I think this is against the rules but here you go Kage, we DC lovers gotta stick together. We're a dying breed
There are games that have expectations, and then there are games that have expectations. Games like Halo, Metal Gear Solid 2, and any given Zelda. Some games people just have expectations about, and those expectations feed hype about the title. Sometimes those expectations are let down, sometimes they are not. Fortunately, Perfect Dark Zero is of the latter group, and it delivers. From truly next-gen graphics and an incredibly slick presentation to an engrossing gameplay experience, Perfect Dark Zero is the game to get for your new Xbox 360. To find out why, you better keep on reading.
Perfect Dark Zero tells the genesis of Joanna Dark’s involvement with the Carrington Institute. It serves as the prequel to the original Perfect Dark, which was on the Nintendo 64. Joanna, in PDZ, is a bounty hunter working for her father alongside her friend Chandra. Together, they make up the Dark Bail Bonds trio, which is fancy-talk for a group that jets around the world nabbing bad guys. The beginning of the game sees Joanna’s father, Jack Dark, finally allowing Joanna on a mission. Things quickly escalate, thrusting the Darks into the middle of a worldwide battle between the mega-corporation dataDyne and the world’s good guys, the Carrington Institute.
Perfect Dark Zero’s gameplay appears to be standard FPS fare at first glance. However, some well-integrated and uncommon elements help it stand out and excel. The most obvious addition to those who have watched previous gameplay videos of PDZ is the cover system. While PDZ plays from the first person perspective for the most part, when you are near any object that would make sense to hide behind (corner of a wall, stack of crates, low barriers etc.) you can press A to duck behind it. Once you are in cover mode the game switches to the third person perspective so you can see more of what’s going on. The aiming reticule will remain, and you can line up your shots and blast away with the right trigger. When you fire, Joanna will come up from the cover to shoot, and when you stop firing she will return to cover. Hit A again and you will return to the first person perspective and be able to move freely.
One of the things that has Halo aficionados up in arms about PDZ is the lack of a jump button. The obvious knee jerk here is that the lack of a jump button will hamper level design, or somehow take away from the game. Thankfully, that is not the case here. Jumping is replaced by rolling, which in my opinion improves the game on the whole. In many online games a great many exploits are created by jumping and cajoling your character into strange areas the designers never meant you to go. This not only ruins the online gameplay experience, but it also wastes the time of the developers. Instead of spending time making kickass levels, they are spending time wondering if the player is going to grenade those four boxes together, jump just so, and have another player rocket them up to a ledge. As is, rolling largely replaces the primary function of jumping- avoiding enemy fire. By hitting the left shoulder button Jo will dive in whatever direction you press with the left analog stick. The movement is accompanied by an ever-so-smooth switch to the third person view. When the roll completes, the view slides back into the first person perspective seamlessly. Rolling also breaks the lock any enemies have on you and is invaluable for getting to cover when pinned down by enemy fire.
Another important feature of Perfect Dark Zero lies within the level design. At the beginning of each level in PDZ you select your gadgets. The gadgets available are the locktopus, data thief, and the demo kit. Each allows you to access a different route through a level, which makes it so that you can play through the game three times and have a different experience each time. For instance, in one level you are attempting to steal a briefcase and exfiltrate out the Subway. At one juncture, you are faced with a multiple paths. Using your locktopus you can just pick the lock of a door and head right through. By utilizing your data thief you can hack a robot, which will then batter down the doorway, leaving you to run through the gaping hole in the wall with guns ablazing. Finally, you could use a demo kit and just blow a weak portion of the wall to hell then charge on in. The paths always coincide for the important areas, but it helps break the linear nature of most of the levels.
Onto the weapons. The arsenal of Perfect Dark Zero is varied and universally brilliant. Beginning with just the P9P, a sniper pistol that is a joy to wield, you will work up a menagerie of weaponry as you play through the game. At the beginning of each mission you are presented with the opportunity to select your weapons for the map. You have four slots to store weapons, and different weapons take up different amounts of slots. Pistols, for instance, take one slot. SMGs take two, rifles take three, and heavy weapons take three as well. In order to add weapons to your arsenal, you must finish the game with them. So if you want to have a sniper rifle in your arsenal, you’ll have to find the Jackal and complete the level with it. However, that Jackal takes up three of your inventory slots, so if you run out of ammo for it, you’ll have to haul around a weapon that you won’t be able to use. The system works beautifully, and adds heaps of replay value to the game.
