While both Playstation and Microsoft have had their respective issues nursing their next-gen consoles out into the consumer wilds, Microsoft has been at somewhat of a disadvantage having no launch games specific to the Series X and S to attract early adopters to their new hardware. Lack of unique content was a hard-learned lesson for Microsoft over the lifespan of the Xbox One generation but we already know that Phil Spencer and Xbox Game Studios have been busy buying up new talent to bolster their threadbare first-party stable: including the recent surprise (and expensive) acquisition of one Zenimax Media, Incorporated: the owners of Bethesda, Arkane, Machinehead, and Id.
Now it looks like Microsoft are ready to start sharing the fruits of those acquisitions and they chose the Game Awards this week to draw their line in the sand. The Game Awards have quickly become a staple launch event for those developers, publishers and platform-holders looking to make high-profile release announcements, and this year was no exception – even although the logistics of the event were obviously different due to COVID restrictions.
By all accounts, Microsoft had a good turnout with lots of exciting announcements for upcoming IP, but one of them was of particular note: the reinvention of a legacy game franchise by an up-until-now quiet studio populated by conspicuous industry talent.
The long-circulating rumours of a Perfect Dark sequel by The Initiative were true.
PLATFORM DEFINING SHOOTER
When it launched in May of 2000, Perfect Dark was unsurprisingly the very thing that Microsoft are searching for twenty years later: a system-seller or ‘killer’ app. The spiritual successor to the smash-hit Goldeneye 64, Perfect Dark was released to critical acclaim and healthy sales, quickly becoming a reason to own Nintendo’s underserved console.
Created by British developer, Rare Software (currently enjoying well-earned Sea of Thieves fame), Perfect Dark was an evolution of the Bond franchise tie-in that arguably defined console shooters in 1997, before Halo: Combat Evolved would take the mantle and run with it in 2001. The original Perfect Dark built upon the action-thriller trappings of Goldeneye, placing protagonist Joanna Dark in a complex story about corporate espionage set against the backdrop of an interstellar war between two alien factions. Along with raised narrative stakes, Rare were also able to leverage technical improvements that would extend to graphics, gameplay and mechanics, so much so that the N64 cartridge had to be