Perfect Dark Review – Definitive 50 N64 Game #5

The list so far: The Definitive 50 N64 Games

Following GoldenEye’s blow-out success, the obvious choice for Rare would have been to continue with the Bond license. But the team opted to follow the game up with something that would be wholly its own creation – and gave us Perfect Dark.

Imagine a complete game overflowing with features and content. Then double it. That’s Perfect Dark. The game includes both a lengthy and challenging campaign and an outlandishly feature-packed multiplayer.

Let’s start with the campaign. Perfect Dark follows one crazy plot to run players through its dizzying variety of levels. You play as Agent Joanna Dark of the Carrington Institute in the rapidly approaching future of 2023. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll go from infiltrating office towers to exploring Area 51 to fighting through alien ships and alien worlds. The gameplay itself is as varied as the settings: stealth, and speed, and knowing when to use each are required.

Of course, following in the tradition of GoldenEye, all of these missions can be tackled on three difficulties. And I’m not just talking lower health and tougher enemies here. No, additional mission objectives make playing at the higher difficulties feel like completely new experiences. Throw in the quest for unlockable cheats earned from fast completion times, and you’ve got one seriously long-lasting experience.

The missions don’t have to be played solo, either. The option for co-op is self explanatory, but there’s also a counter-operative mode. Here, one person plays as Joanna Dark, while the second fights against her by controlling her numerous adversaries.

Then there’s the Combat Simulator, this is where the traditional multiplayer happens. I don’t even know where to begin here, the options are dizzying.

One of the absolute best aspects of it all are the Simulants. You can add up to 8 in a combat scenario and set their difficulties – anywhere from the appropriately named Meat Sim to Dark Sim. You can even give them special behaviours to follow. There are FistSims, VengeSims, RocketSims, and so many more. Setting yourself and your friends up against various simulant combinations will completely change the way you play.

Levels include utter classics like Area 52 and Skedar, as well as three of GoldenEye’s best stages: Complex, Temple, and Facility (or Felicity as it’s called here).

Weapons are available in pre-arranged sets, or you can customize the selection however you want. Weapons range from the more typical near-future human guns to the completely outlandish alien stuff. Most famous among these are the wall-penetrating Farsight and the Laptop Gun, which can be deployed as a sentry. Did I mention that all the weapons have primary and secondary modes too? Yeah.

The Combat Simulator also includes 30 Challenges, special pre-set combat scenarios that you can play through on your own or with friends.

Across its modes, Perfect Dark smartly embraces and builds upon the controls and gameplay style of GoldenEye. Coming from the older game, it all feels very familiar, but there are little touches everywhere that make it smoother, quicker, smarter.

Admittedly though, Perfect Dark isn’t quite, well, perfect. For all of its incredible achievements and overflowing content, the game does pay a price.

Despite requiring the Expansion Pak for nearly all of its features, Perfect Dark still suffers from a frequently choppy frame rate – especially when occasional blur effects are thrown on top of its already hardware-pushing graphics. The co and counter-op modes are also just a bit much for the N64 to handle.

Although work on a Perfect Dark sequel, or prequel, began on the GameCube and was later moved to the original XBox, the franchise didn’t get another entry until the 360’s launch, with Perfect Dark Zero. A remake of the original game was later brought to XBLA as well. Thankfully, fans didn’t have to wait nearly so long for a spiritual successor.

During its development, several of Perfect Dark’s top developers left the studio to form Free Radical Design. It was this developer that gave us the PS2 exclusive TimeSplitters, and its sequels across PS2, XBox, and GameCube. Sadly, that studio was later bought by Crytek and has since been shut down.

For now, both the Perfect Dark franchise and the spirit it inherited from GoldenEye, appear to be dormant.

Tell me about your favourite Perfect Dark memories in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share this video, like this video, and subscribe. Check back next week for entry #4 on the Definitive 50 N64 games!