Why didn’t I like Perfect Dark (as much as goldeneye)

Hi gang, I think it’s time to do a write up that continues from an older article I wrote regarding why I love goldeneye. But now I think it’s time to talk about it’s spiritual successor for the n64, Perfect Dark.

so edgy, so mysterious

So I played through Perfect Dark on Perfect Agent at the same glorious 60fps with mouse and keyboard and it worked great. the shooting works well, the controls were fine, the music overall is good…but why do I not like it that much? Why isn’t it clicking for me? Surely if it’s made by the same developers who made the previous shooter and it pretty much uses goldeneye as it’s base, I’d at least like it just as much? Below I went ahead and really tried to break down my thoughts as to why it didn’t really “click” for me like Golden guy.

The reality is that I’m pretty biased to like goldeneye. Because it was the first one I played, I got used to a lot of it’s quirks, enemies sometimes being hilariously dumb and taking longer to shoot, “simpler” objectives, less vertical layout in levels, more close quarters level design. I really do wonder how my opinion would be if I grew up with perfect dark first, then played goldeneye? would I have liked perfect more? Well, it’s kind of a waste of time to speculate on what my alternate universe self would have thought, but hey let’s break down what I like and didn’t like from playing perfect dark.

Features

We’ll start off with an objectively obvious one, perfect dark has more features like co-op, target shooting and bot ai, it wins in this department, the end. next.

The Story

This is a tricky one for me, the cutscenes and the way in which they presented them felt kind of sudden. The overall pace of the game in terms of how levels are connected sometimes felt like too much of a jump. First we’d be in a crashed airplane area then abruptly at a sea base where every corridor looks the same (more on that), suddenly we’re in an alien ship. I feel that the designers made a bunch of levels that looked impressive visually (at the time), but then the writers had to awkwardly try and connect them somehow.

But here’s the thing, I decided to do the unthinkable, I wandered around in the game at Carrington Institute (the hub world of the game) and read lore and info about the characters, vehicles, even the whole story. Oddly enough, what I read was pretty good, like, if someone presented to me a write-up of what I saw, as a director I actually probably would have approved (mostly, though the alien stuff maybe not?).

I did the unthinkable, I actually read the in-game logs.

When I look back on when I played the game for the first time, I got weirded out by how there were aliens and spaceships and so on, I mostly just expected a futuristic goldeneye with just humans. But instead got a sudden mishmash of aliens and area 51 and so on. I felt this conglomeration of ideas made the game lose its seriousness and felt like a bizarre cartoon. (It also probably didn’t help that “Elvis” the “Maian” Alien talked like Yoda from Star Wars.)

But I think the biggest reason I felt this way was because of the execution on the cut-scenes wasn’t too great from a story/character development standpoint. The way they presented the characters felt kind of thrown in suddenly and it resulted in making them feel a bit bare. I will say though that I’m definitely not jealous of whoever had to do the cinematography for those moments because you have so little time to work with in order to try and explain the story.

I don’t have much else to say. It’s a bit unfortunate (for me), because there’s some interesting character lore in the carrington institute computers

(and clearly I’m not the kind of person that was able to appreciate the story execution (unlike the reviewers who gave the game 95% scores)).

(of course goldeneye’s story is not too great either if you don’t know the movie it’s based on, call of duty)

Gameplay

I like goldeneye better, haha.

But let’s be real, it controls pretty much the same, they even added some secondary fire for some weapons which sometimes can be pretty cool (though honestly several have pointless primary/secondary options that hardly have any use and you just end up only using one or the other).

Other than my subjective taste with liking the slower and dumber enemies from goldeneye, or how they had simpler gadgets (or that there’s no aliens). I think really what this all boils down to for me is the level design.

Level Design

There weren’t many levels that really sung to me when I had recently played through perfect dark. A big problem I had was how they’d overly emphasize how vertical the game was. The first level has you fiddling with elevators that move and stop at multiple floors. Some levels like Pelagic II are just…terrible, because of how the corridors look the same and their excuse to try and make it easy to navigate is by changing just the color, yikes.

My problem with this level is that it’s basically a giant maze with the majority of the level being made up of these corridor assets…

Their excuse to try and make this navigable is by changing only the color.

Can you imagine being colorblind and playing this level? Yikes…

I don’t think this really is entirely my own bias anymore with me liking goldeneye’s level design better than perfect dark:

  • Most of the levels in goldeneye avoid having too many elevators to use mid level (In fact there are none! as they’re only at the beginning and end of levels), as a result there is far less waiting time with having to traverse around waiting for an elevator to get you someplace.
  • Goldeneye likely had to work with size limitations so the levels are mostly smaller and focus on close quarters design (which I actually think was to its benefit because there’s more deliberate placement to rooms)
  • The visual design of most levels generally avoids being distracting so you can just notice important things like doors, switches, computers etc.
  • In my opinion, big opens maps from both games are the least enjoyable levels. (unless we’re talking surface 1, with that glorious stealth sniping (though really I do remember getting lost when I played that one as a kid)
  • Generally most of the levels in goldeneye are simply more intuitive to navigate, the layouts have easier to remember shapes that make it easier to landmark where you were. (Basically if you are designing a level, you don’t need to put statues, crazy pillars or props in a room to make it memorable navigation-wise, you can change it’s shape to have a L,T,X,+,O,etc. shape and people can recognize that spatially)

If I HAD to pick missions that I did like from Perfect dark, they’d probably be Villa, Science Lab (mission 2) and uh…hmm….

Mission Objectives

If you read my previous article, you’d know that I didn’t really enjoy the objectives aspect from goldeneye, and the same goes for perfect dark.

I’d probably say Perfect Dark at least handles the intuitiveness a bit better because it at least explains how to do the objective…

At least they provided us with this.

Plus Goldeneye is guilty for the terrible gameplay extending egypt level, where you just had to keep trying to guess the correct path until you memorized it. I’m not kidding, there are no visual queues, no audio queues, nothing, if you guessed a tile wrong, you had to keep redoing it.

Yeah I’m not really a fan of the objectives from either game.

(Also you have to keep in mind that I have an IQ of -400 and am only capable of doing things like hold ‘e’ to plant a bomb, kill certain enemy, find some pickups or destroy computers.)

Enemy AI

I prefer Goldeneye’s slower and dumber AI. At times perfect dark’s enemies would shoot too fast for you to take cover.

(But at least they don’t instantly shoot at you and you pray to the RNG gods like in call of duty 4 veteran difficulty *shudders*)

Final Verdict

Frankly…I’m biased as all hell, I just like goldeneye for the simplicity and (to me) better level design. The fact of the matter is that the game features much more intuitive level layouts and I felt that was the biggest deciding factor for me. You just can’t beat the wonderfully designed layouts of levels like Facility, Bunker 1 & 2, Depot, Caverns, etc.. (though frigate starts to veer close to that Perfect Dark esq. layout with too many doors and too many floors to choose from (I still like Frigate don’t get me wrong)).

They’re both great games, but the golden boy takes it home for me.

(unless you ask me to play with you to do some co-op or go against some bots then oof, yeah see ya golden guy.)

Thanks for reading,

-Brandon

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