Perfect Dark

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Perfect Dark
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Perfect Dark U.S. N64 game cover

Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Rare
Release date(s) May 22, 2000
Genre First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature (M), BBFC: 18
Platform(s) Nintendo 64

Perfect Dark (パーフェクト・ダーク in Japan) is a first-person shooter video game for the Nintendo 64 game console; developed and published by Rare. In Perfect Dark, players assume the role of special agent Joanna Dark, an operative for the Carrington Institute.

Perfect Dark is frequently described as a "spiritual sequel" to GoldenEye 007, a game developed previously by Rare in 1997. Although it does not feature the James Bond license, the gameplay styles are extremely similar and it runs on an enhanced version of the same game engine. Perfect Dark was released on May 22, 2000, fairly late in the lifespan of the N64, and perhaps for this reason it failed to have the same impact as its predecessor, despite being in many ways technically superior.

Some of the improvements on the GoldenEye engine included the addition of a secondary firing mode to almost all weapons, the ability to fall off some ledges, a more advanced lighting system (allowing gunfire to illuminate rooms) and the ability to disarm guards or shoot their guns out of their hands. The inclusion of multiplayer computer-controlled "bots" of variable skill levels was also a step up from its predecessor. Also like GoldenEye, enemies had heads that were randomly picked when the level was loaded, but now enemies' heights also vary.

The new enhancements required more RAM than GoldenEye, and the N64 Expansion Pak was required for most features of the game to be accessible (including the one player "solo missions" story mode).

A 2D Game Boy Color game also called Perfect Dark was also released in the same quarter as the N64 version. The two games could share data by utilizing the N64-Game Boy Transfer Pak. However, the Game Boy version bore no resemblance to the original, nor did it achieve any measure of the success. The storyline of the Game Boy version also conflicts in several areas with the N64 version.

Rare has announced that they will be releasing a sequel, Perfect Dark Zero for the Xbox 360.


Single player

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Screenshot from the first level of Perfect Dark.

In the single player game there are three distinct difficulty levels:

  • Agent - this is the easiest difficulty setting - high health, more ammo, very effective auto-aiming (if it is used) and few objectives.
  • Special Agent - this is the mid-range difficulty setting - average health, average ammo and several objectives.
  • Perfect Agent - this is the toughest difficulty setting - low health, less ammo, less effective auto-aiming (if it is used) and many objectives.

There is also a co-operative mode where two players play the single player missions together, one player as Joanna Dark and one as the blonde Velvet Dark or other unlockable characters. Perfect Dark included a variation of the co-operative concept which as of 2005 is still not seen in other games: counter-operative. In counter-operative mode, one player takes the role of Joanna Dark, while the other plays as a random enemy - a security guard, a soldier, or whatever kind of opponent Joanna faces in the chosen level. Joanna must try to complete her objectives as usual, while her enemies must kill her before she does so. Player-controlled enemies have far less health than Joanna, but this is balanced by the ability of the counter-operative to respawn as long as there are other enemies left in the level, possessing and "jumping" between bodies in a similar way to the Agents of The Matrix. Despite its innovation, some players complain that this mode is the setting in which the game's framerate problems are most obvious.


In the year 2023, a young, new secret agent of the Carrington Institute (Joanna Dark) is sent to infiltrate the laboratories of the multinational corporation dataDyne, a rival of the Institute, to rescue a scientist calling himself Dr. Carroll. He had raised objections to the 'morally dubious' activities engaged in by the CEO, Cassandra de Vries and the company. dataDyne were planning to 'mentally restructure' him, until he found the work ethical. Dr. Carroll contacted the institute to ask them to get him out. When Joanna gains access to the extensive laboratory complex hidden below the dataDyne skyscraper, and finally finds Dr. Carroll, it turns out he is in fact an artificial intelligence construct. Two days after the operation is completed, Daniel Carrington (the founder of the Carrington Institute) and the AI are at Carrington's private villa discussing what the AI knows, when the villa is attacked by dataDyne forces. Carrington taken hostage in the basement and the construct is returned to dataDyne hands.

