|Perfect Dark Zero (2005)
Available for: Xbox 360
Ready or not, the next-generation of gaming has arrived, and with it comes a formidable launch title in the form of “Perfect Dark Zero.” Originally in development as a sequel to the first “Perfect Dark” game for the N64, developer Rare then dragged “PDZ” through a series of setbacks that had the title jumping consoles to the Nintendo Gamecube, and finally, to the HD-ready Xbox 360. You won’t hear fans of the series complaining, though, because the amazing graphics and tight controls are well worth the wait. As a prequel to the original “Perfect Dark,” the player assumes the role of Joanna Dark, a bounty-hunter-in-training under the guidance of her father, Jack Dark, and the cooperation of their female tech specialist, Chandra.
After completing a training mission that involves blasting away annoying little robo-spiders and learning the certain skill sets behind being a gun-for-hire, Joanna is thrust into action alongside Dad in a series of fourteen missions surrounding the investigation of a shady tech corporation called dataDyne and its vertically challenged CEO, Zhang Li. Along with the usual functions of any first-person shooter, Joanna also has a melee attack and the ability to take cover behind walls and other objects. The option of taking cover is by far the biggest difference from most other shooters, and it shows, since you’ll be using this method a lot once you’ve made your way to the later levels of the single-player campaign.
Not usually an enthusiast of first-person shooters, and even more so of their single-player modes, “PDZ” caught me by complete surprise. It’s no secret that the game looks absolutely gorgeous in all of its HD glory, but the single-player campaign can also be quite entertaining as long as you don’t rely on the game’s weak plot. What really makes this game a winner, though, is the quality of weapons that you’ll stumble upon while playing. A combination of both real and sci-fi weaponry, the firearms that pop up throughout gameplay are a blast to experiment with. Along with the option of dual wielding smaller pistols, every weapon also has a secondary function – like heat vision radar or a grenade launcher, and this is very the fun really starts.
Even more refreshing is the multiplayer mode, which I have to admit didn’t impress me until after playing through it for a good while. There’s certainly some problems that I ran into, namely with uninteresting game modes like territorial gains that rarely last more than a few minutes, but for the most part, it’s a positive experience. The multiplayer option is available via system link or Xbox Live, where you can play co-op with another gamer through the single player missions, Deathmatch kill count, team kill count, capture the flag, and a series of Dark Ops modes that will help to keep gameplay interesting well into next year.
If you’re willing to throw down an extra ten bucks, you can pick up “PDZ” in a limited collector’s edition tin that includes a bonus disc filled with, well, not much of anything. In all honesty, the extra disc does offer concept art videos, gamer pictures and themes to use on your Live profile, and the first chapter of the upcoming “PDZ” novel, but for the casual gamer looking to save some cash this holiday season, you’re better off sticking with the standard version. This doesn’t mean that you can’t slack off and not buy this game at all, because it’s a definite must-have for anyone lucky enough to get their hands on a 360 before the end of the year.