Posts Tagged ‘2000’

Game 50: Baldur’s Gate II

Posted: April 30, 2011 by Jeroen in Games
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Game 432/1001 according to the list

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Interplay Entertainment

Here we go then, possibly my favourite game (at least at the moment) – Baldur’s Gate II. BALDUR’S GATE II. As it says, it’s a sequel to the first game, which actually took place in Baldur’s Gate. It’s probably the best example of western RPGs out there, and is generally seen as a big one in the genre. It’s got it all – flexibility, character options, plenty of side quests, a good story that, to be fair, doesn’t always matter much because you spend so much time doing other things… and it’s just great fun. But is the enthusiasm shared?

This game uses the same engine as Icewind Dale, Icewind Dale 2 and a game we covered earlier – Planescape Torment.

Our Playthrough

After going through the tutorial (something good to do if you don’t know the game series yet), the unfortunately Irenicus Dungeon and we managed to do the circus tent quest, and started on the de’Arnise Keep.  Basically, do some quests, interact with some people, and see some of the things out there.

Our Thoughts

I’m afraid it’s going to be hard for me to give a completely unbiased opinion on this game. Don’t worry, when you start to spiral into fanboyism (even more so) I’ll give you a nudge. I bet you will with a sardonic grin on your face.

But then let’s start there – what’s less good about the game?

The first hour(ish) was a bit dull to be honest. The fact that you are so constricted in the linear nature of the dungeon gets very trying. In the end I guess this serves to act as a counter-point to the relative freedom in side-quests available as you step blinking into the sun. If it was not for the fact that Jeroen was so much of a fan of the game (and played so many hours on replaying it) I would have become very frustrated with it. The first dungeon does not offer much variation and since you are still coming to grips with gameplay so parts are rather unforgiving.

The first dungeon is boring – not only is it linear, most of it is a focus on the most boring part of the game – walk around, defeat enemies, get loot. There are some good parts that show the character interaction and allow for minor choice, but it’s far less than the real game, to the point where regular players have created a mod (more on those later) to skip it every time. That is one thing that really did get to me… all the walking around. I am thankful for the Ctrl+J mod that allows you to jump across the map. It meant that I got to do a lot more in our traditional 5 hours. Also, since there are 6 in the party, one of them always seem to get lost along the way. A general cheat code, actually, that’s worth turning on to speed it up a bit. Not properly allowed, and walking through the area the first time can be lovely, but the backtracking you need sometimes can get boring. Such as helping out that djinn/genie where you have to trek for what seems like miles to find his blasted item. And have no way to really avoid that… with it being on opposite ends of one of the larger maps, that gets to you.

The only other slightly annoying thing is the walking animations where the characters seem to stop and start quite frequently rather than it seeming more fluid. Then again that is probably more to do with available technology than lack of coding prowess. Something I didn’t notice as much anymore, but could happen… these are simpler sprite-based games, which might have influenced things here. I guess that since you have played it sporadically for the last 10 years it is something you got used to. Then a pair of fresher eyes watches the walking (so…much…walking) and it jars a little bit. Quite possibly true.

Still, other than that, you seemed to be okay with the graphics. Some of the later artwork was great. I loved the look of the circus tent in the main town. Also some of the rooms were beautifully decorated.  In graphic terms this was leaps and bounds ahead of Planescape: Torment (helped a lot by allowing a higher resolution for the game). That is really seen in the player portraits on the right-hand side of the screen.  All of them, except for those lifted from the original game, are much better than how they made Planescape’s Nameless One look. Well, none of them were millennia-old immortals, that would explain part of that; but they allowed for nicer hand-drawn portraits suited for the individual characters (and far more fitting the actual characters than some in the original game). Some of them did give me the creeps a little bit as the eyes are slightly off, Aerie being the ultimate example of this.

A truely disturbed individual she is – she used to be a winged elf, but had her wings clipped as she was dragged around as part of a freak show. No wonder she was such a whiner. Unfortunately so. Most of the characters you meet have some story like that, often leading into subquests or even romances you can get into with them.

Now, the characters are probably one of the most defining features of the game – their interactions with the world and the people in it are lovely and create lots of different personalities – the chatty Jan, insane Minsc and Edwin (no adjective… he’s just Edwin) are all memorable and funny, while the stories of characters like Aerie and Anomen are more serious and feel sadder.