After rescuing Daniel, Joanna has to travel to Chicago where she records a secret meeting between Cassandra de Vries, Trent Easton — head of the National Security Agency — and a Scandinavian man nicknamed Mr. Blonde. They are plotting to replace the President of the United States with a clone. Joanna also retrieves the AI's emotional matrix, though the construct itself is in a more secure location. Though naturally worried about this, Carrington assigns her to infiltrate Area 51, where several members of the Maian race have been captured (the Maians being your typical "grey" aliens). This revelation inspires a fair bit of shock from Joanna. It is there she meets Protector One of the Maian Ambassador to Earth, who calls himself Elvis (he is a bit of a Terra-phile). Jonathan, another Carrington agent, allows her and Elvis to escape the installation.

At this point in the game, players were able to choose as to whether Jonathan would survive the escape from Area 51 or not, via two options. A Maian spacecraft in a hidden hanger is only a single-seater, and it would be a push to fit in another, especially a human. Either Joanna or Jonathan have to stay behind and use a nearby hoverbike to escape, but this would mean a very dangerous route through the corridors of the installation. If the player leaves on the Maian craft, Jonathan will be unsuccessful in his escape. In comparison, the player could choose the route of the hoverbike, securing Jonathan's life but at greater difficulty.

After Area 51 is resolved one or way another, Joanna learns that dataDyne has made an agreement with the Skedar, a belligerent alien race of warriors and the sworn enemies of the Maians. The Skedar will give dataDyne enough of their technology to make dataDyne the leading weapons corporation on the planet. In exchange, dataDyne must build a sapient AI with advanced password cracking and language abilities (this was Dr.Carroll) — the Skedar intend to access an ancient bio-ship hidden underneath the Pacific Ocean, which has a powerful weapon. Because of the depth of the ship, dataDyne has decided it will require the Pelagic II, an advanced deep-sea research vessel, with a submarine dock, under the control of the American navy. In order to gain a lease on the vessel, the President's approval will be required, and with the help of Easton, they intend to assassinate him and then replace him with the aforementioned clone.

Joanna now has to protect the President from Trent Easton's forces as well as various Skedar agents in human guise — more specifically, blonde Scandinavian males. She is tasked with infiltrating an Alaskan airbase and then Air Force One, where the President is waiting before being flown to an important meeting in Oslo, Norway. Disguised as a stewardess, she approaches the President and presents to him a recording of the Chicago meeting. Just a moment later, a Skedar spacecraft links with the plane, and a firefight ensues. Joanna escorts the President to an escape pod, then uses an explosive to destroy the link with the spacecraft. The link is only weakened, however, and when the weapons on his ship fail, Elvis is forced to use his ship to ram the link, resulting in the crash landing of all vessels involved.

Now lost in the middle of the Alaskan Bush, Joanna recovers near the plane's crash site to find the area crawling with Easton's henchmen as well as Skedar agents. She finds the President's escape pod, and activates a radio signal calling for help. Joanna then takes out the clone and the Skedar ship, which is broacasting a powerful jamming signal. She then saves the President and brings him back to Elvis, who had crashed in another location. They then hold out until help arrives. In the meantime, Mr. Blonde tells Trent that he no longer has any further need for him, in light of his failure. He then reveals his true form and kills Easton.

In a desperate move, dataDyne and the Skedar simply take the Pelagic II by force before the President can return and order the ship fortified. Elvis and Joanna take charge of the ship, but not before the Skedar gain access to the massive bio-ship on the ocean floor. After battles with dataDyne, the Skedar, and the ship's own internal defences, the AI is found. It is being used to break the codes so that the Skedar can gain control of the ships powerful weapon, the 'weak nuclear force decoupler' which can destroy the fundamental weak nuclear forces that keep molecules bound. The Skedar intend to test fire it on Earth first, once they leave the planet, leaving it as an expanding dust cloud. Joanna replaces the emotional matrix, and the restored Dr.Carroll personality, instead of handing over access to the Skedar, initiates the ships self-destruct sequence, knowing it must sacrifice itself in the process. It gives Joanna and Elvis enough time to escape.

In revenge for De Vries' incompetence, Mr. Blonde attacks the dataDyne headquarters. He plants a bomb, then captures de Vries and takes her to a Skedar battleship above Earth's atmosphere, where she will face "righteous Skedar justice". The bomb destroys the skyscraper, the underground research labs, and any evidence that the Skedar had double-crossed the corporation.

