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20 Years Later and ‘Perfect Dark’ is Still Better than ‘Goldeneye 007’




Perfect Dark and GoldenEye 007 Represent Two of the Best First-Person Shooters of Their Generation.

One of the most eagerly anticipated games released for the Nintendo 64 was none other than Rare’s spiritual successor to GoldenEye. After Rare and Nintendo lost the rights to the James Bond license in a bidding war with EA, the masterminds at Rare decided to flex their creative muscles with a completely new concept. Without the restrictions of a 007 license, Rare was able to implement whatever crazy ideas they had into the shooter genre. That game was Perfect Dark, and in my opinion, it is bigger, and better, than its groundbreaking predecessorGoldeneye is a classic, and yes without it, Perfect Dark would never exist. It set the bar, and it was hugely important for the genre, especially for console gaming, but just because it came first, doesn’t make it the better game. Goldeneye may have set a standard, but Perfect Dark improves upon it, in every which way possible.

The fact is, after all, these years Perfect Dark holds up whereas Goldeneye looks and feels like a product of its time – which speaks volumes considering the many similarities between the two games. And considering both games were developed by Rare – and both games were released in a span of three years – and, both games were exclusive to the Nintendo 64 – one would assume the differences between the two are slim, but that just isn’t the case. It’s actually quite contrary.


Yes, Perfect Dark borrows many functions from GoldenEye 007, the most obvious being the control scheme and general gameplay, but Perfect Dark also has more weapons, better production value, an original story, slick graphics, a killer soundtrack, tons of cheats, a trove of hidden secrets, a co-op mode, and even a counter-op mode, where two players can work against each other in the main missions. In fact, some would argue that Perfect Dark’s counter-Operative mode is more fun than Goldeneye’s multiplayer mode. In it, the player who chooses to play as the villains are able to respawn as another enemy until the mission is over. GoldenEye will always be fondly remembered for its exciting multiplayer modes, but Rare packed Perfect Dark with so many features, it had to be released with an expansion pack that added RAM to the N64.

The single-player campaign is divided into nine missions comprised of one to three levels each. In every level, the player must complete certain objectives and then exit the stage with the use of numerous high-tech gadgets. If Joanna is killed or fails an objective, the player must start the level again. There are also four bonus missions known as Special Assignments that are unlocked once the player has completed the respective difficulties of the campaign. Each level can be played in three degrees of difficulty, which changes the number of objectives that must be completed. The higher the difficulty setting, the better aim your enemies have, and the fewer chance players have of finding additional ammunition and protective gear. If all the levels are completed on the highest difficulty, an additional setting becomes available, titled “Perfect Dark” which allows players to customize various aspects of enemies, such as their health, their aiming accuracy and the damage they inflict.

GoldenEye 007 has a great multiplayer mode but Perfect Dark features three multiplayer systems. In Perfect Dark, you can customize your weapon sets, customize your character appearance, save and load player profiles and even customize the soundtrack. And let’s not forget, Perfect Dark allows players to add up to eight computer-controlled players, or simulants, each with its own personality and difficulty level. Having all of these additional characters running around at the same time only increases the levels of fun. Perfect Dark even has variations of all the best Goldeneye multiplayer stages, including Facility, Complex, and Temple. There are more settings you can apply to the multiplayer modes in Perfect Dark including the standard deathmatch, a capture the briefcase challenge, and a king of the hill contest. And that’s not all; in Perfect Dark you can run holographic training tests, practice your aim at a firing range, and unlock several cheats by completing the target practice stages and the numerous levels in the challenge mode. The number of things that you can unlock in the game is simply amazing given the limitations of the console.

Both Goldeneye and Perfect Dark feature an arsenal with a selection of pistols, rifles, and explosive projectiles. Goldeneye has classic weapons from the Bond movies such as the RCP-90, the golden PP7s, and the Moonraker laser, but Perfect Dark features its own set of unique items such as the fly-by-wire rockets, a laptop that doubles as an automatic machine gun, a curvy white pistol that shoots exploding rounds and my personal favourite, the FarSight XR-20, a one-hit-kill sniper rifle that could track through walls. Along with a cloaking device, shields, and slow-motion-inducing power boosts, Perfect Dark gives players more creative ways to maneuver around in a first-person shooter. Perfect Dark simply eclipses Goldeneye’s multiplayer department and that’s not all…

