gaming since 1997

Perfect Dark Zero

Perfect Dark Zero is the successor of one of the best games and shooters on the Nintendo64, Perfect Dark. Not only because of this, but also due to the fact that gamers are looking for a Halo-equivalent on Xbox360, the expectations for this launch game are extremely high. Developer Rare, bought by Microsoft a couple of years ago, had quite a job to do.

Already with the very goodlooking intro movie it’s clear Perfect Dark Zero has a very own style. Main protagonist, Joanna Dark, with sexy red hair, is a mercenary and wants to step into her dad’s footsteps as soon as possible. The story you need to go through is nothing more than an excuse to lead you through futuristic and stylised missions. Although it never stands in the way of the non-stop action that will cluster you to your screen for about 15 hours, it’s too bad you don’t get to play a memorable script. Also the characters disappoint, the cut-scenes leave you cold and the voice-acting could be a LOT better. Despite the fact that the cohesion is lacking you won’t get bored during the 12 missions though.

PDZ does offer some nice ideas that make the singleplayer more interesting. Best is without a doubt the co-op mode where you can replay the missions through split-screen or Xbox Live. Very original is the fact that you actually do play with two different characters and that you often get different paths and starting points depending on who you play. You can find your partner back easily by means of waypoints and thanks to the revive possibility you can easily get him/her back when he or she has died.

Next to this great co-op the unlockable weapons also increase the replayability, also because you can only take a gun to the next chapter if you’ve finished the last one with it. Of course there’s the necessary statistics and the different difficulty levels of which you need to unlock the highest. You get a lot of value for your money here and we haven’t even discussed multiplayer…

But first let’s go a little deeper on the way of playing. As I said you can expect gameplay that goes beyond the average in the genre. The game nicely keeps the middle between a fast action shooter like Serious Sam and the more tactical brothers like Ghost Recon. Probably a comparison with Halo concerning the speed and style is not so far away from the truth. I can already tell you that you won’t be disappointed with the overall feel of moving and shooting.

Although there are no revolutionary new things and you still can’t jump, the charm just glows from your screen and you’ll get one fun sequence after another. A bit frustrating though is the impossibility to save (despite an auto-save in the middle of a level) which makes you have to start all over again more than you’d like to, especially on the higher difficulty levels and in certain missions including the one where you need to escort your dad. That same mission also shows that some maps are a little unlogical as it takes too long before you find the way you need to follow. Luckily, sometimes arrows appear that help you on your way.

Also concerning variation you won’t be asking questions at any time. There’s a good balance between the different types of typical FPS-missions: the sniper mission, the step-on-each-other’s-feet mission, the mission under time pressure, etc etc etc. Also your gadgets deliver the necessary minigames and puzzles like picking locks and hacking computers. You also have material to wire rooms and this comes very in handy during the stealth missions. Also colleagues are present and now and then they’ll be fighting alongside you. Luckily they’re quite independent and for once won’t be running in your way. Also the obligatory vehicle is there but you shouldn’t expect more than a sidestep with it.

Very impressive are the weapons that look beautiful and are without a doubt one of the strongest points from the game. They sound real, feel real, play real and look real! On top of that you can only take a few of them since you need to take into consideration the room in your inventory (heavier weapons also make you run slower). If you want to take along a sniper rifle, you’ll have to limit yourself to handguns for the rest. But those are also handy since you can equip them with a silencer and a lamp thanks to the second and third fire possibility. Also the other weapons have these which can vary from placing an automatically firing turret and shooting arrows that confuse your opponents, to placing a hologram of yourself! Whatever you choose, each one is an example of excellent weapon design.

The two most noteable renovations are the coversystem and the rolling over the floor. The first lets you push yourself against a wall or hide behind a can by pushing the A-button. This does have to appear first before you can use it which is a minor downpoint to what for the rest is a very handy element to shoot your opponents from cover and get less damage yourself.

When doing a roll (that you can do in any direction by the way) the camera switches to a third person view and you see yourself jumping forward or sideways while doing a headroll. It doesn’t only look great but also makes it harder to get hit by enemy fire. Both things give the whole a refreshing touch and in multiplayer they get used a lot. I’d also like to add that you can take weapons out of the hands of your opponents and use them yourself if you don’t want to use your melee attack that’s all but soft!

