What was so remarkable at the time, however, was the sheer volume of customizability. Perfect Dark’s multiplayer has more tweaks and options than most modern shooters, outside of a level editor that is. This was in the days before multiplayer leveling up and perks. It was all about planning a great match and playing it, rather than living in an evolving one. You have full access to dozens of weapon sets or you can make your own; options for team placement, consistency and names are all available; you can even fiddle with character and item highlights.
Then there are the simulants. Perfect Dark’s multiplayer allows for up to eight bots in a level, and you can get pretty creative assigning them difficulty levels and personalities. Squaring off against a full team of revenge-minded, deadly accurate Darksims really gets the adrenaline going. The game also has a series of 30 preset challenges that get you acclimated to the maps, weapons and AI behavior. The challenges get incredibly hard toward the end but you only need to play the first dozen or so to unlock all of the multiplayer features.
All of this content was available in the original game, but the remake lets it meet its true potential online. On Xbox Live you can play with up to eight human players with a full complement of bots, making the multiplayer far more chaotic than it was ever intended to be but somehow more awesome at the same time. The gigantic maps finally feel balanced and lively; the smooth frame rate lets the game look great and play silky smooth. It’s the experience fans have always dreamed of and now they can have it.
There will be a learning curve for newer gamers unfamiliar with older deathmatch. Perfect Dark’s multiplayer is a strange mixture of old conventions and the then-new concepts that it was breaking into. Many modes require that you use strategies found in modern shooters like Team Fortress 2, but there’s still no way to begin the match with a gun, leading to a scramble for weapons right after spawning. For people who have been playing FPS for decades, Perfect Dark multiplayer has idiosyncrasies that will feel delightfully retro, but for players raised on the baby’s-first-FPS of Halo, these artifacts may seem strange and unnecessary.
The multiplayer challenges feel rather unbalanced. The early ones are painfully easy, but the difficulty curve shoots straight up a cliff about halfway through. The bots in the later challenges are horribly cheap, forcing you to rely on tricks that fool their AI rather than pure FPS skill. In terms of combat against other humans, the lack of handicaps and balances from the Modern Warfare series might discourage newbies who don’t have the chops to jump right in.
Perfect Dark is very much a classic shooter—it’s a test of raw skill, reflexes and accuracy. Most of the tricks come from using the weapons and their secondary features creatively, like dropping a laptop turrent as a delaying action, using the time-slowing combat boost tactically, or placing the deviously disguised assault rifle proxy mine on a weapon spawn point. Perfect Dark is undeniably still a legacy FPS; 4J have left it immaculate and only enhanced it with online play and a cosmetic overhaul. But if you can get behind its old school nature it’s one of the best examples of the genre and still incredibly addictive a decade later.
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