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Perfect Dark Zero preview

Rare's Perfect Dark Zero is coming for the Xbox 360.

Rare's Perfect Dark Zero is coming for the Xbox 360. While we weren't allowed to get our hands on the game at E3, we were given some tidbits of information about the single-player game (including the fact that Zero is a prequel rather than a sequel to the original N64 game, set some three years earlier), as well as being treated to a lengthy demonstration of some of the multiplayer features you can look forward to.

The first thing we noticed when the multiplayer demo got under way was just how customisable the game will be, with options that will allow you to change the bot count, bot difficulty, points limit, spawn type, base configuration, and weapon types. Another feature we noticed (that will certainly be welcomed by fans of Halo 2) is one that allows you to determine whether or not players can join or leave a game that's in progress.

The first area that we were shown was one of the team spawn rooms that will be a feature of all team-based multiplayer modes in Perfect Dark Zero. The idea is that your team will spawn in a safe room, where they can decide which weapons they want to take onto the battlefield (you'll have four weapon slots available, but powerful weapons will account for two or three), and then they'll warp into the action. Each map will feature multiple warp points that can be used once your team has captured them.

When you're on the battlefield, warp points being controlled by your team will appear on your radar in green, uncontrolled ones will be white, and those being used by your enemies will be red.

Intriguingly, the green-versus-red theme is used throughout the entire game, meaning that all other players and vehicles from your team will appear in green, while all of your enemies -- even if they are from multiple teams -- will appear in red. Another interesting feature of Perfect Dark is that every player on a team will use a different character model, which will be determined using their online ranking. So, if you're the highest-ranked player on your team, for example, you'll be playing as the star of the single-player game, Joanna Dark. We also noticed that if you capture an enemy vehicle, its colour will change from red to green.

Vehicles in Perfect Dark Zero will include motorcycles, hovercraft, and jetpacks. The only vehicle that we got to see in action was the jetpack, which actually functions both as a flying vehicle and a bipedal walker armed with a cannon. The jetpack model was extremely detailed, and the vehicle's land/air transformation was nicely animated.

When you're not riding or flying around in a vehicle, you will be hunting your enemies on foot, and we're pleased to report that Rare is looking to innovate as much with that area of the game as it is with the red-versus-green mechanic and map designs, which we'll talk about shortly. When you're on foot, the game will play a lot like a garden-variety first-person shooter for the most part, but you'll be able to roll along the ground when you want to get from A to B without making yourself an easy target and seek cover behind walls in much the same way that you'd expect to in a stealth action game. When you back up against a wall in Perfect Dark Zero, the camera will switch to a third-person perspective that affords you a decent view of your immediate surroundings. It'll switch back to first-person when you lean around a corner, though, so that you can aim at any enemies you spot just as accurately as you would during the course of regular gameplay.

One of the other aspects of Perfect Dark Zero that will help to distinguish it from other first-person shooters is its arsenal of futuristic weapons and gadgets, many of which will be familiar to fans of the N64 original. Weapons that we got to see for ourselves included the laptop gun, which is essentially an automated turret you can deploy; a cloak, which will let you make yourself invisible but which we noticed wasn't particularly effective if you move or if a cloud of dust blows past you; and the X-ray gun, which turns the whole screen blue and allows you to see (but not shoot) enemies through walls. The visual effect that accompanied the use of the X-ray gun was really neat, since all of the enemies (and even your own hand) will appear as skeletons.

We got to see two of Perfect Dark Zero's six multiplayer levels, one set in a desert and one in a subway. Both of the maps looked pretty stunning and were far too big for the measly two players that were showing us the game. The size of multiplayer maps shouldn't ever be an issue for you, though, since all of the maps are designed in a way that allows you to open up or close off certain areas according to how many players are in the game simultaneously. The two players who were showing us the game did manage to find each other, though, which gave us an opportunity to check out the solid-looking character models and, impressively, the way that pieces of their body armor will fall off when they get shot.

The build of Perfect Dark Zero that we were looking at was eight weeks old and running on alpha development kits that, we were told, have only a fraction of the power that will be available on the Xbox 360. The game still looked really great, although the frame rate was a bit choppy at times. In the final game, Rare is shooting for a solid 30 frames per second, whether you're playing solo or with three other players on the same screen.

Rare wouldn't confirm exactly how many online players it intends to support in Perfect Dark Zero, but we were told that the team is definitely shooting for more than 50.

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