find control panels throughout the level which can create one of the two vehicles – the jetpack, or the hovercraft. The hovercraft supports two people; one person drives and another can use the mounted machine gun in the back. The jetpack has two styles of usage: the MechAssault style where you can walk on the ground, and obviously the jet mode. You switch between the two styles by pressing the secondary fire. Either way, you’ll find yourself equipped with dual machine guns that never run out of ammo.

The radar in Zero isn’t really a radar, nor is it a motion sensor found in Halo. Instead, you have a sound detector – if a player fires a weapon, they’ll show up on your radar. Depending on how loud the weapon is, they’ll remain on there for longer. This allows silencers to actually play a major role, as they enable you to fire without repercussion. This adds another entire layer to the game, as you need to take into account these facts when choosing your weapons. Strategy and thinking ahead really can give you a heads-up advantage on your enemies.

While some of the missions (of which there are 13 in all) are fun, I typically felt like I was playing just to beat the game – not to advance the storyline. Not at one point was the story enthralling; instead, it was more of a shoot ‘em-up with a cutscene here or there to advance the mundane plot. And despite the potential for a lot of replayability, I never felt compelled to play through again. Keeping this mind, it seems more of a blessing than anything that Zero is a rather short game at around 10-15 hours.

Multiplayer, on the other hand, is an entirely different entity. There are two separate modes: Deathmatch and DarkOps. Each has a handful of games that extremely fun in their own right. The four game types in Deathmatch are self explainable for the most part: Killcount, (Zero’s name for plain Deathmatch), Team Killcount, Capture the Flag and Territorial Gains, which is a team-only game much like King of the Hill or Halo 2’s territory games. These four Deathmatch styles play as your typical shooter – nothing new, but fun nonetheless. The one difference from most other titles is that you’ll begin in a spawn room, where you can pick up various weapons and then go through any spawn point your team controls.

DarkOps, on the other hand, is Zero’s take on Counter-Strike style gameplay. Generally speaking, you have only one life, and at the beginning of each round you’ll be able to purchase weapons. In it you will find Infection, which plays just the player-created ‘Zombies’ game in Halo 2, where the ‘infected’ team has unlimited lives and just pistols, and tries to eliminate the human team. Next is Onslaught, where one team can buy weapons, have one life and have to defend a base. The other team has unlimited lives, but only basic weapons. Third is Eradication, which is the basic Counter Strike mode, where there are two teams and each person has one life. Lastly is sabotage, where one team guards certain properties, while the other tries to destroy them.

All eight of these modes are extremely fun in their own right, and can satisfy most anyone’s preference. Up to 32 players can play in a single game over Xbox Live – not quite the initial promise of 50+ players that Rare stated earlier in the production, but still, it’s very impressive. For those of you without Live, you can still play split screen or system link with your friends, not to mention the bots that can be included. Games are highly customizable – the number of bots, weapons to be included and more. The multiplayer levels are almost all inspired by single-player levels, and while there aren’t many of them, they can be massive. I say “can be” because the level itself can scale itself depending on the number of players in the game.

Graphically, Zero is impressive. Wall and floor textures look great, even up close. On HDTV the game can be absolutely breathtaking, with the extravagant explosions and excellent weapon models. Even on your standard 4:3 TV, you’ll be impressed by the stunning level designs. Levels transition very smoothly from interior to exterior environments, where you’ll find the amazing light bloom effect that can be found in other launch titles such as Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The game does have an unrealistic look to it though in some respects, as it has a cartoony, almost cell-shaded style. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for some it may be a turn-off.

Zero’s soundtrack allows seems to suffer from the Bond-syndrome: most of the music sounds like it came out of a ‘70s spy flick. If you have a surround sound system, you’re in for a real treat. If not, it’s time to invest in one. You’ll hear bullets fly by your head and ping off walls, and hear different sound effects for each of your weapons. On the negative side, the multiplayer announcer absolutely sucks, and there isn’t really anyway to turn off his voice. Overall, the sound effects are really impressive in Zero.

After five years of waiting, it’s hard not to be disappointed with the single player. It lacks any sort of innovation and isn’t unique in any respect. The multiplayer, however, gets most everything right – tons of weapons, various modes, gargantuan levels and support for up to 32 players, which seems pretty good to me. While the multiplayer isn’t very innovative either, it’s a solid, deep game that should be the #1 Xbox Live game for quite some time. Good game, but Zero didn't quite live up to the hype. If you're looking for a solid single-player or revolutionary title, look elsewhere.

Review By: Chris Pereira - 340 Reads

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