Xbox 360 Review: Perfect Dark Zero

Out on the N64 with a wildly inconsistent frame rate, Perfect Dark made some noise because of its developer (Rare) and great weapon set. That continues on the Xbox 360 with the prequel, Perfect Dark Zero. It's in a bigger crowd now though, and the impact isn't quite there, but this is still a well made FPS.

The biggest change is the glaring character redesign of Joanna Dark, with huge doll-like eyes and childish face. It clashes with the otherwise stunning realism of the environments, brought to life with motion blur that's eerily effective. Thankfully, aside from a few brief rough spots, the frame rate is steady this time out, and that means it's easy to appreciate this second game in the series.

Joanna brings with her a number of weapons that at first don't have much difference between them. It's the other features, like wire guided rockets, grenades, and spy equipment that separate them. Levels are designed with numerous opportunities to put these to good use.

There's a deep focus on taking cover this time out, not unlike Namco's Kill.Switch. The opening training level emphasizes this, and the number of different spaces that provide protection is incredible. Controls are laid out in a way to make this a painless process, and the brief switch to a third person view isn't jarring in the least.

Plenty of replay value is derived from the missions. Each difficulty leap brings new secondary quests, so to see and do everything, it's a necessity to play through this one multiple times. What's interesting is that the main objective is aided by the secondaries. In other words, in one level, eliminating air support early will lessen the number of enemies later.

Certain stages also offer squad-like combat, though there's no real control. Still, it's great to see NPCs firing away and actually causing damage, not to mention protecting themselves. Enemy AI doesn't do much to impress other than strafe repeatedly and grab cover, though given their numbers near the finale, that's probably a good thing.

There's also a default feature that's worth noting, and you'll wonder how you ever played a FPS without it. If you're lost and wandering, headquarters will offer a path to take to make it to the objective. These blue arrows are invaluable, and it's not cheating either. It's there if you want it, and given the amount of similar areas and dead ends, you'll likely need it to save yourself a few hours.

Xbox Live play offers 32 players at once in a wide variety of clashes. With fewer numbers, the stages will decrease in size to compensate, and that's another feature that should become standard. Co-op is also a needed feature, and even in split screen, PDZ runs smoothly.

The few minor gripes with the game are legitimate. Enemies take an awfully long time to cycle through their death animations, and for the majority of kills, you won't know if they're dead or not. Be prepared to fire off multiple unnecessary rounds just to be sure. This is also a title set for HDTVs, and quality of the textures takes a remarkable swing upward when played in the proper resolution. If you're playing on a standard set and have complaints about the textures, it's your TV not the game.

For quite a few people, it's going to be hard to distinguish what makes Perfect Dark Zero stand out. Joanna can't jump and it shouldn't be such a glaring omission, yet it makes the game feel slightly behind. The mechanics offer nothing revolutionary, but the overall package does come together to provide everything a FPS should. It's not all that common that we'll see a game capture what fans of the genre want, and that's where Zero is a success.

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