Learn more about Perfect Dark
|Perfect Dark<tr><td colspan="2" style="font-size: 100%; text-align: center;">Image:Perfect dark box.jpg</td></tr>|
|Release date(s)|| NA May 22, 2000|
EU June 30, 2000
JPN October 21, 2000<ref>IGN on game release dates. URL retrieved 7 April 2006.</ref>
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer 1-4 humans, up to 8 bots|
|Platform(s)|| Nintendo 64
<tr><th style="background-color: #ccccff;">Media</th><td>256Mb (32MB) cartridge</td></tr><tr><th style="background-color: #ccccff;">System requirements</th><td>Expansion Pak for full features. Rumble Pak optional.</td></tr><tr><th style="background-color: #ccccff;">Input</th><td>Nintendo 64 Controller, Controller Pak, Transfer Pak</td></tr>
Perfect Dark is a first-person shooter video game for the Nintendo 64 game console. The game was developed by Rare, creators of the multimillion-selling GoldenEye 007, an earlier first-person shooter with which Perfect Dark shares many gameplay features. The game was first released in Canada and the United States in May 2000, where it was greeted with critical acclaim; PAL and NTSC-J releases followed soon afterwards.
The game features a single-player mode consisting of seventeen missions in which the player assumes the role of special agent Joanna Dark, an operative for the fictional Carrington Institute, as she attempts to foil a conspiracy by rival corporation dataDyne. It also includes a range of multiplayer options, including co-operative and "counter-operative" modes in addition to traditional deathmatch settings. Technically, it is one of the most advanced games developed for the N64, with optional high-resolution graphics and Dolby Surround Sound.
In September 2000, a separate game starring agent Joanna Dark, also titled Perfect Dark, was released for the Game Boy Color. Although set in the same universe, it follows a separate storyline. With the use of the Transfer Pak, the Game Boy game allows certain features within the Nintendo 64 version to be unlocked. Perfect Dark Zero, a prequel to Perfect Dark also developed by Rare, was a launch title for the Xbox 360 in 2005. Perfect Dark: Initial Vector, a novel by Greg Rucka, was published later that year.
Perfect Dark is set in the year 2023 against the backdrop of an interstellar war between two races: the Maians, who resemble the stereotypical "greys" of alien abduction folklore, and the Skedar, reptile-like extraterrestrials who can disguise themselves as humans.
On Earth, there is an on-going rivalry between two factions. The Carrington Institute, founded by Daniel Carrington, is officially an R&D centre but secretly operates an espionage group in league with the Maians. dataDyne, on the other hand, is a sinister weapons corporation with a clandestine link to the Skedar. The player is cast as Joanna Dark, a new recruit to the Carrington Institute whose impeccable scores in training have earned her the codename "Perfect Dark". The game begins with her mission to investigate suspicious reports from a dataDyne insider. In the process, she uncovers a conspiracy between dataDyne and the Skedar: the Skedar plan to steal an alien "megaweapon" from a crashed spacecraft on the Earth's ocean floor and use it to annihilate the Maians. When the President of the United States refuses to loan dataDyne the research vessel they need to retrieve the megaweapon, they plot to kill him and replace him with a dataDyne-grown clone. Unbeknownst to dataDyne, the Skedar also intend to test-fire the megaweapon on the Earth, destroying it in the process.
With the help of other Carrington agents and a Maian nicknamed Elvis, Joanna prevents the conspiracy by causing the weapon to self-destruct. She then helps the Maians launch a counter-attack, destroying the Skedar's "Battle Shrine" and eliminating their High Priest, thereby issuing Skedar morale a crippling blow.
Perfect Dark features many elements that are typical of a first-person shooter game, including a range of weapons to collect, enemies to defeat and distinct environments to explore. It is frequently described as a "spiritual sequel" to Rare's earlier first-person shooter GoldenEye 007, released in 1997. Although Perfect Dark is not set in the James Bond universe, the gameplay is extremely similar and it retains many of its predecessor's features, such as the ability to use stealth to tackle missions, and objectives that vary with the difficulty setting.
The weapons of Perfect Dark include handguns, rifles, submachine guns, a shotgun, rocket launchers, combat knives, grenade launchers, various explosives, and several fictitious extraterrestrial weapons. Almost all of the weapons in the game have two modes of fire; a primary mode in which the weapon is used in a typical fashion, and a secondary mode which tends to use the weapon in a more unconventional manner, such as pistol-whipping or proximity detonation. Players can carry an unlimited number of weapons, and certain guns can be used in duplicate, one in each hand.
