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Perfect Dark Zero

Developer: Rare | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Genre: FPS

Release Date: 11/17/05

With the current line-up of games for the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2, its sometimes difficult to recall the greatness of games that have seen the best of their days, especially when "the best of their days" means about 5 years ago. But I encourage you to take a moment and think back on two of the Nintendo 64's greatest titles, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Goldeneye easily was a revolution in console first-person shooters. Sure they seem out-dated now compared to Halo 2 or other recent titles, but I remember waiting and waiting for the release of Perfect Dark, and nothing since has immersed me so easily into its world as the first time I was dropped off onto the Datadyne building as Joanna Dark in the middle of the night.

A compelling story with perfectly laid out objective-based levels; Perfect Dark was the sequel to Goldeneye I had always dreamed of. But since the birth of the next-gen consoles, and I'm talking about GameCube, PS2, and Xbox, I have been dreaming of another sequel; a sequel to Perfect Dark that once announced, was never heard of again. During the Microsoft press conference at E3 2003, Grabbed by the Ghoulies had stolen the spotlight from what I 100% believed was going to be the debut trailer for Perfect Dark 0. Not that I doubted Grabbed by the Ghoulies being a good game, but my hope, and my hunger for another thrill ride through the futuristic and stylish world of perfect dark had all but faded and not another word was spoken of the promised Microsoft product.

If you're like me, you've had an anime-style concept drawing of Joanna Dark saved somewhere on your computer for well over a year, which has acted as the sole reminder that another Perfect Dark is on its way. However, the events of last week have finally provided more info, more screens (kind of), but most importantly, more of an idea of what we can expect, and when to expect it.

First off, and most note-worthy, hardly anyone knows what Perfect Dark looks like in action. Only the people at Rareware do, and they've only shown it to an extremely small percentage of the media. Also, a resource states that the gameplay shown was not only looking incredible, but was running on an Xbox alpha kit with a current generation graphics card, meaning if that's what it can do now, just wait until its running on Xbox360. So I am feeling safe and encourage you to also rest assured that the video and screens you may have seen up to this point are meaningless and represent nothing at all how the game will look. Its a next-generation fps, and that alone should be enough information to tell you the game will look amazing. As stated on Rare's site, "this little beauty is being primed and polished to blow the roof off this year's holiday season..."

Now let's talk about what we know of the game. Perfect Dark 0 is actually a prequel to the hit N64 title. The game takes place in the year 2020, and is designed to provide the story of how Joanna Dark became the Perfect Agent we all know so well from Perfect Dark. The plot seems to revolve around Joanna and her father Jack, who somehow find themselves in a series of world-domination conspiracies involving more of the classic high-tech espionage and corporate powerplay. Along the way you will encounter many faces from the original title, which is exciting and lets you discover the history of the characters. A run-in with the infamous Gremshaw perhaps? But ultimately, you are once again in control of Joanna as she paves the path to her destiny.

Throughout this adventure, Joanna will be playing with a claimed 28 different weapons, each with a unique secondary function. I'm not sure if that number is an estimate, or if it includes gadgets or throwing knives. The only gun I've heard that has been re-confirmed is the laptop gun, which isn't disappointing news because it was one of the best guns in the original title. Not only did the gun have a large clip with solid accuracy, you could throw it down as a sentry turret for the secondary feature. There also seems to be a toned down version of the farsight, which could see and shoot through walls, or entire levels. This new gun has claimed to be able to see through walls, but one-shot kills from anywhere in the level have yet to be determined. Another thing I loved about Perfect Dark, which was extremely satisfying in multiplayer, was punching someone to steal their weapon, leaving them unarmed or with another weapon they had. In Perfect Dark 0, there is a 4-slot weapon system, and as long as one of the slots is open, you can steal a weapon from your opponents and kill them with it. I've not heard yet if grenades or gadgets will take up weapon slots.

A couple changes mentioned to the gameplay are some new evasive and tactical moves for Jo. Other than a standard first-person mode, the camera will pan back when you hug corners to give what I'm guessing is a Metal Gear/Splinter Cell peak to see what is lurking in the corridor. The other new move is a diving roll. It can be used to evade enemy fire, but you cannot fire during the move, and may be considered more vulnerable. It will be interesting to see if they have implemented jumping into the controls yet. Keep in mind Goldeneye and Perfect Dark got away more than just fine without it, so we'll just have to wait and see for ourselves. A jet-pack has been revealed and talks of many types of vehicles have been heard. Those seem to be primarily used for multiplayer, but since so little is known about the story mode, its hard to guess how many vehicles will be controllable. However, we do know there is a co-op mode for the story, just as there was with Perfect Dark.

Lastly, a little multiplayer discussion. Perfect Dark 0 is trying hard to focus on replay-ability, so the team has worked on creating a fantastic and innovative multiplayer environment. Split-screen as well as online have been mentioned, but I haven't heard confirmation on a system-link networked multiplayer option. There has also been a lot of talk about online tournaments with Perfect Dark 0. But I've found the most interesting idea from Rareware is to resize maps according to the number of players. The idea is to be able to play on your favorite map no matter how many people are playing, and still have it balanced in terms of size. Details on this are scarce, perhaps they close off certain areas of maps, or scale certain areas to make more room. This is a very unique feature and we'll have to wait to see just how it works, but don't worry! I have a feeling we won't be waiting long.

Sources that have been to Rare and seen what they have are saying to expect MUCH more details on this highly anticipated first-person shooter, Perfect Dark 0, very soon. With that all I can say is stay tuned, and we'll keep you updated.

By Keith Schaefer - 05/25/05
ESRB Details: Blood, Language, Violence
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Screenshots for Perfect Dark Zero

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