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Perfect Dark Zero uncovered

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The player has a cover manoeuvre, also present in the single-player game, which allows them to duck behind an object or lurk behind a wall while the camera retreats to third-person distance.

They can still aim, before pouncing out from this luxurious vantage point to produce a series of surgical headshots, or something less skilful but with the element of surprise on their side. Assuming, that is, your opponent isn't toting a gun with an X-ray function, a filter that exposes other players as shockingly white skeletons through walls.

Bots are available to fill out the maximum quota of 32 participants, something that is also possible online; bot slots can then also be occupied by human players who want to join in without having to loiter in the lobby.

A mooted Live feature, DataDyne Kill TV, isn't certain to make it through to the finished game. The PDZ equivalent of PGR3's Gotham TV, it was to offer players the chance to view, among other things, the best in the world strutting their stuff, but it may have to be excluded to make launch.

But it's something that will also be considered as downloadable content in the future. There's one Live facet that has, thankfully, survived the hectic graduation in the run-up to release: cooperative play.

"We didn't have co-op over Live on Xbox," says Tilston. "Or teleporters in multiplayer, or a smooth framerate with a lot of players." How close to completion was the Xbox version? "About 12 months away," he reveals.

Each level from the main campaign supports co-op, some more obviously than others. The second stage is set across a series of rooftops, with Dark taking the high road in order to provide backup for her father, Jack, who's weaving his way through the complex of buildings on the ground below.

The second player gets to assume Jack's position, experiencing the stage from a wholly different perspective; other stages, meanwhile, don't feature such a severe split, having both players take the same path through the stage to tackle some slightly modified objectives.

But back to the rooftops. It's a massively wide playground for sniping, something that PDZ's weighty weapons excel in. The left trigger is used to zoom your current weapon - or just switch it to a more accurate firing mode if no scope is attached, slowing the player's movement and shifting the gun's barrel closer to the line of sight.

The zoom is analogue, allowing for custom magnification when using some of the game's more extreme long-distance rifles and requiring two calm trigger fingers instead of just one.

Those guns with moderate scopes, such as the standard Falcon pistol, can just be squeezed to full zoom without any finesse in order to up their effective range.

Joanna's hike across this series of balconies and roofs, dotted with zip-lines, stairwells and raised skylights, is rife with opportunities for malicious creeping, satisfying ambushes and mischievous groin shots.

Capitalising on these moments highlights the range of morbidly entertaining recoil animations: before they have the chance to turn to ragdolls, enemies jerk and flail about, every bullet producing another spasm as the enemy goes through a merry jig of death. It's vicious but gleeful - just as it was in GoldenEye.

And it's as much a testament to the ferocity of the game's weapons as much as anything else. Perfect Dark received an 18 rating, didn't it? "In the UK. I don't remember what it was in the States..." offers Botwood.

"It was an 'M', I can read it from here..." says Cousins, peering at one of the many Perfect Dark posters in between the assorted promos and Wil Overton sketches dotted across the walls of Rare's demo room.

So, is there anything the team has wanted to include, but has had to step away from to hit a desired rating, or to avoid a potential clash with Jack Thompson's anti-violence brigade in the US? "We're going to have the same approach as we had with Perfect Dark, which is to make the game we want to make and then rate it accordingly," says Botwood.

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