Beyond the bigger levels, the varied arsenal of inventive weapons, the simulants, the frenetic multiplayer modes, and the bonus material, Perfect Dark has a far more interesting premise. GoldenEye, by contrast, is an adaptation of one of the five best James Bond films but Perfect Dark eschewed its spiritual predecessor’s 007 license in favor of a wholly original story. Without having to stick to the rules of the Bond universe, the possibilities were endless and Rare drew inspiration from various sources (Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Electra, The X-Files, to name a few) to create a FPS that was unlike any game released at the time. The tale of Joanna Dark and her alien friend Elvis is one of the coolest storylines of any video game released on any Nintendo platform. Set in 2023 against the backdrop of an interstellar war between two races, the game follows Joanna Dark, a special agent working for The Carrington Institute, a research and development center that has made friendly contact with a group of aliens known as the Maians (who resemble the archetypal grey alien); meanwhile, the evil dataDyne Corporation, a defence contractor corporation headed by Cassandra De Vries, has allied itself with the equally sinister Skedar, reptile-like extraterrestrials who use a holographic disguise to appear as Scandinavian humans. During the course of the game, Joanna not only rescues her boss, but she must survive a plane crash, infiltrates an alien submarine and breaks into an alien spacecraft, in hopes of saving the human race. There’s enough action in Perfect Dark to make both Nathan Drake and James Bond drivel.

Joanna Dark vs James Bond

Obviously, James Bond is an iconic figure. The James Bond franchise is one of the longest-running and most profitable in history and the character of 007 has become a household name. Replacing him was no easy feat but Rare made the wise decision to make the central character of Perfect Dark a woman. Since there were few female leads in video games at the time, the choice was more than welcomed by gamers worldwide. But Joanna is no ordinary lady – she’s a highly skilled marksman, a lethal hand-to-hand combat fighter, an expert pilot and an eager bounty hunter with a wicked sense of humor. According to Martin Hollis, Joanna’s design was “influenced by a number of fictional heroines, including the seductive spy Agent X-27 in the 1930s film DishonoredFBI agent Dana Scully from television series The X-Files, and the eponymous femme fatale of the film Nikita, whom Hollis describes as “iconic, heroic, independent, vulnerable and very damaged.” And of course, her name was taken from the French pronunciation of Joan of Arc as “Jeanne d’Arc”. Although other famous heroines such as Samus Aran and Lara Croft came first, Joanna Dark was well ahead of the curve when it came to women warriors as modern shoot-’em-up stars. Before Perfect Dark spawned a cornucopia of video game knock-offs, Rare’s stylized 2000 sci-fi thriller set a new standard for the girl-with-a-gun video game trope. Perfect Dark isn’t just stylish, sexy and wicked, it’s taut and terrific, turning the tables on stereotypes.

Perfect Dark is no slouch for soundtracks either. Many elements of the composition resemble Norgate’s previous work on GoldenEye, but the deep electro-acoustic soundscapes in Perfect Dark fits better for the futuristic landscape. Composed by veteran Rare musicians Grant KirkhopeGraeme Norgate and David Clynick, the music in Perfect Dark fills up a whopping two-disk soundtrack. After all these years, the soundtrack is still effective and arguably the best score heard on the Nintendo 64 outside of Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.

There’s no doubt that Perfect Dark and GoldenEye 007 represent two of the best first-person shooters of their generation. Both have a great solo campaign, both helped revitalize the genre and both are praised for their multiplayer mechanics and an unprecedented amount of replay value.

More often than not, when you ask a group of gamers to choose between Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark, chances are 9 out of 10 will say the former is the better game. This could be attributed to the fact that Goldeneye came first, but it could also be because many people just haven’t revisited both games since the N64 days. When playing both games again, it became clear which stands the test of time.

– Ricky D

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and Tilt Magazine. Host of the NXpress Nintendo Podcast and the Sordid Cinema Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound on Sight. Former host of several other podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead shows, as well as Sound On Sight. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.



  1. Niles Danish

    February 17, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    I agree with you. Perfect Dark is the much better game.

  2. Kandriod 2001

    March 28, 2018 at 12:53 am

    I whole heartedly agree multiplayer is better, but the issue with the campaign is that the levels were much harder to navigate and are pretty much not possible to beat without spending an hour wandering around for the first time, while goldeneye knew to keep levels only as intricate as they needed to be to keep up the pace.

