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Perfect Dark

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Perfect Dark
A red headed woman's face occupies the foreground on an industrial-style background. She is holding a gun. A grey alien is visible at the bottom right corner. In the bottom of the image, the title "Perfect Dark" featuring a double slash symbol after the word "Dark". Rareware, Nintendo's Seal of Quality, BBFC's rating of "18", and Dolby surround sound logos are shown at the bottom left corner. On the right side of the image, game specifications.
European box art
Designer(s)Duncan Botwood
David Doak
Chris Tilston
Programmer(s)Mark Edmonds
Composer(s)Grant Kirkhope
Graeme Norgate
David Clynick
SeriesPerfect Dark
Platform(s)Nintendo 64
  • NA: 22 May 2000
  • EU: 30 June 2000
Genre(s)First-person shooter, stealth
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Perfect Dark is a first-person shooter developed by Rare and released for the Nintendo 64 video game console in 2000. It is the first game of the Perfect Dark series and follows Joanna Dark, an agent of the Carrington Institute research centre, as she attempts to stop an extraterrestrial conspiracy by rival corporation dataDyne. The game features a campaign mode where a single player must complete a series of levels under certain difficulty settings to progress through the story. It also features a range of multiplayer options, including a co-operative mode and traditional deathmatch settings with computer-controlled bots.

As a spiritual successor to Rare's 1997 first-person shooter GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark shares many features with its predecessor and runs on an upgraded version of its engine. GoldenEye 007 director Martin Hollis led the game's production for the first 14 months of its near three-year development cycle before he left Rare to pursue other interests. The game is technically one of the most advanced titles for the Nintendo 64 and requires an Expansion Pak to access the campaign mode and most of the multiplayer features. Shortly before the game's release, a feature that would have allowed players to place a photograph of their choice onto the face of their multiplayer character was cut due to sensitive issues surrounding the ability for players to attack images of real people.

Upon release, Perfect Dark received critical acclaim and sold relatively well, eventually joining Nintendo's "Player's Choice" game selection. Although critics widely praised its graphics, artificial intelligence, and number of multiplayer options, some criticised its inconsistent frame rate. The game received the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Moving Images Award for 2000 and the Golden Satellite Award for Best Interactive Product in 2001. The game is occasionally cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. A remaster, also titled Perfect Dark, featuring enhanced graphics and online multiplayer, was released in 2010.


Perfect Dark is a first-person shooter where players must complete levels to unlock content and progress through the game's storyline.[1] Players manoeuvre their character from a first-person perspective and have the ability to lean left or right, look up or down, crouch, crawl, and drop from most ledges.[2] However, there is no jump ability.[3] Interaction with the environment is via a single context-sensitive button, which can activate computers, operate lifts, and open doors.[2] Players can carry an unlimited number of weapons, ranging from handguns to assault rifles, rocket launchers, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, and combat knives.[4] Besides their primary mode of fire, weapons have a secondary function that enables an alternate fire mode or grants players special abilities.[3] For example, the secondary function of the K7 Avenger assault rifle detects threats like explosive devices.[4] Most weapons have a finite magazine and must be reloaded after a certain number of shots.[2] Some can also be used in duplicate, one in each hand.[4]

Players have a certain amount of health which decreases when attacked by opponents. Although the game does not feature health recovery items, players can pick up shields that protect them with a secondary health bar.[5] Players and opponents can disarm each other at close range, and players may use this feature to steal weapons or knock foes unconscious.[4] Damage taken during combat is location-based, with a shot to the torso causing more damage than a shot to a limb.[6] A number of tutorials and training activities can be taken in the game's home level.[3] The most notable of these is the shooting range, where players can test their proficiency with the game's weapons in individual challenges.[7] In addition to training activities, players can find information about the game's diverse locations and characters, which are gradually unlocked as they complete levels.[7]


A long corridor with columns and girders on the right side. An opponent is standing in the distance. A hand holding a weapon and graphics symbols representing ammunition are seen at the bottom right corner.
In this level, the player is aiming at an opponent. The game's HUD at the bottom right corner shows the player's remaining ammunition and the weapon's selected function.

