Where's my nightlight?
In 1997, the best console first-person shooter of all time was released. Of course, I'm talking about Goldeneye. While it still had some problems, it was just a great game. From the great graphics to the sniper rifle to the death throes of the enemies, Goldeneye continued to be a best seller for years. Most of us in the GR office believed that we'd see a new game on the Goldeneye engine released within a year. Boy, were we wrong.
When E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) 1998 came around, we got our first glimpse of Perfect Dark. Then, silence. E3 1999 arrived, and we got to play a few levels. Then, silence once again. Vowing not to be shown at more than three E3's (a stigma that no game wants, *cough* Daikatana *cough*), Perfect Dark hit the shelves just in time for the latest expo, and in many ways, it was worth the wait. Though not the revolutionary title we might have longed for, Perfect Dark is an exceptional game that builds on the Goldeneye foundation and outshines its predecessor.
The graphics are top notch. However, you should know that you NEED a RAM expansion pack in order to play this game. Though a few minor features work without the pack, the bulk of the game suffers dramatically and you can't play most of it (including all single player missions). So, go buy an expansion pack, or even Donkey Kong 64, which comes with one. Sneaky corporate devils.
That having been said, the pack logically makes the graphics better than Goldeneye. Instead of using the extra power to improve the textures and resolution, the developers (Rare) lengthened the viewable area and kept some RAM free for the enemy AI. There is occasional slowdown and the flying objects have a few polygonal glitches, but they are easily ignored. Sacrificing graphics for gameplay - a good decision in my opinion, especially when the game still looks great.
Gameplay-wise, Perfect Dark is really good. Unlike Goldeneye, where you had to see the movie to know what to do, Perfect Dark introduces and ends many levels with audio events and in-game cut-scenes. If you still don't know what to do, there's a briefing you can read at the beginning of each mission. While the briefing does seem a bit long, it tells you all you need to know - in many ways, too much.
The different gameplay modes in Perfect Dark vary mainly by enemy count and mission objectives. The basic Agent mode is easy, perfect for those who just want to run through the levels shooting things. The Secret Agent mode gives you a bit more to do and makes things a little tougher, but not too bad. Unless you get easily frustrated, play as the Secret Agent, because the Agent mode is just too easy. For perfectionists ('scuse the pun), there's Perfect Agent mode. As with Goldeneye, the more levels you beat at various times in the different modes open up new cheats.
The AI, unfortunately, is fairly unintelligent. Adopting the age-old rush-at-her-with-as-many-people-as-possible ploy, the number of times you have a hallway filled with dead people is a little ridiculous. Fans of FPS games on the PC may be disappointed in this respect, but for the more action-oriented console gamer, this type of AI may have been the best way to go. I do wish they'd aim a bit better, though.
The level design is just amazing. The complex, sprawling levels are as varied as they are semi-realistic. With most futuristic FPS games throwing any sort of legitimate architecture out the window (then blowing it up with a BFG), it's good to be in an office building that looks like an office building. When the location looks realistic, it adds to the depth and addiction of the game.
Add to that forty different weapons, including one that can both shoot through and look through walls, and you've got a long time ahead of you uncovering everything Perfect Dark has to offer. But I'll tell you right now, so there's no doubt in anyone's mind... there is not now, nor will there ever be a nude code for Joanna Dark. Go get a girlfriend!
Since good multiplayer is one of the things that made Goldeneye so popular, it's not surprising that there's extensive multiplayer support in Perfect Dark. All the same old modes are there for you Deathmatch junkies, with a few new ones for kicks. Don't like playing on your own? Try Co-operative and run the missions with a friend. Think the enemy AI is too easy? Try Counter-operative where one of your friends plays on the enemy side. Every time he dies, he jumps to another enemy's body. These different playing modes drastically extend the amount of gameplay you'll get from Perfect Dark.
When the game is over and the lights come up, Perfect Dark shines out as one of the best N64 games and a must-have for anyone who liked Goldeneye. Though some problems hold it back from true greatness, we all can't be perfect . . . can we?