I had less than zero expectations for the Perfect Dark reboot, but it looks like the 2020s answer to Deus Ex I've been waiting for

Joana Dark close up with sky in background
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's long-simmering Perfect Dark reboot has been in the works for so long, with such a fraught development history, I'd basically written the whole thing off. But in a first look gameplay trailer at today's Xbox Games Showcase, it looked bafflingly good, a cyberpunk FPS, if not a full-on immersive sim that could fill the Deus Ex-shaped hole in my heart.

The trailer starts with Joana Dark halo jumping into some kind of advanced arcology—later revealed to be Cairo in Egypt—with a force field protecting it from climate change-driven sandstorms raging outside. So far, it's cool but just a cutscene—however we quickly dive into some exciting gameplay.

Perfect Dark - Gameplay Reveal - Xbox Games Showcase 2024 - YouTube Perfect Dark - Gameplay Reveal - Xbox Games Showcase 2024 - YouTube
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And hoo boy there's a lot to love here. It opens with some non-combat exploration that seriously piqued my interest—this could easily be something linear or restrictive, but Perfect Dark looks like the kind of immersive sim-adjacent exploration and social stealth I live for. Even if it isn't quite all that, I'd be more than happy if Perfect Dark was a more open-ended, sometimes-sneaky shooter along the lines of MachineGames' Wolfenstein reboot.

After some strolling about the gorgeous city, we see Dark drop into some detective vision and sneak a recording of a guard to get past a voice-locked door before going crouch-walk-sneaky mode in a restricted area. She even breaks into some Dishonored-adjacent first-person parkour to clamber onto the roofs and balconies and break into her target's hidey hole.

Things then get loud, with Dark moving into a shooter section that shows off a selection of super-spy gadgets and moves, including electro-darts, takedowns, and an impressive volumetric smokescreen. Both the combat and sneaking look like they could be tight, though both are going to depend on the kind of level design quality that's hard to show off in a trailer. But with all this spycraft and style, Perfect Dark looks like it could be the 2020s triple-A Deus Ex I didn't think I'd get with Eidos Montreal's Embracer-related troubles, and the Perfect Dark reboot has gone from "who care" to "hotly anticipated" in my book.

It's all the more surprising because, since getting announced in 2020, Perfect Dark has seen the departure of its project director, as well as Tomb Raider studio Crystal Dynamics brought in to assist The Initiative on development. Those aren't good signs, but whatever difficulties happened behind the scenes, Perfect Dark is looking like it could be something special when it finally releases, though we do not yet have a window for that.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.