Perfect Dark Unsolved Mysteries Part 1
I had to do it! the original website, “yamo’s lair” has lost it’s domain. So, using the Wayback Machine, I retrieved the Perfect Dark Mysteries page before it was forever lost! I’m sure Yamo will understand. His email is email@example.com . You’d have to highlight a paragraph to see things because the font is white.
Unsolved Mystery #1: Secret multiplayer areas.
Description: Several multiplayer levels, such as the Sewers and Warehouse, seem to have inaccessable, probably unfinished sections. An interesting fact about the unreachable ammo boxes of the Sewers and Warehouse described below is that they will not move when shot (like a normal ammo box). Furthermore, they appear even if there are no weapons anywhere in the level! Check these out:
Above the vents in the Warehouse level is a tiny, inaccessable room containing what looks like an ammo box. This could be dimisssed easily as simply an unfinished and useless portion of the level, except for the fact that when examined from below, the unmistakable outline of a question mark is revealed! Why add a question mark for nothing more than a useless unfinished room? Here’s a cryptic quote from page 169 of Nintendo’s official Perfect Dark strategy guide:
“You might also look up at the ammo box behind the question mark grate-pretty suspicious, eh?”
Not only does Nintendo hint at something interesting hidden here, but they even call it the “question mark grate.” It’s also worth mentioning that there is no location for a sixth weapon in the Warehouse. Perhaps this was the intended spot for it earlier in the game’s development before it was just decided to leave out a spawning location for the sixth weapon.
In the very bottom level of the Sewers, there are seemingly unreachable ammo boxes visible beneath a grate below one of the moving elevator platforms. There are also two small, equally unreachable tunnels that channel water into this area. They appear to be dead ends, though. Again, what could this mean?
Also in the Sewers is an unreachable ladder. It is above a ramp leading up, against a brick wall. It seems to lead up to a grate in the ceiling. Another ammo box is visible on top of the grate, as well as a patch of gray sky. The end of the ladder is too high up the wall to reach, and even if it were possible to do so, it isn’t a “real” ladder and cannot be climbed.
In the Temple, there is a slow-opening stone door at the center of a four-way intersection. Above this door, where you normally can’t see, is a long shaft extending upward approximately twenty scale feet. At first, I thought that this shaft was there so that the door had a place to retract up into when it opened. It seems, however, that this is not the case. When the door is opened, it actually shrinks up into the ceiling by folding in on itself like an accordian. Thus, this shaft seems to serve no purpose. Of all the similiar doors in the level, this is the only one with a shaft above it. Odd.
In the Felicity, head up into the vents above the bathroom and make your way to the hole that you can drop through to end up at the bottom of the stairs in the hallway below. If you look up, you should see a grate on the side of the vent just like the ones above the bathroom stalls that you can climb. At the top of the grate, the vents seem to branch off further, but the use of the FarSight or X-Ray Scope reveals that they do not go on very far past that point. Were the programmers planning to extend the vents further, but decided against it?
It is possible that still more of these unreachable multiplayer areas exist. The question is: What is their use, if any?
Update: Lots of progress has been made with this mystery. Using a very cool “moon jump” GameShark code, people have been able to enter the hidden areas of the Warehouse and Sewers. As I suspected, the ammo boxs there are not “real.” They are background and can’t be picked up. These areas also seem to have no exits or purpose. The room above the “question mark grate”, for instance, is made up only of three stone walls and a fourth wall that looks out onto the sky outside the level. It seems they are useless, after all. The mystery now is simply whether they once had or were intended to have a purpose earlier in the game’s development, or whether they are simply there for background or to mess with our heads.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #2: The “PerfectHead” multiplayer face-mapping feature.
Description: This one is very controversial. The PerfectHead feature was originally intended to allow you the very cool ability of photographing yourself with a GameBoy Color camera, transferring the image to your Perfect Dark game via a GameBoy/N64 transfer device, and scanning it onto the head of your multiplayer character, effectively putting yourself in the game. Alas, this potentially fantastic feature was removed late in the game’s development cycle. Rare claimed that it crashed the game, but most people agree that oversensitivity to shooting at images of real people brought on by misguided concern over recent high school killings caused Rare to remove it in an effort to avoid bad PR.
