Rare’s spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007 took everything that was great about James Bond’s N64 adventure and built on it to deliver one of the most technically advanced and content-rich games on the system. It’s fair to say that Perfect Dark outclasses GoldenEye 007 in virtually every area except for the theme.
Rare had initially planned to create a follow-up to GoldenEye 007 based on the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, but EA beat it to the licence. As a result, the development team opted to continue developing a first-person shooter, albeit one with a completely original character and a futuristic sci-fi setting.
The game’s story mode is set across 17 missions, each of which has specific objectives that need to be completed in addition to the player surviving. This mode can be played co-operatively with another player or an AI-controlled ally. There’s also a counter-operative mode, where one player takes on the role of enemy guards in each mission and must try to stop the other from completing it.
In the story mode, you play as Joanna Dark, an espionage agent who works for the Carrington Institute, which is a research and development centre. The first mission tasks you with infiltrating a shady defence contractor known as DataDyne to extract an important scientist. At first, it looks like nothing more than two rivals competing over technology, but Joanna soon finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy of galactic proportions.
The game includes a multiplayer mode for up to four players, and also supports up to eight AI-controlled “simulants” (for a total of 12 participants in a single match). There is a wealth of customisable options to choose from, including multiple rulesets, weapons, maps, scoring systems, and even a character profile that tracks your stats across all matches.
A Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak is required to play the game’s story mode and the majority of the multiplayer mode. The game also features optional high-resolution graphics, Dolby surround sound, widescreen support and advanced lighting. Unfortunately, this graphical prowess comes at the expense of the frame rate, which can drop considerably when in large environments or lots is happening on screen (even more so in both the co-operative mode and splitscreen multiplayer).
While not as successful as GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark nevertheless sold 3.2 million copies – an impressive number given that the game released late in the N64’s lifespan and it also requires an Expansion Pak.
Perfect Dark received a sequel, called Perfect Dark Zero, in 2005 for the Xbox 360. This game was originally planned for the Nintendo GameCube, but this changed when Microsoft purchased Rare from Nintendo in 2002. In 2010, the original Perfect Dark was remastered for the Xbox 360. This enhanced version features improved graphics and frame rate, as well as support for online multiplayer. It was later re-released as part of the Xbox One game compilation Rare Replay.