After the great time I had playing Rares GoldenEye 007, I awaited the release of Perfect Dark with both excitement and trepidation. Chi wasnt kidding when he mentioned the "Daikatanian" events that surrounded the games release. Rare had to fight through numerous delays and each one risked raising my expectations (and those of gamers worldwide) to unreachable heights and, as a result, the game also slipped further and further behind modern gaming technology. Now that the game is finally here, I am happy to say that Perfect Dark has met most of my expectations and provided one of the most solid multiplayer games on the market to date.
The single-player mode is pretty good, but its standard GoldenEye fare. In its defense, the game handles wonderfully and, after some stumbling through the first level, all my GoldenEye skills returned by the end. It was as if I had never left the world of 007. The graphics are beautiful and the sounds are amazing, but on the flip side, Perfect Dark also shows that the even Rare has peaked out in terms of pushing the Nintendo 64s hardware. Still, the high point of the game—which has no doubt kept GoldenEye 007 at the top of videogame rental and sales charts even three years after its initial release—has to be its multi-player modes. Chi already mentioned all the modes available so I wont bother repeating it, but I would like to communicate the fact that almost any multiplayer scenario, whether it be modes or options, are customizable. The sheer depth to which the game can be tailored is mind-boggling and its worth a purchase based on that alone. I will even go on record and say that unless id Software gives Quake III the same treatment for the Dreamcast, Perfect Dark will be holding the crown for console FPS and multiplaying action for a long while.
I loved Perfect Dark so much that I was tempted to give it a 10, but too many problems popped up for me to do so. For one, the framerates issue is too glaring to completely ignore. When playing in the wonderful multiplayer modes, the action would bog down to slideshow quality when more than eight characters were included in the game at once. The best solution was to lower the screen resolution and limit the amount of opponents, but considering how bad things got, I am surprised Rare even included the 8-player option at all. And, as Chi already stated, without a solid story like GoldenEyes to work with, Rare just couldnt come up with anything all that interesting. I sat through the cut-scenes, all the while hoping that they would somehow get better.
The final blemish on the game has to be the characters, most notably the leading character: Joanna Dark. For such a breakthrough character, she is rather dull and, like the entire cast, we only think of her as smart because it says so in Nintendos press releases. To her credit she handles weapons and gadgets better than maybe even James Bond and she is good with the one-liners, but I wouldnt want to be stuck in an elevator with her for longer than a few minutes. Still, due to the sorry state the videogame industry is in when it comes to female leads, Joanna Dark's realistic proportions and attire alone rocket her past the likes of reigning queen of videogame heroines, Lara Croft. I only hope that with the inevitable success of this title, Joanna Dark will evolve as a character with more depth and substance in a sequel.
My expectations were high for GoldenEye 007s "spiritual sequel" and Rare has come through bigtime by presenting everyone with everything they couldve expected and more. Of course, it suffers from the imperfections I mentioned, but solid controls and excellent visuals and sounds help balance that out. What takes Perfect Dark over the top has to be the multiplayer modes, which make it the most complete and satisfying of any console FPS available on the market. Its a must buy for any FPS fan owning an Nintendo 64—or PlayStation, Dreamcast, or PlayStation 2 for that matter.