30th game played so far
Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Okay we’re going for a bit of a Rare overdose but we promise that this is the last of their games which we will be covering for a while. Maybe…
Perfect Dark was originally released on May 2000 and is seen by many as being the spiritual sequel to Goldeneye 007 since it used an updated version of the same engine as well as utilising many of the same gameplay elements. The main difference is of course the plot where aliens take the place of the typical Bond villains… although considering they must be running out of plot ideas it is only a matter of time.
Thanks to Kat (hello again) we had access to most of the missions to have playthrough and gave a wide variety of them a go. Also, since this did take a lot from Goldeneye 007 we had to give the multiplayer a good going over since (as we will discuss when we play those games) it did inspire a lot in the Timesplitter series.
Where do you stand on James Bond one day fighting aliens? I was about to say something about realism, but James Bond already isn’t. All I can say is that our former prince consort wasn’t one, although he was apparently used as Bond villain in the past. I am more worried about suddenly representing James Bond as being a woman. When it comes down to the feel of the character and their missions there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. Costume changes, silenced pistol, British accent I mean the list goes on. They even have similar first names. And even in the level designs, the endless corridors and enemies popping up out of nowhere are similar.
But when it comes to that, Perfect Dark does feel better. Better textures, more variation in looks so you know where you are and everything fitting together a little bit better. I would also argue that the variety and playability of the level-specific gadgets is vastly superior. On many levels it was far more player friendly. In the same way they also invested a lot more in the storytelling, I guess they felt they did not need to rely on people playing it having seen the film in order to get it. It may have helped that this had a more futuristic setting therefore meaning here would automatically be a greater level of intrigue rather than the obligatory ‘save the world by shooting the man with the fetish for gold paint’. There is actual motivation; something which is further elaborated on in the fantastic prequel Perfect Dark Zero as well as the novelizations which take place before this game. The latter of which you know better, but yeah, I agree, the game is easier to play, it’s easier to know what to do and where to go and it feels more like a story than a collection of separate scenes.
This begs the question though of why Goldeneye 007 is placed on a pedestal much higher than Perfect Dark. It must come down to personal taste but I am actually going to be playing more of Perfect Dark after this write-up but I was relieved that we had filled our 5 hour quota. So much is more relatable as a gamer whereas James Bond has always felt cold and aloof. I suspect it’s more that Goldeneye 007 was first, rather than it being the best.
Multiplayer is the one area this game really shines in comparison. As you may recall, we were negative about that in our Goldeneye 007 discussion, where it seemed tacked on at the last moment (and in fact, it was). Absolutely. This had a small element of character customisation which was appreciated (imagine a grey alien head on the body of a sexy woman wearing a red cocktail dress) as was the number of different modes. The best thing about the multiplayer, however, was the AI characters you could play against. This was a feature missing from Goldeneye 007 that could have made it a whole lot better. It means you’re playing together, adding some more fun elements to it.
And there’s nothing like being screamed at to stay in the zone because of the king of the hill. It did not help that you shot me to “see if you could”. We were on the same team! Aren’t we supposed to be testing this game? See what you can and can’t do and how it works? You deserved that stabbing you got later. Sure… That level sucked anyway, with all the rocket launchers. None of which I got to use.
Another great feature of this game was the sound. The voice-overs were very well executed during gameplay (although the common usage of “why me” when you shoot someone in the spleen got slightly tiresome). But the real kudos does belong to the music. It seemed to take a lot of inspiration from futuristic cinema and it changed in tempo and pitch depending on which area you entered and how likely you were to encounter danger. It’s a fairly boring thing to mention but for me it really stood out. It’s a good way of adding atmosphere without spelling it out – it’s something that often didn’t consciously get to me
The graphics, as mentioned, have been improved as well. Where in Goldeneye 007, they’re the well known slightly pixellated walls that get repetitive and look bad, Perfect Dark starts you out on a heli-pad, with a gorgeous city back drop, moon low in the sky, and even when you get it the environment keeps looking nice. Things are repeated, of course, but there’s a lot of variety at many points. There is also a great variety of stages you get to play in. During one level there is a wind turbine which dominated a portion of the sky whereas in another you are infiltrating Area 51 with obligatory aliens and scientific instruments.
Is there a dam to bungee jump off? Not exactly, but there is a floating computer you need to protect. That’s similar. Ah yes, the obligatory protect the headless chicken mission. There’s this computer that follows you at one point that holds a doctor’s brain (or something), with freaky eyes on its screen. You need to get this computer out without it being destroyed. Hard enough, considering how easy it dies, but then, like often happens in these games, this computer runs straight into the enemies to get shot, instead of hanging back so they can’t get to it. Those eyes did freak me out when I was trapped with it in an elevator. You could always put on your night-vision to blind yourself. I still know he’s there though… staring at my hot female physique as I shoot shotgun-wielding lady assassins in the head. Don’t worry; he left when you turned off the N64
Anyway, it’s a good game, certainly a step up from Goldeneye 007, its clear predecessor. Better multiplayer, the important thing for me here, better sound and graphics, tighter gameplay and a more involving story. Rare knew how to improve its game.
Having played this game so early it is likely that we will be referring back to this… a lot. I am really looking forward to all the upcoming first-person shooters since this has really whetted my appetite. Watch out Halo, Metroid Prime, Half-Life 2 and the rest of you. Pong and Beyond is coming.