This was a list I have wanted to make and have been thinking about for years. It’s a tough one to make because most of the missions on Perfect Agent (PA) difficulty are difficult. For this list, I didn’t consider the “bonus” missions. At least 2 of those 4 would have probably made the list. Ordering the list was a bit difficult. My #5 could have switched with #4, and so on.
Please also note these levels would not necessarily be the most difficult on a speed run. Some of the levels not on this list become much harder when you don’t have the luxury of being able to take your time. But that is perhaps a testament to just how hard these levels are, because even with unlimited time, these levels still made the list. Let’s have a look.
Oh wait, you forgot about the jury prizes, did you? I award one prize to the Air Base level. It was very close to making the cut, but there are enough strategies to employ to make this level a lot easier. As with Carrington Institute, the guards have automatic burst fire weapons that deal a lot of damage. But this level is bit more predictable than other levels, and you can set it up well enough to make it easier.
-Pelagic II: Exploration
Here’s one that snuck on the list and was very close to being in the top 5. The submachine guns that the guards on this ship hold can do a lot of damage to you in a short amount of time. There are also times where you’ll have to deal with more than one guard. The mission doesn’t make the top 5 list partially because the mission gets much easier once you reach Elvis. The reason is because instead of fighting through droves of enemies near the middle of the ship, you can use your handy scanner device to see a hidden panel. Press the button on that panel to get to the end of the mission easily, bypassing a lot of enemies. So, this mission doesn’t quite get on the list.
5. Deep Sea: Nullify Threat
Some “Elite” players may disagree with a few choices on this list. This may be one of those choices. I think it’s rather tough to get through the first couple minutes of this level, which has enemies wielding shotguns. They also appear and disappear, making them a tad elusive. You can see them with your infrared scanner, but Elvis will only see them and aim for them when they are visible. Elvis helps out with his railgun in these first parts, so if you can avoid taking damage and leave the shooting to him, you’ll be able to get by more easily. When you get further into the level, you’ll be in an area where many smaller Skedar will appear. While this area also contains a few turrets, all of the damage taken from these enemy elements are surprisingly low. The ending can prove a bit difficult with some final few guys trying to stop your progress, as well. There’s just enough difficult elements in this mission to warrant it a spot on this list.
4. Area 51: Infiltration
This level in many, many ways deserves to be even higher than this spot on the list. It’s a very tough level, with several machine gun turrets, guards with grenades and even some mines buried in the ground. There are flying robot guns (or gun robots…?), but they can be relatively easily destroyed. It is also wise to consider how a certain distance from the guards will make them more likely to throw grenades, which usually means instant death. Because this level can be taken slow and methodically to avoid damage, it eliminates it from being higher on the list. Patience is a virtue here.
3. Carrington Institute: Defense
Here’s a level where nearly all enemies hold machine guns. Enemies are continually generated until the mission ends, meaning you’ll want to go through the mission more quickly as to avoid unnecessary encounters with machine gun wielding foes. You get some help in the form of a few institute personnel who have guns of their own to fight some enemies. It’s nearly impossible to complete this mission where all of these men are still standing. The AI simulates how their fights go, and they can sometimes die more quickly than you want. So despite even your best efforts, you may have to deal with more enemies simply because your allies died sooner than you would have hoped.
Besides the tough enemies who can kill you with just one round of their automatics, there is a unique element of tension here that is created via the hostages. You can take as much time as you want getting to each of the four ‘offices’ with the hostages inside. However, the moment you open the door, the enemies are ready to take the hostages lives in front of your eyes. A few of the hostages fight back, but you’ll have to be careful and quick to get all of the bad guys before they succeed in killing your co-workers. You can only let 2 of them die, and there are 7 of them to save, so you have to be careful.
