A solid shooter with good gameplay

About two weeks ago, I just purchased an Xbox 360 and bought this along with it, because I read a glowing review on this site. Let me say this: the review on this site is correct. And because I generally agree with Gamespot's review of Perfect Dark Zero, I'm generally going to quickly summarize my opinion.

For gameplay, Perfect Dark Zero is very fun. The "secret agent" feel of the game is very appealing, and fans of first-person shooters will appreciate this game a lot. The game's weapons are all fun to use, and there's a nice tactical element in the game, because the character can only carry so many weapons at one time. Veteran shooters will appreciate the rewards that precise aiming will give them - as this game sports a pixel-precise hit detection system. This does require more precise aiming than other games (probably due to the high-resolution graphics of the game). In short, the game is fun to play and it's challenging, but not overbearing.

The sound of Perfect Dark Zero is also pretty good, and the music is top-notch. As a musician, I usually listen for subtleties in the music score, and I value a game's soundtrack in my gaming experience, and this game does deliver. Often times, I think to myself : "what synth did they use to pull that effect off in the music, or what equipment are they using?" I especially like the music that plays whenever a level loads, though there are only four or five repeating songs - which means that over time they will get old. The voices, however, are a mixed bag. Being an M-rated game, I certainly did not expect the voices to sound so "cartoony." And the voice effects during combat are very annoying. For example, Joanna Dark will yell "EEE!!" when she gets shot on occasion. At first, it's funny, but then it just gets annoying, because other characters do this too. Other than this, the sound's just fine.

Graphics-wise, the game has a lot of eye-candy to offer. But I had to dock it some points because of its framerate and aliasing. Now I know that I probably sound picky, but whatever happened to Microsoft and ATI's claim that 720p with 4x Anti-Aliasing was REQUIRED for games? Their "Anti-Aliasing for Free" campaign is starting to look like a bunch of marketing crap now, as Perfect Dark Zero does have aliasing, and lacks anisotropic filtering - so distant textures do look slightly blurry (although this isn't as bad as a previous generation game). And it seems as if running the game in 720p does have its price - because although the game maintains a 30fps framerate most of the time, it drops even below 20fps in more complex scenes; and in some scenes, the framerate tumbles downward for no apparent reason! Just to be sure that the framerate drop wasn't due to texture/scene loading pauses, I went back to where the framerate drop occurred immediately after the framerate picked up again, but it dropped off again (This is in the first level, in a tight corridor)! The reason why I am docking points of is that the Xbox 360's graphics chip has 48 pipeline units - which should be plenty of power to keep the game running at 30fps, if not 60fps! It is also worth to note that 1080i resolution looks worse than 720p (at least on my television), and runs slower than 720p.

If there's any perk to purchasing the game, it's the multiplayer. To sum it up: it is the smoothest game on the market right now. Folks, I'm in the land of no Cable or DSL - I can't even get ISDN! I'm on Wildblue satellite internet, and for those of you who do not know, it is physically impossible for satellite internet (right now anyway) to have latency lower than 500ms. This means that most online games like Halo 2 are totally unplayable, because the lag just ruins the experience. Perfect Dark Zero runs almost flawlessly on my satellite connection. I am able to score headshots with sniper rifles - something impossible for satellite players to even hope to achieve, and I do it all the time! Other game devlopers (hint, hint: Bungie) should really take notes of Rare's net code, because if 600ms pings are playable, then virtually everyone can play on this - no matter how bad the connection is. I am really glad that satellite users can play this title, because the fact is that satellite internet users are increasing by the day - one million users are projected to be online by the end of this year! This means that a satellite gamer base will eventually become pretty big - big enough to warrant game developers to optimize their code for satellite players, and Perfect Dark Zero proves that this is not at all impossible, and it that it CAN be done.

Basically, Perfect Dark Zero is a launch title of the Xbox 360 that is a fun game to play. It offers great gameplay, pretty visuals, beautiful music and good sound, and an awesome multiplayer suite (it's the only game I can play on satellite that I can be competitive at). If you haven't picked this game up yet, then right now is the time to do it - prices are falling everywhere at videogame stores. I got my "Special DVD Edition" for $44.