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Perfect Dark Zero

Developer: Rare | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 11/17/05 | Genre: FPS

Joanna Dark is back on the gaming scene after a near decade-long absence. Rare's flagship Xbox 360 offering, Perfect Dark Zero, is the prequel to the N64 smash hit, Perfect Dark. PDZ gives players a look at Joanna before she became an agent of the Carrington Institute and tells the tale of how she eventually winds up there. The seedy mega corporation DataDyne also makes a return and just as before, the suits are up to no good. PDZ had a lot of hype to live up to, but is the game everything we'd hoped it would be?

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To begin with, the game's visuals are amazing. The high resolution textures take advantage of the Xbox 360 hardware and look absolutely phenomenal. To test the limits, I walked straight up to a stone wall and admired the texture. Then I broke out a pistol and 4x zoomed the image and it still looked incredible. The explosions and smoke offer some great particle magic and the character models are fantastic. Also, the guns look flat out stunning. The art team did a fantastic job and the reload animations are some of the best I've seen in any FPS to date. I love the fact that they painted Joanna's nails; I love the fact that they put a ring on her finger. These are small details that other development teams may have overlooked, but really help bring the character to life.

Unfortunately, matters get a little less rosy on the gameplay side of things. By far my biggest complaint with the game is the sluggish aiming. Moving your crosshairs around is easy enough if you're going all out on the joystick, but the aiming fails when you need to make those precise shots. Tap the joystick, and there's a noticeable delay before the crosshairs actually move. This makes timing your shots incredibly difficult, and more importantly, makes the play control feel rather unresponsive. As an FPS game, PDZ requires a lot of shooting, it is a necessity that the aiming system be flawless.

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The other main area where the game fails to live up to expectations is the enemy AI. When compared to other leading shooters on the market, the enemy AI in PDZ feels very dated. The enemies react in much the same way they did in the original game six or seven years ago.

On the plus side, the online play is fairly entertaining and the new inclusion of dodging rolls adds a unique element to the gameplay. The online experience, from what I've played, is really smooth and lag has thus far not been a problem. The networking system in the game seems to be incredibly solid. This is definitely the portion of the game that'll keep you coming back.

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Some may be wondering about the new cover feature available in the game, and I myself was skeptical. After playing through the game, I can honestly say this new feature is awesome. Making good use of cover will greatly increase your odds of survival in the tougher missions. The developers deserve some credit for making this feature useful and intuitive. Another good point about the game is the variety of weapons. From small arms to heavy-duty machine guns; this game's got �em all. Several popular guns from the original game have come back for another round including the Falcon pistol, the CMP150 and the infamous Laptop gun, complete with the secondary sentry function. In the single player mode, you're able to select which weapons you wish to take into the next mission. However, guns won't become available until you've come across them in-game. Sorry, but you can't go blasting your way through the first mission with a Super Dragon right off the bat.

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Ultimately, Perfect Dark Zero has enough high points to make it an overall good game, but still falls short of being the blockbuster players were waiting for. The visuals, action and awesome firepower make it an entertaining experience, but the sloppy aiming and mediocre AI can at times make it a frustrating one as well.

By Ryan Schaefer - 12/08/05
ESRB Details: Blood, Language, Violence
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Screenshots for Perfect Dark Zero

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