There is a way to have Jonathan appear in this level to help you, but his assistance only proves minor in the grand scheme of things. I found it interesting the way in which this is “unlocked”, but it’s a bit confusing to fully explain. Basically, you help him out in a previous mission, and he’ll come back here for assistance. And you’ll be able to start cloaking yourself once you get a certain gun in the second half of the mission. But you can’t stay invisible for very long, so I don’t think this is as particularly useful as some people make it out to be. Oh, and did I mention that almost all of the enemies have shields on?
All in all, this is a tough level. I recently found a new way that is slightly more risky at the beginning of the mission but tends to leave the most room for the autodefenses to do their work and make the rest of the level easy. By the way, I think it’s hilarious that the “autodefenses” need to be manually switched on. It would have made the somewhat large underground part of this level pointless. Either way, this is a tough mission that is very deserving of the #3 spot on this list.
2. Crash Site: Confrontation
You’ve survived a plane crash, but you haven’t (and probably won’t) survive the guys spread throughout this level. The enemies here are holding burst fire automatic weapons, which are more than capable of damaging you greatly. There are even turret guns set up in one area. Like Carrington Institute Defense, enemies are being generated as time goes on. Elvis will be able to take care of them most of the time, but if they try to attack the president, it can be “game over” quickly.
There’s not much more to say other than, like Carrington Institute, nearly all of the enemies having machine guns really makes this level a chore to get through. You find yourself constantly dodging bullets by hiding behind corners only to discover that your safe hiding spot was, in fact, unsafe. Because enemies patrol certain ‘routes’, you may be surprised which enemies you encounter and which you don’t. Of course, some enemies are simply standing still and are easy to beat. This is a humongous level, and this level alone probably forced the game to be unplayable with just the original N64 Jumper Pak. The extra 4 MB of RAM the Expansion Pak provided was likely to assist the game in handling all of the enemies here (amazing how 4 MB of RAM made a difference in 2000). Anyways, this is a super tough mission that is absolutely deserving of its #2 spot.
1. Attack Ship: Covert Assault
At one point in deciding this list, I had this mission lower on the list. For the longest time, though, I had it on the top. In the end, this level has proven to be the most consistently difficult mission to complete. Even if you take the mission title to heart and attempt it in a covert style, the Skedar are quite difficult to defeat. They’re quick and smart and pack a punch when they hit you. And don’t get too close to them because instead of punching you like ‘human’ enemies, they’ll just ram into you, costing about half of your health. That’s a huge deal, as you really need to keep your health up to get through this level successfully. If you take the method of speedrunners, and just keep proceeding, you’ll probably find it an extremely frustrating five minutes or so. It’s still tough even when being extra careful around corners and when opening doors to new rooms.
What really makes this mission difficult is the beginning, where you begin with a relative lack of ammo and weapons. In fact, a knife is all you have. If you can sneak behind the first Skedar, you can easily kill him in one swipe. Getting his gun makes the second Skedar in this room easier. In the Japanese version, all knives were removed from this game. Games were still known to be somewhat censored back in the early 2000s (Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the N64 never made it to Japan, though this could have been because the game’s humor would likely have been difficult to translate to Japanese audiences). So without a knife, you are instead left with a basic Falcon 2 gun with only 20 bullets. This makes the level that much more difficult. It amazes me that they thought that the level would be doable with such little ammo.
Anyways, the gist is that this level starts off hard. While you can finally breathe a little bit after Elvis comes, it’s still a tough trip once you take the elevator up to the second floor. You’ll be fighting Skedar in almost every room after you step off the elevator. Some of the Skedar immediately appear when you open a door to a new room, truly testing your reflexes. You don’t want to die, and you don’t want Elvis to die. You have the whole mission to keep your wits about you so that you can evade the quick enemies here. While there aren’t really any surprises in terms of super-tough enemies, the basic Skedar are so powerful that you’ll be happy when you finally finish this mission for the first time on Perfect Agent difficulty.
This was a tough list to make, taking many years to consider. I hope to keep this list unchanged, but I am sure playing habits change as well as ideas and tricks to beat each level. So, here’s to a great game that is deserving of serious recognition-Perfect Dark.