View Full Version : Dark Zero is very good, but there are some flaws

December 4th, 2005, 19:21
I read a recent review of Perfect Dark Zero in which the writer slammed the game's "lacklustre story, unlikable characters, frustrating level designs (and) lack of more mid-mission checkpoints" - and then scored it nine out of 10. Huh?

Reaction to the Xbox 360 launch title has been a little perplexing, with some people forcing themselves to love it for the simple fact it's a) from developer Rare, b) an Xbox 360 game and c) has been six years in the making.

All those elements together should make for a mind-blowing experience, but Perfect Dark Zero is merely very good. And love should never be forced. That just leads to restraining orders.

PDZ is the prequel to the Nintendo 64 shooter Perfect Dark, which was Rare's follow-up to the slobberingly adored GoldenEye 64, even though it was widely accepted at the time that Joanna Dark was no James Bond.

And if she was no Bond on the N64, then she's no Master Chief on the Xboxen. Make no mistake, PDZ is a very well put-together shooter with an old-school flavour, especially when compared to the more refined likes of Halo 2 or Half-Life 2.

But its single-player campaign bogs down an otherwise top-notch game, as you play through a series of 14 sprawling yet linear missions as the not-really-that-interesting Joanna Dark, bail bond collector turned super-spy.

And for a game heralding the arrival of a new generation of consoles, PDZ looks more like it's just half a generation ahead. The visuals are crisp and blow away anything on the current-gen consoles, sure, but they don't pack the wallop that some gamers will be expecting from all the pre-release hype.

But wait! We're just telling you the bad news before the good news. The game's merely OK single-player campaign is overshadowed by its fine-tuned and very exciting online component. It's not quite Halo 2, but the multiplayer experience comes much, much closer to that bar of excellence than the single-player campaign does.

Another place where Perfect Dark Zero truly shines is in its co-op mode, which allows you to play the entire single-player campaign with another person via Xbox Live, system link or split-screen. The levels remain mostly the same, with the addition of a handful of obstacles in each that can only be overcome by two people working in tandem.

It's a heck of a lot of fun, much more than playing solo. And whether you're playing online or by yourself, Perfect Dark Zero's selection of weapons represents one of the most novel and interesting armouries in FPS history, from the rifle that can cloak its wearer for short periods of time to one that generates a hologram of you a few feet away.

Every one of the 20 weapons has at least two firing modes or functions, and many of them are most satisfying when used in multiplayer, either in the fragtacular Deathmatch mode or the more deliberately paced Dark Ops games, which feel a lot like Counter-Strike matches.

The original Xbox launched with Halo, still considered one of the system's best games. Perfect Dark Zero isn't quite a Halo-calibre killer app for the Xbox 360, but it is a tight, bright and frequently fun guns-a-blazing romp. It just might take a few dates before you really fall in love with this ragin' redhead.