First person shooters came and went through the gaming world like a whizzing bullet, and only a few left impressions like a grenade blast. To make it even more challenging to leave a mark, very few first person shooters ever appeared on the Nintendo 64 console. Goldeneye left that mark and appeared on the N64, disproving the theory about first person shooters on a Nintendo system. If any developer or company were to compete, it would have to reach Goldeneye‘s level of graphical prowess and great game play. That game would have to be close to perfect, and Perfect Dark is that game. Although it used the same gaming engine as Goldeneye, Perfect Dark improved on most of its predecessor’s strong points: graphics, game play, story and variety.
One of the main reasons for Perfect Dark‘s success was the story. It followed Joanna Dark, a secret agent working on an assignment to retrieve an informant that was being held prisoner. One of the key elements in Perfect Dark‘s story was its number of surprises. The game started off as a simple secret agent shooting her way into a top-secret building, only to find out that her assignment was a hovering, talking Laptop. Things became even stranger from there, as a big alien conspiracy and major takeover were revealed, leading you to missions to save your boss, the president of the United States and Elvis’s home planet. No, not that Elvis; this Elvis was actually a skinny blue alien with a big head and big eyes that actually wanted to help you defeat the Skedar(evil aliens). The majority of Perfect Dark played as a run and gun type, while some levels called for discretion, creating a spy-like world. Any slip ups and your cover was blown.
Perfect Dark‘s variety of high tech weapons was and in some cases is still unmatched. Such guns as the Laptop gun made it a blast to use against friends. Each gun in the game featured two functions some a simple butt with the end of the gun while others featured more elaborate functions such as the Laptop’s where you could throw the gun off onto a wall as a sentry gun and anyone or anything that comes into its radius would be fired on instantly. Along with the high-tech agent weapons, there were those of the Skedar weapons.
Also varying were the missions set forth in single player mode. Depending on the difficulty setting Perfect Dark would challenge gamers to a new set of goals. This may sound ordinary, but Perfect Dark upped it a notch by having new areas be accessible or a new start point or the slightest change in a level to create a new level of difficulty. Along with this gratifying single player game, Perfect Dark featured a four player co-op mode where those players would take on challenges like fighting armed aliens or beating a number of bad guys within a certain amount of time. Every challenge was varied by its requirements, and each was entertaining. Although single player was the center of most of the action, multiplayer was also exceptionally good.
The controls were easy to pick up and play; those familiar with Goldeneye‘s controls were trained and ready for combat. The trigger button of the N64 was the fire button naturally, while the other buttons were used as a reload button, an action button and a secondary weapon button. The control stick moved Joanna and the right button targeted where she would shoot. The controls were very tight and concise. The fact that Perfect Dark was put on the N64 created some issues, as with the controller being very oddly shaped and not as comfortable as those controllers found on the competing consoles.
Most first person shooters graphics are a bit on the smeared side, explosions are muttered and smeared and the place of explosion doesn’t have a mark on it. Although Perfect Dark didn’t break new grounds by allowing characters to destroy walls or doors, it did allow players to leave marks, blood stains, and realistic explosions. The cut scenes were intriguing and didn’t lag, keeping the mood of the game intact. Glass shatters, aliens drool, blood squirts, explosions have flames, and alien ships hover just like any well formulated sci-fi first person shooter. Without the expansion pack, this game’s graphics were very poor and the frame-rate lagged, and the multi-player wasn’t playable without it. With the expansion pack, however, Perfect Dark did feature some exceptional graphics. Nothing was out of this world, but it was decent nonetheless.
Guns fired off and rockets exploded, the music was passable and the voices were top notch, especially when victims of gunshots curse vulgarities at Joanna. The guns’ hit detection could be deciphered through the audio crystal clear, and alien grunts forced intimidation upon the gamer. Elvis’s voice could be annoying at times, but there’s always the sound of hot lead being released that could cover up the voice. For a first person shooter, the guns sounded realistic and plausible. Overall, it was good for the first person genre but nothing groundbreaking.
Replay value of Perfect Dark is still huge, even today it is still played. After completing the story mode on certain difficulty levels, gamers could return to the main game and could switch the difficulty to experience Perfect Dark with some added features. Even with more tasks to complete and more open areas, it also featured extra levels, letting you take over as Elvis and escape from a compound on one level. Even more of the replay value of Perfect Dark appeared in the challenges and the multiplayer modes. Over thirty challenges could test gamers to different missions involving the defeat of a certain amount of characters in a set time or the hack of computers, or just survival. The challenges tested even the best, and as the higher challenges were met, Perfect Dark‘s difficulty rose. The challenges could also be tackled by playing with three or more friends. Replay value on games does not get much better.
The game is still heralded as one of the best in the gaming world, and many gamers claim that Halo built its success around this very game. The truth is, this game is one of a kind, with its in-depth espionage sci-fi story and its wide array of multi-player modes and awesome weaponry. No other game has reached its level of greatness. With a co-op mode, advanced graphics, and tight controls, there’s no denying that this game is one of the top of its genre. Perfect Dark was to me, and in some cases still is, perfect.