Perfect Dark was one of my favourite games on the Nintendo 64, still one of my favourite consoles ever. It expanded on the formula from Goldeneye and added as many features as Rare could manage to squeeze in, it also allowed them to create their own universe, characters and plot. Simply put Perfect Dark was one of Rare’s crowing achievements on the Nintendo 64, sadly it came a little late to the party for it to be a adopted widespread.
I was a bit dubious when I first heard Perfect Dark was coming to XBLA, I figured it would be some re-hashed mess probably only single player and minimal multiplayer, the usual kind of hack-job. 4J Studios have however done a fantastic job of porting this masterpiece to the 360 and have included everything from the original game and more, who can groan at 1080p resolution and remastered textures. Read on for a lot more nostalgia and some actual opinions on the 360 version.
It’s been 10 years since Perfect Dark was released for the N64 but memories of Rare’s fantastic shooter are still fresh. I was following the game’s release online and via magazines at the time and even wrote a preview for the website I ran back then. When it was released I spent hours upon hours playing through every difficulty, every gun range, every challenge and unlocked almost everything the game had to offer. I enjoyed every second of the weapons, gadgets and level design, however an act of fate was to seperate me from Perfect Dark for a decade… The save game on my cartridge became corrupted and I was no longer able to access anything I had unlocked, needless to say I didn’t play the game much after that, it was a bitter ending to a great experience.
Now, ten years on with trepidation I boot into the Perfect Dark XBLA trial game and expect the worst, however as soon as I finished a game of multiplayer and it prompted me to buy I couldn’t hesitate for a second and slapped down those 800 gamerpoints faster than you can say Mr Blonde.
From then on it was pure nostalgia meltdown! I started off a bit of co-op with my brother, we blasted through a good few levels, seemingly a lot faster than I remember. It was great fun playing split-screen co-op, shouting at each other for failing missions and getting stuck in doorways. We both loved the original and played it to death, it felt like riding a bike. We played some multiplayer and then got down to completing the game and unlocking those all-important cheats: all weapons & infinite ammo. It’s funny how even after all this time the game can still pose a great challenge and be so much fun. Of course there is now the added leader-board system so you can see how well you are doing versus everyone else. A great addition.
Speaking of additions, the new high resolution remastered graphics are great, they add quite considerably to my rose tinted glasses however they have also re-modelled all of the weapons in the game, they now look a lot more chunky and there is a lot more detail to be seen but they do act exactly the same as the original. There are some great improvements in character detail too. It seems 4J Studios have spared no expense in bringing us the greatest balance between historical accuracy and bringing it more up-to-date and I salute them for doing an almost perfect job.
The other main addition is of course online multiplayer, something that is commonplace in this generation was almost unheard of in the days of the N64, we were confined to huddling around our CRT TVs grabbing a controller each and getting into brawls after each game. There’s something to be said for that old-school purity because the online mode can seem a little vacant, at least compared the the original frantic friend losing scenario. I still need to get a good group of friends together and have some private matches, I’m sure they’ll be great.
The single player campaign is still fun today, especially if you play it at the higher difficulty settings. The story is somewhat lacking by today’s standards but the nostalgia effect is enough to compensate for any shortfall. I’m still having fun playing through the levels on Secret Agent and Perfect Agent difficulties and still ready to unlock more cheats.
The one disappointment in the port is Elvis… I don’t know how to put this… They’ve made him look all sensible and gritty. Whether or not this is closer to Rare’s original vision of Elvis I do not know but I think he lacks that little bit of quirky-ness he had in the original. Not really a big issue, just a tiny niggle.
I don’t think I have a bad word to say about the original or this port (except for the Elvis thing), if you liked the original then you should definitely get your hands on the 360 version if you haven’t ever played the original it will probably still be a great little game to waste some hours on, who knows you may fall in love with it as I did all those years ago.