Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Perfect Dark Zero

This is the third game I've played today that felt was outstanding. It's beautiful, the colors are rich and vibrant, and most importantly, the gameplay is varied. There are action missions and stealth missions, and there are enough gadgets to use in both surveillance and weaponry to give the game a unique feel.

After I played King Kong, Condemned, and Call of Duty 2, my reaction was that they were each interesting in their own way, but they didn't demand that I keep playing. King Kong and Condemned had very similar gameplay, just in different settings. Call of Duty had interesting environments, but with the kind of gameplay we've seen in so many WWII games (and I neglected to mention in my impressions of COD 2 that the animation is very, very impressive).

What all of these games lack, to a certain degree, are energy and style. Perfect Dark Zero has both in abundance. The controls also felt almost extremely well-tuned. The animation is also excellent.

Here's an example of the thoughtful design in Perfect Dark Zero. It's a first-person game, but when you choose the "cover" option near objects, the camera switches to a third-person perspective, which allows you to aim at enemies beyond your normal range of vision, then burst out from behind cover and shoot. The reason this is such a good design decision is that it gives you a chance to see Joanna Dark--to see who you are. That helps me identify with the character. In the other three games, I never developed that identification. The cover option is also one of many mechanics that make the gameplay feel more complex and satisfying than a standard first-person shooter.

A couple of other notes. One, the packaging for this game is tremendously striking, so much so that it deserves a mention. Second, advertising is definitely creeping into games in the way that we expected. In Perfect Dark Zero, all the menu screens have the Samsung logo on them. In NBA2K6, both Toyota (starting lineups) and Powerbar (halftime report) are featured as advertisers, which they can claim is part of duplicating a real broadcast as closely as possible. I guess.

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