Perfect Dark is an Impressive XBLA Package
Perfect Dark was originally released for the N64 in 2000 as a spiritual sequel to GoldenEye 007. Now it comes to the Xbox Live Arcade as a download for 800 Microsoft points with a cosmetic upgrade to work in HD and a smooth 60 frames per second. People who've played this before should know that the game is nearly unchanged from the N64 version. Those who have never played Perfect Dark might find it a tougher sell to spend points on a ten year old first person shooter. However, even if you're not operating on nostalgia Perfect Dark is an impressive buy for an Xbox Live Arcade game. It's loaded up with a complete story mode, fleshed out multiplayer mode, and chocked full of challenges to keep your trigger finger itchy for a long while. Compared to modern shooters, this game cuts no corners. The single player mode is just as thought out and developed as the multiplayer mode and has plenty of replay value on higher difficulties. Not to mention it has tons of crazy guns that are still impressive to this day. Guns disguised as laptops that can change into sentry turrets, guns that shoot through walls, guns that can be deployed as booby traps and much much more.
Controls are standard for first person shooters. You use the left and right analogue sticks to navigate levels. The right trigger fires guns. The left trigger manually aims. Bumpers are used to good effect for secondary weapon modes and quick weapon swaps. And if for some reason you need to adjust controls they have two other settings nicknamed "Spartan" (Halo) and "Duty Calls" (Call of Duty). The only thing that doesn't work great is manually aiming. It's really tough to zero in on a stationary target much less one that is running around. Players addicted to headshots will probably be frustrated to no end. To pick up the slack, auto-aim is in full effect for every game mode (although you can turn it off in the options if you wish). It's up to the player to decide if this is bad or not, but it does allow people to jump in and have fun without worrying about super accurate shots. Auto-aim does snap to targets but it won't do all the work for you. Any player that moves around enough can avoid getting shot long enough to put their targets down.
The single player is a spy drama set in the future with a little sci-fi thrown in to spice things up. You play as Joanna Dark as she investigates the mega corporation dataDyne and all their nefarious plans. The major players of the story are pretty much stock characters filling in parts like the greedy CEO, the power hungry government type, and the mysterious third party pulling all the strings. Joanna Dark is the sassy secret agent that doesn't take any nonsense and sneaks/shoots her way to mission complete. However, there are plenty of surprises as things escalate until you're dealing with the President of the USA, hidden super weapons, and more. It's a fun ride with the exception of a few missions that frustrate rather than entertain. But one of the most impressive aspects of Solo Mode is the way missions change based on difficulty. For example: in one mission you have to save a negotiator from being executed. On the hardest difficulty, YOU ARE the negotiator and you have to save yourself with a concealed weapon. Difficulties control how many objectives there are and how big the level becomes. You'll be surprised how many things change as you move up from easy to hard. It's great replay value. Not to mention the music which is top notch.
However, single player also shows Perfect Dark's age in some respects. Things people take for granted in the year 2010 are noticeably absent. There are no checkpoints, no maps, and no markers for objectives. The only hints in the game how you're supposed to complete your mission is a vauge paragraph in the objectives detail menu. Fans of the game will see this coming. Other people might find it jarring as it's more of a throwback to Nintendo Hard days where the player was left to figure everything out. Many times you'll have to use the trial and error approach as you figure out where to throw a mission critical device, how to secure important equipment and guns, and who you're allowed to shoot. Many missions have an unspoken "avoid shooting anyone who doesn't pull a gun on you". It's not as bad as it sounds, but it pays to listen to mission briefings and in-game chatter. At the same time, the enemy interactions stand out as something special these days. You can disarm them by shooting the gun out of their hands. If you shoot them in the leg or arm, they'll limp or clutch their side appropriately. Some may even fake surrendering before pulling out a pistol for a desperation attack.
Last we have multiplayer. It has all the customization options you could ever want. Game modes range from combat, team combat, capture the case (flag), and others. You can make a custom character using all the models from the single player story (and some that aren't). You can select from 16 multiplayer maps to wreck havoc on. Each map has six slots for guns that can be preset collections or mixed and matched to perfection. Score, time, and team score limits can also be set for lightning quick matches or long endurance matches. Also, you can set up to 8 Simulants, or computer controlled bots. The difficulty of each Sim can be set individually along with their personallity. You can set a Sim who is completely suicidal (KazeSim), a Sim who uses nothing but explosives (RocketSim), a Sim who does nothing but travel around the stage stealing player's weapons (PeaceSim), and other setups. My favorite is FistSim who refuses to use guns and goes all martial arts on everyone like he was Batman. And if you ever come up with the perfect scenario, you can save it (up to eight total) to play later with friends. You can also play online up to eight players in a free-for-all or team match. There is no migrating host, so it's probably better to play with friends. Still, the option is there.
Perfect Dark also has leaderboards, the ability to unlock cheats for beating story missions exceptionally fast, firing range challenges to get to know every weapon in the game, co-operative, counter-operative (where one player tries to prevent the other from completing a story mission), combat simulator challenges (fights against Sims), secret missions, and other features. There is a lot packed in to the point where even if the game has a few rough edges it easily makes up with content. Fans of the N64 version have probably already bought it. People who are curious might want to check it out because there is a lot to offer. Don't forget there is a demo version if you're on the fence and need some hands-on to decide. Perfect Dark isn't perfect, but it's pretty damn impressive.