20 February 2010

Perfect Dark - N64

I learned to love Perfect Dark when I began hiding in my parents' basement.
I was 28 years old when I took a break from journalism and moved home to Baltimore.
By "home" I mean my parents' home. Not content to merely be a Gen-X cliche I decided to work full time at a busy bar and pay down some debt before making my next move. I wasn't sure what that next move would be, but I managed to make a decent buck slinging drinks and got to spend some quality time with my folks after six years of living in another state. To be sure, I cherished the luxury of seeing them every day.
But living with two inquisitive senior citizens does have its challenges. With a lot of time on their hands they began to take extreme interest in my life. They both run on different schedules. My mother sleeps about two hours a day and spends the rest of the hours "occupying" her time. My father awakes around 8 a.m., has his coffee and then stretches the morning paper out over the next 3 to 6 hours. This means the questions my mother would ask me when I came home at 3 a.m. would also be asked by the old man when I'd join him for coffee around 9 a.m. As if operating from a fragmented hive mind, they each asked the same questions but didn't know that their counterpart was also doing the same. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:
1. Did you earn a lot of tips last night?
2. How's the car running?
3. Are you sending out any resumes?
4. What do you want for breakfast?
5. What do you want for lunch?
6. What do you want for dinner?
7. What are you in the mood to eat tomorrow?
I had an N64 set up in the basement with a few games. I eventually realized there were only two things I could do in peace in their house: Use the bathroom and play video games.
I did a lot of reading in the bathroom, and my gaming became the habit that eventually led to the obsession it is today. One game I can thank for this obsession is Perfect Dark. I don't need to spill a lot of ink over how good this game is. If you're reading this chances are you know that Perfect Dark is (gasp!) better than Goldeneye in every way. I played this game daily, right up until the day I went to Gamestop to buy an Xbox at launch. Perfect Dark looked great, was packed with innovations – especially the cool weapons – and had the perfect foil for a guy trying to find ways to extend his gaming time indefinitely - bots. You don't see bots in games much these days. Game developers must think we're all online all the time and don't need virtual friends to slay in deathmatches.
The bots in Perfect Dark were good enough to keep me playing long after I had beaten the stellar campaign. I can only hope they're included in the upcoming XBLA release of this classic title. The N64 controller, once revered as a breakthrough, is still great - but I'm looking forward to playing the XBLA Perfect Dark with Halo controls.
Now if only my wife would let me play for more than 10 minutes without asking me what I'm cooking for dinner . . .
By Victor Paul Alvarez

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