Perfect Dark features a campaign mode where a single player controls the game's protagonist, Joanna Dark, through a series of levels collected together into missions.[3] In each level, the player must complete a set of objectives while opponents controlled by the game's artificial intelligence try to hinder the player's progress.[8] Objectives generally require the recovery and use of high-tech gadgets like night-vision googles or door decoders.[3] The player has certain freedom as to how they want to approach encounters with opponents and many objectives can be completed in a nonlinear order.[9] Stealth is an important element of the gameplay because the player can kill opponents without being seen or remain undetected by using disguises.[2][3] If Joanna fails an objective or her health is fully depleted, the player must start the level again from the beginning.[8]

Each level can be played on three distinct difficulty settings.[8] These affect aspects such as the number of objectives that must be completed, damage taken from opponents, the effectiveness of the game's optional aiming assistance, and the availability of ammunition and protective shields.[10] Four bonus levels may be unlocked by completing the campaign on each difficulty setting and all the challenges in the firing range.[11] Some of these bonus levels allow the player to assume the role of a different character.[3] If all the levels have been completed on the highest difficulty, an additional setting becomes available, allowing the player to customise various aspects of the game's opponents, such as their health, aiming accuracy, and the damage they inflict.[10] The player may also unlock cheats by completing levels within a certain time limit.[3]

The campaign includes a co-operative mode, allowing two players, or one player and up to four computer-controlled bots, to tackle a level together.[8] If two players play, the game uses a split screen display, with the option to split horizontally or vertically.[12] Options such as friendly fire can be disabled and only one player is required to survive a level.[8] A "Counter-Operative" mode is also included, allowing one player to play a level as Joanna while another takes over the role of an opponent while attempting to stop her.[13] The player-controlled opponent has less health than Joanna but will reappear as another opponent when defeated. The opposing player may also choose to take control of another opponent at any time by swallowing a suicide pill.[8]


Perfect Dark features a deathmatch multiplayer mode where up to four players and eight computer-controlled bots can compete against each other in several arenas.[13] Again, a split-screen is used if more than one player are playing simultaneously. Players start a game unarmed and with a certain amount of health. Weapons and ammunition are placed around the arena in preset positions. Once a player is killed, they are regenerated elsewhere in the arena, once again unarmed. The overall objective of each game is determined by the scenario being played.[14] Scenarios range from the traditional deathmatch mode, where players score points by killing opponents, to objective-based games such as Capture the Flag and King of the Hill.[14] Other scenarios include Hold the Briefcase, where players must take a briefcase and survive with it for as long as possible, and Hacker Central, a game type where players score points by hacking a computer system using a data uplink device.[14]

Aspects of a deathmatch game can be highly customised,[15] including the chosen arena, the winning conditions, and the ability to choose what weapons and items appear where in the arena.[14] Players can also be grouped into teams or compete individually, and they can optionally be shown coloured according to their team.[14] The appearance, team affiliation, skill level and pre-set behaviours of each computer-controlled bot can be customised.[14] Pre-set behaviours range from them pursuing the highest-scoring player to exclusively chasing the player who killed them last. Other behaviours restrict bots to only attack players using fists and disarming moves.[14] On higher skill levels, bots perform actions at a superhuman level.[14] Players may also issue commands to bots of their team to perform certain tasks. For example, a player can order an allied bot to defend an area or attack a designated opponent.[14]

The multiplayer mode includes 30 pre-set challenges against bots that may be tackled by one or more players.[14] These challenges cover a variety of game types, weapon arrangements, and level setups.[3] By completing challenges, additional features such as new weapons, player models, and bot behaviours are unlocked.[14][16] At the end of a match, the overall results are shown, alongside information about the individual players' performance. The game keeps track of player statistics such as damage dealt and distance travelled, and awards players with medals based on how well they performed.[16] Players are also ranked according to their performance; the better the performance, the higher the grade.[17] The player's overall progress, multiplayer setups, and character profiles can be saved to the Nintendo 64 game cartridge or a Controller Pak.[12][17] The game also supports the Rumble Pak.[1]


Perfect Dark is set in 2023 against the backdrop of an interstellar war between two alien races:[18] the Maians, who resemble the archetypal Grey alien, and the Skedar, reptile-like creatures who use a cloaking device to appear as Nordic men. Using this device, they can interact with humans on Earth without appearing overly suspicious. Meanwhile, on Earth, there is an ongoing rivalry between two factions: The Carrington Institute, a research centre founded by Daniel Carrington that secretly operates an espionage group in league with the Maians, and dataDyne, a defence contractor corporation headed by Cassandra de Vries. In exchange for creating an AI capable of cracking an ancient alien spacecraft buried on the bed of the Pacific Ocean, the Skedar have agreed to supply dataDyne with enough alien technology to become the biggest corporation on Earth.[19]

