Few games have been more eagerly anticipated than Rare's unofficial sequel to GoldenEye 007, one of the best titles to come out over the last few years for the Nintendo 64 or otherwise. Though Perfect Dark's style and feel might not fall too far from the Bond tree, it's clear that Rare has created another title that alone warrants buying the system.
The premise of Perfect Dark is that you are a special government agent on a near-future Earth. Your agency has made friendly contact with a group of aliens known as the Maians, those big-headed gray little men made popular in Whitley Strieber books and Fox TV specials. At roughly the same time, the evil dataDyne corporation has allied itself with the equally evil Skedar, an alien race that practices war as religion, placing them at odds with the Maians. Thus, conflict ensues, first in the realm of industrial espionage, and then... beyond.
Not surprisingly, the basic structure of GoldenEye 007 remains in Perfect Dark. The first-person shooter is split into nearly two dozen mission-based levels, each with a number of objectives that you must carry out before you exit the stage, such as downloading files from a computer or escorting an ally to your ship unharmed. Each level can be played in three degrees of difficulty, each one adding more objectives to your list while toughening up your enemies considerably. And in between carrying out mission objectives, there are spies to shoot, and this time there are aliens as well.
It's hard for Perfect Dark to appear as impressive today as GoldenEye 007 did when it first came out several years back, because GoldenEye 007 had looked like it would be just another first-person shooter for the console systems, which had seen mainly lackluster ports of PC shooters. However, the game was groundbreaking enough to influence nearly every shooter - console and PC - that succeeded it. Perfect Dark isn't a game that wows you immediately like its predecessor did - its improvements on that title are subtle, at least at first.
The new feature that affects the single-player missions the most is the upgrade to your enemies' artificial intelligence. You'll notice your foes working together to attempt to cover one another. Or duck around a corner for cover. Or wait for you to come back into a room instead of obediently chasing after you. Or run for the gun of a fallen comrade after you've shot the weapon from his grasp, which is another new ability that you have, in addition to grabbing away an enemy's firearm if you're close enough. Both make for moments where you think you are sunk, only to find yourself rearmed and victorious. The converse is true as well, and the bad guys can snatch or shoot your gun away from you too, so there are times when you'll think yourself well armed and suddenly end up empty-handed.