Before long, rumors began to circulate that the feature was merely disabled with a few lines of code rather than deleted. The rational for this is an interesting combination of wishful thinking and the fact that disabling code is usually just as effective as deleting it, but is easier and doesn’t tend to cause crashes by upsetting other, interrelated aspects of the game engine. The remarkable track record of ace GameShark hackers in unearthing hidden and unused “beta” items in Rare’s earlier game Goldeneye seems to lend support to this view. Searches in Perfect Dark’s RAM do reveal text references to “PerfectHead”, although the significance of this fact is in question.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #3: Cassandra’s necklace.
Description: When Cassandra De Vries is killed by Skedar on the Attack Ship – Covert Assault level, she leaves behind an item: her necklace. This only happens when paying through the level on the Perfect Agent difficulty level.
The necklace appears identical to the one used as a key in the first solo level, except for one detail. The necklace’s description on the menu screen reads: “Cassandra De Vries’ replacement necklace. Username: CDV780322 Password: 18M0ZYM8ND185.”
Please note that due to the somewhat vague font Perfect Dark uses on its menus, some or all of the occurances of the numbers 0 and 1 in the username and password above may instead equate to the letters O and I. Interesting, no? What is this password for exactly? The first three letters of the username are obviously intended to represent Cassandra’s initials, but the rest remain a mystery.
Update: A well-read patron of this page has stumbled onto something quite interesting about the password on Cassandra’s necklace. According to his theory, the numbers in the password actually equate to similarly shaped letters. A sort of “calculator code.” Let’s assume that 1 represents I, 8 represents A, and 5 represents S. Reading the password like this, we see: IAMOZYMANDIAS. I am Ozymandias? What could this mean? Well, it turns out that Ozymandias is actually a poem by the famed P. B. Shelley! The poem is reproduced here for your reading pleasure:
OzymandiasI met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear -
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’
An excellent bit of poetry, to be sure, but what could it have to do with Perfect Dark? Coincidence? Perhaps. But a truly striking one, if so. The case is still wide open on this one. More updates as soon as they become available.
Update: A reader of my page has just discovered an astounding possible clue to this mystery. In the novel The White Mountains by John Christopher, there is a chapter entitled “I Am Ozymandias.” Very interesting! Apparently, one of the characters in the book goes by the name of Ozymandias and even recites bits of the poem at points. Still more fuel added to the fire of this facinating mystery.
Update: Another interesting discovery has just been made about Cassandra’s second necklace. It seems that if you play Attack Ship – Covert Assault on Perfect Agent difficulty in Co-Operative or Counter-Operative modes, the necklace Cassandra drops will register as her original one (from dataDyne Central – Defection) rather than her replacement one like normal.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #4: The Perfect: 1 password.
Description: Perfect Dark assigns a rank of sorts to each multiplayer character. A character’s ranking is represented by a title and a corresponding number. As you earn more and more medels in multiplayer matches, you can eventually progress through the ranks from Beginner: 21, to Star Agent: 14, all the way to the best possible title: Perfect: 1. When the game informs you that you have attained Perfect status, it displays yet another mysterious username and password:
Speculation now runs rampant that one or both of these passwords will be used in the upcoming Game Boy Color version of Perfect Dark. For the time being, however, these mysteries continue to defy explaination.
Update: Several readers have notified me of the possible meaning of this username and password.
Tau is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. It is the namesake of the tau neutrino (or tauon), a subatomic particle related to the electron and muon and twice as heavy as the proton.
Entropy is most commonly defined as a hypothetical tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity. Theoretically, any closed thermodynamic system is constantly in the process of winding down until it finally reaches a state of total entropy. This process can obviously be likened to a decay, of sorts. ENTROPICDECAY could be a reference to this process.
As this page explains, the “tau factor” is a variable used in relativity physics to measure the effects of acceleration towards the speed of light. The tau factor starts at zero at rest and becomes infinity at light speed.
Tau Zero is also a novel by veteran science fiction author Poul Anderson.
Of course, many other potential explainations are possible.
Update: Well, the Game Boy Color version of Perfect Dark has come and gone, and, as I expected, the mysterious username and password were not used. Speculation now is that the usernames and passwords may be used in an upcoming Perfect Dark sequel.
