Perfect Dark: how did Rare’s game revolutionize FPS on the N64?

Play news Perfect Dark: how did Rare’s game revolutionize FPS on the N64?

It was at Game Awards 2020 that the development of a new episode of Perfect Dark was unveiled, a futuristic FPS originally developed by Rare that lit up in the final hours of Nintendo 64. Although the huge dataDyne logo was visible on a time in the video left no doubt about Joanna Dark’s return, it was when the game’s title appeared at the end of the trailer that streamers who broadcast the event excited. It seems that no one was ready to forget the famous spy who ruled the console FPS in the early 2000s before the arrival of a certain Spartan.

007’s years of experience serving a young adventurer

What will definitely be obvious when playing the first part of Perfect Dark (released May 22, 2000 in the US) is how much of Rare’s FPS has similarities to its previous hit title in first person, GoldenEye 007. The affiliation is such that epics by Joanna Dark were sold almost everywhere as being a spiritual sequel to James Bond’s adventures. At the forefront of the development of the two apps, we find Martin Hollis, a talented game designer who refused to participate in the video game adaptation of Tomorrow never dies to take advantage of more creative freedom. The British studio wanted to tell a story that took place in a dystopian future, whose influence spanned from Blade Runner to X-Files. Who no longer had much to do with the spy in Her Majesty’s service, you will agree.

Perfect Dark: how did Rare's game revolutionize FPS on the N64?Perfect Dark: how did Rare's game revolutionize FPS on the N64?

It is therefore the team behind GoldenEye 007 that gave birth to Joanna Dark, a secret agent sent to investigate the questionable actions of far-reaching organizations. That’s why we find many similarities on the side of the gameplay between the Bond and Dark fairy tales, whether in the opponents’ artificial intelligence, in the way difficulty adds goals or in maneuverability. It is worth remembering that the game engine that drives this little world is an improved version of the GoldenEye 007. The years of production spent on FPS with Agent 007 have in any case enabled the team to familiarize themselves with the game in first-person view while sprouting different ideas.. They will mostly find themselves in Perfect Dark.

Perfect Dark: how did Rare's game revolutionize FPS on the N64?Perfect Dark: how did Rare's game revolutionize FPS on the N64?

The extra little things

Perfect Dark: how did Rare's game revolutionize FPS on the N64?

Perfect Dark is often referred to as the futuristic GoldenEye. See it as a simple “reskin”Of Bond’s adventures, however, would be a big mistake. Despite a tumultuous development caused by the departure of several leaders (back to founding Free Radical), study leaders stacked the odds in their favor for Joanna Dark to hit hard. The Stamper brothers, then bosses of Rare, made sure that their artists were not pressured by not setting a production deadline. The big bosses wanted their employees “give the best of themselves“to deliver a work”as innovative and as good as the GoldenEye 007”, As Régis Monterrin tells in The History of Rare Vol.2 (p.157). A risky game that paid off.

The developers took advantage of this new playground, which is not subject to the Jame Bond license, to develop original weapons with mostly secondary fire, and especially larger environments teeming with details. Joanna Dark had the ability to peek and she had fun gadgets like the infamous mini camera to implement. The project was so ambitious that Expansion Pak, a small card to be inserted into the N64 to double RAM, was mandatory to launch the game’s campaign.. Graphically, the software was simply one of the most beautiful Nintendo 64 games.

A multi like no other

The element that really inscribed Perfect Dark in the pantheon of FPS on consoles, it is its multiplayer at the same time extremely complete and avant-garde. First of all, the 17 levels of the campaign could be experienced by two thanks to a rather innovative split-screen collaboration mode at the moment. Then the mode “Counter Operation”(Or enemy) allowed a player to incarnate an opponent normally controlled by the machine in the levels of the single player. His goal? Eliminate his buddy who is trying to complete the mission. In case of death, J2 reappeared in the skin of another character to fight Joanna again, a bit like Agent Smith in The Matrix. Finally, there was obviously a more classic mode like any man for himself, except that here bots could be integrated into the game, which was not the case in most games of the genre released on Nintendo 64 or Playstation.

The captivating story, on-point gameplay (for now) and more than complete multiplayer integrating bots as well as original modes have helped Perfect Dark establish itself as one of Rare’s biggest hits on Nintendo 64. A referendum that will motivate Rare to produce a new episode intended for the GameCube, which will finally hit the Xbox 360 in 2005, under the name Perfect Dark Zero. Unfortunately, this opus directed by Chris Tilston will not experience the expected success.

It took 15 years for Microsoft to formalize the development of a new episode, orchestrated this time by The Initiative instead of Rare. If you are considering (re) discovering Rare’s work, a remastered version is available on the Xbox Store as well as in Rare Replay.

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