Watch my interview with renowned video game composer Grant Kirkhope. Born in Edinburgh and later raised in Knaresborough in Yorkshire, music has always been a huge part of Grant’s life having learned how to play both the trumpet and the guitar from an early age and growing up listening to a wide range of artists and bands. Throughout his storied career, Grant Kirkhope has composed the soundtrack for some of the biggest video games in history during his time Rareware in the days of the fifth generation of games with games such as Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and Perfect Dark. A freelance composer since 2008, he has also composed for a number of hit games, such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, A Hat in Time, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. Amidst his current ventures of composing for films such as The Wrong Rock, The King’s Daughter, and The Handler, I chat with Grant on his early career as a traditional musician after having toured with some of the biggest names in heavy metal, his time at Rareware composing for some Nintendo’s biggest games, the Microsoft buyout of Rare, his time as a freelance composer, his film composing career, and some of the fondest memories he has as a composer of video games:
Producer(s) – Richard Cousins, Lee Schuneman & Chris Kimmel
PEGI – 16
Released as a launch title for the Xbox 360 in 2005, following Microsoft purchase of Rare from Nintendo as a second party developer back in 2003, Perfect Dark Zero, like Kameo: Elements of Power, was originality intended to be a GameCube game, but instead saw release on the Xbox 360, garnishing critical acclaim and generating profits equivalent to four times its development costs. After playing this game myself, I see very little special about it; especially compared to the original Nintendo 64 game. It was one of two games I played on the Xbox 360, which made me think that the console’s early years were questionable until the release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion; the other being King Kong.
Graphics – 7/10
For the most part, the visuals did a well enough job of showing what the Xbox 360 was capable of displaying in terms of graphical quality compared to sixth-generation visuals. The conceptual design isn’t too bad either, featuring elements both new to the series, and elements reminiscent of the original game, such as level layouts and modes of transportation. The biggest problem I have with them, however, is that the developers seemingly abandoned the dark and gritty tone set by the original game, which I prefer greatly, and which I believe better fits into the basic premise of the series.
Gameplay – 5/10
In my opinion, the game plays out more or less like any other average first-person shooter that had been seen before. It didn’t help matters that at this point, the concept of spy-based first-person shooters had been thoroughly milked ever since the release of Rare’s own Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64. One thing I would advise players looking to check this game out, however, is that they turn off the arrows that generate on the floor to let them know where it is they need to go. After a while, this feature can make the player feel like the game is holding their hand constantly, and it can make the entire experience pretty boorish and straightforward by proxy.
Controls – 10/10
Though it should rightfully have been expected that there wouldn’t be a problem with the controls, since first-person shooting games had been at this point long embedded into the gaming mainstream, and seemingly never to budge, the developers also did quite a decent job of implementing third-person elements, such as hiding behind walls to take cover. This feature would be perfected in future games such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution but it’s interesting to see where it stemmed from.
Lifespan – 6/10
On average, this game can take around 6 to 7 hours to complete, which is the average lifespan of a linear first-person shooter; consequently, it isn’t anything special. In all my time of playing video games, I’ve never been able to come across a true open-world spy-based first-person shooter, which looking at the industry now, to me at least doesn’t seem like a bad idea; the only thing coming close to this from what I’ve played is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I can hope that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided can provide the experience I have in mind when I think of this, but for the most part, I think the industry may have missed a trick.
Storyline – 5/10
Set as a prequel to the original game, it portrays Joanna Dark in a much more unrefined form, in her constant battle with the maniacal corporation DataDyne. My gripe with the game’s visuals can also be applied to the game’s story too. It has a much less dark and morbid feel to it, and consequently, I had a harder time trying to take it seriously. The voice acting doesn’t help either, since it is by in large, quite cheesy and not very well thought out.
Originality – 2/10
Aside from there being third-person mechanics, the game plays out much worse than the original Perfect Dark in my opinion, since it doesn’t allow players the time to work out where is they need to go and what it is they need to do. There’s much less to this game than both the original and almost every other game made of the same ilk. The market would later become saturated with much better shooting games, which would later render early games like this becoming no more than a footnote since there is very little present to make it stand out among an ever-growing crowd.
In summation, Perfect Dark Zero is most definitely one of the most lackluster launch titles I’ve ever played. Though the original PlayStation had a considerably shakier start, there was definitely a drop in launch title standards with the seventh generation of games, with the exception of the Wii’s launch, and this game gives testament to that.