While we chatting up our buddies at Rare during E3 they dropped a few bits of news that sounded odd. When we talked to them later they retracted some of the stuff they had said and denied other information. So did they slip up or were they just drunk/jet-lagged when they said it in the first place? Well, we don’t know – but we can tell you what they said.
Apparently there are more GoldenEye levels in Perfect Dark and they can only be accessed through button codes similiar to the ones previously released in GE. They went on to say that they weren’t sure when these codes would be released but as we saw with GoldenEye it could be a few years. GameShark hackers unite.
Very interesting! Now, it is true that many more GoldenEye levels than the three that made the final cut were rumored to be present in Perfect Dark’s multiplayer mode prior to the game’s release. It’s also true that Rare revealed several previously unknown GoldenEye button codes over three years after that game’s initial release. So are there additional classic multiplayer levels hidden in Perfect Dark? I, for one, certainly hope so! The case is far from closed on this one. Stay tuned.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #6: Mysterious text in Perfect Dark’s RAM.
Description: The Nintendo 64 GameShark Pro by Interact is a game hacking utility that allows you to, among other things, view the content of a game’s RAM memory while it runs. Booting up Perfect Dark with a GameShark and using this built-in memory editor feature, hackers were able to spot several rather interesting bits of text embedded in the code. Some were mixed in with other miscellaneous text, while others were associated with specific levels. Here are some examples of the kind of stuff discovered so far:
Notice a pattern? All of these were references or items from Perfect Dark’s prequel game, GoldenEye! Of special interest is “BondBike.” James Bond was originally intended to ride a motorcycle in GoldenEye, but this idea was apparently scrapped due to time and/or memory constraints during the game’s development. The Piton Gun, Flare Pistol, Dynamite, Explosive Pen and Case, and Micro Camera are also items that were programmed into GoldenEye but never used in the final cut.
Now, we all know that Perfect Dark’s game engine is a heavily modified version of GoldenEye’s. Are these item names merely leftovers appearing due to recycling of old GoldenEye code, or were they actually included in the game at one point? Before you subscribe to the “leftover” theory, it should be pointed out that “bondbike” is the only thing here that is unique to Perfect Dark. GoldenEye’s code mentions no such thing…
Various options from the lost PerfectHead menus:
Load a Saved Head
Make a New Head
Edit a Loaded Head
Edit a Perfect Head
Choose Slot to Edit
These are apparently missing options from the multiplayer menus. Can any of them still be unlocked?
Touch That Box
Show Boxes On Radar
Lost beta weapons?
dataDyne Central – Defection:
Computer executive erased.
You’ve written your last bug, traitor!
Erase Dr. Carrol conversation…
0230 Hours 15 AUG 2023
2023 AD, 2214 Hours Lucerne Tower – dataDyne HQ
dataDyne Central – Investigation:
De Vries’ briefcase
dataDyne Central – Extraction:
LIGHTS NOW ON
Obtain alpha keycard.
Carrington Villa – Hostage One:
Chicago – Stealth:
Acquire diversion target.
Obtain Remote Mine.
Obtain Tracer Bug.
dataDyne Central Divisional HQ Chicago Il USA.
G5 Building – Reconnaisance:
Obtain alpha keycard.
Level 1 keycard
Level 2 keycard
Obtain Door Exploder.
Picked up Door Exploder.
Picked up Detonator.
Obtain DAT tape.
The bomb has been detonated…
Well, at least I won’t know if I’m doing anything wrong.
Area 51 – Rescue:
Obtain op room keycard.
Please stop! I’m not supposed to die. She… Arggghhh!
Of course he’s going to hear of it, you moron. I’ve just got into his top secret base, and now I’m stealing his alien.
Air Force One – Antiterrorism
Picked up an adrenaline pill.
Deep Sea – Nullify Threat:
Elvis has unlocked the door.
Antibody masking has been obtained.
This antibody masking will protect us from the automatic defenses.
Carrington Institute – Defense:
Obtain sensitive info.
Picked up sensitive info.
You have been given a Devastator.
Attack Ship – Covert Assault:
All hangar Skedar have been killed.
OK, we’re in. I’ll meet you in the hangar.
Skedar Ruins – Battle Shrine:
Obtain Night Vision.
These didn’t fit into any catagory, but are still noteworthy:
No briefing for this mission.
