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Join Date: Aug 2004
PDZ Single-Player Impressions (IGN)
I think the game got more hype then it should have:
November 20, 2005 - Upon booting up a final build of Perfect Dark Zero today, I was scared. I had no idea what to expect from the title that now seems to have been hyped ever since the release of the original on the N64 way back in 2000. Being a big fan of the first PD and Goldeneye, I had high hopes for this next-generation prequel. After beating the game, I can say I'm somewhat relieved, but can't help but be disappointed by a few aspects of the game.
After spending a good deal of time with the game, PDZ feels a lot like its N64 predecessors. Every level in the game takes a few tries to get through, and more depending on what difficulty level you're playing on. If you're on Agent, which is the easiest setting, you're going to breeze through this game's 13 (14 if you want to be exact, there's one training mission) missions in under 10 hours, since even during the game's most intense sequences, your health won't drop to any level worth concerning yourself with. As fans might expect, higher difficulty levels include a more reactive A.I., more level objectives, and give you less leeway as to how much damage you can take.
Let's take an example from the first level. Don't worry, this isn't going to spoil anything since you'll get to this part within about 10 minutes of starting up the game. You're been assigned the task of rescuing a scientist named Zeigler. To do so, you need to infiltrate the club of Killian, leader of a notorious Triad gang. On every difficulty setting you're assigned to identify three of his enforcers with your audioscope gadget. To identify an enforcer, you'll need to hit left on your control pad to bring out your audioscope which can be locked onto the targets. Once locked on, you'll need to wait for a progress bar to move across the screen at the end of which the enforcer will be identified. On Agent, you don't really need to pay attention to any of that. You begin at a docks area in front of Killian's club with an enforcer on a platform above. You can basically just run up and murder all of the guards in the area with no consequences.
Eventually you get to a door with a lock that you need to blast off. Beyond this is the second enforcer, who you can also shoot a hundred times and not need to worry about identifying him. It's the third enforcer, who you need to take an elevator to reach, that you'll actually need to identify with the audioscope which completes the objective and allows you to enter Killian's club.
On Secret Agent things get a little more challenging. You don't need to identify the first enforcer on the docks, and you can still run around and murder everyone, but you'll need to be more careful once you get to the locked door. Here you'll actually need to identify the second enforcer before you get recognized by the surrounding troops. If you're spotted, the enforcer will get up and start attacking you'll fail the mission since you never identified him. If you can manage to properly identify him and the next one, you'll complete the objective and enter the club.
The next level up, Perfect Agent, is significantly harder than the other two. In it, you'll actually need to use stealth or you're going to get completely demolished. In other words, you'll be forced to sneak around your enemies using silenced shots, ducking and keeping close to walls, and using cover positions. You take damage way more quickly in this setting, and you'll have a few different objectives. For instance, at once point you'll be able to plant a bomb at a wall to blow it away, you'll have to identify all three enforcers, and you'll have to blow up a speedboat that sits in a harbor beyond the locked door. So clearly, each difficulty mode affects how the game plays. Agent was, honestly, pretty boring, but the got much more interesting as the difficulty went up The amazing thing was, after a few levels PDZ began to feel very similar to the original and to Goldeneye. The way the level objectives were constantly updated, the way you have to take out security cameras, and the way alarms get pulled and endless waves of guards come at you until it's shut off all contribute to the feeling you got when playing the first one. Another thing that's eerily similar is one specific death animation. Anyone remember how in Goldeneye some enemies would wobble then drop to their knees when they got killed? Remember how you kept shooting at them because you weren't sure they were alive or dead? Well, the same thing applies here, since you'll often find enemies pull off the exact same death animation, which is still as annoying as it was in the past.
Anyone who's kept up with the videos that have been released on the internet over the past few months have probably seen the crazy flipping and spastic death animations that were in the game early on. Well, there's still a little bit of that hanging around. You'll definitely raise an eyebrow when you see how some of the enemies react to your gunfire. Still, it's really cool when you fire ten shots at a guy and watch as all the individual pieces of his armor go flying in all directions before he slams into the ground.
