Perfect Dark – Everything we know so far about the Xbox Series X exclusive

Perfect Dark
(Image credit: The Initiative )

There's a Perfect Dark reboot in development, and it's one of the more anticipated upcoming Xbox Series X games in the Microsoft Gaming roster. The return of Joanna Dark was first revealed back The Game Awards in 2020, where Xbox Game Studios revealed the project will be coming to us from developer The Initiative and described it as a "secret agent thriller set in a new-future world."

Perfect Dark for Xbox Series X is now getting a little help from the studio behind the Tomb Raider reboot, with Crystal Dynamics joining the project to assist with development. While there's no word yet on whether it will be a new game for 2023, below you'll find everything we know so far on the long-awaited Perfect Dark reboot. 

Perfect Dark release date

Perfect Dark

(Image credit: The Initiative )

The Perfect Dark release date is still going to be a number of years away. The Initiative was formed in 2018, and the studio has spent a number of years staffing up for its secret agent thriller for Xbox Series X and PC. It means that despite being announced in 2020, the Perfect Dark reboot is still in the early stages of development. 

A report from VGC (opens in new tab) notes that 'as much as half' of the core development team of Perfect Dark left production in 2021, prompting Crystal Dynamics (the studio responsible for the Tomb Raider reboot) to be brought on as co-developers. Basically, expect to be waiting a little while longer to get your hands on the new Perfect Dark. 

Perfect Dark trailer

The first Perfect Dark trailer was revealed at The Game Awards in 2020. The cinematic was designed to give us a sense of what The Initiative is shooting for with its Perfect Dark reboot, giving us but a taste of what a Joanna Dark adventure might look like in the new generation. The trailer, which can be viewed above, shows gorgeous graphics, a world wrought by ecological disasters, and a sci-fi aesthetic that we can't wait to spend more time in.  

Perfect Dark gameplay

Perfect Dark

(Image credit: The Initiative )

When Perfect Dark does eventually land on Xbox Series X, it's set to be a first-person shooter which really leans into the super spy fantasy. Former design director Dew Murray spoke about the broad concept in 2020 (opens in new tab), explaining: "One of the things we thought about was how to differentiate what we call 'spy fighting' versus what you'd see in a traditional first-person shooter…" 

"[You'll be] sliding under things, jumping over things. We really wanted to play up the physicality and being in the world, getting some of that camera movement that we see watching body cameras, GoPros, and trying to get that excitement of moving in places and in ways that you and I don't."

Perfect Dark development

The Initiative

(Image credit: The Initiative)

Microsoft is in no rush to get this Perfect Dark reboot out into the world – it'll be released when it's ready. The Initiative was founded in 2018 and headed up by Darrell Gallagher – who played a key role in the 2013 revival of Tomb Raider with Crystal Dynamics. Rumors have circulated for a number of years that The Initiative has struggled to retain staff, as development of Perfect Dark became more complex, although Gallagher later told VGC: "It's no small task to build a studio and reinvent a beloved franchise… In this journey, it's not uncommon for there to be staffing changes, especially during a time of global upheaval over the last two years, and there's plenty more work in front of us to deliver a fantastic Perfect Dark experience to our players."

In 2021, Microsoft announced that The Initiative was partnering with Crystal Dynamics to complete development of the Perfect Dark reboot. In a statement, The Initiative drew attention to the "world class team behind character-driven games such as Tomb Raider" which will help it "to bring this first-person spy thriller to a new generation". Crystal Dynamics was acquired by Embracer Group from Square Enix in 2022, but has since confirmed that it will continue working on the new Perfect Dark in a co-developer capacity.

Perfect Dark reboot

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

What platforms will Perfect Dark release on?

Perfect Dark has been owned by Microsoft ever since Microsoft acquired the famed developer in 2002. That means the Perfect Dark reboot will be an Xbox console exclusive, with a day one release into Xbox Game Pass. The Initiative is yet to specify specific platforms, although Perfect Dark is expected to launch on Xbox Series X and PC. 

Perfect Dark

(Image credit: The Initiative )

What is the perfect Dark story?

Microsoft described the upcoming Perfect Dark as an “eco sci-fi” tale set in the near future. The first trailer drives that idea home – the voice-over describes increasing natural disasters and shows a giant storm ravaging a city while Joanna watches. In this world, giant corporations stepped in to help people adjust to life on a planet that could no longer regulate itself, but the trailer already suggests that these corporations may not selflessly have the good of the people in mind. If done right, this could be an opportunity for Perfect Dark to say something about the very real issue of climate change, which would certainly set it apart from all other FPS games.

The sci-fi part of Perfect Dark’s eco sci-fi may refer to the ways in which humanity has advanced to meet the new ecological challenge. It may also be a callback to the original Perfect Dark, which depicted no less than the conflict of two alien races, one of them even looking like those classic grey little men you also see in XCOM. The game’s influences reached from Blade Runner to X-Files and Ghost in the Shell, and it somehow combined the elements of a spy thriller with aliens, sentient AI and secret government weapon projects.

In the original, two alien races, called the Maians and the Skedar, have chosen Earth as setting for their conflict. Each is represented by a powerful corporation, which uses its resources to do the aliens bidding. Joanna Dark, nicknamed Perfect Dark for her high scores in spy training, gets embroiled in that conflict, which will feature no less than aliens trying to kidnap the president and a plot to destroy the world.

This is a bit much for a spy game in 2020, seeing as the stealth genre as a whole has moved away from sci-fi and towards a gritty sort of realism. For the reboot, you can expect something slightly more realistic, although it’s not unlikely the aliens will make a comeback – in the trailer, you can already see the headquarters of dataDyne, the main antagonist in the original Perfect Dark.

While Microsoft hasn’t definitely said whether this Perfect Dark is a reboot or a sequel, the fact that it’s simply named Perfect Dark as opposed to Perfect Dark 2, and the fact that this new game needs to appeal to new and old audiences both make a reboot more likely. 

For more, check out all of the new games of 2022 and beyond to get excited about. 

Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.

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