Whenever I intend on buying an XBLA game, I always download the demo first, no matter how sure I am that I will love the title. This is to avoid contributing to the many “I think this game was going to be like this, but it was like that!” posts that I see on gaming-related forums. No matter how sure I am of a game’s quality, I always try the demo first.
Except for Perfect Dark.
I’m not sure what possessed me to skip that step. It isn’t like I have to redownload the game after trying the demo. Buying the full version of an XBLA game from the demo is pretty easy and quick to do.
Luckily, Perfect Dark is just as great as it was when I played in on my N64 all those years ago. I haven’t finished it yet, so I won’t be writing a review right now, but I wanted to mention how much more difficult this game is when compared to modern FPS games. I don’t mean in terms of the AI, but in how little guidance the game gives you.
While walking through the Carrington Institute (the hub area that missions are launched from), I couldn’t figure out how to actually begin a mission. None of the terminals were lit up or had a floating button above it or any sort of indication of what to do with them, so I assumed I couldn’t interact with them. That isn’t the case at all; most of them can be used in some way. I just had to hit the A button. In the years since I have played Perfect Dark, I had forgotten about that.
I was off on my first mission. After infiltrating dataDyne’s tower, I saw a light switch on the wall. “Hmm… what happens if I hit A on it?” I hit the button, and the lights went out. I pulled down on the left analog, moving away from the wall. All of a sudden, I was lost. There was no way to get back to the switch, forcing me to restart the mission.
During the three missions that take place in the tower, I learned the following:
- Joanna’s health will not regenerate.
- There are no maps to guide me.
- There are no checkpoints, so when I die, I start the mission all over again.
- The game will not auto-select items for me; if I need the Data Uplink to hack into a computer, and I don’t think to use it, then I will be stuck until I figure it out.
- As mentioned before, anything I can interact with will not be called out in any special way, forcing me to figure it out on my own.
The more I play this game, the more I realize that modern FPSes (and games in general) have all these crutches in them that I have come to rely on, and I am a “softer” gamer as a result. I plan on playing through Perfect Dark a few times. I hope to finish it on Perfect Agent difficultly; a feat I was never able to accomplish in the N64 version. Perhaps this game will toughen me up a bit.
On a related note, the auto-aim feature is insane. Most FPSes will nudge the reticle a little to line up your shot. This game jerks the reticule halfway across the screen to make sure you hit your target. While it is a little much, it makes me feel like a secret agent when I one-shot a room full of dataDyne agents. I don’t recall the original doing anything like this.