Perfect Dark – Everything We Know

Microsoft’s Perfect Dark franchise is returning with a reboot in the works at one of Microsoft’s newest studios. It’s among the most-anticipated upcoming Xbox games, and while we don’t have all that much to go on at this point, we do know a few key details about the project.

Perfect Dark release date and platforms

There is no release date for the Perfect Dark reboot as of yet, and given the behind-the-scenes reports and staffing changes (more on that below), no one should expect the game to be released anytime soon. The original game was set in the year 2023, so the real 2023 would seemingly be a nice time to launch the game, but that could be wishful thinking. When it is finally ready–assuming Microsoft sees it through to release–the Perfect Dark reboot will presumably be available across Xbox consoles and PC, and also via streaming.

Who’s developing it?

One of Microsoft’s newest studios, The Initiative, is developing the Perfect Dark reboot for Microsoft. In 2021, Microsoft surprised some by announcing a partnership with Tomb Raider studios Crystal Dynamics to jointly develop the game. Crystal Dynamics was later absorbed by Embracer Group, but the company is still working with Microsoft on the Perfect Dark reboot.

How long has it been since the last game?

The Perfect Dark series was created by Rare and debuted in 2000 on Nintendo 64 as a pseudo follow-up to the acclaimed FPS GoldenEye 007. A sequel, Perfect Dark Zero, arrived in 2005 for Xbox 360 but received a much colder reception. A remaster of the original N64 game came to Xbox 360 in 2010.

Official reveal

After some rumors, Microsoft officially announced the Perfect Dark reboot at The Game Awards in 2020 via a brief and cryptic teaser trailer. It was more of a mood piece to help set the tone. Check it out below.

Story and gameplay details

Series hero Joanna Dark is back for another adventure. According to former game director Dan Neuburger, the Perfect Dark reboot aims to fill what he saw as a current gap in the market for a “blockbuster” secret agent game.

Lead writer Christine Thompson said the reboot also has the tricky task of balancing nostalgia with an effort to pursue new ideas. “You have to avoid doing too much devotion to the past but not enough,” Thompson said. “You have to find the right spot in the middle.”

In the reboot, there has been an ecological disaster that affected the world on a global scale, which is quite different from the original game’s narrative. Corporations came in and created new technology to solve the problems. However, the hopeful world on the surface is not all it seems, and there may also be trouble brewing, developers said in a Game Awards 2020 video (below).

Joanna will be able to slide under and jump over obstacles in an effort to highlight her physicality. The game will have camera moves reminiscent of body cameras and Go Pros, too.

Game development is a highly iterative process and plans change all the time, so the way in which Microsoft spoke about the game in 2020 may not still hold today. In the interview video, developers repeatedly referred to its “vision” for the game, and concepts for it, and all of this could change. A number of developers in that video have left Microsoft (more on that later).

It’s coming to Game Pass

Being a first-party title, Perfect Dark is expected to be available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog, just like every other game made by one of Microsoft’s studios.

Shifting staff

According to a March 2022 report, more than 30 people left The Initiative in the preceding 12 months, including game director Dan Neuburger and design director Drew Murray. Former senior developers on the Perfect Dark reboot at The Initiative said they left the team due in part to how there was a “lack of creative autonomy and slow development progress,” according to VGC. The development momentum on the Perfect Dark reboot has been “heavily affected” by the departures, the report said.

The former developers told VGC that some staffers became frustrated by The Initiative’s reported “top-down” approach to decision-making when it comes to design choices.

“According to the former employees, many senior team members were frustrated by this perceived lack of autonomy and didn’t feel heard on key issues such as development priorities, project planning, and team staffing,” the report said.

For its part, The Initiative boss Darrell Gallagher told VGC that the staffing changes are not uncommon for a new studio taking over a “beloved franchise.” Not only that, but Gallagher cited the “global upheaval” over the past couple years as an explanation in part for the staffing changes.

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