Few games are as fondly remembered as Rare's GoldenEye 007, which was one of the Nintendo 64's most critically acclaimed games. Though it may be high on the nostalgia list for many, Microsoft's purchase of Rare in 2002 and licensing issues have so far prevented the game from making the transition to the current generation of consoles. Fortunately, its unofficial sequel Perfect Dark isn't tied to a licence, and 4J Studios has been hard at work updating the game for release on Xbox Live Arcade. We spent some time with the game at Microsoft's European headquarters in Reading where we discovered that Perfect Dark and GoldenEye fans have plenty to look forward to with this new version.
Perfect Dark has been faithfully transferred to the Xbox 360. You once again taken on the role of Joanna Dark as she battles soldiers, aliens, and the government in a race to save planet Earth. There are 17 missions, plus four bonus levels to fight through, and each of the missions can be played cooperatively split-screen, as well as via Xbox Live. Technology has moved on significantly since the N64 was released, and, thankfully, the controls have been updated to take advantage of dual-analog stick pads. Players can choose from three different control layouts: classic, spartan, and duty calls. Each control system feels great, and it's refreshing to be able to navigate Perfect Dark so easily without having to use tiny buttons to look up or down as you would on the N64.
The graphics have also been fully updated. The low-resolution textures and erratic frame rates from the original have been replaced with remodelled 1080p visuals running at a smooth 60 frames per second. Props, weapons, and character models have been upgraded with more polygons, which results in a noticeably smoother look. However, Microsoft was keen to point out to us that these modifications have been done subtly so as not to detract too much from the original look of the game. Indeed, the original character animations, sound effects, and some of the more famous glitches from the single-player campaign have been preserved.
Of course, the main attraction of Perfect Dark has always been the multiplayer, and it has been updated with full Xbox Live support. It now supports up to eight players online, which can be augmented with four computer-controlled players for up to 12 in total. Unlike the original, all the content is unlocked from the beginning, so you'll be able to jump straight into playing your favourite map or mode. A number of modes are available, including Team Classic, Team Solo, and Deathmatch. Each of those can be played with a different scenario, such as Hold the Briefcase, Hacker Central, or Pop-a-Cap. They're fully customisable, and you can toggle settings like fast movement, no radar, and auto-aim on or off.
Fans will be pleased to learn that weapons, game modes, and three of the maps from GoldenEye--Complex, Temple, and Facility--have made it across in their entirety to Perfect Dark, albeit with slightly revised names due to the aforementioned licensing issues. The maps still hold up after all these years and are a testament to how well they were designed originally. Four-player split-screen mode has also been brought across, and the frame rate is much more stable than in the original. Having four people in the same room just adds to smack-talking fun, and you can take the game online should you want to battle it out with others. Leaderboards have also been incorporated for the single and multiplayer elements of the game, so you can check up on a friend's progress to make sure he or she isn't showing up your gaming skills. Perfect Dark is set for release March 17 on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 points.