The player is cast as Joanna Dark, an agent of the Carrington Institute whose excellent scores in training have earned her the codename "Perfect Dark."[20] On her first mission, she is sent to extract a defector known as Dr. Caroll from a dataDyne laboratory. Dr. Caroll is revealed to be the AI created by dataDyne, and is worried about the mission for which it had been designed. After the extraction, Carrington is held captive at his private villa by dataDyne soldiers. When Joanna rescues him, she is informed that Dr. Caroll has been taken to a dataDyne front in Chicago. There, Joanna learns that Cassandra, NSA director Trent Easton, and a mysterious Nordic man known as Mr. Blonde plan to kidnap the President of the United States to get access to a deep sea research vessel called the Pelagic II. Although the President is in danger, Carrington alerts Joanna that a Maian craft was shot down near Area 51 and sends her to rescue a Maian protector named Elvis.[19]

Because the President of the United States refuses to loan dataDyne the Pelagic II, the NSA sends a strike team to kill and replace him with a dataDyne-grown clone. The strike team invades the air base from which the Air Force One will depart. When Joanna foils this strike, the NSA and a group of cloaked Skedar take over the plane itself, which crashes after Joanna attempts to detach a craft attached to it. Having survived the crash, Joanna eliminates the President's clone and rescues the real President. Trent's incompetence angers Mr. Blonde, who kills him after disabling his cloaking device. Without permission from the President, dataDyne decides to hijack the Pelagic II and reach the ancient spacecraft. However, unbeknownst to dataDyne, the spacecraft contains a powerful weapon capable of destroying a planet and the Skedar intend to test it on Earth before using it against the Maian homeworld.[19]

Joanna and Elvis follow dataDyne to the ancient spacecraft, where they find a reprogrammed Dr. Caroll cracking the weapon. Joanna replaces its current personality with a backup of the original, and the restored Dr. Carroll sets the weapon to self-destruct. As Carrington and Joanna prepare for a Presidential reception, the Skedar assault the Carrington Institute and capture Joanna. In space, aboard an alien spaceship on course to the Skedar homeworld, Joanna finds herself in a holding cell with Cassandra. Feeling that she has been used, Cassandra redeems herself by making a distraction and sacrificing herself, freeing Joanna and therefore giving herself a chance for revenge. With the help of Elvis, Joanna takes control of the spaceship and lands on the Skedar homeworld, where she ultimately defeats the Skedar leader, leaving the Skedar in disarray. The game ends with Elvis and Joanna leaving the planet just prior to an orbital bombardment from the Maian navy.[19]


Concept and design[edit]

Perfect Dark was developed by Rare and originally directed by Martin Hollis as a spiritual successor to the company's 1997 first-person shooter GoldenEye 007.[21][22] Shortly after GoldenEye 007 was released,[22] Rare was planning to work on a game based on the GoldenEye sequel Tomorrow Never Dies, but the company was outbid by Electronic Arts, which would release their video game adaptation in 1999.[23] The result did not affect the developers, who felt they had already spent too much time immersed in the James Bond universe.[23][24] Working titles for the game included "Covert Ops" and "Alien Intelligence" before the words "Perfect Dark" were decided on.[25] The word "Dark" was chosen for its association with the game's bleak focus on killing.[26] Hollis noted naming similarities to the 2006 first-person shooter Black by Criterion Games: "Game developers just like black, nihilism, dystopian futures, the number zero, infinity, spheres, perfection—all that kind of stuff."[26] The double slash symbol in the game's logo was inspired by the Japanese writing system,[27] while the bad grammar of the phrase "Perfect Dark" partially alludes to Hollis' affection for the way Japanese developers use English words in their own games and products.[24]

The game's science fiction setting was chosen due to the developers' interest in the genre.[21] Works such as the Ghost in the Shell manga, Elektra comic books, The X-Files television series,[28] the films Blade Runner and Judge Dredd,[25] and the writing of author Philip K. Dick were major influences on the characters, setting and plot.[26] 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 [Doak] to sew them together".[26] The new setting gave designers complete control over the environments. For example, the first level takes place in a skyscraper that lead artist Karl Hilton had always wanted to build, and features realistic environments like service stairs and an exterior area that can be explored.[29] Although the game features a new fictional universe, it was still envisioned as a spy shooter like GoldenEye 007.[25] The developers' desires to expand upon its stealth mechanics, along with their admiration for the 1998 stealth game Metal Gear Solid, led to the creation of gadgets such as the CamSpy and the data uplink device.[25]

