Perfect Dark Zero
|Perfect Dark Zero|
North American box art
|Publisher(s)||Microsoft Game Studios|
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter, stealth|
Perfect Dark Zero is a first-person shooter video game developed by Rare and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was exclusively released as a launch title for the Xbox 360 on November 17, 2005 in North America and December 2, 2005 in Europe. It is a prequel to the Nintendo 64 game Perfect Dark and takes place in the year 2020, predating the original Perfect Dark's storyline by three years. The game follows bounty hunter Joanna Dark as she works alongside her father and other key characters to stop a conspiracy by rival corporation dataDyne.
The game was under development for five years and was originally intended to be released for the Nintendo GameCube and later the Xbox. The game features a campaign mode consisting of 14 missions that can be played co-operatively, and a multiplayer where a maximum of 32 players can compete against each other in numerous types of deathmatch and objective-based games. Both the co-operative mode and the multiplayer can be played via split-screen, system link, or through the Xbox Live service.
Perfect Dark Zero was a commercial success, selling more than one million copies worldwide. Reviews for the game were divided but generally positive, garnering a GameRankings and a Metacritic aggregated score of 82% and 81/100 respectively. The game's numerous multiplayer modes singled out as strong features; however, some publications criticized single-player aspects such as its story and voice acting. Two sequel novels, Perfect Dark: Initial Vector and Perfect Dark: Second Front, and a comic series, Perfect Dark: Janus' Tears, were released to continue the story of the game.
Perfect Dark Zero is a first-person shooter where players control the playable character mostly from a first-person perspective. The combat introduces several new mechanics to the series. Among them are an evasive dodge roll and a cover system in which the game switches to a third-person perspective, allowing the player to strategically aim without taking damage and be more aware of the surroundings. Similar to the original Perfect Dark, players cannot jump, even though they have the ability to automatically climb obstacles as long as they can reasonably reach them. It is also possible to climb ladders, thereby the camera shifts into a third-person perspective too.
The player has a certain amount of health, which decreases when attacked by enemies. The health can also recharge a bit if the player steps out of the line of fire for a few seconds, though it does not necessarily refill completely depending on how much damage the player took. Players can only carry a limited number of weapons since the inventory features a 4-slot system in which single hand held pistols usually take a weapon slot whereas heavy weapons, such as the Jackal Sniper Rifle or the Rocket Launcher, can take up to three weapon slots. The player movement speed is also altered by the weight of the weapon the player is currently holding. Besides the primary function, all of the weapons in the game have one or two additional function modes that generally grant the player with special abilities, such as the X-ray function of the Shockwave Rifle or the cloak mode of the Plasma Rifle, which renders the playable character completely invisible to enemies at cost of its ammunition. Some weapons also feature more unorthodox secondary fire modes, such as the Laptop Gun being able to deploy as a sentry gun, or the SuperDragon being able to launch bouncing grenades.
The campaign is divided into 14 missions in which the player plays as Joanna Dark, and each mission provides different objectives that the player has to complete. To successfully clear a mission, the player needs to complete all primary objectives, and if Joanna is killed or fails an objective, the player will have to start the level again. Additionally, the missions feature support objectives that are not critical but add to the player's overall completion score. Throughout a mission, the player must sometimes use numerous high-tech gadgets in order to progress; for instance, the Datathief allows the player to hack into electronic devices and the Loctopus is used to open locked doors. Stealth is another important element of the gameplay, as the player is often given the freedom to kill enemies without being detected by sneaking up behind them. Unlike Perfect Dark, every mission contains a single checkpoint at which the player may restart if Joanna is killed or loses beyond that checkpoint. However, checkpoints are removed as the player plays through a higher difficulty. There are four difficulty settings through which a mission can be played: Agent, Secret Agent, Perfect Agent and an extra one called Dark Agent, which becomes available once the player completes the entire game on Perfect Agent. As the player plays on higher difficulties, the game adds more objectives and makes enemies tougher in order to increase the challenge.
