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Revolutionary N64 Perfect Dark faithfully reproduced for the Xbox 360. A real lesson in multiplayer FPS history. But, as I discovered, history lessons on a console can be every bit as boring as they were in school.
Cards on the table, I'm a bit of an FPS fan. They've come a long way from the blocky, solo player only Wolfenstein and had many great pit stops along the way. One of those monumental benchmarks was the Nintendo 64's non-Mario must have, GoldenEye. GoldenEye was the one game I ever envied my N64 owning mate over.
Most of the time I knew I had a far better selection of games on my PlayStation 1, but if we were hanging out at her place it was a given that there would be plenty of GoldenEye action. At the time it looked fantastic, played superbly and had the wow factor of a four player split screen option. We loved it. All of us. Sometimes up to eight of us would sit around the telly taking it in turns to play, gamers and non-gamers alike, such was its brilliance.
Then, on the coattails of GoldenEye's universal success, came Perfect Dark. The next GoldenEye, proclaimed the press, a must have. It bettered GoldenEye in every respect was a line I heard a few times back then. And maybe the solo campaign did, not that I ever played it. After the all-consuming multiplayer of GoldenEye, I was only interested in what Perfect Dark's multiplayer had to offer. I can't remember why now, but it didn't last very long - maybe a couple of hours - before it was sent to Coventry. Bond remained the number one choice for us whenever we met up.
The next GoldenEye, proclaimed the press, a must have.
Five years ago, Perfect Dark Zero, a revamped version of the original, was released on the 360 to much acclaim, and now, for whatever reason, the decision has been made to release a faithful copy of Perfect Dark onto Xbox Arcade. There have been no changes whatsoever to the graphics or plot, just a re-tweaking of the frame rate and some fiddling about to end the lag that effected certain sections of the N64 version. Which explains why the game looks like it belongs in another decade.
Perfect Dark on the 360 is a world of flat, featureless facades and nondescript corridors. The last time I played this was on someone else's machine, which is never the same as sitting in your own living room with all your own stuff around you. So I kind of thought maybe this time round I'll be a bit more interested in Perfect Dark's one-time revolutionary multiplayer.
Ten minutes into some one-on-one multiplayer sessions and I know for sure that I have about as much interest in playing this today as I did back then, only for different reasons. Then it was more a case of this game is not GoldenEye so I'm not that interested. Today it's more a case of this game does not stand up to modern FPS multiplayer games in any way, shape or form.
They've chosen to reproduce the original to exact specifications, there can only ever be four players in a game at one time. More often than not, you'll be playing against just one other player. And when that means you've got five floors of a skyscraper to fight over, the amount of time you spend wandering around just trying to find your enemy is too much.
Perfect Dark's old school aiming, where you hold down your aim button and then the crosshairs move all over the screen instead of remaining in the centre of it, has a lot more in common with action shooters. This goes against everything I've ever learned about FPS games in the last five years. It throws me completely, so much so that I revert to a Doom style of play, forgetting all about targeting and concentrating on shooting from the hip only. In the heat of a gun fight madness descends and I flick wildly from one style to the other for the few seconds it takes to die.
Ten minutes into some one-on-one sessions and I know for sure that I have about as much interest in playing this today as I did back then, only for different reasons.
Playing the competitive multiplayer of Perfect Dark is a mixture of boredom and irritation. Look around online and you'll find plenty of praise for this game, normally centred around some kind of history lesson about how Perfect Dark influenced countless FPS games of today. More than a few of the people I played asked if I remembered the original version of this before reminiscing about it - I resisted the temptation to say that I didn't like it then and don't like it now.
But unless you loved this game on the N64 and want to relive those far off days Perfect Dark has very little to offer. There is absolutely no way I'd recommend this over any other FPS game, full version or Arcade, and I don't care how much some people may call for my head. There are simply too many other great multiplayer FPS games out there today to waste time going over old ground.
There is some fun to be had, if you really can't resist it. The co-op campaign for instance , has some legs in it. And the sheer wealth of weaponry available means there are plenty of ways to dispatch your enemies. The four-player split-screen option, if you're lucky enough to have mates who still regularly come over for some gaming action, is a nice throwback to the days when having the independently roving eyes of a chameleon meant you could keep one eye on where your opponents were and the other on where you were. But ultimately, Perfect Dark is good for one night's retro gaming and little more.
The way Perfect Dark moves people to reminisce about classic games of yesteryear - like pub talk without the crisps and slurring.
Only invest in Perfect Dark on XBLA if you were passionate about it back on the N64. As a standalone title in 2010, it's just not worth it.
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