Minsc really did capture the hearts of the gaming community. Even those of us who used to confuse Baldur’s Gate with Dungeon Keeper (don’t ask okay) will have most likely heard of Boo. I mean this is a Minature Giant Space Hamster after all. It’s oh so fun to make him squeak randomly. As he runs away because he’s afraid of you. Without him, Minsc would be far worse off. He’d probably end up killing the rest of the party and making balloon animals out of their entrails. Sadface.

The voice acting helps as well, setting the tone and defining the characters, and often as memorable, whether it’s a bit-character or a major NPC. And for the geeks – apparently the game was interesting enough for Michael Dorn to put in an uncredited voice) I did enjoy the voice-acting, after I reduced the frequencies of confirmations I enjoyed it even more. There is a large variety of noises the characters make but due to all the stopping and starting they tend to get used up in the first 15 minutes. The dialogue, however, is very well performed and is quite emotional in parts. This is especially so with Imoen where you can hear her fear and melancholy. This is quite a change from the happy-go-lucky Imoen from the first game. Then again, seeing your friends murdered in front of your eyes would do that for you. And the knives… knives…

Next, there are the different options. I mentioned the amount of quests and side quests before – all next to the main plot, which you can go on with at any time – and the large amount of exploration you can do. But there’s also the customizability in the character creation, which is quite freeform, as seen in western RPGs. 11 classes, most with several kits, races, and all the options in spell choices and so on.

Since we played this as a two-player run-through one of us took a magic-based character and the other a more melee-based one. Of the remaining party members we then made sure both of us had enough variation that many of the classes were covered.  I really did enjoy firing acid arrows at trolls with my sorceress. Note that that increases the variation too – you have up to six characters with you, one of which (or more in multiplayer) you decide on yourself, and the rest you can pick out of the existing characters. And the spells are awesome – there’s lots of them, with graphics and their own effects. Not all as creative, but often great to use and quite powerful.

The main limitation with spells being that there is a finite number you can cast ‘per day’. In the middle of a dungeon this can get frustrating when you have run out of fire magic to finish off trolls. Although it obviously makes sense as a balancing mechanism, and makes you have to be careful, this is just as much about adding strategy to the game. As well as conforming to the rules of Dungeons and Dragons. Of course, this is clearly a D&D based game – the original being the first in a long time – and it shows all the way through. Mostly following the idiosyncrasies of 2E (low armour class being better), but having some 3E elements having been added, such as the already beloved sorcerer.

In terms of the Western RPG there are few games that can claim to be as influential as this. To many this is Bioware’s magnum opus which, in view of the critically acclaimed nature of their back catalogue, is no mean feat. Considering the scope of the game, and the fact that a lot was left out as the developers game under pressure to release it sooner, it is a remarkable piece of interactive story-telling.

Final Thoughts

What more can I say? Look, it’s a good game. The graphics have their dated moments and oddities, but using sprites instead of 3D models that would be dated by now help a lot – and I personally love the hand-painted backgrounds. The writing and voice acting is great, the music suitably epic. A lot of it is memorable and stays with you – but that could be because I’ve played the game that often. The main thing that makes the game, however, are the characters – in part the people you meet, but moreso the characters in your party, who comment on everything, have their opinions and do go their own way at times. If there’s a defining feature of the game, it’s that.

A note on mods. We played using the Gibberlings 3 Fixpack. There are lots more out there – rather than list them all, I’ll link you to the Infinity Engine Modlist again. One of the interesting solutions for covering the 500+ mods that are out there is the Big World Project. This set of utilities allows you to download and install all possible mods in the right order, applying some fixes and making it easier to do the whole thing.

There’s a number of modifications, although if it’s the first time you’re playing, you’ll want to avoid most of them, as they require expert knowledge or wouldn’t offer as many new things. Still, some could be useful. The tweak packs mostly offer some things to make the game easier – spells are more likely to be learned (else you’d save and reload), stacks are higher (meaning you won’t need to fill your inventory with arrows) and NPC interactions are changed slightly to occur  more reliably, with the downside being they may respond from the other side of the map. It rarely matters anyway.

Second, if you own both games in the series, there are two mods that allow you to play Baldur’s Gate (the original) in Baldur’s Gate II, giving you a better playing experience that is more expansive. The two options here are Tutu and Baldur’s Gate Trilogy. The difference is that the former converts your installation – you can only play the first game – including changing some rules to suit the first game (weapon breakage and experience bonuses being the obvious ones), while the latter preserves your Baldur’s Gate II installation, not just allowing you to play both, but easily facilitating the move from the first to the second game – no importing necessary, no information lost.