The weapons themselves all ‘feel’ great. Each gun fills a specific niche, and their alternate fire modes help distinguish each weapon. The secondary modes run the gamut from the x-ray vision of the Shockwave to the threat detector of the P90. With the laptop gun, a tap of the alternate fire button (right shoulder button) will throw it out as a sentry gun. The P9P has a silencer you can put on it. The sheer range of weapons is mind boggling, and really adds to the game experience as a whole.
The single player campaign of Perfect Dark Zero is a globe trotting affair, taking you from the streets of Hong Kong to the jungles of Africa. The AI in the game is utterly dependent on the difficulty you choose. Play on the easiest difficulty (Agent), and the enemies are pushovers, taking only a shot or two to bring down, while arrows on the ground guide you through the level. Push the difficulty up to normal difficulty (Secret Agent) and you will encounter more of a challenge. Enemies will take more damage, and dish out more damage. Arrows won’t appear as often either. Turn it up yet another notch (Perfect Agent), and you will be fighting for every inch of ground. The enemy will do quite a bit of damage, and will take much more than on the lower difficulties. Arrows are nonexistent and enemies will generally just behave smarter. Crank it up to the highest difficulty, Dark Agent, and you must have a death wish. Friendly AI is very well done, and take care of themselves quite effectively. When in a squad setting, they also do a good job of covering you and watching your back. Perfect Dark Zero should be praised for the very fact that you won’t pull your hair out during escort missions; the escortees generally don’t do anything stupid, which is, in and of itself, a huge step forward from previous FPS titles.
The level design in single player is a crapshoot. Some levels are incredible, with sweeping vistas, hordes of enemies, and gorgeous visuals. Others are rather frustrating. One of the things that PDZ does extremely well, however, is have levels that are ‘archetypal’. From assault to infiltration to surveillance, there is a map for every type of mission. What that means is that if you and your buddy want to play some co-op, there is a map for whatever you feel like. By keeping the mission types separate, it encourages people to play the campaign more often by allowing them to play what they want to play, when they want. It’s just unfortunate that the second level is one of the most frustrating in the game. It’d be as if Halo had put the Library as the second level.
Thankfully, most of the levels are extremely well done. The opening stage is brilliant, setting the tone for the game perfectly. The third level, set in the rooftops of Hong Kong, is ingenious. In it, you cover Jack Dark from the rooftops as he makes his way through the streets. It works beautifully, and is perfect for co-op. From then on out, the levels vary greatly in quality. Some you can’t wait to play through again on a higher difficulty, while others you just want to get through. On the whole, though, they are all decent enough; it’s just that some don’t match the high watermark set by several of the high-flying levels of the game. The final two stages will undoubtedly be the most talked about, with Jo finding herself in the middle of an all out war. You fight alongside dozens of friendly NPCs, and fight against a horde of opponents. And to cap it all off, there’s nary a frame rate hiccup in sight. Then you have the final battle, which is simply amazing. On the whole, the campaign of Perfect Dark Zero is a lot of fun, despite a few bumps in the level-quality road along the way.
Co-op is one of the defining features of Perfect Dark Zero, as well as one of the best. It’s a lot of fun blasting away evil henchmen by yourself, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun blasting away evil henchmen with a friend. Perfect Dark Zero goes a step beyond the usual split-screen co-op, though that option is also available, and allows for co-op play over Xbox Live. It’s a great time to be had by all, and the co-op play increases the replay value tremendously. When playing in co-op you truly have to depend on your teammate, or you will be killed. You need to cover each other and plan out your respective arsenals to account for every situation. There is also virtually no lag whatsoever in PDZ coop from my experience, so no worries there.
Which brings us to the big question concerning Perfect Dark Zero- the multiplayer. The early videos and early builds of PDZ came across as ‘spammy’ and, overall, just very unpolished. I’m extremely pleased to say that analysis could not be further from the truth. Simply put, Perfect Dark Zero’s multiplayer is the best singular Live experience ever. It features an incredible breadth of options and gametypes, all of which work flawlessly. There are three primary modes of play in PDZ: co-op, DeathMatch, and Dark Ops. DeathMatch consists of all the usual FPS gametypes: regular deathmatch (Killcount), team deathmatch (Team Killcount), capture the flag, and territorial gains (equivalent to Halo 2’s territories mode). All play great, especially capture the flag.
