Welcome back, Joanna | The Return of Perfect Dark

At the Game Awards, The Initiative finally lifted the lid on their first project. For many gamers in the world today, the excitement expressed by “old people” like myself at this new announcement may perhaps be difficult to understand.

I thought I’d dive in and explain a little bit about why I’m excited about stepping back into the shoes of Joanna Dark.

Future Perfect

It’s been 20 or so years since the original Perfect Dark, a first-person Spy thriller with (spoiler) aliens in it, created by Rare as unofficial sequel to Goldeneye.

The original Perfect Dark released in 2000 on the N64. It was a staggering achievement in many ways, featuring fantastic graphics (for the time), a great campaign, some unique game modes and a fantastic split screen multiplayer.

What’s New

The new entry in the Perfect Dark series is being developed by The Initiative, an incredibly talented group of developers. Among them are studio head Darrell Gallagher, who is best known for being head of studio for 2013’s Tomb Raider, and Drew Murray, Insomniac alumni who was the director for Sunset Overdrive. There are also an impressive collection of developers from studios like Sony Santa Monica, Naughty Dog, Rockstar and more.

The talent is apparent, but what exactly do they plan to do with the Perfect Dark IP? The Initiative recently gave us a first look at what they are building, and it looks and sounds extremely promising.

A World Revealed

The trailer introduces us to a world in jeopardy – floods due to global warming, wild fires, storms (perhaps 2020 never ended in this universe). It’s narrated by an unknown character, but if I were a betting man, I’d assume this to be the new voice of Daniel Carrington, founder of the Carrington Institute – if you’ve never played Perfect Dark before, this organisation is outwardly a private research and development centre, but they exist to protect what matters, at all costs. I imagine this aspect to have been seriously fleshed out in this return to the universe.

We then zoom down to a city, seemingly in Egypt as this mystery narrator tells us that corporations, when faced with global catastrophe, gave us solutions – a ‘better world’ and due to the crisis, humanity welcomed this implied infringing on our civil liberties and freedom, as well as manipulation of nature itself with open arms.

But these powerful organisations are hiding something. The trailer seems be viewed through the lens of some sort of drone or spy-cam, and it leads us through the streets of the city, face recognition software working overtime, into a futuristic skyscraper of sorts – and it’s here where things get super interesting.

As we wind through, we first see evidence of the chaos inside (presumably there’s been some shooty bang bangs going in there), as fires rage through corridors. The drone makes it’s way through, (and past a great call out to the previous games in the series), the iconic ‘laptop gun’ in turret mode stuck to a wall nearby, as it takes automated pot-shots at our drone.

We zoom past and enter a nearby laboratory, where some sort of fast growing plant experiment has been let loose in the lab, and we see fauna growing at an accelerated pace as it takes over the room, bursting through glass and rapidly overtaking equipment. I expect this element to translate into the game in some fashion, be it obstacle or otherwise.

The drone bursts out into the open air, and it’s here where I first let out a squeal of excitement as the DataDyne logo is revealed at the top of the building. We fly over a dead merc or security guard on the roof itself and finally meet our heroine.

Joanna Dark stands, facing away from the camera, gun in hand as she stares out across the city towards the great pyramids.

“Did you find the answers you were looking for, Agent Dark?

“Not yet. This is just the beginning.”

Picking up the Mantle

Outside of the main trailer we saw at The Game Awards, The Initiative also released a video where the developers of the game discuss their vision for Perfect Dark and gave a few hints about what the game will be like.

The developers seem to really like the idea of “Secret Agents”. They clearly want to make a huge, ambitious, blockbuster spy game.

There will seemingly be a clear focus on guns and gadgets, as well as what it feels like to be a spy. One developer discussed the idea of “spy fighting” (whatever that means) and how they can differentiate that from the standard combat you might normally see in your average first person shooters.

It’s suggested there is also a focus on sliding and vaulting mechanics, which sounds similar to something like Mirrors Edge. They want the game to feel physical and want the movement to feel unique to how a spy would move.

I also love the idea of “eco-sci-fi”, a world in which the problems that are already so apparent in nature across the globe have come to pass, but science has saved us…at a cost.

The Developers are in unanimous agreement that they need to respect the legacy of the series while also moving it forward. There are things possible in 2020 that were not possible decades ago. Whether it will retain the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the original game remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – Joanna Dark is going to return, and we can’t wait to step into her shoes once again.

Jon "Sikamikanico" Clarke

Stuck on this god-forsaken island. Father of two, wishes he could play more games but real life always gets in the way. Prefers shorter and often smarter experiences, but Halo is King.

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