Mods to be installed are plentiful, and too numerous to list here – it’s probably best to try them, and shoot me a message somehow if you want my advice.  Just take a look and try it yourself!


Game 42: Final Fantasy IX

Posted: March 29, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 447/1001 according to the list

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation 1
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square

So here we are, part three of our Final Fantasy playthrough trilogy from games donated earlier. After Final Fantasy VII, the adventures of disjointed steampunky Cloud, and Final Fantasy VIII, or Final Fantasy in a school, we are now back to the fantasy roots of the series, with Final Fantasy IX having you kidnap a princess (sort of) and has you battling mages and sticks to many other fantasy tropes. A different setting, but the one the Final Fantasy designers most want to create a sequel to when they get a chance. Do we agree, though? Here’s our thoughts after five hours of play.

Our Thoughts

That game took a while to get going. Kupo. I most certainly did, kupo, but it finally got going after the first (rather dull) three hours of gameplay.

In particular, after we got through a rather annoying Ice Cave dungeon. I don’t think it helped that the first member of the Black Waltz was a rather tricky customer. It really did help when we got in a bit of exploration and found better weapons and abilities, the fact that we went into trance (this game’s version of overdrive) about two turns into the sub-boss battle.

However, it took us three tries to get that far, and with a rather boring cutscene before the battle, it got annoying. Still, we made it, and it felt like a true victory. The moment that ice/dragon/snake/bastard thing fell to the floor there was a minor ripple of joy felt amongst us at Pong and Beyond. There might have been some audible cheering.

I don’t think it helped matters that we had played the previous two Final Fantasy games in the last month or so. Both of which are regarded critically as being better outings of the franchise. In a way a rash comparison was always going to happen. This is grossly unfair since every Final Fantasy (whilst maintaining some hallmarks) are essentially different games with new character, surroundings and mythology. In fact apart from Moogles, Chocobo and the name Cid there are few thematic elements which regularly reoccur in the series. In a sense, this game goes back a step by actually having a fantasy world (with some steampunk elements) where the last two games were fully steampunk, if not getting closer to sci-fi.

With the exception of the airships powered by ‘mist’ there are very few prominent machines in the earlier reaches of the games. There are some which will not be mentioned here for the sake of preventing spoilers. Trust me – this time there’s no trains. As opposed to the train fetishes from the past two games… god, they could’ve called it Train Fantasy then… If there had been gratuitous shots of trains entering tunnels then I would agree with you… but no.

Anyway, the fantasy world is nicely worked out, giving magic a larger role and involving it nicely in the larger plot. In that sense, the game is also far more simplified – unlike the earlier games, you just set what abilities you want to learn (based on your equipment and the character) and it happens automatically. No junctions, magic assigning or anything else, instead a simple system that forces each character to play its own role. No long tutorials needed. The only tutorials you get are at the hand of a wise Moogle. These are portioned during the first 4 hours of gameplay and are given in a very straightforward manner (and, thankfully, short). If here are any troubles or questions all you need to do is hit SELECT on the menu screen and there is a short description of what it is you are looking at. The adjustment of the learning curve is a welcome relief after VII and VIII.

There is a lot to be said of a well done simple system compared to a unique but complex one. It also helps that Final Fantasy IX saw the introduction of who may well be the cutest and the saddest and funniest character to ever grace a JRPG; Vivi. One of the members of the Pong and Beyond team might be pushed out in his favour, following several “I love Vivi” squeals. This is only because Jeroen does not possess a large floppy hat and get easily flustered. Only sometimes.

At the beginning I found Vivi a touch annoying but he’s the character who I was able to easily connect with during the gameplay. The others seem to be either stock characters or (in the case of Dagger/Garnet) remarkably dull. I wish we had gotten as far to the introduction of Quina Quen as they look rather unique. Steiner is the goofy tank character, who’s incredibly loyal, and stole my heart with his antics as well, making that another favourite.

Unfortunately we’re unable to spend that much more time on the games, although I’m certainly considering going on to give it another try later (once I can get access to the games then). The main problem with the game that nearly made us throw it out early is that the game starts off incredibly slow. (Something that partially applies to the start of the battle… loading times are awful) For the first few hours, you don’t have a reason to connect to the characters. They’re stereotypes involved in a simple ‘Kidnap the princess’ plot. The personalities seem generic and while there’s some clever wrapping, the plot itself doesn’t drag you in.