It is now safe to shut off your computer.
Another Perfect Crash ™
The text “Retaking the Institute” is found in the listing of special assignments, right between War! and Maian SOS. A hidden or deleted special assignment, perhaps?
Finally, we have the word “Rooftop” mixed in with a big list of Perfect Dark’s multiplayer levels. Rooftop? Could this be the name of an old multiplayer level that was left out of the final game? Or perhaps it’s still hidden somewhere…
Another one to keep you up at night wondering.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #7: Area 51′s secret vents and keyhole.
Description: Yet another enigma relating to the sprawling Area 51 levels! It would seem that Perfect Dark’s version of the infamous secret Nevada air base is just as shrouded in mystery as its real life counterpart.
To see this one, play Area 51 – Rescue on either Special or Perfect Agent difficulty level. Be sure to use a cheat to give yourself either a FarSight or X-Ray Scanner. After you blow your way into the main lab complex, turn right and head down the hall until you come to the two narrow blue doors to the locker and shower room where you obtain the lab technician disguise. Proceed through the door on your right you should see three lockers straight ahead of you. Walk forward some more and stand facing them. Now, equip your FarSight or X-Ray Scanner and look through the ceiling above and to your left. You should see a vent through the wall. At the end of this vent, there appears to be a large keyhole set into the center of the wall!
So what can this mean? Another fact that can be discovered by examining the vents with x-ray vision is that they wind through the ceiling above the locker room for quite some distance. A very small portion of them can be accessed normally by crossing a beam that stretchs over one of the hangers, but nothing useful is found there and it is not possible to reach the section with the keyhole by this route. Another item of note is that a piece of cheese is also hidden in these vents.
Update: Because of a new “moon jump” code just created (and available here), I may be the first Perfect Dark player in the world to have seen the keyhole with my own eyes, and to have passed into the area beyond it! Unfortunately, I bring back nothing but bad news with me, as there is nothing there whatsoever. Just the shape of the keyhole and a small, empty area behind it that is filled with an unusual yellow light.
One question still remains: What was the intended purpose of these vents and keyhole before the game designers decided to leave them unused? Could whatever was beyond the keyhole have related to a now unused objective from a pre-release “beta” version of Perfect Dark? Personally, I’m reminded of the infamous lost island from GoldenEye 007′s Dam level. More updates as they become available.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #8: The secret Skedar.
Description: When playing the Attack Ship – Covert Assault solo mission on Perfect Agent difficulty, you are given the objective of opening the Skedar ship’s hanger bay doors so that Elvis can dock. In the room that contains the consoles that you must activate to do this, there is a small door set into one of the walls. It is locked, and there is no apparent way to open it. Peering through the locked door with a FarSight or X-Ray Scanner, we can see a short hallway that leads to another Skedar standing in front of a second door. Even when shot at, this Skedar will not open the door to get to you.
Using a “moon jump” GameShark code (available here), I was able to enter this area. Not only does the Skedar in this room not react to your fire, it will not react to you at all. Even standing right in front of it or shooting it fail to get a response. It just stands there, statue-like. It is the only Skedar in the game, as far as I know, which doesn’t attack you on sight. The second doorway near the Skedar is locked, but examining it with x-ray vision and GameShark codes shows that it leads nowhere.
So what is the point of this dead-end area and its puzzling, pacifistic Skedar? Could they be leftovers from an earlier “beta” version of the game? One reader has suggested that perhaps this is the Skedar from the cinema scene that plays at the beginning of the level. If so, why is it not invincible, like Mr. Blonde and the female bodyguards in dataDyne – Extraction and all other characters that the games loads exclusively for appearences in cinema scenes? A true mystery, indeed.
Update: Several readers have informed me that the other Skedar in the area will sometimes open the locked door that leads to his comrade. The most common way to get him to do this is to shoot at him or wound him without killing him. Sometimes, this spooks him into opening the door. In this way, it is occasionally possible to see the hidden Skedar face-to-face without a GameShark.
Update: It has now been confirmed that the Skedar in the locked room is the same one that appears in the level’s introductory cinema scene. It still remains to be seen, however, why it is not deleted after use, instead being hidden away in an inaccessable room.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #9: GoldenEye items in Perfect Dark.