To kill her enemies, Joanna can now punch and gun bash, as well as take cover behind objects. The gun bashing proved to be really effective, though your enemies will do it too at close range. While cover worked really well, it was inconsistent where you could duck behind something. In order to take cover and put your back to wall, you have to wait for a prompt to appear at the top of the screen. To get this prompt, you have to be at a specific distance and in a specific area in order to get the prompt to appear. Exactly when this pops up seems somewhat arbitrary, and it would have been nice to be able to just have an option to take cover at any time instead of at certain spots, especially during intense gunfights.
Since you won't always be able to crouch into a safe spot, you'll be thankful of the ability to pull off rolls with the right bumper, especially in the later levels when there's about eight million bullets flying all over the place. There's no jumping in PDZ, but you are able to move over small ledges by moving forward while perpendicular to them, though this seemed very difficult to pull off in single player while in multiplayer it was much easier. During the single player campaign there were a limited number of sequences where you actually drive a vehicle. These included a jetpack that could both walk, fly, and shoot a never ending stream of machine gun bullets. The other one was a hover tank that had a driver and gun placement at the top. They were fun while they lasted, but there could have been more. If you're a fan of turrets, though, then you're in luck; PDZ has lots of them.
While the general gameplay feels very similar to the original even with the few new additions, fans will definitely be disappointed with the lack of unlockables through the single player campaigns. Making your way through the game on each difficulty levels unlocks weapons to be usable in every level of the game. So, play through the game a few times on different difficulty setting you'll be able to go back and use weapons like the Super Dragon, shotgun, plasma rifle, and a many others in the any mission. While this is a neat feature, what happened to the oodles of unlockable content that was in Perfect Dark and Goldeneye? Apparently, it went the way of Perfect Dark Zero's story.
Yes, the story in Perfect Dark Zero is not good. In fact, it was the most disappointing aspect of the play experience. The cut-scenes are poorly choreographed, the voice acting is overly catty and tries too hard to have an edge, the characters are extremely shallow, and you'll frequently be unsure of exactly what transpired. For instance, in one scene Joanna is at a standstill with an enemy with both of their guns drawn and pointed at each other. Then, a wall explodes and somebody else jumps in. Immediately following that, the cut-scene ends. You then start the next mission apparently having escaped from that precarious position with no explanation of how it happened. How can this have happened with such a long development cycle? Who knows, but when Joanna said in one cut scene "Didn't anybody tell you, smoking kills," to an enemy guard after he lit a cigarette, then kicked him in the face, it was a sign that there might have been a few problems in coming up with a cohesive story.
When the game arrived at the office on Friday, the first thing that everyone was asking about was the health bar. Honestly, I didn't figure out how it worked until spending a long time with it. The health bar is basically two bars rolled into one. There's a colored bar that overlays a grey bar. If you're shot, the colored bar decreases by the amount of damage you took, but the grey bar remains at the point where the green bar started. If around five seconds pass and you don't take any damage, the colored bar will refill to where the grey bar remained, essentially negating any damage. If you continue to get hit once the colored bar has already decreased, both the grey and colored bars will begin to move, though the grey bar at a slower pace. This way, when your colored bar refills, it won't refill to full health, but to wherever the grey bar wound up stopping. If you're playing on Agent, it's rare for the grey bar to move at all, so you're basically at full health all the time. By the time you reach Perfect Agent or even Dark Agent, both bars will decrease rather quickly. Still, with the way its set up, you'll be in the middle of an intense gun battle and all of a sudden have your health return to full. It's welcome, but strange.