The game also provides a co-operative mode where two players may play through the game's campaign together via split-screen, system link, or through the Xbox Live service. In co-operative, the missions are slightly altered to suit both players. For instance, some doors can require two players to open them. Additionally, in certain missions, the second player can occasionally start far away from the main player and takes over an allied character that was AI-controlled in the single player campaign. The respawn procedure is also altered substantially, as if one player dies, the other has to find and revive the partner's corpse to bring it back to life.
In addition to the campaign mode, Perfect Dark Zero features a multiplayer where a maximum of 32 players can play in numerous types of deathmatch and objective-based games via split-screen, system link, or Xbox Live. The multiplayer offers two main modes with their own customizable options; DeathMatch and DarkOps. DeathMatch is a standard gametype where players spawn in rooms, collect weapons that are available on the map itself, and continue to the actual map. The overall objective of the game is determined by the scenario being played. Scenarios can range from Killcount or Team Killcount, where the goal is to kill as many opposing players as possible, to objective-based games such as Capture the Flag and Territorial Gains. DarkOps, on the other hand, is a slower-paced and team-only gametype where weapons must be purchased from a player's stock of credits and credits are earned by killing enemies and obtaining objectives. Scenarios in this mode include Eradication, where the last team with any members left alive wins; Infection, a gametype in which players score points by either infecting others or surviving infection; Sabotage, where the team that causes the most damage to the other team's property wins; and Onslaught, where one team must defend a base while the other has to attack it.
Players can either choose to play a ranked Deathmatch or DarkOps, where they will be matched with other players using a system called TrueSkill Matchmaking, or they may choose a player match where they can choose their game from a list of player hosted games. Like the original Perfect Dark, these games can be highly customized and can also include computer game bots. Features such as their difficulty and behaviour can be changed to match player preference; for example, the Judge bot always attacks leading players with the highest kills score. Players can also issue commands to them as long as they are on their respective team, such as follow or hold position, and set waypoints for them to walk to. The game includes by default six different maps and each has two variants; the only change is the placement of the bases. Most of the maps are large ones, ideal for 32 players at once, with small variants for 4-16 player games.
|Perfect Dark series fictional chronology|
Perfect Dark Zero is set in the year 2020, three years prior to the events of the original Perfect Dark. The protagonist, Joanna Dark, is a bounty hunter working with her father, Jack Dark, and a computer hacker named Chandra Sekhar. On their first mission, they are commissioned to rescue an independent researcher named Nathan Zeigler, who has been captured by a triad gang in Hong Kong. Due to his injuries sustained by the gang, Zeigler dies shortly after the rescue. Before dying, Zeigler uses a neurodrive on Jack to implant important information to his subconscious as his own "insurance policy."
While escaping from their enemy forces, Jack is captured by dataDyne, the world's biggest corporation. Joanna learns that her father has been taken to a dataDyne facility located in a mountainous region of China and sets to rescue him. Jack is later killed by Mai-Hem, whose father, Zhang Li, is dataDyne's founder. Alone with only Chandra looking out for her, Joanna is then sent on a mission to find Dr. Eustace Caroll, who then uses the same neurodrive technology to extract any memory of the words her father said to her concerning Ziegler's secrets. Dr. Caroll is then killed by Chandra, who was secretly employed by dataDyne. However, Joanna is rescued by agents from an agency known as Carrington Institute, whom she agrees to join in order to stop dataDyne.
Zhang Li and Mai-Hem are searching for an ancient artifact, which acts as a power-source for the Graal, a device which endows individuals with superhuman powers, hinted to have been built by the Maians, extraterrestrials encountered in the original Perfect Dark. Travelling to Africa, Joanna rescues prisoners including Jonathan Steinberg, an undercover agent of the Carrington Institute, and several other soldiers, before running into Mai-Hem again. Joanna avenges her father's death and kills Mai-Hem and the party is air-lifted out. The Carrington Institute plans an offensive on dataDyne forces with the battle taking place on a large bridge. Joanna infiltrates an arena and faces off against Zhang Li, on the Graal after he dispatches Chandra. Defeating the seemingly invincible power-hungry genius, Joanna is met by Jonathan and Carrington Institute founder Daniel Carrington. When Joanna asks, "How did I do, boss?" Carrington replies, "Perfect."
