Excellent, well-known game that got some undeserved bashing
Being the first game to be released on the Xbox 360, the graphics are excellent and really gave a great first impression on the console, and even today, as the 360 is nearing its retirement, it looks a lot better than most games of this generation! The game's visuals are a mix of realism with comic book-style character and level design; the levels are diverse and run the gamut from being stealth-heavy to outright shootouts, and knowing when which one is called for is key, something rarely seen in FPSs back then and more so today, as they're biased to just shooting all over the place, and run amok; a tactic that can and often will be suicidal in this game!
The controls make sense and respond very well once you get the hang of them; Like the N64 original, the diversity of secondary fire/functions of the weapons give this game a lot of depth and it's crucial to find which one is best suited for the occasion.
One criticism of the original Perfect Dark was that the framerate stuttered from time to time despite being an excellent game. Luckily, the framerate here is very consistent, and moments of lag are few and far in between.
The Music is excellent and has a variety of music genres some quasi-orchestra to rock. This is the first game of the Xbox 360 that had and still has dedicated multiplayer servers and even know, you'll still find people who play this game!
The story and voice acting: although they are nowhere near as bad/campy as Resident Evil 1 or Castlevania SOTN on the PSX, it's not exactly Oscar material either, but it does not hinder the gameplay experience and the cutscenes can be skipped after seeing them once.
The game's overall pace feels a little slow, and Joanna Dark cannot jump. Although jumping is very rarely used in shooters (with notable exceptions being the Halos as those games have quite a few bottomless pits), but there are a few occasions where it could've come in handy. The player has to press up on the D-pad to lower her weapon (but not discard it) in order to sprint; all of the above doesn't break the game, it's just a little hindrance.
The Bottom Line
The game took 5 and a half years to make because Rareware also had their hands full with other projects such as Conker, Star Fox Adventures and Kameo, and its purchase by Microsoft made it face a period of restructuring, and projects such as Conker 2 were scrapped. Prototypes of PDZ made on the original Xbox proved too much for that console's limitations and Microsoft's strict one CD per game only policy did not help matters, and so they shifted gears to the nascent 360. Whatever the case, the game shows that Rareware still had some talented people on board to provide a game that is entertaining, stunning to look at and has a learning curve steeper than most games of the genre. It is the kind of game in which one learns more by playing than by watching others play.
I've heard people nitpicking over waypoints that guide where the player is supposed to go, but fortunately those can be turned off at the options screen. I can cope with the lack of a jump button as it is very rarely used in the genre and the fact that you can only sprint with your guard down, you'll forget about those annoyances while playing. PDZ plays more like Rainbow Six and Gears of War (those games lack a jump button) than COD or Halo, and that's a good thing: there are way too many games out there that are just run and gun.
I've also heard people describing the multiplayer game as "tumbling matches" because they just press the left thumper to roll and dive, which makes you harder to hit but experts will knock you out of it if you try it too much. The campaign mode is suprisingly challenging, and you have to really learn the levels in order to find which routes to avoid or to take, as you only regain a little bit of health when you get to cover. In most levels, the regular enemies and security cameras tend to change positions every time you play the game, so one has to pay attention rather than just plain memorisation. All of this makes the game a lot less linear than COD, Halo and Doom, where enemy spawn points are fixed. Checkpoints are very few and usually found in levels where there are boss battles, which adds to the challenge.
People can say what they will about Rare's "fall from grace" since its being purchased by Microsoft, but this game proves they still had talented people on board and still had the cutting edge in graphics, gameplay, and level design. Only time will tell if they ever regain their glorious reputation and once again push the boundaries of video gaming. For players who are tired of the "Point-A-to-point-B run-and-gun" kind of shooters, here's one that breaks the monotony.