Perfect Dark looks way better than I was expecting it to, and I'm excited to see how Crystal Dynamics gives Joanna the Lara Croft treatment

Perfect Dark (2024)
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Gadgets, guns, and a badass leading lady. That's what Perfect Dark looks to be offering up, and I am more than happy to take the bait. Last week's gameplay reveal proved a Summer Game Fest highlight for me, and given all the less-than-promising rumors I'd been hearing of the game's supposedly "rough" state (via Giant Bombcast) throughout its lengthy development, Perfect Dark looking like an all-out superspy fantasy is not something I'd had in mind.

Its first-person gunplay looks slick and sharp, the dynamic movement akin to Dishonored levels of acrobatic parkour goodness, but I was most excited to get a closer look at Joanna Dark herself. I'll admit that both she and Lara Croft have always occupied a similar corner of my brain; they're action heroines from some of the most popular games of the '90s and early '00s, but aside from that, I draw a blank. Never being able to gel with something as cool as Tomb Raider has always been a sore spot for me, so I'm excited to get stuck into Perfect Dark's FPS action in a revamped version of what I'm told was an utterly awesome N64 game.


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Rise and fall of the tomb failure 

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft

(Image credit: Aspyr)

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

(Image credit: Square Enix)

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Here's the thing about Lara Croft: she's awesome, but I can't stand to play as her in video games. I do recall gleefully watching my brother lock her butler in the freezer back in the halcyon days of 1999 – at least, as gleefully as any four-year old child could have been about seeing elder abuse on the PS1– but a glaring problem would arise much later. I soon found out that I absolutely and reliably suck at platforming games of all kinds, and ergo, have had zero interest in playing anything that requires gauging distances to jump across. That sadly means Lara's adventures were never to be my plat du jour.

My hopes soared when 2013 saw Crystal Dynamics delivering the first of its new action adventure Tomb Raider games. I'd somehow convinced myself that the three lifetime hours I'd spent pretending to enjoy Mario games had miraculously imbued me with hand-eye coordination. Perhaps at long last, I would be better at not tossing Lara into chasms this time around – especially with tank controls having fallen out of fashion. 

That was the most wishful of wishful thinking. Half an hour with Rise of the Tomb Raider was all I needed to confirm that I still sucked at Tomb Raider. I will always suck at Tomb Raider. I have made peace with this fact and will continue to support Lara Croft's brand of girl power from a safe, fall damage-free distance.

Enter: Joanna Dark and the Perfect Dark reboot. I never had an N64 growing up, so the 2000 original is not something I've ever been able to experience for myself. Honestly, it had me from the elevator pitch of being a spy FPS complete with gadgets and gizmos aplenty. One of my favorite childhood games was (and still is) 007 NightFire, so the opportunity to play a brand new game with roots in a PS2-era secret agent thriller is enticing enough as it is. 

Crystal clear dynamics

Perfect Dark (2024)

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Perfect Dark had me from the elevator pitch of being a spy FPS complete with gadgets and gizmos aplenty.

To that end, The Initiative's reveal trailer at the 2020 Game Awards had successfully piqued my interest. But when it was announced that Tomb Raider studio Crystal Dynamics had signed on as co-developers in 2021, I started to pay closer attention. 

Even us unskilled puzzle-platformers know an icon when we see one, and the way that Crystal Dynamics has recontextualized and championed Lara Croft well into the 2010s proves her a prime example of one. These newer adventures have cemented Tomb Raider's pop cultural relevance even some 28 years later, turning Lara from a low-poly figurehead into a blockbuster action heroine. Who's to say lightning can't strike twice as Crystal Dynamics turns its hand to Joanna Dark?

Of course, CD's penchant for modern day makeovers isn't the only thing I'm drawn to about Perfect Dark. The story details as reported on Xbox Wire show a mature side to a 24-year old game that makes it feel thoroughly 2024. Cyberpunk vibes and post-apocalyptic ecological warfare are among the biggest gaming trends at Summer Game Fest that we picked out, and Perfect Dark's futuristic spy tech equipment and its setting in the aftermath of an environmental disaster fits the bill on both accounts. Throw in a conspiracy cooked up by global mega-corporations that seek to manipulate, extort, or otherwise harm humanity, and you have a sci-fi epic adventure perfectly befitting our current life and times.

It's been four years in the making, but I couldn't be happier with how Perfect Dark is looking. As one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of the summer showcase season, my hopes have been renewed that I might finally find my own Lara Croft in Joanna Dark come the (hopefully) not-so-distant future – no platforming required.

Check out the host of other upcoming Xbox Series X games in development, from Fable 4 to Avowed.

Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.