A few days afterwards, Joanna and Daniel Carrington are preparing for a formal first contact meeting with the President and the Maians at the White House. Carrington reveals that the institute was actually founded with the secret purpose to accelerate friendly contact between the two races (an unlockable backstory description mentions that Daniel had first contacted Maians that were orbiting earth 38 years previously, and used his extensive R&D holdings to gradually filter some Maian technology into the public domain via the institute). As they are leaving, the Skedar and dataDyne forces attack and take hostages. Joanna (and if you chose to let him live, Jonathan) combat the attackers, freeing as many hostages as possible and destroying sensitive information before it can fall into enemy hands. She disarms a bomb, but is then captured, and taken to the same holding cell on the Skedar battleship as Cassandra.

Cassandra, being an older woman with no combat training, knows she cannot possibly personally gain her revenge on the Skedar. As such, she sacrifices her life as a distraction which allows Joanna to escape — and allows Cassandra to get her revenge after death. Joanna lowers the battleship's shields, and rendezvous with a Maian boarding party, including Elvis. They take control of the ship, and Elvis discovers the ship was headed to the most holy planet in the Skedar religion, the planet of the Battle Shrine. The location of the planet had never been found by the Maians. They had been fighting the Skedar for centuries, and had achieved a ceasefire, but still had to remain on guard due to frequent Skedar terrorist activities. Destroying the shrine and terminating the high priest would crush the morale of the Skedar and bring about true peace.

Elvis alerts the Maian fleet, and Joanna descends upon the temple, where she must mark parts of an old shielding system, so that Elvis can bombard them to ensure the fleet can cause maximum damage. She then eliminates the high priest of the Skedar. The Maian bombardment begins, and she barely escapes with her life; Elvis calls a halt to the bombardment just long enough to find Joanna. She is stuck under a piece of rubble, struggling to get free. Elvis is about to pull her out when she asks for his gun. She then uses it to convince the last dying but determined Skedar warrior to let go of her foot. The two escape, and the Skedar morale is crushed.


The 'Combat Simulator' has six game modes:

  • Combat - Same as the traditional deathmatch
  • Capture The Case - Perfect Dark's equivalent of Capture the Flag
  • Hold The Briefcase - Take a briefcase and survive with it for as long as possible. One point is received for every 30 seconds the case is held. If you are killed, you drop the briefcase and the person who killed you can pick it up.
  • King of the Hill - One area in the map is "the hill". Locate that area, and stay there for 20 seconds for 2 points. Once this is done, the hill moves to a new location.
  • Hacker Central - Somewhere on the map, a data uplink can be found. The objective of Hacker Central is to capture the data uplink and use it to hack a computer system which can also be found on the map. The data uplink is moved to a new location when the player carrying it is killed. When hacking the computer system, one cannot use weapons, and is thus a sitting duck.
  • Pop a Cap - One player is "the victim". All other players gain two points for killing the victim. The victim gains a point every minute alive.

More weapons and levels are unlocked as one beats the "challenges", pre-set games against bots. Challenges are a good start to learn the multiplayer modes and weapons. There are 30 challenges in all. If one can beat some of the highest challenges, the most challenging bots, Darksims, are unlocked.

There are many improvements over the GoldenEye multiplayer mode. Almost all the single player weapons are available, with the exception of the unlockable GoldenEye guns and the Psychosis Gun. The weapons can be combined in any way, or one can choose to play with one of the pre-set weapon sets. Some features, such as one-hit-kills, were fully fledged modes in GoldenEye, and so couldn't be combined with some other settings. Others, like no-radar or turbo mode, were cheats that had to be unlocked in single player first. In Perfect Dark, these are options that can be toggled on and off, allowing a much more customisable game experience.

Players can have multiplayer profiles separate to their single player profiles, that are updated after each game. Based on certain statistics, the player occasionally rises in rank. When the player reaches the best rank, Perfect, they receive a username and password (see the Easter eggs/oddities section).


