As the Xbox 360 launch titles lack that killer application, Perfect Dark Zero tried to maybe fill the empty void left by this. RARE did a fantastic job with Kameo in my opinion bringing back some of the magical elements which Nintendo and SEGA brought to use all those years ago which until now has been hard to rekindle.
The only killer application that would be considered worthy of this name is Halo 3 and as this is yet to be even announced officially in development, Halo 3 is going to be quite a way off and was certainly never going to be the killer application at launch. Fellow First Person Shooter, Perfect Dark Zero may wet our appetite enough though to allow us to escape into another futuristic world of mayhem and heroism.
This title oozes appeal from day one with its true next generation graphics and faithful first person shooter gameplay. There is certainly nothing new added to the FPS arena, however what it emulated from other game successes shines like a beacon of light through the power of the Xbox 360 hardware and the sheer cleverness of the game itself.
Starring a female hero named Joanna Dark, she and her father set off to save the world another day and this creates a co-operative like feel through a good section of the game. You do not however feel any identification with the character, which I will explain in detail later on in the review. This causes Perfect Dark Zero to feel a little empty and the storyline weak. So we will have to look past this and look at the pure action side of things for now.
Luckily you cannot fault Perfect Dark Zero for its action as this has a continual effect of adding adrenaline to your Xbox 360 gaming experience. Although the computer AI is a little on the stupid side at times, the scale and design of the various levels provide a top notch experience for battle hardened fans of this genre.
One key component that always has to be covered in this type of game is of course the weaponry. There is nothing worse than playing a game that has a weak feeling weapon or doesn’t behave as you would expect. Do not worry yourself as you can use futuristic weapons with a myriad of special abilities. Not only do you have primary fire, but also possibly a zoom (depending on the weapon) and a cunning feature unique for each item. Take for example the laptop, a powerful gun in its own right, however throw this beauty on a wall and see how it adjusts to set itself up and shoot anything other than you it detects. These little novel features in each of your arsenal creates a very interesting tactical twist which really comes alive when playing on Xbox Live.
Halo certainly set a precedent in how to use a controller for a first person shooter and Perfect Dark Zero takes this and maybe even adds a little more. It can be a little fiddly at times especially when you are trying to change weapons mid-combat which requires the reflexes and timing of a seasoned gamer. Even then watch your gun appear and disappear when you press too many times in frustration.
Online is where the game really shines. No.. no. forget about the usual deathmatch and capture the flag modes for now, there is online co-operative play which is superb. If only more online titles would take advantage of this feature we would all be dancing happily this Christmas. It is not just a slapped on approach either, levels can require each person to take on a slightly different objective. This is made apparent in the mission where one person needs to use a sniper rifle from high up clearing a path which the other friend shoots his way through way below and eventually working your way up to meet up. A very satisfying experience that will hopefully open the eyes to many developers about how online co-operative play should and can work.
There will always be still the deathmatch and capture the flag modes as well as other more obscure modes like infection which as the name suggests has infected people hunting down the non-infected until everyone is finally caught. All these online modes work very well and where the storyline of the single player experience may slow down your enthusiasm for Perfect Dark Zero, the online stage again rescues yet another title.
You can have a maximum of 32 players online, which surprisingly doesn’t lag very much as it slows the game down rather than having players jumping about the screen. The vehicles you will have mildly touched upon in the single player campaign also feature more intensely with the flying craft you simply hop into of which you can slowly limp across the floor firing its guns or take to the air and of course the hovercraft with a spot for your friend to hop on and destroy the enemies around. Not exactly as rewarding as say the Warthog or the Banshee from Halo 2, but still certainly entertaining and not at all dull.
As soon as the game kicks in you notice the next generation graphics.. Well sort of. Looking around the buildings, textures and lighting you really feel in a next generation powered world of fun and frolicks, however closer attention to detail can also unfortunately disappoint this otherwise special landscape. The character models although adequate lack any sense of realism or feeling making the gameplay itself feel less involved. Identifying with the character is paramount in a title like this; however this oversight has left the game a little empty.
The cut scenes ‘really’ let this game down, this is not just because of the average character models, but the animations and camera angles do absolutely nothing to spur you along. Very little effort has gone into lip syncing or even creating a convincing action sequence that could have added something to further your intrigue. Instead you are left bored and uninspired by the whole storyline and the graphics do absolutely nothing to absorb this missing aspect.
So what does the game do right graphically? Well this is not difficult to see, just by looking around the walls, reflections, effects, textures, lighting, particles and other technical dazzlement you will without a doubt see what the Xbox 360 press marketing campaigns have been raving on about. A wall no longer looks flat and with an attempt to make it look like a brick wall by painting a 2D layer. You can now delight in the raised bricks and mortar creating a fantastic graphical marvel that lacks on anything before this latest console from Microsoft. It is not just the walls, floors have details that will actually make you stop and look down. Swirl around a little and notice the light refracting off the surface convincingly and attractively but still those average lifeless character models really let the overall feel of the game down.
You can again not mention how the game looks in the now very capable High Definition the Xbox 360 is capable of. Maybe surprisingly the game doesn’t look that much better in 720p or 1080i especially when you compare to other Xbox 360 titles that look so much better for the increase in resolution. Maybe though this is good news as I for one really hate to see a review sites that constantly blurb the obvious of High Definition looking so much better than our standard television sets. Of course this is true, but not every game will make such a staggering improvement and this is one of them.
One of the things that really shine and I mean ‘SHINE’ is the audio quality in the game, well no not the character acting, but the sound effects and music. These two factors of the entire audio factor are truly stunning especially in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround.
Weapons sound fantastic and the whole atmosphere works very well indeed. Environmental affects such as reverb etc works flawlessly, although it can pop out from nowhere at times when you pass a room with a different profile for its environment which can be quite annoying.
It is one of those games where you may be even tempted into buying the official game soundtrack, yes it is actually that good.
With the advent of achievements, playing through a game for a second time will have much more meaning especially when you can show this to everyone on your friends list and beyond. It certainly won’t be the storyline that will pull you back, but the frantic and exciting action will.
A true next generation game let down with some very flimsy cut scenes and lack lustre storyline. Still plenty of enjoyment to be had though and the online co-operative can be inspirational. A worthy addition to any initial Xbox 360 collection, but don’t expect a great detachment from other first person shooters, just more of the same, but at least on the most part done very well.