Description: Thanks to a truly amazing GameShark code, we can now see that a number of unused items from Perfect Dark’s prequel game GoldenEye 007 are actually hidden deep within the game! Here is the code:
Once you’ve entered the code of you choice, start the game in “low-res” mode. This means that the N64 expansion pak must not be detected. Then simply start a game in the Felicity multiplayer level. You will see that the ammo boxes at the top of the stairs (outside the outer bathroom door) have been replaced with the corresponding item from GoldenEye!
If you need additional help getting these codes to work with your GameShark, try my GameShark page.
The question now is what the images of these items are doing in Perfect Dark. None of them appear anywhere in the game normally, so they seem to serve no purpose whatsoever. Could there be more GoldenEye items in Perfect Dark just waiting to be discovered? There is that rumor about the GoldenEye text in Perfect Dark’s RAM… Stay tuned for updates as they happen.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #10: Secret Maian in Attack Ship.
Description: This one is also on the Attack Ship – Covert Assault level. Seeing it can be quite tricky, though. The only way to do so is on the Perfect Dark difficulty setting which is unlocked by completing all of the 17 main solo levels on Perfect Agent difficulty.
Simply set enemy health to 500% and complete your first three objectives as normal. Near the room where you complete your fourth objective, sabotaging the engine systems, there will be another Maian. He appears identical to the other two Maians that normally accompany Elvis in this level, except that he is unarmed and will not react to you or any enemies in the area. He can be killed and wounded.
Update: I’ve discovered that this alien in fact always appears in the level. However, normally, he dies right away! If you make your way to where he appears while killing as few Skedar as possible (ideally none), you may even see his body on the ground before it disappears. My theory is that setting the enemy health so high somehow prevents the game from killing him off right at the beginning of the level like normal. Still, why is he there at all? What could this alien’s purpose be?
Update: An observent reader has noted that if you bring Elvis into the same room as this Maian, Elvis will attack it and not stop until it is dead. A very rude way to treat a fellow protector, wouldn’t you say? Also, I’ve been informed that even though the part of the ship that contains this alien is sealed off when playing on the Agent difficulty level, if you use a GameShark to bypass the locked door, you can find a shield next to the body. This mystery just keeps getting stranger all the time.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #11: A certain something.
Description: This exclusive mystery was discovered by me (at approximately 6:00 PM PST on 7-12-00), and is one of the most facinating yet! Since we’ve seen several odd occurances in the Attack Ship – Covert Assault level, I decided to explore it more throughly myself in search of more. I activated a GameShark “moon jump” code (available here) which essentially enables you to fly by holding down the B button. I went to the room where you must sabotage the ship’s engines as an objective on Special and Perfect Agent difficulty and flew through the center of the blue-white pillar of light in the middle of the room. As I did so, I was amazed as I heard the beeping sound effect that indicates when you pick up an item! The message “Picked up something” was then displayed on the screen! Needless to say, I was in shock, asking myself what exactly had just happened. I quickly landed and pressed start to view my inventory subscreen. Whatever I had picked up wasn’t listed there. I cycled through my weapons forward and back. Nothing. I held down A to call up my quick select menu. Again, nothing. Whatever the game told me I picked up didn’t seem to show up anywhere. I restarted the level and went back to the same spot. Again, I passed though the apparently empty space in the center of the column of light. Although there was no item in sight, I again “Picked up something.” However, I couldn’t find it in my inventory anywhere.
This is truly, truly strange. I’m reminded of a glitch in the old GoldenEye Bunker level where you could end up with a useless item called “NULL” in your inventory. Could this be the same type of mistake? Why would the Perfect Dark designers cause you to pick up an apparently useless “something” when you fly through the center of the engine room on the Skedar ship, somewhere that it is normally quite impossible to go? Extremely odd! You read it here first, folks!