Development of Perfect Dark Zero began on the Nintendo GameCube with a very small team of roughly eight people. At the time, Nintendo had a 49% stake in Rare, making Rare a Nintendo second-party developer. According to lead designer Chris Tilston, "It was basically prototyping, finding out where we could go and how we could get there." The multiplayer mode was initially designed to be played offline because the team was told the GameCube would not support online play, even though some modem adapters were produced by Conexant later. In 2002, Rare was fully purchased by Microsoft. As a result, the project was transferred to the Xbox and the multiplayer was redesigned to support the Xbox Live online gaming service. Tilston revealed that at one point they got to 50 players online simultaneously, but the graphics "just couldn't handle it."
When the Xbox 360 was conceived, it gave the developers more possibilities to include what they always wanted, since the initial version of the game pushed the original Xbox hardware very hard. Tilston credited the new hardware for allowing them to create the game's unique co-operative mode, which was one of the first that could be played via Xbox Live. According to Duncan Botwood, who was responsible for most of the multiplayer, "It was quite an effort to put it in, to be honest. You have to cater for a number of eventualities you just don't get normally. We think we pulled it off, and because we pulled it off, other people might feel inspired to put the effort in, and we think that's a good thing. The co-op over Live, yeah, we're very proud of that... we're proud indeed."
Perfect Dark Zero is also one of the first games to use the Havok's HydraCore physics engine, which was specifically designed for multi-core video game systems such as the Xbox 360. Additionally, the game's renderer engine employs more advanced graphic technologies than was possible in the previous generation, including parallax mapping, ambient occlusion, subsurface scattering, and high dynamic range. Joanna Dark, the protagonist of the Perfect Dark games, was redesigned by UK manga artist Wil Overton. Early pictures suggested the character would employ a cartoony graphical style, but the designers ultimately returned to a more realistic depiction. To make her more memorable, Overton also decided to add more distinctive details, including a star tattoo on the left side of her neck and a "choppy" hairstyle.
The cover mode was designed to enhance the stealth aspect of the game, and the third-person perspective was needed to get into and get out of quickly. It also allowed players to see the character they were playing. The idea of bringing the game into a total third-person perspective was rejected as the shooting "works better" in first-person view, explained Tilston. Like Rare's earlier first-person shooters GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, developers decided not to include a jumping function since they felt it goes against the nature of the genre. Botwood pointed out that it can "look damn stupid when you see other players doing it". For this reason, the team implemmented moves such as climbing obstacles or, more specifically, the combat roll, which makes players harder to hit since it breaks the game's auto-aim lock. The transition between first and third-person view with some moves took a lot of work so that they did not become disorientating. A first-person roll was implemented at one time, though it was eventually dropped.
The game was intended to be a launch title for the Xbox 360. As a result, the last stage of development was very challenging and several intended features were canceled so that the game could meet the launch deadline. The number of players in multiplayer matches had to be reduced from 50 to 32, which was still twice the standard, and a "dataDyne TV" mode that would have allowed players to upload and watch multiplayer matches over Xbox Live was eventually rejected. Final development for the Xbox 360 was very rushed. The order was given to produce the discs five days before the Microsoft certification was complete. Rare later stated they felt very confident they would pass, but it was a significant risk producing 700,000 disks if a bug turned up. According to Botwood, "very few people believed we could make launch, but everything came together in time and it was out there for day one."
The actual development of the game took overall five years to complete and spanned three platforms: the Nintendo GameCube, the Microsoft Xbox and the Xbox 360. Tilston remarked that, throughout the course of development, they noticed how the video game industry had evolved as computing and graphics power increased, and how earlier games like GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong Country where their development costs were minimal could easily be profitable with a few programmers. Tilston also revealed that the team behind Perfect Dark Zero was composed of roughly 25 people for most of the project, which was "ridiculously" small compared to the current standards where there are 100 or 200 people working on a team. Despite this, Perfect Dark Zero, from a development cost, made four times its money back.
