Perfect Dark is the first game in the Perfect Dark series. It was developed by Rare for the Nintendo 64 and is often referred to as the spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007. The game incorporates many similar functions to GoldenEye 007, the most evident being the control scheme and general gameplay.
What set Perfect Dark apart from GoldenEye 007 was the texturing used in level design, the incorporation of secondary functions for every weapon in the game, new game modes, and the utilization of voice acting. In essence, Perfect Dark improves upon the high standard GoldenEye 007 set, a standard which is still set to this day.
The campaign is divided into nine missions comprised of 1 to 3 levels each. There are also four bonus missions known as Special Assignments that are unlocked once the player has completed the respective difficulties of the campaign.
Untried agent Joanna Dark is assigned a mission involving the extraction of a scientist from the high security research area beneath the dataDyne skyscraper. Upon rendezvous, she is surprised to discover that this 'Dr. Caroll' is an AI created by dataDyne itself; but she continues with her task of escorting the doctor to safety. When the alarm is raised, Joanna has to fight her way up the tower to reach the helipad, which presents her only means of escape via dropship.
In response to this incursion dataDyne makes Daniel Carrington a personal target and takes him hostage two days later at his private villa. They demand the return of the AI—their 'property'—in exchange for his life. Unknown to them, the AI is already at the villa, where it was being questioned by Carrington on dataDyne's future plans. Joanna rescues the head of the Institute, but is unable to prevent dataDyne from taking back Dr. Caroll. However, Carrington has heard enough to take the drastic step of summoning a team of Maian specialists to Earth.
Joanna is dispatched to Chicago to spy on a conspirators' meeting at the G5 Building, a front for the dataDyne Corp. It is here that she learns of the involvement of Trent Easton, head of the NSA, and of the strange Nordic men that appear to be in control of the whole deadly scheme. Once Trent discloses the plan to usurp the Presidential position, Jo radios the news back to base, only to find another, more urgent task requires her attention before further action can be taken against Trent.
The Maian specialists have been intercepted and brought down by the conspirators, with survivors and wreckage alike being transported to Area 51 in Nevada. Briefed to rescue any survivors and retrieve their equipment, Joanna is dropped in to link up with another Carrington Institute agent. Upon breaking into the medlab, Joanna finally discovers the Institute's secret - their allies are Maians, the alien race commonly known as Greys. The particular Maian she manages to rescue goes by the name of Elvis. He was a bodyguard for the Ambassador who had been flying in at the head of the specialist team.
Having aided the remnants of the Maian delegation, Joanna can return to the matter of the President and dataDyne's designs against him. She poses as a member of the President's entourage to gain access to the air base where Air Force One is stationed, and successfully conceals herself aboard the plane. As soon as it's airborne, Trent and the cloaked Skedar make their move, but Joanna is there to stop them. She rushed the President to a safety capsule while a team of Trent's men scour the aircraft, intent on dragging the hapless politician aboard the Skedar UFO now docked to AFI via an umbilical. Jo weakens the umbilical but is unable to break it, and ultimately Elvis makes a last-ditch attempt to sever the cord by crashing into it at high speed. All three crafts plummet towards the Alaskan wilderness, and the AFI escape pod is launched.
Coming around, Jo tries to report in but finds her communications jammed by a transmission from the Skedar craft. She sets off through the snow to find the President and Elvis, encountering teams of cloaked Skedar out searching for her, the President, Elvis, and the President's belongings. She tracked one group back to the downed Skedar ship, where she discovers a clone of the President: quickly she destroys it, shuts down the jamming device and calls in the cavalry. The Skedar are thwarted once more, the President is safe, and Trent's incompetence has earned him a nasty fate at the hands of his 'allies'.
But it's not over. Throwing caution to the wind, dataDyne and the Skedar steal the Government's deep-sea research vessel 'Pelagic II' and head out to the Pacific crash site. Joanna and Elvis leave to disrupt activity on board the ship and find out what lies at the heart of the grand Skedar plan. After crippling the vessel's diving operations and recalling the submersible, they head down to the ocean floor, where they get their first sight of the downed Cetan battle cruiser. A portal made by the Skedar offers them access to the ship, where they stumble across a dead Skedar warrior... Clearly the assault team didn't have it all their own way. Fighting off the remaining vengeful Skedar and avoiding the Cetans themselves, Joanna and Elvis made their way down to the core of the ship, where they find the AI that was once Dr. Caroll. They manage to restore his personality, whereupon he urges Joanna and Elvis to leave the ship so that he may destroy it for good.
Later, back at the Carrington Institute, Joanna is about to leave for a Presidential reception at the White House when all hell breaks loose. The Skedar assault team survivors are venting their anger on those they deem responsible for their failure to recover the Cetan ship. Joanna dashes around the Institute helping CI employees to reach the safety of the hangars, as the Skedar launch attacks on various parts of the building: the majority of the employees make good their escape while Joanna holds the fort, but eventually she is knocked unconscious and taken prisoner.