One of the defining characteristics of Perfect Dark Zero’s DeathMatch gametypes is the inclusion of bots. On the lower difficulties, they are a push over, but set them on the Dark Agent difficulty (the highest there is) and you will have a true challenge. In one game I played on Live, a group of five human players, myself included, fought against five Dark Agent level bots. The fight was tense the entire time, with much back and forth. The bots used human-like tactics, from sending people in the back door to using jetpacs for support fire as infantry rushed up the middle. There was no lag whatsoever, regardless of the amount of firepower that was brought to bear in small areas.
One thing the bots were particularly adept at was keeping control of the center spawn. In Perfect Dark Zero’s CTF, when you die you return to a spawn room. In the spawn room you can pick your weapons and where you respawn. To select your spawn point, you simply walk through a labeled teleporter. In the beginning, you can only spawn in your home base, but on some maps there are extra spawns in the middle you can unlock. To unlock them, you walk up to them and hold A until it is hacked and in your team’s control. This adds a considerable amount of strategy to CTF games, as you have to balance control of the spawn points with your offense. Unfortunately for us mere humans, the bots excel at that very thing.
And what of those jetpacs? Well, some of the multiplayer stages (as well as some singleplayer levels!) include vehicles. There are two vehicles in Perfect Dark Zero: jetpacs and hovercrafts. In multiplayer games, you spawn vehicles at the vehicle spawn stations. They are these little floating holographic images of the vehicle. Simply walk up the station, hit A, and the vehicle in question will appear in front of you. The two vehicles handle quite differently. When you first hop in a jetpac you will be bound to the ground, without the wings and jet activated. In ground mode you are more accurate, and your weapon seems to do more damage. However, you move quite slowly. With a simple tap of the right shoulder button, though, your jetpac will unfold its wings and you will begin hovering. Press and hold the left trigger to fly upwards, fire with the right trigger. It all controls extremely naturally, and the ability to land and fire quickly and accurately allows you to set down at choke points and lay down covering fire. Good stuff.
The hovercraft fills the same role as Halo’s Warthog, sans passenger carrying. The hovercraft has two seats- one of the pilot, one for the gunner. The gunner has a quick firing machine gun with infinite ammunition, and the driver simply drives. It is primarily useful for base raids and laying the smack down on enemy jetpacs. It handles exceedingly well, as opposed to most hovercrafts in other titles. Both vehicles fill important roles in any good game of CTF.
Next we have Dark Ops, which is where most gamers will be spending the majority of their time. Dark Ops contains a bunch of different gametypes: eradication, onslaught, infection, and sabotage. Dark Ops games generally only give the player one life. At the beginning of each round you pick your weapons from a menu. Each weapon is given a cash value, as is armor and assorted gadgetry. One of the gadgets up for buying is a revive kit. The revive kit allows you to resuscitate dead teammates, which proves invaluable in most any match. Now, the way this gameplay mechanic is implemented is different in each gametype. In eradication, it’s just straight up last man standing. The team with any members left alive at the end of the round wins. Simple enough.
Onslaught is where things get interesting. One team plays offense, the other defense. The team on offense is given unlimited lives, but does not have the chance to select their weapon. Each player on offense is given one stock weapon, which is selected by the party host. Popular picks include the basic pistol, the Falcon, and shotguns. The defending team, on the other hand, has the chance to select their loadout, so they will often have much heavier weapons, such as rocket launchers and sniper rifles. They only have one life each, though, which makes the revive kit all the more important. Also, the defending team is in an easily defensible location, making things harder for the offense. The entire gametype is extremely balanced, and is my personal favorite in the game. It’s sure to provide hours upon hours of fun for years to come, and is one of the best features of Perfect Dark Zero.
Infection, on the other hand, is a bit more esoteric. Playing like the popular Halo 2 user-made gametype Zombies, Infection starts one or two players off on the ‘infected’ side. The rest of the players are non-infected. The infected players have unlimited lives and appear as skeletons. They don’t have the opportunity to select their loadout and start with one stock weapon. The non-infected, on the other hand, are able to pick their weaponry. The goal of the game for the infected is to infect all the non-infected players, and the goal of the non-infected is to be the last man standing. When an infected player kills a non-infected player, the non-infected player becomes infected. The last player left standing wins, and the last two players become infected for the next round, with the rest reverting to non-infected. It’s an incredible amount of fun in practice, and most all of the maps work great for it. It also plays very well with smaller groups-if you have five players you can run this gametype no problem.
Finally, we have Sabotage, which is honestly the least fun gametype. In it, both sides have one life each, and are given the opportunity to purchase weapons. The team on offense then has to destroy the defending side’s equipment, and the defending side must protect it. This sounds great in theory, but unfortunately the objectives are pretty wimpy. The levels have you destroying things like barrels, which just aren’t fun to blow up. If future maps have you destroying more interesting things, like a nuclear reactor or something, it’ll be much more fun. All I’m asking for is a nice big boom.