Marketing and release 
Perfect Dark Zero made its first appearance at Spaceworld 2000, an annual video game trade show hosted by Nintendo in Tokyo. The demo briefly showed a 3D real-time render of Joanna Dark. Some reports further suggested the development of the game with Rare applying to trademark the names "After Dark", "Perfect Dark Evolution" and the phrase "Shot in the Dark". The next year, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June 2001, Nintendo advertised the title "Perfect Dark Zero" on a list of upcoming GameCube releases, but it was quickly removed. In January 2002, it was allegedly announced that its release was pushed back to 2004 due to internal team problems at Rare.
When Rare was purchased by Microsoft in September 2002, several cartoony images of Joanna Dark were released, but few other official announcements were made in the following years. On May 10, 2005, one of the rewards in the OurColony viral marketing campaign for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console was a new image of Joanna Dark. At the official unveiling of the Xbox 360, it was revealed that Perfect Dark Zero would be a launch title for the new system in the fall of 2005. A demo was shown during the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2005 shortly afterwards. Prior to its release, Microsoft arranged several deals with different publishers to promote interest in the game. Two novels, Perfect Dark: Initial Vector and Perfect Dark: Second Front, which were written by Greg Rucka, and a comic book, Perfect Dark: Janus' Tears, which was written by Eric Trautmann and illustrated by Cold FuZion Studios, were released before and after the game. Around the same time, Joanna Dark made an appearance on the cover of FHM magazine. An official soundtrack produced by Nile Rodgers, Perfect Dark Zero Original Soundtrack, was also made available on November 8, 2005.
The first release of the game came on November 17, 2005 in North America. The game was subsequently playable at the Xbox 360 Zero Hour Launch event, along with other Xbox 360 launch titles such as Rare's Kameo: Elements of Power and Activision's Call of Duty 2. Other releases followed on December 2 in Europe and on December 10 in Japan. In Europe, Microsoft organized a party by simulating an apartment as Joanna Dark's home, where several journalists could try out the Xbox 360 and the game. During the Japanese launch weekend, Perfect Dark Zero became the second best-selling 360 game with roughly 15,000 units sold, behind Namco's Ridge Racer 6.
Perfect Dark Zero was released in two forms: the standard version and a "Limited Collector's Edition". The collector's edition features a second disc of content, a black metal game case, images of the staff and most of the in-house testers which gave a glimpse behind the scenes at Rare, a special-edition comic booklet which sets the scene for the game, titled Hong Kong Sunrise, and one of nine holographic collectible cards. The game has reportedly sold in excess of one million units worldwide. As a result, it was one of the first games to be re-released under the "Platinum Hits" list.
Downloadable content 
Shortly after the release of the game, new multiplayer scenarios and a new Counter-Operative mode, much like the one found in the original Perfect Dark, were promised to eventually become freely available as downloadable content. Senior game designer Duncan Botwood later clarified that it was unlikely to happen due to technical issues. According to him, "It would have required much groundwork to be laid in the core AI code, which meant that it was unlikely to be available as downloadable content post-release." He also remarked that the Counter-Operative mode was actually planned during the development of the game, but was eventually rejected due to the pressure to cut planned content.
In May 2006, an auto-update was made available on Xbox Live, responsible for fixing some minor bugs and adding additional multiplayer options to the game. These bug fixes included code to prevent an ongoing problem where players could walk through the air, an issue where some weapons could make use of rapid fire, and a map-exiting glitch, among others. On the other hand, the new multiplayer options provide seven additional new bot types and the ability to use bots in DarkOps matches, since bots had only one AI variant and were only available in DeathMatch scenarios when the game was released. Additionally, a playable demo of the game was made freely available on Xbox Live Marketplace shortly afterwards. It includes one campaign mission that can be played in solo mode or co-operatively, and a new multiplayer map which was later included in "Perfect Dark Zero Map Pack One".
