What Would Elvis Do?

User Rating: 8.5 | Perfect Dark Zero X360
The original Perfect Dark was so darn good that when I saw this for a measly twenty bucks I couldn't pass it up. I spent a good year on the original--it was an all-purpose shooter. Even if you were alone, the multiplayer bots kept things fresh, and there were a million and one options to tinker around with.

That game stored not only your custom-tailored character but also your lifetime stats down to the mileage you've run and every round fired. This made it the cartridge of choice whenever I invited people over and we wanted something to play. There was fierce competition in my apartment for several months as people vied for dominance in one stat group or another. If you weren't a marksman, maybe you would only use mines and thus lay claim to the title of most explosive kills and so on. I tell you all this so you'll understand that not a little bit of nostalgia factored into my overall rating. If I hadn't played the original this one would probably get three stars. As it was, I enjoyed it more than a newcomer might.

So I was very pleased to see that bots were being included in this installment as well. I don't know why other games don't mimic Perfect Dark's multiplayer system. All I know is that between the original and Dark Zero, I kept wishing for a game that played just as well with multiplayer just as customizable, and never got it until now.

There are a number of standard rulesets like killcount and capture the flag but there are also scenarios that can be fought through against other live players.

The best, though, is when you have a friend over and want to play. Then you can have a real versus match--none of that one-on-one crap that gets old very fast. Want to play 5v5? Just add eight bots. Instant opponents, or teammates. You can adjust their skill levels anywhere from completely pathetic to death incarnate. And if you're better than your friend, you can add a couple extra bots to his team.

Missing, though, are a lot of those options I mentioned before. You can't customize your character in this one (forgivable), you can't tailor the bots' personalities or appearances (also forgivable), and you can't view your lifetime stats anymore (blasphemy! burn the witch!). That left Dark Zero feeling more cramped than the original. I still can't figure out why they removed all that content. Ah, well. The deathmatch arena in Perfect Dark Zero is still the most fun multiplayer--even just against bots--I've experienced in a while.

As far as the single player campaign goes, it's ruthlessly average. Not bad at all--not even implying that. Everything's rock-solid, action-wise. I just mean the story and the levels are so-so. Nothing standout here. Nothing unsatisfactory, either. You'll get your share of challenges. Some of the stretches you have to navigate in this game will keep you on your toes. I must have tried the bridge assault level ten or twelve times before I made it.

There were a couple of noticeable flaws in the otherwise smooth veneer of this experience, though. One was the physics of a downed bad guy. It's really common in this game for a dead body to start "dancing" on the ground, or even take off and hover in midair for a while. You'll waste a lot of bullets shooting at dead bodies you think are attacking you. Another is the shadows. I haven't seen shadows that pixelated since SNES. Still, these are pretty minor. You won't have a problem overlooking them in favor of the action.

I really liked the music in this game. It seemed to fit perfectly and it did a good job of getting me into whatever was happening onscreen. No thick atmosphere here, but that's a good thing. You're promised an adrenaline rush or ten, and it delivers. Consequently the themes in Dark Zero are much more energetic than in the original. The opening video and song reminded me strongly of Bond credits. Slick.

All in all, I truly liked it. There were flaws, but it was a well-executed game. When you factor in the price you can't go wrong. It's a solid shooter and the adaptable deathmatch will keep you playing for a while.