It’s a little known fact* that Rare commissioned me to write the novelisation of the game Perfect Dark Zero. Given the information that they provided me, I came up with the following …
Joanna Dark had been charged with a mission of stealth by her father. She knew vaguely, somewhere in the back of her mind, that she had to rescue a scientist for a man named Daniel Carrington. She wasn’t sure how she had come by this knowledge, because her father’s briefing had been ridiculously short.
“Osmosis,” she remembered his words, “means you’re forced to figure things out by living them.”
As she stood outside the night club, she wondered what this professor would look like. She already knew what he sounded like: every professor she had met sounded like a more whiney version of the 20th century film director Woody Allen.
She checked her file: blue Hawaiian shirt, glasses, heavy set.
“If dad thinks I’m going to carry this guy on my back while escaping the fire of the Triads, he’s got another thing coming.”
Jo walked slowly, and she got to identify some Enforcers for some reason – using an audioscope rather than a visual ID because it seemed futuristic. Unfortunately a path into the club was almost impossible to secure without being seen. Her cover was blown and volleys of fire were shot. Jo couldn’t see who exactly was shooting at her, but she had been born with a fast healing body that meant if she hid behind a crate she could recover most, if not all, of her health.
But that was a backstory for a better conceived, yet related, property.
It continued like that until I came to the slap bang finale:
Jo stood over the prone body of Zhang Li, his skinless muscles bleeding profusely.
“For England, Joanna?”
“No,” said Jo. “For me.”
The Graal failed and Zhang Li ceased living. Jo closed her eyes.
When she opened them again, she reached a stark realisation.
“What the Hell am I actually doing here?”
Daniel Carrington walked into the newly and safely deposited ruins in his garish novelty kilt that Jo simply couldn’t believe existed.
“I can’t really tell you myself, Jo, but you were … dare I say …perfect.”
Carrington winked at her and Jonathan shook his head.How they were going to explain this at the annual stockholder’s meeting, he had no idea.
After my frankly slanderous attempts to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, Rare (or perhaps Microsoft) made the decision to allow one man, Greg Rucka, to write an original Perfect Dark novel. He called this novel Perfect Dark: Initial Vector.
Initial Vector stands as a beacon of competent, interesting story telling in a world bookended by an incoherent tale (Perfect Dark Zero) and crap alien conspiracy (Perfect Dark). Come on, Rare! It’s bad enough that you put aliens in your game … but you made them Greys! That’s one of the least imaginative thing one can pass off as entertainment, short of having five monkeys collect roughly 3000 bananas between them.
Some of the information seems somewhat confused at first: Joanna uses several British terms, which may indicate that Rare decided to make her American fairly late into the game’s cycle; the first chapter is written in a clinical and distant fashion that is unlikely to hook anyone (despite the fact that it features the deaths of millions of Canadians, our pesky northern enemies).
Once you get beyond that, you get a story about appointing the new CEO of dataDyne, from a party of uniformly unpleasant people and Cassandra DeVries – characterised here as a romantic idealist, rather than the butch tool of aliens that we came to know and love in her freshman outing.
The conceit of Perfect Dark is that the world has fallen into the hands of megacorporations and that governments are either impotent or nonexistent. Here, for the first time in the entire franchise, you get the feel of that. Current day buzzwords such as “blog”, are used to suggest an island in the storm against the tyranny of industry.
The irony of this franchise now coming at you from Microsoft is not lost on me, but I am fairly certain that not all of Microsoft’s offices have torture labs built underneath them.
Joanna Dark at last has a personality that isn’t too smart-arsed and shows an appropriate level of care for the loss of her father. The fact that she’s reluctant to kill people doesn’t exactly gel with the hundreds that I killed over the course of Zero, but when you don’t have to worry about keeping gameplay moving this is hardly a concern.
Daniel Carrington doesn’t come off as a kilt wearing git in this incarnation (not that I’ve got anything against kilts, but when I told my friend Matt that Carrington was Scottish, the first thing he asked was “does he wear a kilt?”. I was ashamed to say yes), and he even has … feelings.
Actually, that’s an unfortunate happening: feelings are icky. I demand more shooting! Either that, or explanations of the sexual depravity of the future. That’s clearly the number one draw card of living long enough to see the future.
I chose to write about this story that I liked rather than the game itself because it was an easier point of reference**. If you’re interested in what I thought of the game outside of its lacklustre story, I can tell you in a few words: it’s marginally enjoyable, with some suspect controls, not nearly enough of the features that made its predecessor so enjoyable, and the final result certainly does not gel with the five year development time.
Perfect Dark: Initial Vector, on the other hand, goes down smoothly and intriguingly. It’s very rarely smug, and I’ll certainly be looking out for Second Front at the beginning of next year. Rare should have all of their grand plots written by professionals!
**If you look closely enough, it seems that this was more about crappy fanfiction than entertaining licenced products.