Perfect Dark supports bots, or Simulants as they are called in the game. The bots have six levels of difficulty: Meat, Easy, Normal, Hard, Perfect, and Dark. Meatsims are moving targets which can often be found running into walls and bumping into each other, and DarkSims can achieve headshots from any distance. Bots can also be of one of several special types such as the RocketSim, which favors explosives; the JudgeSim, who strives to balance the game by targetting whoever is in the lead; the SpeedSim, who can run particularly quickly; or the VengeSim, who tries to get revenge on the last player who killed them.

During team matches, a player can give game-specific orders to the simulants on their team, such as to "Defend Base" in a Capture the Case match. Other commands include ordering the simulants to focus their attacks on one member of the opposing team, or to follow the human player around and act as bodyguards.

The most easily exploitable flaw in the artificial intelligence of the simulants is that they are perfectly willing to walk into enemy fire. Sims at the highest levels have perfect accuracy regardless of distance, so the best tactics for engaging them is to always fight in close quarters and to begin firing at the simulant before it even appears on the screen. Simply camping in a corner and firing when anyone approaches your position can be a much more effective strategy than aggressively pursuing the simulants. Gameplay against humans tends to reward more aggressive strategies in racking up as many kills as possible since players continuously respawn, but gameplay against high-level simulants rewards a very defensive strategy that tries to limit confrontation with opponents so it will always be on the player's terms and to the player's advantage.


The weapons of Perfect Dark include handguns, rifles, and sub-machine guns, a shotgun, rocket launchers, combat knives, and a grenade launcher. Almost all weapons in the game have two modes of fire, interchangeable by holding the B Button down on the controller for approximately one second. Also, six exotic alien weapons available, three Maian and three Skedar. One of the Maian weapons, the Farsight XR-20, is a highly interesting weapon, most likely inspired by the movie Eraser. It essentially a rifle combined with an X-ray scanner which allows it to see through walls. Because the rifle is extremely powerful, it will kill any unshielded entity in one shot, and pass through walls without leaving a trace. It also has a "target locator" mode, which can find possible targets. However, when using this firemode, the user is a sitting duck because he/she can't see anything. The tracking is also rather slow. The Farsight can be analogized to Quake's Railgun. It is extremely powerful, but only in the hands of a steady trigger finger. In either firing mode, you need a precise aim, even though Perfect Dark features optional aim assistance. The Farsight was originally envisioned as an anti-camper weapon, but actually had the opposite effect, and encouraged the practice among some gamers.

The Mauler is a small Skedar handgun that holds 20 rounds. The Primary mode fires small energy bursts. These are respectably destructive, but pale in comparison to the Secondary mode. When this is activated, the Mauler will load a charge that disperses 5 units of energy (instead of the single unit consumed in the primary fire) given adequate time to complete the charge. This shot can take down anyone that is unshielded, and sometimes even somebody who is. The compromise is struck by the amount of ammunition onhand and the stringent aim requirements. The Slayer rocket launcher has a second function that allows the rocket to be flown by camera.

Some of the human weapons are also quite versatile. For example, the RCP120 has a secondary mode which allows the carrier to become invisible, but consumes ammo at a very high rate. Another example is the Devestator grenade launcher which can launch sticky grenades, which will attach to a wall or ceiling for a few seconds before dropping to the floor and detonating - an effective technique against pursuers. The secondary function of the hand grenades, 'Proximity Pinball', causes them to bounce around erratically when thrown, only detonating when in range of a target. The secondary function of the Dragon assault rifle allows it to be thrown to the ground, whereupon it effectively becomes a proximity mine, exploding as soon as anyone tries to pick it up. The Psychosis gun, the only weapon (besides the unlockable GoldenEye guns) without a second function, can turn an enemy against his fellows in single player. It does not, however, work on neutrals/friendlies, nor certain enemies in some maps, such as Cassandra's personal bodyguards.

Some weapons rely on brute force, for example the Reaper (a Skedar weapon) which is probably the only true machine gun of Perfect Dark. It has three rotating barrels and a huge ammunition capacity of 200 rounds. Because of the rotating barrels, the fire rate increases the longer one is firing. The maximum fire rate is 1800rpm. Because the weapon is designed for a creature with the strength of a Skedar, the accuracy is poor in the hands of a Human or Maian. Another brute force weapon is the Cyclone sub-machine gun. It has a secondary fire mode that shoots all of its 50 rounds in approximately 1.2 seconds, giving it devastating abilities.