 Solo mode
The player can explore the Carrington Institute and take part in a number of tutorials and training activities. The most substantial of these is the firing range, in which the player's proficiency with each of the game's weapons is tested against specific targets. Completing these trials unlocks so-called "Classic Weapons", which are taken from GoldenEye 007.<ref>detStar guide to the firing range. URL retrieved 11th June 2006.</ref>
In Perfect Dark's solo missions, the player controls Joanna through a series of levels collected together into missions. In each level, the player must complete certain objectives and then exit the stage. The requirements are varied, with many levels requiring the recovery and use of numerous high-tech gadgets. If Joanna is killed or fails an objective, the player must start the level again.
There are three distinct difficulty levels in the single player game: Agent, Special Agent and Perfect Agent. There are a number of differences between the difficulty levels, including the objectives that must be completed, the amount of ammunition available, and enemy accuracy and damage. On higher difficulties, the optional "auto-aiming", in which the game corrects slight aiming errors automatically, becomes less effective and bonus items such as protective shields are absent. Once the game has been completed on one difficulty level, the levels can be tackled in any order on the other difficulties. If all the levels are completed on Perfect Agent difficulty, an additional setting becomes available; titled Perfect Dark, this mode allows the player to customise various aspects of enemies, such as their health, their aiming accuracy and the damage they inflict.<ref name="IGNreview">IGN review of Perfect Dark, "Features" section. URL retrieved 11th June 2006.</ref>
Four bonus missions may be unlocked by the player. One, "The Duel", is a holographic training simulation against three opponents, and is unlocked by completing all of the entry-level weapon challenges in the firing range. The other three bonus missions are unlocked by completing the game on each of the three standard difficulties, and allow the player to control other characters — Elvis, Mr Blonde and a Maian warrior — in scenarios parallel to the main narrative.<ref>Cheats Codes Guides.com on the bonus missions.</ref> The gameplay is essentially unchanged, with objectives to accomplish and enemies to battle, but these characters do have some special characteristics, such as Mr Blonde's cloaking device.<ref>detStar guide to the level "Mr Blonde's Revenge". URL retrieved 11th June 2006.</ref>
Additionally, the player can unlock cheats by beating the levels within certain time limits. Some cheats, such as "All Weapons", can alternatively be unlocked by using the Perfect Dark Game Boy game and Transfer Pak. The cheats range from "Perfect Darkness", which makes the level pitch dark but gives the player a pair of night vision goggles, to more traditional extras such as Infinite Ammo.<ref>IGN on Perfect Dark cheats.</ref>
The game includes a co-operative mode in which two players, or one player and up to three computer-controlled players, tackle the missions together. If two humans play, the game uses a split screen display, with the option to split horizontally or vertically. Only one human player is required to survive the mission, although all the objectives must still be completed. Finally, there is a "Counter Op" mode, in which one player plays the missions as Joanna while the other takes over the role of an enemy — including their weaponry and low health — and attempts to stop her. The Counter Op player takes control of another enemy if they are killed, and cannot cause the mission to fail directly by, for example, killing Joanna's allies before she meets them.<ref name="manual">Perfect Dark manual. Published by Rareware, 2000.</ref>
The solo player areas feature numerous easter eggs and strange objects, areas and glitches to fuel the exploration efforts and wild speculation of many gamers. Rare staff have admitted that some of the oddities in the game were put there "for a laugh," and that the constant barrage of questioning emails they got were sometimes "a free source of amusement".<ref>Yamo's Lair on Rare's reason for game's easter eggs. URL retrieved 7th April 2006.</ref> Perhaps the most famous curiosity is the piece of cheese hidden on every level.<ref>detStar on the pieces of cheese.</ref>
The Combat Simulator is Perfect Dark's multiplayer mode. A game can be played with up to four human players and eight computer-controlled players. Again a split-screen is used if more than one human is playing. If three or four humans play, the screen is divided into quarters, with one quarter left blank if necessary.<ref name="manual" />
Players enter the game unarmed and with a certain amount of health. Weapons and ammunition are scattered around the level in preset positions. Once a player is killed, they are regenerated elsewhere in the level, once again unarmed. The overall objective of the game is determined by the scenario being played, of which there are six:<ref>detStar on the Combat Simulator scenarios. URL retrieved 11th June 2006.</ref>
- Combat - The traditional deathmatch mode.