She comes to in a holding cell on board the Skedar assault ship, with only Cassandra De Vries for company. In a shocking move, the dataDyne CEO willingly gives her life to create the distraction necessary for Joanna to break out. Battling her way through the ship, Jo eventually manages to locate and disable the docking bay shields, allowing Elvis to bring in a few friends for the long-awaited shooting party.
The captured assault ship enters orbit above the Skedar Battle Shrine, which shocks Elvis as the Maians never managed to find this Skedar 'holiest of holies' throughout the long years of interracial war. If the Shrine were destroyed, Skedar morale would be dealt a fatal blow and true peace would finally replace the uneasy ceasefire. So Jo sets her sights on the Skedar leader, the high priest of the Battle Shrine, while Elvis returns to the assault ship in order to summon the Maian fleet.
In the wake of the climatic battle, the temple lies devastated with Elvis calling for a lull in the bombardment so that he can find Joanna. She is alive, held under a pile of rubble by the last tenacious Skedar that caught up during the last few seconds of her escape bid. Elvis quickly offers her a gun to convince the Skedar to let go, and with the job finally done, the Skedar Shrine and morale are both in ruins. The conspiracy is dealt a mortal blow to the heart, the two of them depart for orbit.
- Carrington Institute
- Lucerne Tower
- Laboratory Basement
- Carrington Villa
- G5 Building
- Area 51
- Alaskan Air Base
- Air Force One
- Crash Site
- Pelagic II
- Cetan Ship
- Skedar Assault Ship
- Skedar Homeworld
If not in solo player mode or combat simulator the player is free to roam around Carrington institute, here there are a range of different training exercises to complete.
- Shooting Range - Here the player is given a list of the weapons in the game, and have three different levels on each weapon, completing these tasks gets the player the reward of the classic weapons.
- Combat Training - In this big black room, the player can practice basic training this ranges from looking around to live combat.
- Gadget Lab - Here the player can train with each of the gadgets in the lab.
- Hacker Central - Here the player can access information on character's and stories. Also they can activate cheats from this room.
- Hanger - Here the player can access information on locations and vehicles, they can also push around a HoverCrate, and ride a HoverBike in a very small area.
- Combat Simulator - This is the Multiplayer mode of Perfect Dark, although it can be played Solo. The multiplayer is played via split-screen with a maximum of 4 players and 8 Simulants (AI Bots). If a player creates a profile, they can track their statistics, rank and create a custom character by matching heads and bodies.
- Falcon 2
- Falcon 2 (Silenced)
- Falcon 2 (Scoped)
- MagSec 4
- DY357 Magnum
- Callisto NTG
- Laptop Gun
- K7 Avenger
- Sniper Rifle
- FarSight XR-20
- Rocket Launcher
- Combat Knife
- Timed Mine
- Proximity Mine
- Remote Mine
The following weapons can be unlocked by getting gold medals with weapons on the firing range or from an existing saved game (using the Transfer Pak and Game Boy Color title on N64, or a Perfect Dark Zero saved game on XBLA). They don't have any secondary modes and they use the "classic zoom".
- Data Uplink
- ECM Mine
- Night Vision
- Door Decoder
- IR Scanner
- X-Ray Scanner
- Cloaking Device
Vehicles and Tech
- Cleaning Hovbot
- G5 Robot
- A51 Interceptor
- Maian Vessel
- Skedar Shuttle
Hidden within every level of the game is a small piece of yellow cheese. Rare probably hid them with the intention of awarding the player new cheats for locating each piece, but the final game ended up awarding cheats for meeting time requirements in the solo missions, as this proved a much greater and more rewarding challenge. They left the cheese in the game just for nostalgic purposes. Remember that you can't pick up any of the cheese, they're just there for looks only.
Main aricle: Leaderboard Crowns
Martin Hollis, the director of GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, described the development of the game in an interview with Retro Gamer magazine. He explained that Rare rejected the prospect of working on the GoldenEye sequel Tomorrow Never Dies "without hesitation", as the development team felt they had spent too much time immersed in the James Bond universe. The decision to make the central character a woman was part of Hollis' belief that there "should be more games centred on women". To this end, the team created Joanna Dark, influenced by a number of other fictional heroines: Kim Kimberly from Level 9 Computing's text adventure Snowball, the seductive spy Agent X-27 in the 1930s film Dishonored, the eponymous femme fatale of the film Nikita, and FBI agent Dana Scully from television series The X-Files. The name "Joanna Dark" was taken from the French pronunciation of Joan of Arc as "Jeanne d'Arc".
Ghost in the Shell was a major influence on the character, setting and plot. The name of the in-game company "dataDyne" was inspired by Yoyodyne from The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. Another significant influence on the game's locations was the work of author Philip K. Dick. Hollis explained that he and designer David Doak "picked a range of locations we thought would be impressive and architectural, on the model of GoldenEye but sci-fi dystopias... The settings came first; the plot was then constructed by Dave to sew them together". The word "Dark" was chosen for its association with the game's bleak focus on killing. Hollis has noted the similarities to Criterion Software's naming of Black: "Game developers just like black, nihilism, dystopian futures, the number zero, infinity, spheres, perfection—all that kind of stuff." The "double slash" symbol in the game's logo was inspired by the Japanese dakuten mark.
