Perfect Dark Zero is better than most would have you believe, but it could have been so much more.

User Rating: 5 | Perfect Dark Zero X360
Perfect Dark Zero is a prequel to the original Nintendo 64 shooter and puts you in the tennis shoes of a young Joanna Dark learning the ropes about espionage from her father as they get mixed up with the likes of dataDyne and the Carrington Institute. The story presented to you though is laughable at best. In the mix of cheesy dialogue, fake accents and unresolved plot points we have a girl with a few guns and some bad guys to shoot. Perfect Dark Zero's plot will not interest or motivate you to move through the game at all.

What will keep you going though are the great firefights. Perfect Dark Zero is a game about espionage to some degree, but when the game gets going the action ratchets up nicely. Some of the best missions involve jungle warfare, rescuing hostages from enemy territory or going in guns blazing in a nightclub. What surprisingly hampers the fun however is how uneven some of the levels are. While two-thirds of the game's level-design is well done the other third seems like another team created it entirely. One mission has you infiltrating a mansion, but prepare for some serious trial and error followed by a few dull puzzles and a tepid one on one showdown.

The levels themselves are brief and so the game implements only one checkpoint per mission because of this. This is fine for some of the better missions, but an exercise in torture for some of the worse ones. This also works both for and against the game on higher difficulty settings. The harder the difficulty the more objectives you will have to complete, and again, while this is fine for the better missions it only serves to aggravate on the worse missions. It's a shame that the campaign does not have a consistent level of quality to it, but fortunately the majority of the game is very fun to play, particularly towards the end.

Take one look at the game's achievement list however and you will soon realize where the focus of this shooter has always been: multiplayer. Whether you play cooperatively with a friend or get a competitive urge Perfect Dark Zero has you covered in either standard DeathMatch modes or Dark-Ops where things take a tactical turn. Even better are the inclusion of bots, something that Gears of War and Halo 3 both neglected despite being released after Rare's shooter. The game however only arrives with six maps on the disc and while the maps scale depending on the number of players it simply is not the same as having more maps to play on. On the whole the multiplayer is actually very enjoyable and well worth checking out for the more social gamers out there.

The aesthetics behind Perfect Dark Zero are a bit of a mixed bag. While the graphics look good the art design is a little off-putting. Joanna Dark's fashion sense is a little "out there" and the game has some nutjob in a kilt giving you orders. Vehicles also look kind of odd and most environments look a little too shiny, but that's not so bad really. The voice work is terrible. Hearing some of the characters speak is a grating experience that can only be matched by fingernails being run across a chalkboard or two pieces of Styrofoam being rubbed together. The music on the other hand is well done and a few of the pieces are particularly catchy and can get your heart pumping for the showdown at hand.

Perfect Dark Zero isn't as significant as the original, but what this game ends up being is a fun shooter that misses the mark stylistically. It could have been so much more, but it also isn't as bad as the angry fans would have you believe. The shooting is fun and while a more consistent level design and greater variety of multiplayer maps could have helped it immensely, Perfect Dark Zero is still a very good game.