8.5

This resurrected champ of Nintendo 64 is a must for vintage video gamers and devoted Perfect Dark fans.

The Nintendo 64/Playstation Era saw standards being set for video games that would have an impact on future gaming consoles, even today's generation. Perfect Dark was no exception when it was released in 1999 to Nintendo 64 owners. Constructed by the same minds that gave us the previously successful first-person shooting hit Goldeneye 64, Perfect Dark had more than a fair share of violence, objective-based challenges, and overall rewarding game play experience. Thanks to 4J Studios, this behemoth from a decade ago has been resurrected and can be purchased on Xbox Live for the Xbox 360. Better yet, it's a great sell – and you don't need an expansion pack to play the campaign.

One of the first things you'll notice about this refurbished version is its crisp animation and frame rate. Everything runs smoother than it did for the Nintendo 64 version (as you would expect). The result is a much more colorful and detailed display for the game. All weapons have been given an HD polish and now have a reload animation as opposed to the gun just lowering from view and coming back, reloaded. There is absolutely no slowing down during intense gun fights or explosions. Case in point, the game looks as stunning as ever.

In terms of graphical quality, the game walks a straight line. But bringing back a game from ten years back has also brought in some noticeable flaws that should have been addressed. While the character models look nicely done, was it too much to ask to make their mouths move when they talked? Other not-so-amazing moments include bland level designs and some of the textures have not received justice such as snow and sand, in particular. Using the x-ray scope for the FarSight XR-20 now feels a bit disorienting. The maps, for the most part, work very well but it can be easy to get lost and difficult to know where to go as there is almost no guide to helping you where to look which is not a big deal but the level design makes this exceptionally tricky.

The game play is just as charming (and frustrating) as before. Each level requires you to complete a certain amount of objectives in order to progress to the next mission. Objectives range from using hacking devices on computers to activating a console or some other device. The game has different difficulty levels and they are most often defined by the number of objectives which gives you a very good reason to go back and play through the game again on a different difficulty. On the easiest difficulty, you are often spared a lot of these objectives but on higher levels, more areas are open to you and more objectives are required for completion which greatly broadens the experience for everyone. Guns have secondary functions which can range from pistol-whipping to the Dragon assault rifles proximity self-destruct mode which acts like a proximity mine.

That said, we are reminded of why some of us were engulfed by fits of anger from time to time with this game as failure to complete an objective in time or if a mission-critical device or individual is killed forces you to restart the level. There are no in-game saves or checkpoints which is something that vintage gamers know too well. Level design can also cause problems – not knowing where to go because you find your running circles through a level while trying to complete something within a certain time limit can be frustrating. There are a lot of hair-trigger moments that can mean success or instant failure. The game itself can be a bit vague in terms of how to complete these objectives and there is nothing in the game that really helps. The best solution to this is to dust off your Perfect Dark strategy guides that you hidden away in the attic or basement (or high-security video game vault, if you're that crazy) and use that or any online strategy guide because the game is very short on clues to help you out. Other than that, the only way to succeed is doing what is guaranteed to work – trial and error.

The A.I. is decent for the most part. At higher difficulty levels, they have a much better aim and will inflict more damage, forcing you to take cautious steps confronting your foes as opposed to running through levels and blasting away at everyone. While they will take steps to dodge your aim and use other methods to thwart your success, they more often make obscure choices. Whether doing a barrel role right in front of you or running straight for you (or away from you), gaming A.I. has certainly improved over the years leaving this game to be many notches behind – although I have certainly seen much worse.

The game has not changed in terms of audio. All of the audio from the original version has been preserved. The guns sound the same as they did before and there is a wide variety of sounds. This certainly stays true with re-creating the experience but you may notice more unusual things this time. Apart from the fact that character' mouths don't move while talking, the voice acting is far from perfect. While the game certainly has a dark tone for the story, you may find yourself laughing at some the dialogue that could be considered melodramatic. Stuff like "Oh god! I'm dying!" to "Why…me!!!" when shooting enemies may feel less serious than it did before. And anybody can probably remember the President's awkward way of pronouncing "assume" with "ashume."

The problematic issues shouldn't detract from the overall experience but ten years of gaming after this was released has really changed a lot of things – so expect to lower your standards that you'd normally have with current-gen releases during this time around. The game is still as sharp as ever and in many cases, especially with the game's graphical and frame rate makeover, it is even sharper. This game will certainly bring back Perfect Dark gamers complete nostalgia – both with all of the joyful moments and headaches that came with it. Then again, you are in the presence of a game that has been a part of changing gaming and first-person shooters. Relishing in what it once was is something that every vintage gamer can appreciate and they will not be disappointed with this one. And with a low cost to download, you'll be satisfied with getting more than your money's worth.

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