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That Perfect Dark reboot is still in early development and years from release, report claims

Three years after The Initiative’s flashy trailer, we’re still at least two years out - if not longer - from Joanna Dark’s return

The much-anticipated reboot of Perfect Dark is still “in the earliest stages” of development and at least two years away from being released, according to a new report.

IGN spoke to multiple sources at The Initiative, the studio founded by former Crystal Dynamics devs, which is working on the reimagining of the beloved Nintendo 64 title. The Initiative first teased the return of Rare’s 2000 spy shooter with a flashy trailer at The Game Awards in 2020.

According to a former dev, that impressive-looking CG trailer was impressive for a good reason: it was “very obviously way far ahead of anywhere the game was at”. Three years on, the Perfect Dark reboot is reportedly still around two to three years from release, with IGN claiming there has been “little meaningful progress” on the game since that first look.

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That lack of progress is painted as being down to a number of factors, including the impact of the pandemic, technology demands, ongoing staff departures and an unclear vision from those at the top of the developer. Studio execs are said to have pushed for a blockbuster approach to the reboot in terms of top-notch visuals, gameplay and story, with the ridiculous term ‘AAAA’ (quadruple-A?) apparently used amid comparisons to Game of Thrones, James Bond, Mission Impossible and other big TV and movie franchises.

These high expectations led to a cycle of pitching and prototyping numerous rejected ideas and builds that dragged on into the third year of development, frustrating devs at both The Initiative and Certain Affinity, the Halo co-developer that partnered on the reboot until early 2021. The apparent tension between the two studios - exacerbated by reports of a lack of accountability, poor communication and low morale made worse by the onset of the pandemic - led the two to split shortly after a “fairly polished” proof of concept had finally come together.

The Initiative later partnered with Tomb Raider devs Crystal Dynamics, while also deciding to move the reboot over to Unreal Engine 5 - resulting in the need to redo almost everything completed over the previous three years. The result, as per IGN’s sources, was a “bit of a mess”, but apparently one that finally saw slow progress made over the course of 2022. The report adds that the current build of the Perfect Dark reboot could be considered as being more of a Crystal Dynamics game than a The Initiative game.

A corridor with flames at the end in the teaser trailer for the Perfect Dark reboot

The upshot of what sounds like a chaotic development process so far is that the Perfect Dark reboot is still in the works, with sources saying that the game - described as having experiment movement, a focus on story and a mix of both first-person spy gadget hijinks and sometimes-sneaky-sometimes-shooty combat - remains in a pre-production state at least two years from any kind of release. According to IGN’s report, there’s a chance that the game may be released in an episodic format, but that’s still yet to be decided.

IGN’s report is well worth reading in full, both for the snippets of detail on what form Perfect Dark’s reboot could finally take and the window into the many challenges of video game development. After all, you’ve got the time to fill.

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