Update: When you destroy the braces on either side of the pillar as part of your objective, it causes a massive explosion that fills the entire room. After this explosion, it is impossible to pick up the something. Could it be that this invisible item is placed there for the programmers to generate the explosion from and was simply called “something” for lack of a better name because the programmers believed that nobody else would ever pick it up or find out about it? I thought so, too, but if you pick up the something and then blow up the braces, the explosion still occurs as normal, seemingly disproving the “invisible bomb” theory. The explosion does seem to destroy the something, however, as it is impossible to pick it up after the blast occurs. Oh well, back to the old drawing board…
Update: Several more something items have been found! These are located in the Skedar Ruins – Battle Shrine level. If you use the GameShark moon jump code to fly up into the air in the room where you battle the Skedar leader, you can touch the pieces of the statue that you must normally destroy to defeat him. Furthermore, you can pick them up! Just like with the invisible item in the Attack Ship, each piece of the statue is only identified as “something” and doesn’t show up anywhere on your inventory menus. If you take all the pieces, you can make it so that it is impossible to kill the Skedar leader and the fight with him goes on forever.
So just what is the deal with these strange “something” items, anyway?
Update: Still more something items! I found these in the Deep Sea – Nullify Threat mission. Each of the glowing green glass cylinders thet you must destroy to complete your “Disable the Cetan Megaweapon” objective has an invisible item in its center. Just use the moon jump code to fly through the center of the cylinder and you will once again see the puzzling message “Picked up something.” There sure are a lot of these strange items laying around the later levels. More updates as they happen.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #12: Another double agent?
Description: Could an earlier version of Perfect Dark have featured another double agent in Area 51 besides Jonathan? Quite possibly, in light of this baffling mystery.
The easiest way to see him is to play Area 51 – Infiltration in Counter-Operative mode. Have Joanna complete the mission objectives like normal until the lift leading down to the hangers has been activated. Then, have the counter-op player head down to the second hanger and stand facing the door that you normally enter to meet with Jonathan and end the level. Next, have the Joanna player head to the second hanger. As soon as the Joanna player reaches a set point on the second hanger’s walkway, the music will pick up in tempo and the counter-op player will see the door in front of him open and a stream of guards begin to pour out.
You’ll notice that one of these guards will stay put and actually begin blasting his fellow guards like crazy with a DY357 Magnum! After a few shots, he will turn around and run back into the warehouse area. If the counter-op player follows him, it can be seen that he actually comes to a a stop right next to Jonathan. This guard can be shot and killed.
Please note that this isn’t the guard that Jonathan shoots in the cinema scene at the level’s end. That guard has a pre-set head, is located at another point in the warehouse, is invincible, and is armed with a Dragon instead of a Magnum.
So what’s the deal with this rogue guard who shoots his own buddies and uses Jonathan’s weapon of choice? Was he an earlier version of Jonathan? Another planned double agent who was cut from the plot of the final game? Downright confusing.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #13: Area 51 mystery corpse.
Description: When playing the Area 51 – Infiltration level, try ignoring the guards as much as possible and heading straight for the fenced-in area with the mines where the rocket launcher is located. If you can get there before it disappears, you can see the body of a brown-clad Area 51 guard laying next to the rocket launcher. What on earth is this dead guard doing here?
If you play in Perfect Dark mode and set the enemy health very high (between 500% and 1000%), the guard will actually be alive when you reach the minefield. He simply stands there, holding the rocket launcher, and doesn’t react to you in any way. It appears that his whole purpose is to die from unknown causes at the beginning of the level and drop his rocket launcher for you to pick up. But why? Why not just have the rocket launcher sitting on the ground to begin with instead of putting it in the hands of a guard who is then automatically killed off? Strange.
Unsolved Mystery #14: Ghost Story.
Description: Well, ladies and gentlemen, it seems we actually have a bit more than just another unsolved mystery on our hands this time, the enigma up for examination here is perhaps the first genuine Perfect Dark urban legend. Is Perfect Dark haunted? Is there any truth to the bizzare tales of killer ghosts roaming through its many levels?
First off, the basics. In the past few months, message boards have been buzzing with talk of strange, unexplained deaths in Perfect Dark. Guards being murdered by invisible assassins, screams and gunshots eminating from empty rooms and hallways, dead bodies appearing in strange places, sudden multiplayer deaths with no player or Sim recieving credit for the kill, even Joanna herself being killed in the midst of solo missions by invisible or cloaked attackers. Some of the more wild tales even have dead bodies with crossbow bolts lodged in their backs being discovered in levels where neither Joanna or any of the guards have access to a crossbow!
So how do you see a ghost? That’s the problem, really. You can’t. At least not reliably. The one thing all Perfect Dark ghost stories have in common is that they all seem essentially random. None of the encounters are consistantly reproducable. This makes any kind of regular scientific study impossible.
