Perfect Dark was revealed with a cinematic trailer at the Game Awards, immediately followed by a short featurette with the developers of The Initiative. Perfect Dark hasn’t had a release for 10 years, and even then it was a remaster of the original game for the Xbox 360. The only sequel, Perfect Dark Zero, came out in 2005. So this new game was a long, long time to come.
The legacy of Perfect Dark is slightly odd. Aside from the remaster, there were only two games, and while both were good, neither was this groundbreaking. Although it has been left out in the cold for so long and there isn’t much to do in the first place, Perfect Dark has managed to remain a beloved series, with a large eager fan base. to see more now that the switch has finally been flipped.
Also, the people who played Perfect Dark as a child (me!) Thanks to the featurette, we know a bit more about the game even though we haven’t seen it in action yet, so let’s dive into all we know.
What is the release date of Perfect Dark?
We haven’t seen enough to find out yet. The Initiative formed in 2018, but it’s not like they all sat down on day one together and immediately started coding the levels of Perfect Dark. With no gameplay revealed yet and not even a vague release window offered, the end of 2021 looks to be the earliest. Considering the impact of Covid-19 on development in 2020 as well, smart money will arrive at some point in 2022.
And that’s all we know about Perfect Dark so far. More details will emerge over the next few months, but after 15 years the wait is finally over.
This trailer premiered at the Game Awards in December 2020. You can also check out this developer video talk briefly about the project, which unfolded right after the trailer.
What is the story of Perfect Dark?
The first game was set in 2023 and revolved around two alien races using Earth as a battleground. Yes, exactly like Transformers, although I promise you it was less silly about it all.
The Alien War is actually secondary to the main plot, which is the battle between Carrington Institute (the good guys) and dataDyne (the bad guys). DataDyne wants to use alien technology for the general villainy of the early 2000s, and you have to stop them while working for Carrington. As part of the story, you end up being taken to the evil alien planet (the Skedar), where you defeat their leader, and then you fly off in a spaceship back to Earth. It was still good. I promise.
The sequel, Perfect Dark Zero, was actually a prequel, so the original Perfect Dark will serve as a starting point. This new Perfect Dark is described as taking place in the “near future”, so it takes place a bit after the last few games, but not too long. We know that central character Joanna Dark – more on her below – is also back, so it makes sense that this continues where the series left off.
The game is going to be “green science fiction” where companies (like dataDyne) have made the planet much greener and cleaner, but at a price. In the trailer, we see a very lush and abundant city in bloom, but also parts of the Earth ravaged by fire and destruction. At the end of the trailer, Joanna Dark has just gutted (read: killing everyone inside) one of those green bodies and is standing on the roof of the building, watching a thunderstorm raging in the distance. The logo on the roof reveals that this building is the HQ of dataDyne.
It looks like Perfect Dark will have something to say about climate change then, which will hopefully add nuance to the campaign setting.
So, is this a reboot? A remaster? A suite ? A prequel?
It is definitely not a remaster. This new Perfect Dark has its own story, and while the developers talk about being inspired by the past, they also say they don’t want to use it “too much” as they are bringing Perfect Dark into modern times. A prequel is also unlikely; It’s rare that a franchise that’s been on the ice for so long decides to start over with a prequel instead of going ahead and innovating. In addition, the “near future” parameter would not be appropriate; Perfect Dark was originally set in 2023, so a prequel would be in the “recent past”. Plus, two consecutive prequels are a bit silly.
As for the reboot or the sequel, it looks from what the developers have said about keeping the game’s past in mind that it will be a bit of both. It doesn’t look like it directly picks up on the threads of 2005 gaming history, but it hasn’t completely returned to the drawing board, either. It’ll be the same character that fans know and love, the same central antagonist, just with a whole new narrative.
Aliens will always be back, right? Law?!
Almost certainly. The Skedar weren’t wiped out, just defeated, and the other aliens, the Maians, are still kicking too. The trailer even begins in space, with the developers letting us know that the alien storyline isn’t dropped just yet.
Who is the main character of Perfect Dark?
Speaking of that character, it’s Joanna Dark. She goes by the code name Perfect Dark due to her perfect score on her aptitude tests (and her last name, obviously). Many sources have contributed to Rare choosing his name. As a pioneering heroine, Joanna Dark was chosen as the name in a nod to Joan of Arc, while her look was designed after the Winona Ryder era of the ’90s.
Her personality is supposed to take equal parts of The X-Files’ La Femme Nikita and Dana Scully, but she focuses a lot more on tech than either; she tackles situations more like Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell. Oh, and it was designed by Martin Hollis, the director of GoldenEye 007, so it goes without saying that his shooter has always been excellent.
How is the fight going in Perfect Dark?
Sam Fisher meets GoldenEye is actually a really good way to describe it, if I say so myself, but let’s be a little more specific. It’s a first-person shooter, and generally had a very clean and uncluttered user interface. Players were encouraged to approach situations slowly, with more effective stealth and timing than a hail of bullets.
The new Perfect Dark developers have said they are “leaning very hard on” what is a secret agent? “”, which suits Joanna’s more methodical approach to the fight. They also said they were trying to “diversify” the shooter by “differentiating spy fights from a traditional first person shooter.” Based on their Game Awards interview, we might see a more action-oriented Joanna this time around, as the devs mention she slips under or jumps over obstacles in the middle of the fight.
It looks like the new Perfect Dark will play on the “physics” of combat, but also take advantage of the increased range available to developers these days, which means more tech elements can be incorporated. And that should be fine with Perfect Dark, which has always focused on gadgets and smart alternative fire modes for every weapon.
We haven’t seen any gameplay yet and don’t have much guidance on when we will, but the developers seem to be following the legacy of the original games with a clear, straightforward view of the character and setting.
Who are the developers of Perfect Dark?
We’ve talked a lot about developers, but we haven’t really talked about it in particular, so let’s do it now. Perfect Dark is produced by The Initiative, and it’s actually the studio’s first game. But when you look at the talent attached, this is definitely not their first rodeo.
The studio is run by Darrell Gallagher (former director of Crystal Dynamics) and includes Daniel Neuburger (director of Tomb Raider), Christian Cantamessa (writer of Red Dead Redemption), Drew Murray (director of Sunset Overdrive) and Brain Westergaard (lead producer of the God of the war). Many other developers have great games under their belt as well, with resumes from BioWare, Naughty Dog, Respawn, Sony Santa Monica, Blizzard, Insomniac, and Rockstar in the studio’s filing cabinets.
The Initiative is actually one of those studios that Xbox bosses say make “quadruple-A” games. I mean, no one else is going to call them that, but it’s still pretty exciting, right?
What platforms will Perfect Dark be on?
Since this is an Xbox game, the Xbox Series X / S is a no-brainer, and as it will also be on the Microsoft store, we will have it on PC as well. We do not know if it will be on other platforms like the PS5 or the Nintendo Switch; that’s unlikely, but Microsoft hasn’t been as possessive of its exclusives as some other platforms.
This also seems to be an absolute certainty for Game Pass, as have all of Microsoft’s proprietary games.