The game's graphics were very impressive at times, and at others a letdown. There was slowdown in several of each level's cut-scenes, though we didn't notice any during the actual gameplay. One of the biggest criticisms of PDZ's graphics that can be made is the fact that everything is very, very shiny. From bricks to ancient stone in South America to sleek metallic surfaces in laboratories, every surface in PDZ has a sharp, shimmering sheen. In areas where the walls are made of metal, like the training mission at the start of the game, these graphics don't look so odd. But when you're staring at snow hills that look like they're made of titanium, you'll start to question why this decision was made.
What was impressive about PDZ's graphics wasn't necessarily the texture detail or weapon models, but the sheer size of some of the environments. There's a few shooting sequences in the game, like one around a monolithic space shuttle and another at a monstrous bridge where it's almost unbelievable how much you can see of the environment. With your gun's scope you can check out every detail of the area and there's no slowdown. The enemy animations are also excellent, as the effects of the see-through combat shield look very good.
In terms of sound, the game has awesome gun effects. Every weapon gives you a sharp, distinct, and most importantly loud firing sound, particularly the machine gun. The music, on the other hand, is odd. At times you'll be treated to pounding techno music, at others you'll hear rock compositions that sound like they should have been on the radio in the 80s. Again, the voice acting is subpar and full of terrible one-liners. The enemies you fight will often call out laughable comments, such as screaming, "Ow, my leg," a second or two after they'd been killed.
Enemy A.I. depends largely on what difficulty setting you've set the game on. On Agent, everyone you fight is a total idiot and must have gouged out their own eyes at some point in their life to be so inaccurate with a gun. On higher settings, they're much more precise. However, it's still the same mechanic as Goldeneye where if you draw the attention of one enemy, a whole bunch more are going to show up and follow you. At no point did I notice any of the enemies pulling off any advanced tactical maneuvers. They simply stood and shot, and sometimes some of them would lob grenades. On higher difficulty levels they were more aggressive and did more damage, but didn't necessarily improve their attack strategies.
The game features some light squad tactics battles at points, which can become frustrating since your friendly A.I. has a tendency to stand directly in the line of fire while calling for help. There were many times in the game where I wanted to shake the character I was trying to protect and scream, "Run for cover you moron!" Instead, the character just sat there and got killed every time while yelling for my assistance.
So what do you get for beating the game? One X360 Achievement out of fifty, depending on which difficulty you beat it on, and a few weapons to pick from before you head out on missions when you go through again. There are also leaderboards that rank you based on your score in a level. The game actually keeps track of a ton of stats, but it doesn't really fill the void the lack of unlockables left. It'd be best to play through the story in cooperative mode, since it's always more fun with two than with one. PDZ makes this especially easy since you can do cooperative over Xbox Live, so you don't necessarily need someone over at your place to make this work.
All in all, the story mode was fun to play, but it's nothing revolutionary. Though there are a few new moves and gadgets, the game feels very similar to its N64 predecessor. Clearly, the big draw of this game is going to be the multiplayer. The game gives you plenty of customization options for split-screen, system link, and play over Xbox Live. This includes standard Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Team Deathmatch modes in addition to an entire Dark Ops mode that opts for a system more akin to Counter-Strike and even includes a pre-match buy menu. Though multiplayer impressions have already been written up, more online experience is required before a full review can be assembled and score assigned to PDZ since there are so many different game modes.
As an update from the multiplayer impressions, I could not find a way to mute the announcer short of turning the sound effects all the way down. Obviously there's no way to play online without sound effects, so it looks like everyone is stuck with "Killtastic!" until, hopefully, some sort of patch or content is released that gives players that option. Also, on every single menu in the game there appears in a very prominent position the brand name of a certain manufacturer of televisions. No, it's not a fake PDZ-inspired TV manufacturer, it's a real one, and they've obviously bought advertising space. This doesn't affect gameplay in any way, but it's a jarring example of in-game advertising that works against the game's immersion factor.
That's it for now. We here at IGN will keep playing around with the game and log some lengthy multiplayer hours before PDZ's full review is written.