1. Some cases of unexplained deaths among guards can undoubtedly be explained by a glitch that has been noted in Perfect Dark’s program. Specifically, random guards in solo and co-op missions may sometimes decide to defect, joining up with you and killing their fellow guards much like a co-op Simulant Buddy or a guard under the effects of the Psychosis Gun. The popular term for one of these these characters is a Janus, coined in honor of a double agent character in movie and game GoldenEye 007. Many unexplained corpses are no doubt generated by this glitch, as a Janus makes it his business to attack and kill other guards in the level.
2. Some of the unexplained corpses do indeed have an explaination. The rocket launcher holding guard in Area 51: Infiltration and the slain guard in the bathroom of Carrington’s Villa are examples of these. They begin the level alive, and are then automatically killed by the game program, not by a ghostly assassin character. They simply drop dead where they stand. This is the same way that Cassandra de Vries is supposedly “killed” by the Skedar on the Attack Ship: Covert Assault level. If you set the enemy health setting high enough, between 500%-1000%, some of these characters, such as the Area 51 rocket launcher guard, may even still be alive when you reach the portion of the level where they normally appear. Check out Unsolved Mystery #10, Unsolved Mystery #14″, and Unsolved Mystery #22 for more information on how these characters work.
3. Simple graphic glitches can probably account for still more. Sometimes, especially in multiplayer mode where ten or more characters can easily be on screen at the same time firing weapons and such, the game may slow down to the point where certain things have to be sacrificed to keep the game running smoothly. The framerate may slow considerably and texture rendering errors may occur. Simply put, the game may temporarily stop displaying the textures on some characters to help curb slowdown. This can result in characters, or parts of characters flickering or becoming temporarily “invisible” when the game lacks sufficient free memory to draw all of their textures on screen simultaneously. So, if you were ever killed my an “invisible” character, especially in multiplayer, this may be why. Of course, it could also just be an enemy you didn’t see, or who just happened to score a miracle headshot from clear across the arena. Stranger things have definitely happened.
4. Let’s not forget about the so-called “phantom guards.” These are enemies that the game makes invisible and sticks in out of the way places so that they can be activated later, at which point they will become visible and act like normal. This is how the game stores enemies in its memory that aren’t supposed to appear until later in the level. It’s essentially a programmer’s trick to reduce load times and simulate invading enemies flooding into the level from somewhere else. The guards that appear midway through some levels, such as Air Force One: Antiterrorism and Carrington Institute: Defense are of this type. Setting off explosives in some places can sometimes reveal these invisible guards. I can’t think of a better source of mysterious corpses. It’s important to note, however, that these guards are immobile and can’t kill anyone while they are invisible and inactive. More on the strange but very easily explained phantom guards on my solved mysteries page.
When these four very broad and valid potential explainations are considered in addition to other, still unknown, glitches, I firmly believe that most, if not all of these so-called “ghost” sighting can be explained. And many others, let’s face it, are probably just tall tales concocted by pranksters, attention-seekers, and general “lamers.” So why is this still on the unsolved mysteries page rather than being listed among the solved mysteries? Well, it’s like UFOs, I suppose. Even if you have 99% easily explained cases, there’s always that final, defiant 1% that resists obvious explaination. So for now, the case is still open on this one.
If you have a Perfect Dark ghost story to share, please feel free to email me with it. I’m very interested in studying this subject further.
Back to top…Unsolved Mystery #15: Big red buttons of mystery.
Description: There is something inherently mysterious about prominent, yet seemingly useless objects. This being the case, what of the mysterious red button encountered during the Area 51 – Infiltration mission?
The button is impossible to miss. You can find it on the wall of the underground bunker that Jo Dark must destroy with explosives in order to complete her objective of shutting down the base’s air intercept radar. It is of the same variety as the large red button located in the nearby guard tower which is used to open the front gate of the base during the same mission. This button, however, seems to do nothing whatsoever.
Update: A reader has informed me of another red button that seems to have no function. This one is located in the Pelagic 2 – Exploration level. From where you begin the level, simply proceed down the main hallway and you should eventually come to a small red button built into a yellow and black striped console on the left side of the corridor. It’s the only one of its kind anywhere in the game. What is it there for?