A word on the health system is also in its place since it isn’t very clear at the beginning how it works. You have a bar that decreases quickly when you get shot but when taking cover it immediately goes back to its original state. If you get shot too often though, a part of your lifemeter will go away permanently. Since there are no health packs available you’ll often have to be very careful towards the end of a level if you don’t want to die prematurely. A system I liked very much, which looks like an evolution of Halo and that also won’t be too strange for those that play Call of Duty 2. It enhances the immersion and makes sure you’re careful from the beginning.

Your opponents will do their best to end your life, without caring too much about their own safety. They’re not overly varied but sometimes have armors that can be visually identified. Fantastic in this is that you can literally see pieces of breast plate or helmet being shot off so you know what you’re up against. A headshot with someone who’s wearing a helmet is extremely difficult. In the end the enemies drop their gun when they die and also their animations look very natural and detailed. The latter is also the case for Joanna Dark when you can check her out in third person perspective. Another nice detail is that they communicate out loud with each other and will scream that you’re reloading and that this is the moment to attack!

Their attacks are quite good although at no time they reach the levels of Half-Life 2 or F.E.A.R.. No group coordination and when you walk out of a room you can shoot them one by one as always when they pursue you. Nonetheless this never starts to bother also beause the game has a nice arcade feeling while we never can accuse the opponents of having moron Doom-tactics. What does decrease the immersion are the ragdoll physics. For some reason this starts to flip what results in opponents doing some sort of breakdance when they get shot. Too bad!

Talking about breakdance parties, there’s also a multiplayer mode present and you bet that you (and your Live or living friends) will have it cut out for your. I already told about the beautiful co-op but also in the combat arena mode the necessary fun is present. Competitive players that are fed up with Halo 2 will no doubt find what they’re looking for here. There’s the classic Deathmatch modes (with amongst others, CTF) added with the more original Dark Ops possibilities. Adjustable variables aplenty and don’t fear; also bots are present. These cpu-controlled polygones are more than capable and will give you the necessary opposition when no human opponents are present.

Counter-Strike players will squeal when they hear that the aforementioned Dark Ops variants strongly look like their favorite online PC shooter. There are rounds and the money you earn during playing can be spent on weapons and armor. On top of that there’s more variation present than in the illustrious example. With “Onslaught” one team needs to defend against the attackers and what makes it very nice is the fact that the attackers can respawn while defenders can’t. Similar mode is “Infection” where the infected ones can respawn and the non-infected get contaminated when they die. The healthy player do have the possibility to buy weapons which the other can’t, which results in very fun and exciting situations, especially when you’re the last one standing against an army of infected ones. With “Eradication” you just have to kill the entire other team and in “Sabotage” one team needs to destroy an objective with the other team prohibiting this.

With all this variation, some good maps, the bots, and a great interface, there’s a lot of multiplayer fun guaranteed. On top of that I think the so-called Xbox360 achievements will add some more addiction as everyone probably feels collecting badges is a life-saving mission. Battlefield 2 players of course already know what I’m talking about!

Visually, Perfect Dark Zero is of course very impressive. Compared with an Xbox game this is eye candy to lick your fingers, especially when you’re lucky enough to have an HDTV. There are some grafical errors, some ugly textures and glitches, but they fade into nothing with all the action happening on your screen that makes it impossible to stand still with them. Bullets fly around your ears, explosions on your screen, lighting effects blind you, and the well-used motion blur adds just that little bit extra. Also the surroundings and textures look enormously colorful and sharp and although you can debate about the design choices, you can’t say that the finishing doesn’t make you drool. For the sceptics: the screenshots don’t do the game justice.

It’s clear that the limits of the X360 have by far not been reached and that the game doesn’t near graphical perfection but all in all your tongue will dangle out of your mouth when looking at this candy for the very first time. And did I say the weapons are just like real?

The sound is equally impressive thanks to the original and good soundtrack (with some techno tracks amongst others) and the beautiful effects. The weapons sound incredibly clear and also the rest of the sounds are of the highest level. Only too bad that some of the characters have a bit too simple voicing, what doesn’t help the meagre storyline.

If you’ve completely read this long review you by now know I’ve really enjoyed this top game. The excellent gameplay, the fantastic weapons, the impressive visual and auditive presentation, the long and varied singleplayer campaign, and the very exhaustive and varied multiplayer put this game on top of the list of console shooters. It may not be a revolution for the genre and it isn’t perfect (story and characters are by far not memorable enough for that), but if you don’t like this you’d better find another hobby. Perfect Dark Zero is the visual opponent of gripping action movie and forms on its own a reason to get an HDTV and X360! Don’t expect a Halo-killer though.

Our Score:
related game: Perfect Dark Zero
posted in: Microsoft, Reviews, X360
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