Retrospective: Perfect Dark

For a classic multiplayer game, Perfect Dark suffers from a fairly major fault. It’s nigh-on unplayable. Those sleek offices and twisting tunnels have morphed into poorly textured geometric mazes. The explosions and effects, brilliant in memory, are muted. Most of all, the always-suspect framerate is now a convicted murderer. None of these reasons justify a return.

But what Perfect Dark does have, beyond GoldenEye and most other FPSes, is imagination.

It’s an ideas game, as concerned with its own genre’s existence and limits as it is with targets. If Rare had revolutionised what a console FPS could be, Perfect Dark was its belated manifesto. Sequels, even spiritual sequels, have governing rules, neatly encapsulated by Cliff Bleszinski’s “bigger, better, more badass” tubthumping for Gears Of War 2.

Perfect Dark can do excess, but let’s shoot the elephant in the room first. GoldenEye. It’s impossible to avoid GoldenEye, or the misconception that Rare couldn’t continue with the Bond licence: it rejected the opportunity to make the tie-in to Tomorrow Never Dies, perhaps feeling that 007’s world offered little more than a retread of the Kalashnikovs, missile sites and gadgets it had already perfected.

Its ideas had married perfectly with that world once, but a second Hollywood tie-in would see diminishing creative returns. The lack of a licence brought freedom and yet, in this context, choosing to make an FPS with a secret agent may not seem the most original move. Rare couldn’t abandon the espionage angle that dovetailed with its design talents: double-helix levels with spiralling objectives, enemy positions perfect for the stealthy, patient player, and the glorious gadgets.

Nor was Perfect Dark free of cinematic influence: its grimy hi-tech vision of the future is pure Blade Runner, down to the shine of the office buildings and the LA noir of its Chicago streets. There’s the complexes to infiltrate, computers to hack, hoverbikes to ride. And the lady herself. If Bond set pulses racing, in his absence what would Joanna Dark do to young male Nintendo fans?

Perfect Dark, as a game, is hilarious. It’s about drugging big-headed aliens until they can’t see, then strapping mines to their eyes. Setting elaborate traps with laptop guns and proximity mines, getting into slapfights and using n-bombs to make opponents run into walls.


Kevin_Harkins's picture

Still one of the most complex varied and customisable first person shooters there is. Reading this article really got my juices flowing as it brought back so many great gaming memories and i am surprised not a single developer has made anything similar to the way Rare built this FPS. It really was excellent being immersed in this game. Guess developers nowadays dont want to give us massive layers of depth in a game as they seem stuck to churning out games that would take no more than 40hours (max) to complete.

This game should be played by more developers and researchers so they can see what can be achieved in this genre. It truly is a masterpiece in my eyes.

prtofdacrowd's picture

Wow, I still have memories of pestering my dad every day to ring up GAME and find out when my copy was, in fact i remember the night he drove me to collect it..... That game was absolutely awesome!

The re playability, the graphics, the the fun, how many times did that cartridge be subjected to loading the Air Force One mission?

In fact quick side note, i remember one dark night my dad turned my world upside down. That day he was able to secure me a copy of Lylat Wars, with the Rumble Pak....

Ill never forgive or forget him for giving me this gaming passion, ruining my education.... as i type

OmegaVader's picture

Looking back, it makes me recall how much bang for the buck the game was. it may not be 'playable' by today's 60fps standards, but back then it was'd probably be surprised at how GE performs today, or the similar design oversights. Nevertheless. man was it revolutionary....and man did PD capitalize on those ideas.

It's a shame developers today don't put as much energy into their titles.