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Perfect Dark Zero - Rare's dev team quizzed

E3 week found the PDZ team discussing Joanna Dark's return on Xbox 360

Rare's long-awaited FPS Perfect Dark Zero has finally placed a toe into the light, and as part of E3 Xbox.com sat down with the game's development team to chat about Joanna Dark's return on Microsoft's next-gen console Xbox 360. Setting, stealth, action, vehicles and multiplayer were among the topics of discussion, with some tasty tit-bits revealed. We've got the highlights of the interview right here for you to check out...

PERFECT DARK ZERO SETTING AND PLOT
Explaining why Rare opted for a prequel to Perfect Dark on N64 rather than a sequel, the development team explains that it was all about wanting to find out more about star Joanna Dark. "Where did she come from? How did she turn into this "perfect" agent? What makes her tick? Setting the game a few years prior to Perfect Dark meant we could ground the universe better and keep Jo on planet Earth.

"It also meant we could use weapons inspired by those in the real world, to balance against the high-tech hardware available to Jo, her allies, and enemies."

Perfect Dark Zero is set three years before Perfect Dark, with the development team saying it's "business as usual: Giant corporations fight for control of the planet, working to achieve their shadowy objectives by any means necessary." Joanna Dark finds herself in a world of intrigue and conspiracy and because this is a prequel it'll be the first time she encounters many of the universe's organisations and characters.

Apparently there are "plenty of links to the original game" though, but we're assured that anyone new to the Perfect Dark universe won't be left in the, erm, dark at all at any point during the prequel if they didn't play the N64 title.

EXCLUSIVE GAMEPLAY FEATURES
But links to the original game aside, it's all new of course, and while it's a bit of a no-brainer we should expect plenty of new gameplay features in Perfect Dark Zero that didn't appear in the original Perfect Dark. Although the development team didn't exactly blow the lid off fresh-faced additions in this area, it did throw the following bone: "The Cover move allows player to be stealthy and see what's 'round the corner before deciding to jump 'round it. The Combat Roll move adds a new element to the combat. You can dive out of the way of enemy fire, but you're more vulnerable and cannot fire."

STEALTH VERSUS 'GOING RAMBO'
Expanding on Perfect Dark Zero's stealthy elements, the team reveals that there'll be plenty of opportunities to be a sneaky bastard and that Joanna Dark has been given a number of new moves - the Cover move, for example - to assist with stealth-style play. Naturally, if you're more a 'Rambo' player, get your big-ass gun and go in blazing - "but you might have to deal with the consequences of not being stealthy," says the Rare crew.

THE WEAPONS OF PERFECT DARK ZERO
Rare's Perfect Dark Zero development team states that there are 26 weapons in total in the game, each weapon coming with at least a secondary action/attack and sometimes a tertiary one too which adds "new gameplay elements to the mix". Although of course keeping the majority of the weapons under wraps, they do reveal five that are part of the complete arsenal:

  • The Phantom: The weapon of choice for stealth fanatics. It's an energy weapon with a secondary that allows you to cloak. It's a shame it needs to de-cloak to fire.
  • The Laptop Gun: For tacticians. Throw this down and it turns into a sentry gun that shoots at enemy players. Put it down in a clever spot to reap the rewards.
  • The RCP-90: For the paranoid. The secondary activates the threat detector mode, which highlights enemies (even cloaked ones) and hostile targets as red and friendlies as green. A cunning player can also use this to reprogram hostile enemy weapons such as the sentry gun.
  • The Shockwave Rifle: A scout's dream. It's a sniper rifle with the powerful ability to see through walls, even revealing the skeletons of enemies. Line an unsuspecting enemy up as they come 'round the corner and-blam!
  • The Psychosis Pistol: Loved by the truly evil. Mess with the minds of your opponents and turn enemies against each other.
DRIVE-BY/FLY-BY SHOOTING
Stealth - we like. Guns - we like too. And vehicles - wahey! Vehicles "feature heavily" in Perfect Dark Zero, and while they're pretty much an FPS standard these days we have to admit that we're somewhat eager to get to grips with what's being stuffed in in this area. Unfortunately, the Rare team only touches on PDZ's jet pack in the interview, which we knew about already, but it does let slip that the jet pack is "a single user exoskeleton armed with twin guns having both air and ground capabilities". Cool. It's also revealed that a jet pack-wearing character will present an assailant with a number of targeting options - "Plug away at the main body, target the weaker but harder-to-hit wings, or go straight for the pilot." Hopefully this idea runs through all vehicles in the game.

MULTIPLAYER AND XBOX LIVE
Anyone for 50-player Perfect Dark Zero showdowns on Xbox Live once you've obliterated the single-player game? That's the figure Rare's development team is talking about at this time in terms of player number support, although we know that 64-player support is the aim. Whether or not this will be achieved remains to be seen, but Deathmatch and "tense tactical multiplayer" experience DarkOps mode with 50 players promises to be mental nevertheless if 64-player support is elusive.

Perfect Dark Zero will support up to four players on a single Xbox 360 for local multiplayer or on Xbox Live, and following in the footsteps of the likes of Counter-Strike you also be able to add AI-controlled bots to both offline and online multiplayer bouts if desired. (Touching on AI in general in the game in the interview, the Rare team states that "A.I. Teammates are also there to assist a player who plays on his own, and some interesting things happen when another human joins in to help.").

More is planned for multiplayer apparently, but the team is sitting on further features its cooking up at this time, aiming to reveal all "at a later date".

REPLAYABILITY
If dipping into Perfect Dark Zero multiplayer after completing the single-payer mode is as about appealing as shoving a cactus up each nostril, don't panic. Rare's development team says that is has "really striven hard" to give the game replayability value, adding that "We wanted to give players a compelling reason to play story mode again and again. Multiple ways to achieve goals on the levels enhances this"

Apparently, the game's three difficulty levels - Agent, Secret Agent, and Perfect Agent - make sections in the single-player or story mode completely different to play (players have more objectives on the harder difficulty settings too), the team stating that players, for example, "going from Agent (easy) onto Secret Agent (medium) difficulty will get to an area and find that they cannot play that section the same way. They need to find a different solution to deal with the problems that are there."

And once you've finished a level in the game, you'll be able to go back play the level on the same difficulty setting only to discover that the experience has changed, we're promised.

Xbox Live is to play "a big part" in replayability too, although precisely that Rare's Perfect Dark Zero development team is planning here is currently being kept under wraps.

And that's it for the moment. If you want to check out Xbox.com's full interview for yourself, you can find it right here - hit this link.

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