- Capture The Case - Perfect Dark's equivalent of Capture the Flag.
- Hold The Briefcase - Players must take a briefcase and survive with it for as long as possible. One point is received for every set number of seconds the case is held. If the player with the briefcase is killed, they drop the briefcase and it can be picked up by anyone else.
- King of the Hill - One area in the level is "the hill." Points are awarded for locating this region and staying there for a set number of seconds. Having been "captured" in this way, the hill moves to a new location, or if a certain game setting was set, the hill remains in the same spot while the timer resets.
- Hacker Central - Players must locate a data uplink and use it to hack a computer system; both items are randomly placed in the level. The data uplink is moved to a new location when the player carrying it is killed. When hacking the computer system, the player cannot use weapons, and cannot move from the terminal without breaking the link.
- Pop A Cap - One player is "the cap." All other players gain two points for killing the cap. The cap gains a point for every minute they survive. When the cap is killed, another, randomly selected person becomes the cap. If the cap kills him/herself (eg. using explosives in close quarters, falling into a pit etc.), however, that person remains the cap.
Aspects of each game can be customised, such as the chosen arena, the weapons available, and the winning conditions. Players can be grouped into teams or compete individually. In a team game, the players can optionally be shown coloured according to their team. Each game can be customised to a greater degree than was possible in GoldenEye 007's widely acclaimed multiplayer mode. For example, the earlier game only allowed players to specify a pre-set class of weapons, such as "Automatics", but in Perfect Dark, players can individually select the weapons to be included and where each should be located. Shields may be placed in any of the weapon slots or omitted entirely; GoldenEye 007's body armour was fixed in one position for each level.<ref name="manual" />
Computer controlled bots, called "Simulants", can be included in the multiplayer game. The appearance, team affiliation, skill level and playing characteristics of each Simulant can be individually customised. For example, the VengeSim always pursues the player that killed it last, the FistSim will not fire guns but will attack with punches and thrown weapons, while the PeaceSim does not fight at all but merely tries to disarm the other players. Simulants can perform super-human feats on the highest difficulty settings, such as moving faster than the player can.<ref>detStar on the Combat Simulator Simulants. URL retrieved 11th June 2006.</ref> During team matches, a human player can issue specific orders to the Simulants on their team, such as "Defend the Base".<ref name="manual" />
The Combat Simulator includes thirty "Challenges", pre-set games against Simulants which may be tackled by one or more players. The Challenges cover a variety of game types, weapon arrangements and level setups. As a player completes them, additional features — including new weapons, player models and bot difficulties — are unlocked in the Combat Simulator. A complete list of features unlockable through this mode is available here.
At the end of the match, the overall results are shown, alongside information about the individual players' performance. Colour-coded "medals" are awarded to the winners in several categories: Accuracy, Head Shots, KillMaster (for achieving the most kills) and Survivor (for suffering the fewest deaths). The game also acknowledges, often humorously, other aspects of performance by awarding messages such as "AC-10" (for people who frequently use body armour) and "Mostly Harmless" (for particularly ineffective players).