Rare released "Perfect Dark Zero Map Pack One" to Xbox Live Marketplace on June 7, 2006. It costs 500 Microsoft Points and contains four new maps to add to the game's original six. The map pack contains only one variant, instead of two. On October 31, 2006, Rare announced that a special platinum edition of Perfect Dark Zero would be released, and would include the first map pack and two additional maps, which were later available to download for free in a pack called "Perfect Dark Zero Map Pack Two". The two new maps are updated versions of two maps from the game's predecessor: Facility, originally found in GoldenEye 007, then later featured as "Felicity" in Perfect Dark; and Ruins. The pack was released on November 1, 2006 for Gold Members and on November 8, 2006 for Silver Members.
|GameRankings||82% (91 reviews)|
|Metacritic||81% (75 reviews)|
Reviews for Perfect Dark Zero were divided but generally positive, garnering a GameRankings and a Metacritic aggregated score of 82% and 81/100 respectively. GameSpot's Greg Kasavin awarded the title a rating of 9.0 out of 10 and an Editors Choice. He claimed that the game "champions the Xbox 360 with its excellent assortment of single and multiplayer game types, as well as its incredible good looks and dynamic, intense action", and concluded that it "delivers just about everything you could hope for from a first-person shooter." Charles Onyett of IGN praised the customization and game options available to players; but also criticized single-player aspects such as the weak artificial intelligence of enemies, poor storyline and bad voice acting.
The graphics were highlighted positively. Kasavin was impressed with the amount of lighting and motion blur effects, and noted that the "excellent character animation helps make the guns feel as powerful as they look." Bryn Williams of GameSpy considered the graphics as a "stunning look at what the 360 hardware is capable of", but also admitted that the animations are "a little too slow", and therefore can sometimes create an "unwelcome sense of cartoonishness". Onyett credited the attractive gun models, explosions, and sprawling vistas, though also felt that some areas, such as the South American Ruins, can unnecessary look "too shiny". The sound effects were said to be loud, with "heavy-hitting" weapon effects and "moody soundtrack that gives each mission its own pulsing rhythms".
The game's weapons were also well received. Reviewers praised the gun management and the implementation of the guns. Greg Kasavin commented, "It doesn't stray too far from convention, but it features some interesting twists... making for a much more entertaining experience than the average shooter." Critics generally agreed that the roll and cover system worked well and that they did not feel overpowered, though some were somewhat frustrated about the fact that the cover mode required a specific spot to be activated. Reviewers also considered the story and voice acting to be weak. Charles Onyett said that it is almost impossible not to notice how "laughably bad it is", and that many plot twists are presented then never resolved, though he also admitted that it doesn't really factor into the gameplay. GameCritics' Mike Bracken commented, it's "sad when there's voice acting in a game and I find myself being embarrassed for the voice actors." Nevertheless, GameSpot added that the game's weapon fire and musical score "easily drown this out."
Publications judged the co-op aspect of the game well. Kristan Reed of Eurogamer praised the fact that the missions were "designed with co-op in mind." He noted that, for example, the third level "has Joanna providing cover fire for her father Jack as he hops from one point of the level to the next. In the single player campaign Jack's AI controlled, but co-op lets you take direct control of his actions, making the experience a much more engaging affair all-round." Multiplayer matches of Perfect Dark Zero were widely well received. Greg Kasavin pointed out that the excellent weapon selection, flexibility of options, high-quality maps, and smooth online performance make for a "rock-solid competitive shooter." IGN stated similar pros, calling it "enormous". 1UP.com's Che Chou also praised the multiplayer, but observed that "constantly roll-dodging to avoid enemy fire at close range combined with the exceptionally slow movement speed of your character... can occasionally be highly frustrating for beginners."
Despite solid reviews, numerous publications remarked that Perfect Dark Zero did not meet the expectations. According to GameCritics, "It took Rare a whole console generation to do it..." and that "the wait wasn't really worth it". Game Informer found it to be quite disappointing and gave the game a 7 out of 10, reviewing it under the tagline "Don't believe the hype". Bryn Williams, albeit still giving the game a positive review, observed, "Perfect Dark Zero is a lot of fun and does a lot of things very well, but it's just not the killer-app that we'd all hoped for". In 2010, GameTrailers placed the game 6th in their list of the "Top 10 Disappointments of the Decade" and 10th in their "Top 10 Worst Sequels" list.
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