Perfect Dark review

  • HD graphics and smooth framerate
  • Brilliant sci-fi weapons
  • Massively complete multiplayer
  • Levels which leave you lost
  • Dumb AI
  • Everything feels dated

The N64 would have died if it had tried to run this. The colosso-textures and 1080p resolution would have pushed its tiny graphics processor from room temperature to boiling point in seconds and Nintendo’s curvy box would have melted like a candle.

Of course, the N64 could barely run Perfect Dark the way it was either – even with the RAM booster pack it chugged along at about 20 frames per second and dropped to single figures if anyone dared make anything explode. The last truly great N64 game was too ambitious for the console to handle, but we loved it despite the creaking tech powering it – and somehow those framerates and smeary textures never registered as a problem. This then is Perfect Dark the way it was meant to be played and the way it existed in our heads – smooth, clear, and razor-sharp... but ten years too late.

On the one hand there’s nostalgia. This is Perfect Dark: the same 20-level campaign, the same brilliant sci-fi weapons, the same stirring tunes, and the same massively complete multiplayer mode with split-screen and bots and now full online functions. It’s an irresistible package for anyone who was playing games at the time; it’s the chance to return to a world in which we lived. Every minute of the summer of 2000 was spent locked in four-player deathmatches with friends and conquering that campaign. Every N64 owner has their own Perfect Dark story – the pre-orders, the lengths they went to get a copy on release day, the expense of the expansion pack, the gunfights with friends, unlocking every last cheat. It was a special game, not least because it was GoldenEye’s only real sequel and a fond farewell to a console we loved. Perfect Dark was one great game.

But on the other hand, there’s reality. And reality turns out to be a big, fat son of a bitch. Perfect Dark was released just one year before Halo changed the rules for console shooters and while Halo has endured Perfect Dark has been weathered by the decade. That campaign you loved is a wander-‘em-up with levels which leave you lost and AI which hides in filthy places to pop you in the back.

They’re shoeboxes, not sandboxes – all tight corridors and purposeless rooms, with instant fail states on almost every stage for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Those guns which made you feel like such a badass are powered by such decisive auto-aim the enemies need only be on screen for you to land a perfect shot to the chest. Even at the time the plot took a kicking from critics but the alien conspiracy nonsense seems especially dumb (and dated) ten years after The X-Files ended.

And the multiplayer mode we all loved so much? Well, it’s still good thanks to those clever gimmicky weapons and cramped maps, but you can do better on the 360. Like everything else, Perfect Dark’s multiplayer has been bettered in the years since. The appeal, instead, is in the gimmick weapons and the chance to revisit Goldeneye’s Facility map – still a favourite in spite of its bottlenecks and simple linearity.

Perfect Dark is a conspicuously aged game; many years older it seems, than Halo, and somehow even older than the less ambitious but more solid GoldenEye from four years earlier. But if you were there at the time, if you queued with us at the game store and claimed your pre-order, if you remember that summer’s multiplayer bloodbaths at a framerate you never realised was bad, if you can hum the Carrington Institute’s pause music without even thinking - you simply have to get hold of this revival of Perfect Dark, no matter how sadly imperfect it is today.

Apr 14, 2010

More Info

Release date: Mar 17 2010 - Xbox 360
May 22 2000 - N64 (US)
Mar 17 2010 - Xbox 360
Jun 30 2000 - N64 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, N64
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Microsoft, Nintendo
Developed by: 4J Studios, Rare
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Violence
PEGI Rating:


  • JohnnyMaverik - May 1, 2010 6:15 p.m.

    > A great polishing of a great game > that comes ten years too late Say what? O.o
  • nwnfan98 - May 1, 2010 2:12 p.m.

    Ah, im so glad i still have my original copy of perfect dark
  • Godstrike3020 - April 17, 2010 3:19 p.m.

    hell ya i loved the original so im going to love this
  • OnyxOblivion - April 14, 2010 8:09 p.m.

    Never played the original. Liked the trial mission... Regretted getting the full version immediately.
  • Ensoul - April 14, 2010 7:58 p.m.

    Spot on review; but even if someone has never played it deserves a trail. For us N64 guys this is a hell of a bargain for 800 points; plus a patch is coming around the end of April that'll add south paw controls; aiming sensitivity adjustment and (I think) even the option to lock the center aim.
  • Ensoul - April 14, 2010 7:56 p.m.

    Spot on review; but even if someone has never played it deserves a trail. For us N64 guys this is a hell of a bargain for 800 points; plus a patch is coming around the end of April that'll add south paw controls; aiming sensitivity adjustment and (I think) even the option to lock the center aim.
  • Ravenbom - April 14, 2010 7:40 p.m.

    Yeah, the biggest flaw is that there's no clear goals in most missions, if you didn't play the game before and remember everything about it, then you're completely lost. (I played it, but it's been a decade, I don't remember any of the levels because I had a PS2 that was begging for more attention by the time I played Perfect Dark) Not to mention items like the X Ray scanner are pointless and annoying. I also seem to remember stealth playing a part in the game but now I can't figure out why there's two levels of crotch and stealth doesn't seem to matter like it did in my memories. Still, it's a fun throwback at the right price and the Goldeneye multiplayer levels don't seem like the developer cheaped out at the last minute.
  • Corsair89 - April 14, 2010 5:25 p.m.

    I've never played Perfect Dark before, but I still liked playing this. The controls took a lot of time and effort to get used to, but after that, I had a lot of fun.
  • Baron164 - April 14, 2010 5:17 p.m.

    I find the only problem I have going back to this game now is the aiming. I forget how the auto-aim on those games did all the work for you. And even when you want to do some precision shooting the controls are just way too sensitive even when the sensitivity is cranked down to the floor. But other then that I'm still having fun re-playing it in glorious 108p. And the added multiplayer support are just great trips down memory lane. It also brings back all those memories of Goldeneye and how I wish we got that remake instead :-)
  • superstud - April 14, 2010 5:01 p.m.

    Yup, that's pretty much exactly what I thought about perfect dark. It's a damn good purchase for those of us who used to love it but God's damned horrible for everyone else. Good review

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