Perfect Dark (N64)

If you've never played Perfect Dark, you're MISSING OUT! Seriously, it's THE BEST first-person shooter ever made!

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  • System: Nintendo 64
  • Genre: First-person shooter
  • Max Players: 1-4
  • Age Rating: Mature 17+
  • US Release: May 2000
  • Developer: Rare
  • Publisher: Nintendo

For those of you who’ve read the previous issues, you know that I put Perfect Dark very high in my Top Ten games listing of a few months back. I’m hoping this review gives a more thorough explanation of why this game rocks my world.

I bought this game when I was going through a very heavy stoner stage of my life (which I’ve since completely quit!). My day consisted of the following: wake up, have bongs, play Perfect Dark with my fiancée, go to work. Come home for lunch, have bongs, play Perfect Dark, go back to work. Come home, have many more bongs, play MUCH more Perfect Dark, go to bed. Repeat until the weekend, which would consist of bongs and Perfect Dark. That went on for over a year…non-stop.

If you’ve never played Perfect Dark, you’re MISSING OUT! Seriously, it’s THE BEST first-person shooter ever made! If you can grab a copy, DO IT!


If you don’t know the story, here’s the lowdown: You play as Joanna Dark, who’s a part of The Carrington Institute (good guys). Joanna is sent in to rescue Dr. Caroll (a gravity defying laptop… don’t ask) from within the massive dataDyne Corporation building. The plot then thickens as it becomes apparent that dataDyne is involved with the government in covering up alien activity (you are required to protect and escort one said alien later on in the game). It’s not the most imaginative plot, what with evil corporations, government cover-ups and a secret agent to save the day…but hey…it’s better than most FPS’s!

Obviously the graphics are a bit dated compared to what’s around today, but it was released in 2000, so that’s to be expected. For its time though, the graphics are astounding. It even came with a memory expansion pack for the N64 to beef up the quality, though you can’t play the main single-player game without it. You can select what aspect ratio you want and whether you want normal quality or hi-res. There are some truly beautiful effects done with the lighting, as well as some astounding transparency. It ain’t Doom 3, but damn, it’s pretty.

Rare used MPEG Layer-3 Compression for the huge amount of speech within the game (well, huge for a cartridge-based game), which is all high quality considering they’d have used a low bit-rate. The music is the usual MIDI fare but DAMN is it good. Utterly atmospheric, very hummable, and it changes to suit the mood, something that can’t be done with a CD soundtrack, for example.

The main gameplay is where this title really shines. There’s just SO MUCH to do in here! There’s the main game, which you will not be able to stop playing…and I’m being serious. I completed the first mission, then went on to do the next five in the one sitting. It was only when I realized how hungry I was that I reluctantly had to stop. The storyline immediately sucks you in. Speaking of which, the storyline is immensely enhanced by the in-game cut scenes, which give it an almost movie-like feel.

The amount and variety of the main levels is astounding. It starts with you making your way out of the enormous dataDyne Corporation building, with an alien spacecraft, UFO crash sites, the bottom of the ocean, and a futuristic Chicago, to name a few others.

There’s also a few rooms in which you learn and hone the skills necessary to be the Perfect Agent. There’s a shooting range for you to get your weaponry skills up to speed, a combat simulator to teach you how to fight unarmed and also training on the numerous “gadgets” that you will come to use (including a remote spy camera called CamSpy).

Then we come to the biggie, the make-or-break element of a FPS: multiplayer.


In its heyday, GoldenEye 007 could not be removed from the N64, as multiplayer would NOT STOP; it would carry on late into the night. Then, along came Perfect Dark. Each match could be customized whichever way you wanted. The range of weapons and levels was incredible. And the statistics that could be reviewed were amazing.

Think you got a couple of headshots during that last round? Have a look at the stats. Wonder who that bastard was that killed you nine times? Check the stats. Curious about exactly how far your character has traveled? The stats will tell you exactly how many kilometres/miles your character has run. It’s this sort of attention to detail that sets this game apart from the other FPS’s, even to this day.

Haven’t got any other mates with an N64 controller? Haven’t got any other mates? Multiplayer is still going to rock your world. Rare included bots (up to 11 bots, making a max of 12 people running around for deathmatch), so don’t you worry. You can also customize the bots. Want one psychopathic bot and ten pacifists? It can be done. You can run around kicking the hell out of the pacifists, but as soon as you run into the psycho, forget it, unless you are THE master of this game, nine times out of ten, you’re toast.

Another thing that really kicks ass with this game is the Laptop Gun. With each weapon you have a primary function and a secondary function. The Laptop Gun can be turned into a sentry gun as its secondary function. Think about it. You’ve got someone chasing after you, or you barricade yourself in a room. Why not throw the sentry gun on the wall so as soon as the poor bugger runs by, they get shot to pieces, without you having to risk your precious energy?

Seriously, there is not one negative thing to say about this game, except maybe that my analog joystick was a bit knackered after so much use (and several bashings from multiplayer losses). Also, the fact that you require the Expansion Pak to play the single-player mode might prove annoying for second-hand buyers, who might not know it’s a necessity.

  • GameCola Rates This Game: 9 - Excellent
  • Score Breakdown

  • Fun Score: 9.8
  • Audio Score: 9.1
  • Visuals Score: 9.6
  • Controls Score: 9.5
  • Replay Value: 9.8
2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 102 votes, average: 5.00 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)

About the Contributor

From 2004 to 2005

Matt Wright is a former staff member from GameCola's early days as a monthly email newsletter.

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