It’s only when the more macabre side of the game begins (involving the factory line production of black mages) that it begins to work out. This does not exactly make up for the large amount of blank screen time that occurs during gameplay but it does mean you are looking forward to what’s on the other side of the blackness. Except for the battles… which are a colossal pain in the behind sometimes. Yeah. The battles are slow anyway, but the black screens before we can even start takes a long time and gets annoying. And when you’re in the battle it’s slow enough that everyone else has gotten their turn again once you have played out the animation for one character.

Speaking of cutscenes, the gap separating the graphics is remarkably reduced compared to previous outings. By the time we reach Final Fantasy X the gap is nearly gone. Yeah. The graphics have greatly improved again. While Final Fantasy VIII went for realism to make the game look better for longer, here they go for a similar art style to Final Fantasy VII (though less exaggerated), but executed in a way that looks better even now. It looks pretty good if you ask me. Unfortunately we didn’t get far enough to see any summoning graphics (which could’ve been interesting), but all spell animations we saw were impressive.

I think the mage animations on the whole were impressive. Zidane was probably the east convincing of the bunch… but it didn’t help that he was some sort of monkey-boy thing. He was supposed to look different, something that they were going into further. He still looked distinctive and interesting, and certainly didn’t stand out as such a bad design. In cut scenes though he was graphically the worst rendered if you ask me. Yeah, unfortunately, but not too badly so in what I’ve seen.

Last comment, the music. The battle music, at least, wasn’t as inspiring as in any games. It didn’t fit into the feeling of the game at all. When you are in a slightly quaint village you wouldn’t expect the intrusive synths. We played with sound turned down for most of the game for this reason. It wasn’t inspiring or felt right, it didn’t work well here.

It’s a good game once you give it time – something that isn’t too bad considering this game will easily take you 20-30 to get through fully – but you need to have the persistence to have it grow on you.

Final Thoughts

So that’s it. The game is lovely – great graphics, several adorable characters and an interesting setting. It’s slow to start, and later on especially battles are rather slow. Once you get past the first dungeon, however, things pick up (or at least they did for us) and you get into an intriguing plot where anyone who doesn’t like Vivi can’t be called a decent human being. Nobody has to like Dagger, though. We’ve seen too many spunky princesses for that.

Game 31: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Posted: February 20, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

Game 454/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

There are certain gaming series that have a large number of games on the 1001 list. So far we have made a sizeable dent in the Mario games (although to be honest there is a hell of a lot more to go) and we have a Metroid and some Final Fantasies on the way but now is a time for the first in a long line of Zelda games.

Since we are still whittling away titles from the first batch of games Kat lent us we have decided to first play Majora’s Mask. Whilst I have played this game before the main thing I associate with it is this song. If you click the link and fail to see the link then I don’t blame you. When we first got Sky there was this channel called Game Network which had a program which consisted of clips of video games set to music. As you can now guess Majora’s Mask was paired with the Eurodance song To Be You by Kim Lukas. Strange combination really.

Our Thoughts

If you had 3 days to stop some masked entity from crashing a demonic moon into your hometown what would you do? Other than looking for someone else to fix it? Probably ask for a present for my spouse in exchange for the deed to my spot on the market. Well he does jump ship… well fly away in the way a Deku is accustomed to do. I do doubt he would be able to outrun the moon though at his usual speed and predicted trajectory though. Fair enough, I suppose, but it’s what happens.

Let me note here that I personally don’t like time limits in games as a way to make it more exciting, and I was quite worried until we got the method to reverse time in the game. I could feel you tensing up as the time ran out. You were really getting annoyed and (to be honest) it was beginning to bug me.

I actually think that although the 3 day cycle adds a heap of restrictions it is a fantastic idea that was able to make sure that Majora’s Mask was set apart from Ocarina of Time. When you are coming after a game that was hailed as the best ever made it is important to implement a true game changer. I know that it bugged Jeroen as he is a real dab hand at taking his time and exploring the worlds (probably why he is much fonder of point-and-click games and RPGs like the previously reviewed Planescape: Torment).

In contrast there is me who likes to do a bit of exploration (which is why I lost so much of my life to exploring the entire map of GTA: San Andreas) but if there is too much of that in a game it gets boring for me. Then there is Majora’s Mask which, as a Zelda game, had to strike the balance between the time constraint and the exploration, a tough tightrope indeed.

