Perfect Dark Zero

Rare's lead designer Chris Tiltson and storywriter Dale Murchie on the making of Xbox 360 launch icon Joanna Dark

Not long to go now - just two Fridays hence and you'll get your hands on Microsoft's Xbox 360 and have a chance to bask the charms of Perfect Dark Zero's Miss Joanna Dark, the flagship 360 launch shooter and prequel to the spiritual successor of Rare's classic GoldenEye.

A lot's riding on the success of Perfect Dark Zero and so eager were Microsoft to place Ms Dark in your hands they apparently took the huge gamble of sending the game to be manufactured, even before it has passed the company's rigorous certification process.

PDZ has been nearly five whole years in the making since its inception and our old friends at recently caught up with two guys who've been with Joanna since the very beginning - Rare's Chris Tilston, Lead Designer and Project Lead, and Dale Murchie, single-player designer and storywriter. If anyone can fill you in on Ms Dark's latest escapades, these are the boys, so take it way Chris and Dale.

Rare has a very strong heritage in console FPS, and you could say that you guys invented the console FPS with GoldenEye. What is it about Perfect Dark Zero that takes that to the next level?

Chris Tilston: We think there are a number of different elements in Perfect Dark Zero that improve on what we've done before. Certainly, we've been able to make the game accessible to everybody, something that couldn't be said of the last Perfect Dark game. We've got a very unique help system that cuts in whenever the player gets stuck, so people who wouldn't normally play this type of game can get into it.

We've also introduced a few new moves into the FPS formula. We've got a cover move where you can protect yourself and still attack, and a roll move that can get you out of trouble quickly. We've also got around 26 weapons, all of which have very imaginative secondaries. That's something that really takes the gameplay sideways, because they allow the player to be a lot more tactical than just shooting everything.

Could you give us an introduction to the storyline of PDZ?

Dale Murchie: Perfect Dark Zero is an origin story. It's like the Spider-Man movie, it goes right back to how Joanna got involved with the Carrington Institute. We've brought back a couple of characters from Perfect Dark, so if you've played the game before there'll be some familiar names. But if you've never played the game before we explain what the Carrington Institute is, who dataDyne are, and what they're up to.

Speaking of the original, what do you hope real hardcore PD fans will enjoy about Perfect Dark Zero?

Chris Tilston: All of it! There's definitely plenty in there for the hardcore fan. We've got lots of neat hooks into the original game that you won't notice if you never played the original game, but they tie together certain pieces of the story very well.

Dale Murchie: Oh yeah, there are lots of little things hidden away for the hardcore! Characters will say things in passing, or you'll notice things that link in to the original game. It's all very planned out - we've got a big story timeline and a huge story bible that maps out where everything is and where it's going. That also all ties into the exclusive comic book that's coming and Greg Rukba's novel. Put it all together and you've got the deepest Perfect Dark experience ever.

Chris Tilston: We've also got the Xbox Live scoreboards and leaderboards for the single-player levels, so the really hardcore Perfect Dark fans will be competing against each other to get the highest scores in the world.

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