There was one feature initially planned for the game that was scrapped in the final version — Perfect Face, which would have allowed players with a Transfer Pak and a Game Boy Camera to take a picture of a person's face, then convert the picture into a mask that could be applied to the player's character. When Rare was asked why this feature was not implemented, they initially claimed that it had turned out to be more complex that originally thought, and thus dropped it. However, it later came out that Rare had in fact gotten Perfect Face to work in an earlier build of the game, and had dropped it due to concerns about public backlash over violence in video games. The rationale was that violence against the faces of real people was more serious than violence against those of fictional people.

Easter eggs, oddities and glitches

Like most N64-era Rare games, Perfect Dark has no shortage of easter eggs and strange objects/areas to fuel the exploration efforts and wild speculation of many gamers. One of the most notorious (and earliest known) among these is that a piece of cheese is hidden in every single player map. It could not be found by normal means in some levels though, as some levels use different portions of one big map area. Area 51 and the Carrington Institute are examples of this. It was alleged that these were supposed to be used to unlock cheats, but this is not the case. Their true purpose remains a mystery, but they were probably included purely to interest the more curious gamers.

Another oddity is that in some single player levels, locked off parts of the map are used to store models used in cutscenes before they are needed. The player can see the models, but often only by using cheats. However, in the third level, if the player gets to the lowest accessible office floor early enough, they can kill an enemy that drops a keycard to Cassandra's office. This card also allows the player to open the front entrance to the skyscraper (and fall to their death in a void if they go too far), and open a back room. In this level, the back room on the ground floor is used to store some models for the end of level cutscene. There, the player can attack the models (they can't be killed, but do show signs of damage). These effects show up during the cutscene. The fact that the key unlocks the door and that there are several ammo boxes present suggests that Rare (or just a mischievous mapper) wanted the player to get a look in the room. Once again this had the effect of causing a lot of speculation and discussion on message boards.

Finally, there was the mystery of the username "Entropic Decay" and password "Zero-Tau". These are given out when a player finally achieves the best rank in multiplayer, Perfect: 1. The meaning of this has never been revealed, and caused months of discussion on messageboards. The most likely reason for their inclusion was that they were intended to be used on a Perfect Dark-related website set up by Rare.

In some cases, people from Rare have actually 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".

Like GoldenEye, there are numerous strange glitches as well, that only added to the mystery of the game. For example, on extremely rare occasions a random enemy in the map may start running through the map and killing his fellows for no apparent reason. These traitorous enemies became known in some circles as Janus, after the character from the GoldenEye movie and game, whose name came from the two-faced Roman god.

Ironically, although the game contains numerous glitches and oddities that enticed players to explore every inch of the game, and sometimes (as in the case of the cutscene model storage areas), gave a peek at the inner workings, some of the lead designers have on several occasions stated their annoyance at people using devices like the GameShark to hack the game, even for something so innocent as flying through a level.

Not so much an oddity as a behaviour of the level design, some separate areas of some levels intersect one another. That is, if they were built in real life, a couple rooms in various levels would actually be stuck through one another. A good example is in the 'Assault Ship' level. Early on, the player and Elvis each take one of two lifts from the hangar. In the room in which they arrive, if the player has an X-Ray scanner or a Farsight (which has a scanner built in), they can see the bottom of the ships engine core extends down into the room. But it is not actually visibly there normally, nor can it impede the player.


Much like its predecessor, GoldenEye, the cheats in Perfect Dark are primarily unlocked by beating certain levels on certain difficulties in under certain times. A few can also be unlocked by using the Game Boy game with an N64-Game Boy transfer pak while running the N64 game. Unlike GoldenEye, however, there are no button codes to get cheats (or at least none have been found, despite the best efforts of GameShark hackers). Also, some settings that were unlockable cheats in GoldenEye are now standard options, such as replacing bullet holes with paintballs, and in multiplayer, faster player movement and the option to turn off the radar.

There are many more 'just for fun' cheats than in GoldenEye. The mode Perfect Darkness, makes all levels pitch dark, but gives the player a pair of night vision goggles. Another example is Team Heads Only, which limits the randomised enemy heads to only the heads based on members of the development team.

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