Many complaints about the game were centred on the shorter dungeons and that there are fewer of them compared with other games in the franchise. Contrary to that is a much larger focus on side-quests which embraces the 3 day cycle. With this you have to keep a notebook of side-quests based on the movement patterns of people within Clock Town. A feature that I have only seen repeated in a game of a completely different genre: the survival horror cult classic Gregory Horror Show. And you seem to need it, although I’ve not yet seen enough of that.

Aside from the time limit, which is indeed a personal preference (and one of those things I change early before playing other classics like Fallout, who were quick to fix it in their patches), the game is well done. You can tell that they’ve had more time to work out what they can do with the N64, which shows in graphics, gameplay, the amount of options and things you can do (28 masks? Lots of sidequests, lots of other stuff to do) and it makes it a very good game to play. And you need the shorter dungeons and such – having to go through larger parts again and again because you ran out of time or have a side area to explore would detract from the fun part of the game.

That’s the only downside of the game really. Like a fool I wanted to stop playing and I reset the clock. But before I could get back to the dungeon I had to do all the other mini-tasks in order to be able to reach that area. I am so thankful that they included an option to slow the passage of time meaning that you get an extra 20-30 minutes before the 3 day cycle is completed. You seem to need it – and yeah, that’s part of where my complaint comes from, really. There’s ways to make it easier, but had I have to go through any longer, the repetitiveness would have made this even more exhausting. But enough on that, time for the praise this game absolutely deserves. Well yes, the readers of GameFAQs apparently named this the best game of the last decade so we really should sing the praises. As you’ll see, obviously I won’t agree with them, but then again – that’s the opinion of the averages anyway, where it could work if it were everyone’s second favourite.

As I said, the graphics are nice. The characters are given character through it, putting on certain masks looks like it hurts, and most of the environment are quite pretty in their own way. How about the music? Just like the other games in the franchise Majora’s Mask has a beautiful soundtrack. Even the short repetitive tunes you play on the ocarina to change time or to open the doors to the temples sound beautiful; very simple yet very effective. And a number of them are familiar tunes associated with the series for some time longer especially the incidental music which is something that a long-running successful franchise is able to do.

Yeah, and I’m sure it fits in here – I’m honest, I’m looking forward to trying other games and put it in perspective too. That is the problem with us first tackling such a late game in the series. Something we had to do because we need to play though all the games Kat gave us before Easter. Later on we will be able to refer forward so I guess it will all balance out. Yeah, so keep looking out for that. We have two more to do from Kat’s pile (including the Gamecube port of Ocarina of Time which, when I think about it now, would have been probably been better to do before this one) so there will be come franchise comparisons coming rather soon.

So yeah, while the time system can have its doubts, in general the game is good fun and very well put together and certainly worth a try, if you can still get your hands on it. It’s available on the Virtual Console for the Wii so it’s very easy to find. Ah, I did not know that. Then that’s worth going for.

Final Thoughts

This marks our last venture in Nintendo 64 gaming for a few weeks until we play the port of Ocarina of Time that came with The Wind Waker. The last few weeks of gaming have really made me miss my own console and games.

I guess it’s one of those things with trade-ins. In my time I have sold off a lot of games that I am now beginning to regret and will now start to peruse eBay and Amazon Marketplace to find such lost games like Gregory Horror Show, Pikmin, Pikmin 2, Bully and Kingdom Hearts.

Game 30: Perfect Dark

Posted: February 17, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 431/1001 according to the list

Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Okay we’re going for a bit of a Rare overdose but we promise that this is the last of their games which we will be covering for a while. Maybe…

Perfect Dark was originally released on May 2000 and is seen by many as being the spiritual sequel to Goldeneye 007 since it used an updated version of the same engine as well as utilising many of the same gameplay elements. The main difference is of course the plot where aliens take the place of the typical Bond villains… although considering they must be running out of plot ideas it is only a matter of time.

Our Playthrough

Thanks to Kat (hello again) we had access to most of the missions to have playthrough and gave a wide variety of them a go. Also, since this did take a lot from Goldeneye 007 we had to give the multiplayer a good going over since (as we will discuss when we play those games) it did inspire a lot in the Timesplitter series.

Our Thoughts

Where do you stand on James Bond one day fighting aliens? I was about to say something about realism, but James Bond already isn’t. All I can say is that our former prince consort wasn’t one, although he was apparently used as Bond villain in the past. I am more worried about suddenly representing James Bond as being a woman. When it comes down to the feel of the character and their missions there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. Costume changes, silenced pistol, British accent I mean the list goes on. They even have similar first names. And even in the level designs, the endless corridors and enemies popping up out of nowhere are similar.

