When Rare unleashed Perfect Dark back in 2000, many gamers were hoping for a true spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007. What could have been "GoldenEye minus Bond plus aliens" evolved into something else entirely, with an arsenal of multi-use weapons, an array of multiplayer options, bots with selectable personalities, tons of firing range challenges, and more. In fact, the only real complaints thrown its way could be blamed on the Nintendo 64 hardware. Even with the Expansion Pak, the framerate would drop significantly whenever the activity onscreen ramped up. In this XBLA remake, all of the technical annoyances are swept away, making this the ultimate version of Perfect Dark.
Some remakes toss in new features or weapons as an incentive to re-purchase the game. Not Perfect Dark. This is the console FPS exactly as you remember it, except a whole lot prettier. The framerate cruises along flawlessly, and the character models and environments have a brand new high-res coat of paint. Modern FPS titles clearly feature more technical prowess, but it’s still an obvious improvement on the source material. It's great to be able to play four-player splitscreen without a hint of slowdown, regardless of how many rockets and bots are in the fray.
Many of the features introduced in the original still hold up. Joanna has a vast arsenal of weapons at her disposal, and the secondary fire modes effectively double your options. Counter-Ops mode was an intriguing (and rarely seen) feature that allowed a second player to control story mode villains; it's even better this time around thanks to the framerate improvement.
While Counter-Ops works well, cooperative play is flawed. It may have been an exciting and new feature back in the day, but its age shows in this remake. Mission objectives don't lend themselves well to two people, and it's often hard to tell exactly what the second player should be doing. One mission involves sneaking into a facility while wearing a disguise, but only one is available. This led to me donning the disguise and having all the fun while my partner waited outside the building. If there was some method of getting both players into the facility without sounding the alarms and ending the mission, it certainly wasn’t made clear.
Objectives are often ambiguous even in single-player, with no real method of ascertaining where you're supposed to go next or who you should kill and not kill. Trial-and-error gameplay was expected back then, but the current state of games has spoiled us with better overall game design. Restarting an entire mission because of poorly-explained objectives is more aggravating than ever.
Frustrations aside, Perfect Dark is a great example of how a remake should be done. In the original, it almost felt like you were punished for making the gameplay exciting: More action resulted in more slowdown. Now, it runs smooth as silk whether you're sneaking around with a tranquilizer gun or diving into a multiplayer match with rockets blazing. Fans of the original shouldn't hesitate to pick this one up and relive their Nintendo 64 memories.
Perfect Dark's rebirth on Xbox Live is a surprising success.