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Perfect Dark Review - Nintendo 64 version

Late in the Nintendo 64's lifespan, Rare gave us Perfect Dark, the spiritual successor of Goldeneye and arguably one of the finest experiences of Nintendo's final cart-based console.

Graphical horsepower - 98%

Cinematics book-end every mission.
Cinematics book-end every mission.

It clearly shows that Rare have expanded, upgraded and improved Goldeneye's engine for Perfect Dark. The graphical system gives it exceptional 3D quality, pushing the N64 literally to its limits. All the models including characters, weapons and objects are beautifully rendered and rich in colour, although it does look rather odd when a character is speaking and their mouth doesn't move!

Each weapon features its own visible reload animation which looks and works great, unlike in Goldeneye where the weapon simply dropped out the screen and then returned, ready to fire. The textures used for skins and geometry are highly detailed and varied - you won't see any repetitive environments and very few recycled areas.

Despite the large amount of data the game loads in each level, the engine runs smoothly in almost any situation, with the frame rate only dropping when a major number of characters are on-screen. The lens flare effect with the sun and many other lighting effects really give the game added polish, especially in alien environments - how often do you see lens flares crossing from three suns? It's also the little touches that count - like when you shoot out a light bulb, sparks occasionally fly from it and rooms become darker if you pop too many lights.

Overall, the graphics in this game are marvelous to look at - top class for the N64 generation.

Audio in the dark - 100%

From Chicago to Nevada.
From Chicago to Nevada.

The audio in Perfect Dark is some of the best the Nintendo 64 has to offer. The sound effects are remarkably realistic and very lifelike, such as guns discharging and the patter of footsteps on different surfaces. Many N64 games don't use spoken dialogue, they simply utilise on-screen subtitle text. Perfect Dark however has broken that boundary and features fully-spoken dialogue within the game as well as all the cutscenes.

The voices are very clear and convincingly portrayed. Each character has their own unique voice and subsequent personality - on a Nintendo console this feature almost makes it feel like watching a movie. The music is by far one of the crowning achievements of the game, with more than 40 tracks used. Each theme sets the scene for every level magnificently, with a tone setting the atmosphere just right.

Rare's musician veteran Grant Kirkhope along with Graeme Norgate and David Clynick have given us all something very special - each track is rich in quality and is perfect to sit back and listen to in the Combat Simulator's music gallery.

Controlling the conspiracy - 97%

The HUD is simple and unobtrusive.
The HUD is simple and unobtrusive.

The controls in PD are usually very responsive and don't let you down at all. The engine of the game has been well designed and operates like a well-oiled machine, but there are small minor glitches, like when an enemy spots you, becomes stuck on a corner of a wall and begins to inch around it to confront you. Thankfully some glitches can provide a bit of humour, but apart from these minor bugs, the co-ordination and style of the game puts you right in the action and is sufficiently fast-paced.

Mastering the use of weaponry provides a good learning curve with such a massive arsenal to choose from. The Carrington Institute's firing range is an ideal training simulator for weapons as they become unlocked and provides a fun mini-game outside the campaign missions.

The enemies are challenging foes and are much more intelligent and deadlier than Goldeneye's goons. They respond in different ways when you shoot at them, and they also shout at you and call to each other. Instead of being simple set pieces trying to shoot you to pieces, the enemies can call for assistance and sneak up on you if they can, so you'll have to be more careful. Watch out on higher difficulty settings - especially in the Combat Simulator. Don't take on the tougher opponents unless you have boat-loads... no, aircraft carrier-loads of patience.

Perfect replay - 96%

Multiplayer madness.
Multiplayer madness.

Once you beat the game on the Agent setting, you'll definitely want to take a shot at Special Agent and maybe even Perfect Agent (good luck), as the game adds more objectives with each higher setting while ramping up the challenge. This will keep players interested in the game for months, maybe ever years. The additional Combat Simulator is a never-ending feature, as you can always gain new awards and ranks, and the user-created combat settings are a nice touch.

Even once you've achieved the near-impossible and conquered the game on Perfect Agent, you can still try to best your old times and gain special cheats by beating certain missions within an allotted time limit. Perfect Dark will never be a perfect bore, and all the additional content atop the campaign missions will keep you coming back for more. A great game that has it all, "Perfect Dark" refers to the nickname of Joanna Dark, but it definitely also refers to the game itself - it's perfect.

Final score: 9/10

Posted on March 18th, 2010.