But when it comes to that, Perfect Dark does feel better. Better textures, more variation in looks so you know where you are and everything fitting together a little bit better. I would also argue that the variety and playability of the level-specific gadgets is vastly superior. On many levels it was far more player friendly. In the same way they also invested a lot more in the storytelling, I guess they felt they did not need to rely on people playing it having seen the film in order to get it. It may have helped that this had a more futuristic setting therefore meaning here would automatically be a greater level of intrigue rather than the obligatory ‘save the world by shooting the man with the fetish for gold paint’. There is actual motivation; something which is further elaborated on in the fantastic prequel Perfect Dark Zero as well as the novelizations which take place before this game. The latter of which you know better, but yeah, I agree, the game is easier to play, it’s easier to know what to do and where to go and it feels more like a story than a collection of separate scenes.

This begs the question though of why Goldeneye 007 is placed on a pedestal much higher than Perfect Dark. It must come down to personal taste but I am actually going to be playing more of Perfect Dark after this write-up but I was relieved that we had filled our 5 hour quota. So much is more relatable as a gamer whereas James Bond has always felt cold and aloof. I suspect it’s more that Goldeneye 007 was first, rather than it being the best.

Multiplayer is the one area this game really shines in comparison. As you may recall, we were negative about that in our Goldeneye 007 discussion, where it seemed tacked on at the last moment (and in fact, it was). Absolutely. This had a small element of character customisation which was appreciated (imagine a grey alien head on the body of a sexy woman wearing a red cocktail dress) as was the number of different modes. The best thing about the multiplayer, however, was the AI characters you could play against. This was a feature missing from Goldeneye 007 that could have made it a whole lot better. It means you’re playing together, adding some more fun elements to it.

And there’s nothing like being screamed at to stay in the zone because of the king of the hill. It did not help that you shot me to “see if you could”. We were on the same team! Aren’t we supposed to be testing this game? See what you can and can’t do and how it works? You deserved that stabbing you got later. Sure… That level sucked anyway, with all the rocket launchers. None of which I got to use.

Another great feature of this game was the sound. The voice-overs were very well executed during gameplay (although the common usage of “why me” when you shoot someone in the spleen got slightly tiresome). But the real kudos does belong to the music. It seemed to take a lot of inspiration from futuristic cinema and it changed in tempo and pitch depending on which area you entered and how likely you were to encounter danger. It’s a fairly boring thing to mention but for me it really stood out. It’s a good way of adding atmosphere without spelling it out – it’s something that often didn’t consciously get to me

The graphics, as mentioned, have been improved as well. Where in Goldeneye 007, they’re the well known slightly pixellated walls that get repetitive and look bad, Perfect Dark starts you out on a heli-pad, with a gorgeous city back drop, moon low in the sky, and even when you get it the environment keeps looking nice. Things are repeated, of course, but there’s a lot of variety at many points. There is also a great variety of stages you get to play in. During one level there is a wind turbine which dominated a portion of the sky whereas in another you are infiltrating Area 51 with obligatory aliens and scientific instruments.

Is there a dam to bungee jump off? Not exactly, but there is a floating computer you need to protect. That’s similar. Ah yes, the obligatory protect the headless chicken mission. There’s this computer that follows you at one point that holds a doctor’s brain (or something), with freaky eyes on its screen. You need to get this computer out without it being destroyed. Hard enough, considering how easy it dies, but then, like often happens in these games, this computer runs straight into the enemies to get shot, instead of hanging back so they can’t get to it. Those eyes did freak me out when I was trapped with it in an elevator. You could always put on your night-vision to blind yourself. I still know he’s there though… staring at my hot female physique as I shoot shotgun-wielding lady assassins in the head. Don’t worry; he left when you turned off the N64

Anyway, it’s a good game, certainly a step up from Goldeneye 007, its clear predecessor. Better multiplayer, the important thing for me here, better sound and graphics, tighter gameplay and a more involving story. Rare knew how to improve its game.

Final Thoughts

Having played this game so early it is likely that we will be referring back to this… a lot. I am really looking forward to all the upcoming first-person shooters since this has really whetted my appetite. Watch out Halo, Metroid Prime, Half-Life 2 and the rest of you. Pong and Beyond is coming.