Multiplayer on Live is just amazing. The gametypes are incredibly varied, and provide a myriad of different ways to play. Many of these gametypes have not been explored in Live games before, and certainly they have never been brought together with this degree of polish. If you are looking for the best Live experience ever, get Perfect Dark Zero. Bring the multiplayer together with a satisfying single player, and online co-op, and you have one of the most complete gameplay packages ever brought to market.
Perfect Dark Zero’s graphics are a sight to behold. From the initial underwater complex to the end game’s deserts, levels are excruciatingly detailed, with backgrounds and environments that look truly next-generation. There are some issues, like a few questionable character models and a couple of bad textures here and there, but honestly, who cares? It’s certainly nothing that detracts from the game itself. The framerate holds steady throughout the game, regardless of the amount of characters onscreen. Character design itself is a love or hate affair, as PDZ goes after a more stylized feel than, say, Half Life 2. If you want photo-realism, look elsewhere.
Weapon models are universally brilliant, and lighting is great. Lighting is occasionally a bit heavy on the color, especially in the second level, but it’s nothing too awful. The lighting and overall graphics on the jungle levels in PDZ are utterly mind-boggling. Explosions look brilliant. Physics, too, are quite impressive. When you shoot an enemy’s body armor, it will break apart, shattering into small pieces that will then bounce about realistically. Ragdolls are occasionally a bit over the top, and there are sometimes clipping errors on them, but it doesn’t affect gameplay. If there’s one complaint to be made about the graphics of Perfect Dark Zero, it’s that the game is very ‘shiny’. Most everything in the game is bump mapped, and though the effect looks great, it also sometimes makes it look like everything in the game world is wet.
The menus and overall presentation of Perfect Dark Zero are especially impressive. The menus all have a very high tech feel to them, and are very remarkably easy to navigate. The opening video is reminiscent of a James Bond movie, and like all good opening videos, makes you feel secure in your purchase by displaying sky-high production values. Perfect Dark Zero’s graphics are generally fantastic, aside from some small issues, most of which stem from the title’s repeated change of platform. On the whole, though, everything in Perfect Dark Zero looks great.
Nothing like a good old burst of gunfire to wake you up in the morning. The sound of Perfect Dark Zero is for the most part quite good. The music is techno/electronic, and fits the game perfectly. It all sounds great, and if you are even a small fan of techno you will want to buy the soundtrack to this game. The voice acting, on the other hand, doesn’t fare as well. Some of the characters suffer from overacting, most especially Chandra and Joanna. While it fits the stylized look of the game, it’s also pretty damned annoying. Weapon sound effects are all very well done, as is ambient noise. Overall, the audio is quite good, but is brought down by some awful voice acting.
Everything in Perfect Dark Zero controls exceptionally well. All the functions of the game are mapped to the 360 controller as you would hope they would, and everything you could possibly want to do is easily accessible from the default control scheme. The default sensitivity is a tad bit low, but that is easily fixed in the option menu. The usual control options are all present and accounted for, such as inverted aim. Movement in general in PDZ is relatively slow, though that befits a tactical shooter like this title. There’s really nothing negative to say about the controls, it does its job admirably.
You will be playing Perfect Dark Zero for years to come. After initially finishing the single player, you will be ready to go right back in and play it again and probably will play it through multiple times thanks to the alternate paths (from the gadgets), the difficulty levels, and the weapon selection mechanics. The co-op is a blast, and I can’t imagine anyone not having fun with it. The multiplayer is filled with a great variety of gametypes, most all of which are done extremely well. Despite a few hiccups in the single player, this game has mountains of replay value, and is without a doubt the best Live game ever.
Perfect Dark Zero is the game to get for the Xbox 360. From the fantastic gameplay to the gorgeous graphics to the incredible amount of replay value, every gamer should experience this game. It features every multiplayer option you could want, and the feature list reads like a multiplayer gamer’s wet dream. There are a few small issues- some levels aren’t that great, for example- but, in the end, they don’t really detract from the game as a whole. When you have a title of this size, everything can’t be top-notch. However, the replay value can be, and is. You will be playing this game for years and years to come; if you are getting one title for your Xbox 360, make it Perfect Dark Zero.
Total Score: 9.7
Still waiting to see GameSpot's review........their review is gonna be brutal, you saw what they did to Gun, THAW and PGR3. Im predicting 9.2 baby!!