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Why The Original Perfect Dark Has Remained My Favorite First-Person Shooter After 20 Years

To date, I’ve experienced more first-person shooter games than I can count. There have been numerous great games that I have returned to on occasion, such as some of the Call of Duty and BioShock games. Yet, despite all the new content that’s come out since the year 2000, I’ve continuously found myself breaking out the N64 to revisit Perfect Dark. While GoldenEye 007 reigns as the other outstanding first-person shooter for the N64, Perfect Dark has qualities that just couldn’t be outdone by other games. It’s unfortunate that GoldenEye 007 got more immediate attention than Perfect Dark, due to its recognizable James Bond brand. It’s not that Perfect Dark was less good, it just happened to reach less people. Perhaps there is still the possibility for a new champion to enter the picture in years to come, but for now, Perfect Dark is still my favorite first-person shooter.

When discussing Perfect Dark, people often mention that the game was extremely ahead of its times. Games today are still using basic design concepts that Perfect Dark helped to develop. For example, creating open-ended levels that include multiple objectives that the player had to figure out. Creatively, Perfect Dark is still outdoing many first-person shooters that are being made today. For example, the way that difficulty is raised in the majority of modern shooters is simply making enemies that are just better at killing you. You usually have the same objectives and levels with AI that are more effective when they shoot at you. In Perfect Dark, upping the difficulty meant that there would be both more objectives and new areas that you needed to utilize.

Another aspect of Perfect Dark that still stands out to this day is the ability to shoot weapons out of enemies’ hands. You could also disarm enemies and take their weapons by switching some of your weapons to the melee mode “disarm,” which is a feature you don’t see much anymore. It honestly feels much more realistic to have this option, as sometimes situations call for more than just a simple “shoot-and-kill.”

It wasn’t just the missions and combat that made Perfect Dark stand out so much though. In between the missions, you could actually explore the headquarters. While many games will provide you with some form of tutorial or practice mode, the headquarters in Perfect Dark contained a permanent room for target practice, so you could practice with any of the new weapons during the game in between the missions. The game even provided target-practice challenges, which when completed, would unlock more weapons. The headquarters also included a VR room for you to practice on more than just targets.

Furthermore, something that unfortunately isn’t terribly common in first-person shooting games (but should be), is the ability to play co-op story mode. And unsurprisingly, Perfect Dark delivers on this front as well. The average multiplayer free-for-alls are fun, but there’s nothing quite like going through all of the real missions and figuring stuff out together with your buddy.

If all these qualities aren’t enough to make this game stand out as superior to other first-person shooters already, its Combat Simulator for multiplayer mode seals the deal. For starters, there are options to do players vs. players, players vs. simulants, and players and simulants vs. players and simulants. So, no matter how many people you had around, you could have a good time—especially because you could also choose the difficulty setting for the simulants. In addition, there were different team-based challenges (such as capture the flag and king of the hill) that you could do if you were getting sick of the free-for-all. But more than that, the game provided you with not only the choice of map, but the choice of which weapon set you want to use for any given battle. I remember one of my favorite things to do with my brother while I was growing up was to play with either melee weapons only or the one-hit-kill golden magnum (DY357-LX) set. You could set up multiplayer however you wanted to, making the game one of a kind.

So, if you combine the game being ahead of its time, its inclusion of the ability to disarm with guns that can double function as melee weapons, its detailed and creative open-ended levels, its substantial and useful headquarters in between missions, its inclusion of co-op story mode, and its phenomenal customizability options for multiplayer, it’s clear that Perfect Dark is one of the greatest first-person shooters of all time. For these reasons, I’m skeptical that another game will come along that can outperform it. But for now, I’m hopeful that the new Perfect Dark game (of which will likely come out in 2022) will maintain some of these amazing features. More than anything, I’m hoping that the new game coming out will spark some to pick up the original and discover what a true masterpiece it has always been.

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Stephanie is an Editor at TheGamer, solidly aligned chaotic neutral. Though her favorite game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, she vows to do everything in her power to one day see a Legend of Dragoon remake. Absolutely nothing can top her immense love for The Lord of the Rings.

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