    • Arena1999

      May 21, 2020 at 2:45 am

      _”…the issue with the campaign is that the levels were much harder to navigate and are pretty much not possible to beat without spending an hour wandering around for the first time, while goldeneye knew to keep levels only as intricate as they needed to be to keep up the pace.”_ I strongly disagree with this, because GoldenEye’s organization of mission briefings were sloppily-handled. Each objective of Perfect Dark had a detailed explanation on what you should do, where you should go to accomplished said objective, and it had cutscenes highlighting points of interest and characters literally telling you where to go. The idea that Perfect Dark failed to guide players is a silly critique, since these objectives aren’t that difficult to figure out, and doesn’t hurt to actually read what the game is telling you do. It’s certainly better than an arrow pointing to a particular goal.

  3. Roger

    April 30, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    I know this is two years later, but I agree that Perfect Dark is better than GoldenEye. PD is my favorite game of all time, and I’ve played multiple genres and systems since my first game: Donkey Kong Country on the SNES. PD did so many things well: a completely optional tutorial separate from the campaign where you can explore the place you work for, secondary functions for guns and even your fists, so many options that you can even customize the music playlist in multiplayer, bots that you can personalize and give commands to, additional objectives on higher difficulty levels, tons of things to unlock as you play the various game modes, 30 challenges that mostly have custom weapon sets and interesting scenarios, the ability to disarm enemies, cheats that completely change how the game plays and feels, actions in certain missions affecting a later mission, hidden weapons, individual enemy alertness levels allowing for optional stealth, unique weapons and gadgets, interesting characters and locations, amazing music, the quick menu, opportunities to be creative like distracting enemies with the CamSpy to knock them out from behind, medals and a ranking system for offline multiplayer, rotating 3D gun models with descriptions, lightning-quick menus despite that and other effects, objectives that require thought rather than following a nav point and pressing a do-everything button, sometimes different ways to approach or complete objectives, the ability to keep playing if you fail, impressive enemy AI and reactions, and so on.

    Admittedly, the lack of guidance in missions as mentioned above was probably its biggest flaw (other than the framerate). Especially for players who don’t read objective descriptions and skip the CI training, I imagine that it’ll be very common to wander in circles for 10-20 minutes wondering where to go and what to do. There’s no HUD element showing you which direction the next part is in, and it isn’t always obvious what you can interact with. Doing the training and reading descriptions will both help, but not in every instance. Fortunately, once a player does figure something out, they’ll be able to much more quickly speed through the level to get back to where they were if they fail.

    I would love to see a sequel one day that revives what was great about the original while modernizing the controls and online features and adding new content and features such as a mechanic where you can play dead and an increased emphasis on gadgets in multiplayer. Imagine being able to use the Data Uplink to hack an enemy Laptop Gun turret or use a CamSpy to show a live feed wherever you leave it. I’ve made a fan concept that goes into great detail, but I’m skeptical that a highly talented developer would work on it and do the original justice, especially without a publisher that would rush them and/or force microtransactions. The original game had so much value, and the spy FPS is a huge niche that hasn’t been filled in a while; I’d hate to see a sequel become a two-weapon military shooter with most features (bots, secondary functions, enemy alertness levels, cheats, being able to hold several weapons, having tons of unlockables including outside of MP that come regularly rather than having to pay for that content, etc.) removed and progression made intentionally tedious in order to monetize XP packs and premium currencies.

    • Arena1999

      May 21, 2020 at 2:51 am

      _”Admittedly, the lack of guidance in missions as mentioned above was probably its biggest flaw.”_

      _”Especially for players who don’t read objective descriptions…”_

      It’s not really the game’s fault if players decided to ignore the objective descriptions, since they give quite a detailed solution to completing them. The cutscenes themselves serve as good navigators as they shown you areas around each level to give the player an idea where to go, rather than just plaster them on the map with very little context, like in GoldenEye.

  4. Roger

    June 29, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    I happened to come across this article again and just saw the reply. Most of the time, there are indications of where to go if people pay attention and read the objective descriptions. One example where new players might get stuck with no guidance is the wall that opens only when you’re close enough in the third mission segment while escaping the tower. But in possibly all other instances, the game does point in the right direction, often with dialogue when the player gets near something they might otherwise miss.

  5. Totte

    June 6, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    Nope, Perfect Dark sucks. No originality, dated graphics, dull weapon noises, zero humour. Probably the most overrated game of the generation.

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