Players can keep track of their performance by creating and saving multiplayer profiles. Each profile contains a ranking, ranging from "Beginner: 21" to "Perfect: 1", which is determined based on the accumulation of certain statistics such as number of kills, time played and ammunition used. The number of medals earned is also counted. (A complete description of the statistics required for each rank is available here.) A player achieving the rank of "Perfect: 1" is given the message "Username: Entropic Decay, Password: Zero-Tau." Rare had originally intended these details to allow access password-protected parts of the official Perfect Dark website, but these sections were never implemented.<ref name="RarePBC">Rare's official response to Perfect Dark rumours. URL retrieved 11 December 2005.</ref>
Multiplayer profiles also allow players to customise their in-game appearance by selecting the head and body of any of the game's character models (excluding the Skedar), as well as several which do not appear in the single-player mode. A feature called "Perfect Head", which appeared in previews of the game but was not included in the final product, was intended to take player customisation further. This feature allowed the player to place a photograph of their choice onto their in-game character's face, via a Game Boy Camera. However, Perfect Head was dropped due to "sensitive issues" surrounding the ability to attack images of real people.<ref>Computer And Video Games on the removal of Perfect Head. URL retrieved 7th April 2006.</ref>
Martin Hollis, the director of GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, described the development of the game in an interview with Retro Gamer magazine.<ref name=retrogamer-hollis>"The Legacy of Perfect Dark: Martin Hollis Q&A" Retro Gamer issue 19 (January 2006) pp. 79. ISSN 1742-3155 </ref> 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 1930s film Dishonored,<ref>IMDB on Dishonored and Agent X-27. URL retrieved 8th April 2006.</ref> the eponymous femme fatale of the film Nikita,<ref>IMDB on Nikita. URL retrieved 8th April 2006.</ref> 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 赤と黒 (Aka to kuro; Red and Black). "Perfect Dark" does not translate well into Japanese, and the title "Red and Black" was considered sufficiently edgy.<ref>IGN on the original Japanese title, Red and Black. URL retrieved 7th April 2006.</ref> However, it was eventually released as パーフェクト・ダーク ("pāfekuto dāku"), a transliteration of the Western title.<ref>"Perfect Dark Returns". Gamespot on the decision to release as Perfect Dark in Japan. URL retrieved 7th April 2006.</ref>
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<ref name="daviddoak">"Desert Island Disks: David Doak." Retro Gamer issue 6 (July 2004), pp. 41-45. ISSN 1742-3155 </ref>), but it was not included in the final game due to the limitations of the N64 hardware (see Game engine section). 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 realised, 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 that "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."<ref name="daviddoak" /> This sentiment was echoed by many reviewers.
 Game engine
The Perfect Dark engine is a modified version of GoldenEye 007's, and many of the gameplay features are unchanged.<ref name="IGNreview" /> For instance, the manual aiming system, originally inspired by Virtua Cop,<ref name="hollis-speech">Hollis, Martin (2004). "The Making of GoldenEye 007". URL retrieved 29 March 2006.</ref> is graphically enhanced but essentially the same. Players can crouch, duck and lean but notably there is no ability to jump. It is also possible to drop from certain ledges, a feature rarely used in GoldenEye. Most weapons have a finite magazine and must be reloaded after a certain number of shots. Interaction with the environment is via a single "Use" command, which opens doors, activates computers and so on. Enemies and players can disarm each other at close range, and the player can use this feature to steal weapons or knock foes unconscious. Like GoldenEye, Perfect Dark uses location-based damage; for example, a shot to the torso causes more damage than a shot to the limb. However, unlike GoldenEye, in the single-player mode a headshot on a guard is instantly fatal on any difficulty level.<ref name="manual" />
The engine includes a number of graphical enhancements. The most conspicuous of these is the option to play in "hi-res" 640 x 480 graphics.<ref name="manual" /> The N64 Expansion Pak is needed to load the large and detailed solo player levels, although a limited subset of the multiplayer options are available without this extension.<ref name="manual" /> The lighting system was improved so that gunfire and explosions illuminate areas dynamically, and lights can be shot out to create darkened areas. Furthermore, if shot, enemies' blood will be projected onto nearby walls and objects; in GoldenEye, blood effects were limited, as the harmed areas of the enemies would just turn red. Other graphical novelties include weapon-specific reload animations (as opposed to Goldeneye, where weapons simply were lowered out of sight then came back up into view fully loaded) and the "dizzy" effect. If a player is punched, poisoned by a throwing knife or shot with the Tranquilizer gun, they become dizzy, represented through a motion blurred view. The degree of blurring increases with dizziness, and a badly stunned player may have difficulty seeing anything at all.<ref>IGN review of Perfect Dark multiplayer. URL retrieved 11th June 2006.</ref> Both the NTSC and PAL versions of the game run full-screen, with a widescreen option, while some earlier Nintendo 64 games such as Super Mario 64 ran "letterboxed" on PAL systems for technical reasons.