The decision to make the central character a woman was part of Hollis' belief that there should be more games starring women.[26] According to him, "Having just made a game starring a man it seemed logical to create one around a woman."[26] To this end, the team created Joanna Dark, influenced by a number of fictional heroines: Kim Kimberly from the 1983 interactive fiction game Snowball, the seductive spy Agent X-27 in the 1931 film Dishonored, the eponymous femme fatale of the 1990 film La Femme Nikita, and FBI agent Dana Scully from The X-Files.[26] The name "Joanna Dark" was taken from the French pronunciation of Joan of Arc as "Jeanne d'Arc", while the name of the in-game company dataDyne was inspired by Yoyodyne from the 1965 novella The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.[24] The layout of the Air Force One level was inspired by the 1997 film of the same name because it was the only reference material the team had at the time.[25] In the game's Counter-Operative mode, the idea that the opposing player can take control of another opponent at any time was inspired by the 1999 film The Matrix, where agents can reappear as another person in the film's simulated reality.[25]


The Expansion Pak is required to access the game's campaign and most of the multiplayer features.

When production of the game started, the developers upgraded the GoldenEye 007 engine with new features and graphical enhancements such as real-time lighting and support for bigger environments and more textures.[28] According to Rare, only 30% of the original engine remained, providing a basic framework to construct levels and animate characters.[30] A new movement system was constructed, allowing players to fall off edges.[22] Other incremental improvements included better shattering glass effects, which would allow players to shoot out objects such as bottles of wine, and the inclusion of computer-controlled bots in multiplayer matches.[25] The artificial intelligence was improved so that opponents could "assess threats, work as a team and communicate with each other."[31] Opponents were given the ability to draw a secondary weapon when disarmed.[32] Death cries and more elaborate gore effects, which allow gunshots to disperse and stain enemies' blood onto nearby walls and objects, were also added.[33]

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.[26] A flashlight was implemented by software engineer Steve Ellis,[26] who had been responsible for much of the multiplayer mode of GoldenEye 007,[34] but was ultimately not included in the game due to limitations of the Nintendo 64 hardware. In 2006, Hollis remarked that such aims were overambitious, stating that "Even today, you can see game developers struggle to make light and dark foundational from a gameplay perspective."[26] Nevertheless, the game features more advanced lighting than its predecessor.[3] For example, lights can be shot out to create darkened areas, gunfire and explosions illuminate rooms dynamically,[1] and the player can use infrared or night-vision goggles.[3]

Hollis was involved with Perfect Dark for the first 14 months of its near three-year development cycle, during which progress was unsatisfactory.[21][26] As he explained, "each of us was asking for more than the other could give. This situation ended with my departure, and with very deep regret I was unable to see Perfect Dark to completion."[35] Hollis' decision came after his four-year contract with Rare was about to expire, which he chose not to renew as he wanted to pursue other interests.[36] Shortly after his exit in September 1998, four additional members—Doak, Hilton, Ellis and composer Graeme Norgate—left Rare to form Free Radical Design, partially because they were unsatisfied with the working environment.[36] This resulted in a loss of half of the workforce and led Rare to assign more people to the team remaining on the project, which eventually became three times bigger than GoldenEye 007's.[28] Programmer Mark Edmonds was promoted to team leader because of his knowledge of the game engine.[25] Although the story and ideas for the game were kept intact, the new team contributed so much to the development that it was seen as a fresh start.[28] The team worked in a very isolated and free environment and did not have a production manager, a schedule, meetings, commercial pressure, or any sort of deadlines. According to artist Brett Jones, "People would just do things they thought were cool and would work".[28]

In spring 1999, Rare moved its headquarters from a country farmhouse to its current multi-million office complex in Twycross, Leicestershire.[36] Although both locations are a few minutes away from each other, the move caused minor disruptions for some.[25] Rare also installed an in-house motion capture studio,[22] which was used to capture hit animations and full walk cycles.[28] Game designer Duncan Botwood wore a pair of heels to portray Joanna Dark in some sessions, but motion capture artist Laurie Sage performed most of her moves.[25] Many of the game opponents were based on members of the development team, who also performed the motion capture required for their animation.[25] Numerous secrets were added to the game to fuel the exploration efforts of players.[37] One of the most notable secrets is a piece of cheese hidden in every level.[38] These were deliberately placed by one of the level editors as a graphical oddity for the player's confusion.[27] The game also has two hidden passwords: one found by picking up a necklace in one level and another by reaching the highest rank in the multiplayer mode.[37] Rare had originally intended these details to access password-protected sections of promotional websites and use them for an alternate reality game.[39]