At one time Nintendo of Japan considered releasing the game there under the title Aka to Kuro (赤と黒 ?, lit. "Red and Black"). "Perfect Dark" does not translate well into Japanese, and the title "Aka to Kuro" was considered sufficiently edgy. However, it was eventually released as パーフェクト・ダーク (Pāfekuto Dāku), a transliteration of the Western title.
Originally Hollis hoped that the difference between light and dark would be a significant feature of the gameplay, and the title was intended to reflect this focus. A torch was implemented by Steve Ellis (responsible for much of the multiplayer mode in GoldenEye), but it was not included in the final game due to the limitations of the N64 hardware. Hollis remarked that such aims were overambitious: "Even today, you can see game developers struggle to make light and dark foundational from a gameplay perspective. I suspect it will take a few years before significant and pervasive gameplay innovation occurs here." Although not all these intended features were realized, the game does contain more advanced lighting than GoldenEye; lights can be shot out, gunfire illuminates rooms, and the player can use infra-red and night vision goggles.
Martin Hollis was involved with Perfect Dark for the first fourteen months of its three-year development, during which progress was slow. David Doak left at the end of 1998, and Steve Ellis soon after, to form Free Radical Design. What followed by those remaining on the project was a comprehensive re-design of the game (the story and characters being the main items kept intact). Hollis stated that he was impressed by the comprehensive range of multiplayer options, saying "what a vast array of features I never planned". Doak, however, remarked, "GoldenEye pretty much exhausted the performance of the machine. It was hard to push it further. Perfect Dark had some good ideas but was dog slow."
Perfect Dark's soundtrack is one of popularity, with there being numerous orchestrated versions of the soundtrack, the composers are:
- Grant Kirkhope
- Graeme Norgate
- David Clynick
Upon release, Perfect Dark received very strong reviews from magazines and websites. IGN opined that the game "features amazing graphics … and the most well-rounded multiplayer mode ever to grace Nintendo 64." GameSpots Joe Fielder awarded a rating of 9.9 out of 10, commenting, "As a single-player or multiplayer FPS experience, Perfect Dark is unparalleled on the console systems … There's finally a game that has eclipsed GoldenEye 007. Gaming Age described it as "probably one of the best FPSs to be released in quite a while." GameCritics.com criticized the "weak characters and an unoriginal storyline," but nevertheless judged the "extraordinary amount of high-quality multiplayer modes and features" meant that "the game is still a blast."
One frequently-criticized aspect of the game was its low, inconsistent framerate. This flaw was mentioned in numerous reviews. "The game's inadequate temporal resolution—owing to a wrongheaded choice to privilege visual detail over frame-rate—made it unplayable at higher difficuly."
Poole also described the "lazy sci-fi fetishism" of Joanna Dark's character design as "a blatant and doomed attempt to steal the thunder of Lara Croft", and argued that she illustrated the challenges of injecting characterization into the protagonists of first-person shooters, which GoldenEye had avoided by using the already well-known character James Bond.
The overall positive reaction from critics can be gauged by the results of review compilation sites; as of December 2008, it has a Metacritic rating of 97% (the sixth highest of any game).
Perfect Dark has been featured in many "greatest game" lists. In 2006 the game placed 15th on IGN's "Readers Choice Top 100 Games Ever" list; also that year it was rated the 100th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power. In 2007 it placed 28th in Edge (magazine) "100 Best Videogames" special issue (a list voted for by readers, Edge staff and gaming industry professionals). Retrieved 28 December 2008.
Rare was also recognized for its work on the game, as the company was awarded the Bafta Interactive Entertainment Moving Images Award for 2000 and the Golden Satellite Award for Best Interactive Product in 2001.
Xbox Live Arcade Remake
On March 17th, 2010, Rare released a HD remaster of Perfect Dark for Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, featuring the original game with more detailed textures (in 1080p), and, of course, 60 FPS gameplay. It was originally available for purchase for 800 Microsoft Points, but now must be purchased for 10$ USD, as Microsoft Points were disconntinued in August 2013. It features new control options that are relatively easy to adapt to, with button layouts like Halo and Call of Duty (named Spartan and Duty Calls respectfully). Cycling through weapons is also bi-directional. Other additions include higher polygons on the character models, environments, and weapon models with support for HD, 16 player competitive online multiplayer support, 2 player online co-op, and more weapons and maps from Goldeneye 007. The game is also the first Xbox Live Arcade game to support 20 Achievements instead of the standard 12, although they still add up to the standard 200 points.
Here's a comparison of the N64 original and the Xbox Live Arcade remake:
Xbox Live Arcade (note: ammo counters are updated in current version.)
|Perfect Dark Series|
|Games||Official||Perfect Dark • Perfect Dark Zero • Perfect Dark (GBC)|
|Cancelled||Perfect Dark Core • Velvet Dark|
|Books||Initial Vector • Second Front • Janus' Tears • Honk Kong Sunrise|