Perfect by name...
You know that feeling you get when you've been waiting for something for so long and it just doesn't live up to the hype? It's called anti-climax. Take Star Wars for example, if you can honestly say that you enjoyed the film after the onslaught of the hype then you are clearly in need of psychiatric help! Thankfully Rare's latest title - possibly the most anticipated videogame ever - more than lives up to its advance publicity. Perfect Dark is worth all the hype that preceded it and then some - it most definitely is 'all that'!
This game was first mentioned in 64 Magazine way back in issue 15 (14 if you include the rumour about Goldeneye 2!) and it has since been delayed more times than a Virgin commuter train. Now, in issue 41, the UK version of the game is finally here and the wait is almost over. In just a couple of weeks life as you know it will be over, as you are
Better Than A Lottery Win!
The year is 2023 and you play Joanna Dark, a special agent working for the top secret organization known as the Carrington Institute. Being the concerned operative that she is, Joanna decides to investigate the sinister dataDyne Corporation. Needless to say something is amiss and you soon find yourself travelling all over the world as you tackle the 17 missions in this game. Not to mention a trip into a secret Area 5i-style location populated with Grey aliens! Like Goldeneye, each level in the game involves several different objectives which need to be finished before you can progress any further. The higher the difficulty setting the more objectives you get - the trials Joanna must overcome getting progressively more dangerous as you choose from Agent, Secret Agent or the ultimate: Perfect Agent
Tastier Than A Gourmet Meal!
The difficulty setting you choose also makes a massive difference to the gameplay. Whereas in Goldeneye you could wander round the entire level and even complete all the objectives of 007 Agent on the easiest Agent setting (you just wouldn't gain anything by it), in Perfect Dark all that has changed. The higher difficulty settings open up entirely new parts of the levels which cannot even be explored on the easier settings! With this and the random placing of enemies, each of the missions becomes a new challenge each time you play it. On some of the levels even more drastic changes are made between Agent and Perfect Agent settings. On one level for example, you enter the stage as a rooftop sniper, protecting a negotiator on a pier below. However, if you are playing on the harder setting, you yourself are thrown into the centre of the fray as the negotiator!
It's not just the missions themselves that change though, as the enemy Al has been given a serious boost since Goldeneye. Whereas in the Bond shooter the henchmen seem like they're novices straight out of boot camp, these dataDyne bods seem to have degrees in making your life a misery! In Goldeneye you could quite happily predict what your opponents were going to do, but now they try such underhand things as attempting to circle around behind you. This increased Al makes the challenge a hell of a lot better and the gameplay a lot more tense.
More Desirable Than Buffy!
Another thing which gets bumped up as you move through the difficulty levels is the accuracy and power of the sentry guns. In Goldeneye they pretty much stayed the same whether you were on Agent or oo Agent but in this game they pose a whole new problem. Slip up on Perfect Agent setting and you're human Swiss cheese faster than you can say 'help'! One thing you do notice as soon as any gun starts firing is just how gory Perfect Dark is! We're not talking Turok standards here but the stained Soviet suits of Goldeneye - which looked quite frankly like someone had suffered a wine spillage - are gone! Now if you pepper someone with bullets you get a viscous-yet-stylish blood spray, which pebble-dashes the surrounding walls!
Killing people has never been so much fun and Perfect Dark is sure to bring a disturbing maniacal smile to your face. As well as the gory red showers the comedy death animations also make a welcome come-back. This time new ones have been added to the already improved classics and the reactions almost make your feet sympathetic...almost! If you took ,great pleasure in torturing someone with the pistol in Goldeneye then you'll take even more pleasure in doing it in Perfect Dark.
Faster Than A Ferrari
There are certainly plenty of tools to help you reap havoc upon the enemy in this game. 40 gorgeous futuristic weapons are just waiting for you to slap in a clip, ready to rock and roll. These even include a few classic guns hidden away from Goldeneye like the PP7! Best of all though, almost every single one of the guns in Perfect Dark has a second function - which brings the killing unarmed then you can opt to disarm the bad-guns and turn their own weapons variety count up to nearly 80! The automatic Dragon weapon for example, doubles up as a proximity mine which can be thrown on the floor and if you're on them!
Of course any self-respecting special agent should never be without their toys and Joanna is no exception. She has James Bond-style gadgets coming out of her ears - and as this is set in 2023 the toys are futuristic to say the least. Included in her arsenal are a floating pod camera, which can be flown into rooms and a lap top which doubles up as a sentry gun! Throughout the course of the game you also get to pilot a hoverbike, which is a lot faster and a lot more fun to drive than Bond's tank was!
Better Than Goldeneye
The bike, gadgets and especially the guns are made even more desirable by the seriously pumpin' sound effects. If you haven't got your N64 hooked up to your stereo or a decent surround-sound system yet then this game is the 'perfect' excuse! With the volume cranked up the gun sound effects are quite literally breathtaking and if you take your games seriously then there's always the bonus with surround sound of being able to hear where the enemy are coming from.
It's not only the sound which stands out about this game, because unless you're blind then you'll notice that V it also looks mouth-wateringly delicious! In fact, Perfect Dark is so gorgeous it puts Goldeneye to shame making it look just like what it is - a first generation N64 title. Even Turok 2 and Quake should bow down to this game! The lighting effects look amazing and the outdoor levels are practically fog free. Oh and then there are the blurring effects! Normally this would be a big no-no in any game but here blurring is used to show the effects of drugs, blow darts and radiation poisoning. It's the numerous small touches like this which make this game really stand out from the crowd.
The only major grumble against Perfect Dark is the fact that if you don't have the Expansion Pak, then you won't be able to play the one-player game at all! Worse still, without it the multiplayer becomes restricted to just a two-player game! So if you don't already own a pak then this does bump up the price quite a bit but then again if you haven't got one yet, why not? They've been around long enough - hell it was even bundled in with Donkey Kong If that isn't enough of a reason then how about this - it's Perfect Dad. This is the best game ever to grace the N64 and if you have to sell your soul to the devil himself to get an Expansion Pak then so be it!