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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Xbox 360
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-32
November 22, 2005
Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark

 Written by Nick Doukas  on September 30, 2005

First Impressions: Joanna stands in for the Master Chief as Xbox 360's killer launch app...

When the Xbox launched in 2001, Halo turned out to be the classic system seller. On the strength of one piece of software Microsoft's foray into the console gaming world gained the legs it needed to become a serious competitor to Sony. Of course, there's been a ton of great games for the machine since then, but in the beginning Halo was the anchor that kept the Xbox from becoming just another 3DO or Jaguar. Cut to 2005 and the imminent launch of the successor, Xbox 360. Now add in a classic game franchise like Rare's Perfect Dark, the absence of Halo 3 at launch and a new Joanna Dark adventure that pushes all the next gen buttons and you have Perfect Dark Zero ? a prequel to the much loved N64 title from 2000.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that message board malcontents and fanboys have been screaming since E3 that the game looked unimpressive as next gen technology (though it actually looked quite good back in May and it was running on lower end alpha hardware) but the latest build displayed to the press from the recent Tokyo Game Show indicates amazing progress. In particular, the incredible detail on textures and the various mapping techniques that are being used to bring the world to life. For the first time, walls and surfaces are no longer flat-looking set dressing but appear absolutely real; with specular maps creating amazing lighting and reflection, not to mention bump mapping that makes the bricks from the wall pop out in true 3D. Graffiti looks uber-sharp and colorful and the 720p resolution brings it all together into one incredible, visually dynamic package.

Ok, enough about how good it looks. As previously stated, PDZ is a prequel to the original game. The story is set in the year 2020 and explains how Joanna Dark became the super-spy introduced in Perfect Dark. The plot relates to what was supposed to be a simple, standard mission gone terribly wrong and the aftermath that JD must deal with. Along with her sidekick Chandra, an expert hacker and former Detroit PD employee, as well as her father Jack Dark - owner of Dark Bail Bonds, Joanna will have to unravel a conspiracy and find out just what caused everything to head south so fast?

As Joanna Dark you'll play through numerous missions to advance the single player plot and you'll have some sweet moves (that are somewhat of a departure from standard FPS procedures) with which to do it. There are context sensitive actions that allow you to peek around corners, use a dodge roll to avoid attacks in any of 4 directions or roll under impediments and a duck/cover move that players will find useful. The camera pulls out to a 3rd person view when you execute these moves, but it works flawlessly and instantly, so you never feel disoriented when you pull them, and your targeting is not adversely affected. In addition, you'll have access to some extremely cool gadgets such as a spy-cam that you can send ahead and into tight spaces while you remotely monitor it, as well as a lockpick (affectionately known as the Locktopus) and demolition kit. You'll use your devices throughout the adventure in mini-games that test your mettle and ability to best utilize your gear. As far as weapons go, PDZ has it covered in spades. Each gun in the game has a unique secondary function to it, such as the option to throw dual wielded Laptop guns to the ground where they become AI controlled Sentries that fire on anything that breaks their perimeter. You'll also get your hands on the Jackal Sniper Rifle, P9P (which you can dual wield), the UBL Liberator and the game's main workhorse the Superdragon, an assault rifle that features a built-in scope and the ability to bounce grenades off of any surface, not to mention a sweet night vision function. All that and more is promised by Rare, and Joanna will be equipped with a nice melee attack as well.

Ok, so that's what's in store for the campaign, now let's delve into the multiplayer which is looking very, very impressive at this point. In addition to a cool new take on co-op play ? essentially you'll be able to play along different but intersecting paths instead of side by side at times ? the online adversarial looks outstanding. While the Dark Ops mode integrates serious strategies and tactics as well as other original, ground-breaking multiplayer mechanics PDZ also features pure deathmatching and other standard game variants. Not only will you have huge, scalable (depending on the number of players) maps to master, but the game also includes jetpacks, motorcycles and hovercraft, as well as environmental elements like ziplines that add to the manic play style. Throw in that combat roll I mentioned earlier and you have a deep, immersive shooter that adds a lot to the now standard elements of FPS online play. Your opponent's armor will show damage where they've been hit, so be sure to pay close attention to those vulnerable spots if you intend to rack up a high kill count. Visual cues like this definitely draw players into the experience and help sell the reality even further. Rare promises up to 32 players in matches over Live at once. Though that is down from the original estimate of 50, 16 vs. 16 sounds pretty amazing to me, particularly when you throw in the jetpacks and motorbikes?.

As I mentioned earlier, the game looks outstanding. Everything appears razor sharp and has real weight to it, from the environments to the character models and everything in between. Painstaking detail is evident in the guns and gadgets and you'll marvel at the realism Rare has been able to achieve here. The aural component is also coming along well, and reloading animations and the sounds that accompany them are too cool for words. I'm delighted that PDZ is finally coming to fruition folks, and it looks to be the killer app fans are hoping for.

Final Thoughts
Perfect Dark Zero has been a long time coming, but if what we've recently seen is any indication, it will be worth the wait. A perfect fit for the 360 launch, we'll soon find out if Microsoft's acquisition of Rare is the ace in the hole they're hoping for. If the recent demo is any indication, I'd say it's looking very good.

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