As developers kept adding features, the game ended up using all the extra memory on their debug consoles and became too big to fit into the Nintendo 64's standard 4 MB of random-access memory (RAM).[36] Because the developers were unable to optimise it, they decided to make use of the Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak, which increases the Nintendo 64's RAM from 4 MB to 8 MB.[36] Although the Expansion Pak is required to access the game's campaign and most of the multiplayer features, a limited subset of deathmatch options are available without the device—around 35% of the game is playable without an Expansion Pak, as estimated on the game's instruction booklet.[40] The Expansion Pak also allows the game to optionally be played in a 480i "high-resolution" mode.[28][1] The Counter-Operative mode proved to be difficult to implement and led the game to be delayed.[41] After playing the release version of the game, Hollis was impressed by the comprehensive range of multiplayer options, which he described as "a vast array of features I never planned".[26] Doak, however, remarked that GoldenEye 007 "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."[34]

A feature which would have allowed players to place a photograph of their choice onto the face of their multiplayer character was cut from the game.[42] The photos would have been taken by the Game Boy Camera accessory and directly transferred to the game via a Nintendo 64 Transfer Pak.[43] They could then be cropped or manipulated with an in-game editing program to adjust their brightness and mapped onto different polygonal heads.[44] The photos could be saved to the game cartridge or a Controller Pak for cross-game sharing.[42] Although Nintendo of America's Ken Lobb had originally stated that the feature was removed due to technical difficulties, the actual reason was revealed to be sensitive issues surrounding the ability for players to attack images of real people.[45] Rare's decision came after then-recent attacks such as the Columbine High School massacre,[46] when new censorship laws were being introduced in the United States.[47]

The soundtrack was primarily composed by Grant Kirkhope, who replaced Norgate after his departure. Writing science-fiction music was a new and enjoyable experience for Kirkhope, as he had mainly worked on Banjo-Kazooie and other platform games at the time.[25] While he took inspiration from Blade Runner and the whistling sound of the theme of The X-Files,[36] he also reused much of Norgate's unfinished work.[25] According to him, "[Norgate] created a lot of the sample set in the game. I added to it, but a lot of the wacky sci-fi noises came from [him]."[25] One of Norgate's few contributions to the final Perfect Dark score was the theme of the first level.[25] A third composer, David Clynick, composed the game's cinematic sequence while Kirkhope was working on Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo-Tooie.[48] The game supports 16x9 widescreen and Dolby surround sound, and features voice acting for all in-game and cutscene dialogue.[1][22] Nintendo wanted an American actress to voice Joanna Dark, but negotiations were not conducted effectively enough and video game music composer Eveline Fischer was chosen to voice the character.[28] Because Perfect Dark features more than 45 minutes of voiced cutscenes, the game was shipped in a 32 MB cartridge.[49]

Marketing and release[edit]

A two colour image showing a room. A woman is sitting on a couch and holding a gun in her right hand. A large weapon is lying on the left wall. Around the image are Japanese symbols.
While the localised title of "Red and Black" was ultimately dropped, Japanese advertisements and box art still kept its dual colour theme.

In June 1998, Rare announced that their follow-up to GoldenEye 007 would appear as Nintendo's lead game at that year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Atlanta, Georgia.[50] Originally intended to be released in summer 1999 and later in December 1999,[51][52][53] Perfect Dark was heavily trailed in video game magazines, with Nintendo Official Magazine predicting that it would be "the best shooting game this century".[54] A working version of the game appeared at the European Computer Trade Show in September 1998;[55] N64 Magazine described the preview as having "the kind of attention to detail that had everyone who saw [it] drooling".[56] A more complete version was presented at E3 in May 1999, where the game's compatibility with the Game Boy Camera was announced,[57] and at Nintendo Spaceworld in August 1999, alongside Rare's Donkey Kong 64 and Jet Force Gemini.[58] Shortly before release, Rare unveiled a website for the in-game company dataDyne to promote interest in the game's storyline.[59][60]

