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Perfect Dark Zero uncovered

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The Data Thief gadget is introduced, a device that can be used to hack keypads, as well as hotwire enemy vehicles.

The hacking system involves stopping a light at the correct position as it moves around a series of concentric circles; it's easy to perform, but tricky to first get to grips with, something that the team acknowledges is in need of tweaking.

If the player dawdles or gets confused, a path of arrows appears along the floor - a goad that appears throughout the whole game, to guide them to their next objective. It's something that manifests swiftly on the easiest difficulty, but is delayed or even removed on more advanced settings.

As Dark hooks up with a bunch of scientists within the crisp, electric blue confines of Trinity Blackthorn - an event that will bring out the proximity mine maniac in many a GoldenEye veteran - her first secondary objective emerges: defend the elevator.

Scores of aggressive little Spiderbots are converging on the entrance to the lift, scuttling in from every angle, the perfect scenario for slapping a Laptop Gun on to the wall to act as an autonomous turret.

It's in Dark's interests for the scientists to survive, or she'll be left stranded while Chandra restores power to the elevator as a last resort.

Secondary objectives like this aren't vital to progression through the game on its lowest difficulty, but become increasingly important as that setting is raised.

One perfunctory CamSpy section later - a simple introduction to the remotely controlled reconnaissance gadget - and the level climaxes with a run on to a space shuttle's launch platform, into broad, beautiful daylight.

The shuttle itself looms a dizzying height into the sky, while another intricate building complex lurks impressively far in the background to the right.

There's no time to stop, zoom and admire, however: over a dozen guards, two dropships and a pair of jet pack troops begin to attack, and Dark has to push her way through to a nearby elevator to reach the end of the stage, with no small amount of explosive props on hand to help clear a path through the sudden blitz.

A lot of FPSing has taken place since Perfect Dark 64. Does the PDZ team feel that the genre has evolved significantly, or hardly at all? "I think there's been a technical revolution," offers Botwood.

"You can add far more physics, which gives you scope to create something like Half-Life 2. Otherwise, though, it's maybe developing at a slow pace. But we'll see some new directions coming along soon. Speaking of which, I'm really looking forward to Stalker."

Perfect Dark Zero is Xbox 360's contribution to the subgenre that's developed thanks to franchises like Halo and Killzone: the FPFPS, or first-party first-person shooter.

Is there any extra pressure due to the way Perfect Dark Zero is, essentially, sitting on Halo's throne?

"Duplicating Halo would have been a lazy option," says Botwood. "It's one that has been taken by other developers for whatever reasons, but we didn't want to go down that path, we wanted to provide differentiation that makes people want to play it."

And does the PDZ team have a message for those fans who have been waiting half a decade for this sequel? "Yeah, buy two copies," says Tilston, "the limited edition and the normal one."

Conversely, is there anything to say to those former fans who may have floated away? "Buy three copies!"

Is there any concern over the fact that two of Rare's biggest titles for quite some time are being released on the same day? "I think launch situations are very different to normal release dates," says Botwood.

"When I bought an N64, I got three games, more than at any other time. I was about to say that the two Rare games cater to different markets, but if you're a gamer there's hopefully something in both of them for you." Or, rather, regarding the Kameo team: "CURSE THEM!" Botwood, we hope, jokes.

Those members of the team who've been with this project since PD64 - have any of them got six years' worth of holiday time lined up? "Chris has! Chris could probably take the next three years off," says Botwood. "Yeah, and come back with two years still remaining on the next game," adds Tilston.

Perfect Dark Zero is out for Xbox 360 on 2 December

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