The disadvantage of such detailed graphics is that the frame rate inevitably suffers in some areas; this was one of the main criticisms levelled at the game by reviewers (see Critical reaction). The same limitation was present in GoldenEye, but the other graphical enhancements in Perfect Dark serve to exacerbate the problem. In multiplayer, the game must render the scene separately for each player, although at reduced resolution. Nevertheless the frame rate issues arise again, particularly if a large number of Simulants are involved.<ref>Gaming Age's review, paragraph 5. URL retrieved 11th April 2006.</ref>
Perfect Dark's engine offered audio features that had not been available on the N64 before; for example, it was one of the few games to offer Dolby Surround Sound.<ref name="manual" /> Some of the game's audio data was compressed as MP3 in order to fit into the relatively small storage space afforded by a cartridge,<ref>Perfect Dark title screen.</ref> though the music was sequenced. There is full voice-acting for all the dialogue, and the guards can be heard having conversations amongst themselves about the events of the level.<ref>detStar on the guards' private conversations. URL retrieved 7th April 2006.</ref>
The artificial intelligence of the guards includes the ability to call for help and sound nearby alarms. The guards can be alerted by nearby gunfire, and the various weapons in the game have distinct volumes; for example, guards are less likely to be alerted by silenced pistols than high-powered rifles. Additionally, they are able to throw grenades and, if the player disarms them, draw a secondary weapon. One criticism raised of GoldenEye 007's guards was their weakness at very close range, since their weapons appear to shoot straight through the player. This is resolved in Perfect Dark, whose guards can deliver kicks at close range, inflicting damage and causing dizziness. In GoldenEye, the guards could not see through glass - a feature included deliberately so that the player could spy on foes through windows.<ref name="hollis-speech" /> This aspect is retained in Perfect Dark, although enemies can now see and shoot over railings. In the later stages of the game, the player encounters Skedar enemies still in reptilian form, and while the Skedar weapons and characteristics are different, their AI is qualitatively the same.<ref>Gamespot review, paragraph 5. URL retrieved 11th June 2006.</ref>
The multiplayer Simulants are considered more advanced, and have the majority of the faculties of a human player. While they have the ability to complete multiplayer objectives, such as capturing the briefcase, they are not able to use some of the weapons, such as mines.<ref name="manual" /> Even on the highest skill setting, Simulants make no attempt to avoid simple traps such as proximity mines or sentry guns.
There are a number of bugs in the game engine. For example, in the first level, a flaw in the collision detection makes it possible to pass through a supposedly solid wall, allowing the level to be completed in just six seconds.<ref name="6seconds">"Defection A For Dummies", a guide to completing the first level in six seconds. URL retrieved 7 April 2006. A video of the achievement is available.</ref> Also, as with many older FPSs, players can use a technique called straferunning (or "speed-strafing") to exploit a bug in the engine whereby moving diagonally allows the player to move faster than by running forwards or sideways alone. This technique is almost essential to achieving some of the target times required to unlock cheats.
 Release and sales
Rare announced in mid-1998 that their follow-up to GoldenEye would appear at that year's E3 as Nintendo's lead game,<ref>N64 Magazine (UK), Issue 24, June 1998.</ref> and claimed that the game, using the same engine as its predecessor, would be available by Christmas 1998.<ref>N64 Magazine (UK), Issue 31, August 1999.</ref> The release date gradually slipped but the game continued to be heavily trailed in magazines,<ref>N64 Magazine (UK), Issue 22, December 1998.</ref> with Nintendo Official Magazine predicting that it would be "the best shooting game this century".<ref>Nintendo Official Magazine, Issue 82, July 1999.</ref> A working version of the game appeared at the European Computer Trade Show 1998; N64 Magazine described the preview as having "the kind of attention to detail that had everyone who saw [it] drooling".<ref>N64 Magazine (UK), Issue 21, November 1998.</ref> Shortly before release, Rare unveiled a number of websites for companies in the game's universe, such as datadyne.com, to promote interest in the game's storyline.<ref>Internet Archive entry for dataDyne.com, URL retrieved 7th April 2006.</ref>
The first release of the game came on May 22, 2000 in North America. Nintendo arranged a number of publicity stunts to promote the release, including hiring model Michele Merkin to do in-store promotions as a real life Joanna Dark.<ref>IGN on the in-store promotions. URL retrieved 7th April 2006.</ref> Total sales for the game reached 1.3 million copies in the United States.<ref>N64 sales chart (via archive.org). URL retrieved 2nd April 2006.</ref> The European release followed on 30 June, and finally the game was released in Japan on 21 October. The Japanese launch was a success, with the sale of 35,000 copies in the first week,<ref>n-sider.com on Japanese sales. URL retrieved 2nd April 2006.</ref> and 77,000 in total. Worldwide, Perfect Dark sold 2.5 million copies.<ref>Revolution Europe on worldwide sales of Perfect Dark. URL retrieved 10th April 2006.</ref>