Perfect Dark was first released in North America on 22 May 2000.[33] Nintendo arranged a number of publicity stunts, including hiring model Michele Merkin, who appeared as Joanna Dark in commercials and in-store promotions for the game.[61][62] The game received a Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, particularly for its graphic content and adult language.[33] This generated some controversy because Nintendo has a reputation for family-friendly games.[63] The European release followed on 30 June 2000.[9] To supplement the game, Rare released a Game Boy Color counterpart, also titled Perfect Dark, shortly afterwards.[64] The Game Boy Color game features a compatibility mode that allows certain cheats within the Nintendo 64 game to alternatively be unlocked via the Transfer Pak.[65] In Japan, Perfect Dark was released on 21 October 2000.[66]

Perfect Dark features a different box art for each regional release.[67] Rare's art director Kev Bayliss, who created the North American and European artworks, designed the North American version in one day because Rare needed it very quickly.[67] He then created a more suitable Joanna Dark model for the European version and all the promotional material at the time.[67] For the Japanese release, a completely different image was requested by Nintendo,[67] who originally considered releasing the game in Japan under the title "Aka to Kuro" (赤と黒, lit. "Red and Black").[68] "Perfect Dark" does not translate well into Japanese, and the title "Aka to Kuro" was considered sufficiently edgy.[69] However, the game was ultimately released as パーフェクト・ダーク (Pāfekuto Dāku), a transliteration of the Western title.[70]

According to NPD's Toy Retail Survey Tracking system, Perfect Dark was the second best-selling game of May 2000 in North America, behind Pokémon Trading Card Game.[71] The Japanese launch saw sales totalling 35,000 units in its first week.[66] As a bestseller, Perfect Dark joined Nintendo's "Player's Choice" game selection on 21 December 2000.[72] The game sold relatively well through the year's holiday season, reaching No. 23 on the all formats chart for the week of 24 December 2000.[73] As of March 2003, Perfect Dark had sold almost 1.3 million copies in the United States and 77,000 copies in Japan.[66] Total sales in the United States reached 1.5 million by December 2007.[74] In a 2011 interview with Eurogamer, game designer Chris Tilston revealed that lifetime sales for the game reached 3.2 million, but did not clarify if the figure accounted for units shipped to retailers.[75]


Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllGame4.5/5 stars[78]
GamePro5/5 stars[80]
N64 Magazine96%[3]
Next Generation4/5 stars[13]
Nintendo Power9.6/10[82]
The Electric Playground10/10[83]

Upon release, Perfect Dark received critical acclaim from video game publications.[77] The most praised aspects of the game were its graphics, artificial intelligence, and number of multiplayer options.[1][15][9][79] GameSpot claimed that, as a console first-person shooter, Perfect Dark is "unparalleled",[15] while IGN journalist Matt Casamassina remarked that its extensive features set the game apart from its peers.[1] Similarly, N64 Magazine described Perfect Dark as "dauntingly huge", stating that it "takes everything that made its predecessor such an enduring favourite and does it bigger, better and more often."[3] Edge concluded that, although the game fails to be as revolutionary as its predecessor, it refines its "phenomenal gameplay while massively developing its multiplayer components."[9] Nintendo Power editors called the game "undeniably a work of art", suspenseful, "more compelling than most action movies and much deeper than any video game of its type."[82]

The graphics were praised for their dynamic lighting, complex geometry, varied textures, and smooth animations.[1][78][13][83] IGN remarked that levels were more detailed than in GoldenEye 007, and that character models and weapons were "wonderfully" animated.[1] GameRevolution highlighted the game's semi-realistic look, saying that it "adds to the depth and addiction of the game".[81] The game's voiced cutscenes, surround sound effects, and atmospheric score, which was described as a mixture between the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis and GoldenEye 007's, were said to effectively bring the game to life.[1][82][80][3] The Electric Playground credited Rare for being able to fit such a clear sounding experience into the limited space of a Nintendo 64 cartridge.[83]

The gameplay was praised for the challenging artificial intelligence of enemies and varied level design.[15][9][13] The enemies were admired for their use of squad tactics, ability to wait for players to come back instead of obediently chasing after them, and for ducking around a corner for cover.[15] As with GoldenEye 007, the game's nonlinear approach to completing mission objectives was highlighted positively, giving players freedom to deal with situations as they see fit.[9] The multiplayer mode was seen as the strongest aspect of the game. Reviewers noted that the flexibility of options, number of gameplay modes, "clever" weapons, number of unlockable features, and customisable computer-controlled bots give the game an unprecedented amount of replay value.[15][1][79][81][83] GamePro called the game's Counter-Operative mode one of the "coolest multiplayer modes ever", stating that the player playing as Joanna never knows which enemy the opposing player controls.[80]

