Never Played: PERFECT DARK
I just realized that totally by accident we have chosen Rareware games for all three N64 games for replay and review. But I guess that just goes to show you the total domination of a hardware Rare had during the N64 era. I can’t think of another developer for another console who’s even come close to producing the number and quality of titles that Rare did for the N64. Hell, the average MetaCritic score of Blast Corps, Conker’s, DK64, Perfect Dark, Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie is over 90. That is basically unheard of.
In 2000, Rare released Perfect Dark after three years of development. It ran off the same engine as their previous masterpiece Goldeneye and is somewhat of a spiritual successor to that game as well, both games being first-person spy shooters. It had good sales and even better critical acclaim, ending up being Metacritic’s second highest rated N64 game, finishing second only to the game many believe the best game of all time: Ocarina of Time. It spawned one sequel: Perfect Dark Zero which came to the Xbox 360 as a launch title. Perfect Dark was also remade as part of the Rare Replay collection on Xbox One.
Perfect Dark‘s cover art sets the mood for the game as a dark and sexy spy thriller. Having never played the game I didn’t know much of what to expect from it other than my extensive history with Goldeneye. It plays a lot like Goldeneye but with less attention to personality and more attention given to refining the stealth gameplay and an improvement on the controls and camera. Graphic-wise it was a step up over most other games I’ve played on N64 and it didn’t disappoint me in the audio department either with its funky spy themes, great voice acting and solid sound effects. I was particularly fond of the main menu’s theme. The gameplay has you controlling Joanna, as you infiltrate various areas and prove yourself as a new field agent in the cut-throat world of espionage. While the level designs and A.I. capabilities are great compared to other N64 shooters, I find it hard to look past how poor they were compared to modern day shooters. The A.I. in older shooters is so bad its laughable and often pulled me out of the experience. That’s a shame really because otherwise the music, aesthetics and just overall mood of the game do a good job of getting you engrossed in Perfect Dark and focused on your mission at hand. Missions were fun, a good length and of a respectable difficulty. Its hard for me to judge the game’s multiplayer as I didn’t have a chance to test it with actual humans. I have read many people’s praises of Perfect Dark‘s multiplayer and its great use of bots. I found the bots to be respectable for such an old game but again, not near as strong as what we have these days in our shooters.
My biggest fault I find with Perfect Dark is the same one I find when going back to play Goldeneye and most other older shooters, particularly those on N64: the controls are horrendous. Not just bad, like nigh unplayable bad. Perfect Dark is the best of any of them, but even it has its problems. Two joystucks are basically a requirement if you want to have fluid control of a 3D first person shooter, but we hadn’t quite figured that out yet at this stage in gaming. At that time we loved what we had and didn’t think twice about it. But coming back to these early 3D shooters after using the 360’s controller and the dfferent versions of the DualShock over the years it is infuriating and frustrating to play a FPS using the N64’s controller.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Perfect Dark and can see why its one of the best rated games ever. It may not hold up as well as other games, but I do believe it deserved its praise at its time and I wish I had played it back then before becoming so accustomed to the advances gaming has made with FPS’s.