The most frequently criticised aspect of the game was its inconsistent frame rate.[79][13][9][15][83] According to Trigger Happy author Steven Poole, the game's "inadequate temporal resolution—owing to a wrongheaded choice to privilege visual detail over frame-rate—made it unplayable at higher difficulty levels."[84] IGN observed that the frame rate can be "sluggish in certain wide-open areas or when there are lots of enemies on-screen, but for some odd reason it's never really bothersome. Most of the time you're so caught up in the game that you don't notice it, and when you do, you're willing to forgive it as Perfect Dark is just too much fun to dwell on such an issue".[1] 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",[84] and argued that she illustrated the challenges of characterising the protagonists of first-person shooters, a problem that GoldenEye 007 had avoided by using the already well-known character James Bond.[85]

At their Best and Worst of 2000 awards, GameSpot editors awarded Perfect Dark Best Nintendo 64 Game and Best Shooting Game.[86][87] Rare was also recognised for its work on the game and received the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Moving Images Award for 2000,[88] and the Golden Satellite Award for Best Interactive Product in 2001.[89]


Shortly after Perfect Dark was released, Rare planned to develop a "sister" title, called Velvet Dark, for either the Nintendo 64 or the Nintendo 64's successor, the GameCube, but the project was ultimately abandoned.[90] The name "Velvet Dark" references Joanna Dark's alleged sister, who is the character players assume the role of in the game's co-operative mode.[90] Meanwhile, Free Radical Design released TimeSplitters for the PlayStation 2 in October 2000, a first-person shooter based around a completely new engine.[91] TimeSplitters bears several gameplay and presentational similarities to GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, including a similar aiming system and unlockable options through quick level completions.[92][91] After Rare was purchased by Microsoft in 2002,[93] the company released a prequel, Perfect Dark Zero, as a launch title for the Xbox 360 in 2005. Although the game received generally positive reviews from critics,[94] some publications felt it did not meet their expectations.[95][96]

In a retrospective analysis, Edge acknowledged that the game's frame rate and other dated elements of its design rendered it "nigh-on unplayable".[97] The magazine found the ambitious mentality which resulted in weapons and computer-controlled players being "designed for possibilities rather than balance", both one of Perfect Dark's most interesting aspects and the cause of its biggest problem: "Restraint [...] would have made Perfect Dark a tighter, more focused experience, helped with those framerate issues, and removed almost all of the fun."[97] The magazine concluded that despite Perfect Dark not standing up as a good game to play in 2009, "its currency of ideas and provocation [...] remains sound."[97] In 2015, Den of Geek considered Perfect Dark "a game that's done more for the shooter genre than often credited for", and stated that the game was still ahead of time because no game had revitalised its ideas.[98]

Since its release, the game has attracted a following of elite players who constantly try to speedrun its levels and break world records.[99] These records are managed by their website and involve highly skilled players exploiting tiny gameplay inconsistencies.[99][100] The game is occasionally cited as one of the greatest video games of all time by some publications. In 2006, Perfect Dark was placed at No. 15 on IGN's Readers Choice Top 100 Games Ever,[101] while Nintendo Power included it in their list of Top 200 Nintendo games.[102] In 2007, IGN editors placed the game at No. 86 on their list of Top 100 Games of All Time, noting that "Everything that GoldenEye made great, Perfect Dark did too, and then some."[103] Similarly, Edge placed the title at No. 28 on their 2007 list of 100 Best Videogames (a list voted for by readers, Edge staff and gaming industry professionals).[104] The magazine claimed that the game brought the Nintendo 64 era to a satisfying close.[104]


A remaster of the game, also titled Perfect Dark, was released in 2010 for the Xbox 360 through its Xbox Live Arcade download service, featuring improved frame rate, enhanced graphics and an online multiplayer.[105] The remaster was developed by 4J Studios, the same studio that previously handled the Xbox 360 ports of Rare's platform games Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie.[106] The game received generally favorable reviews from gaming publications. Some critics considered the relatively unchanged game to be outdated, but most agreed that the title was a solid revival of a classic.[107][105] In 2015, the remaster was included in the Rare Replay video game compilation for Xbox One.[108]


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External links[edit]