Game Over, Man! – Goldeneye 007

In our Game Over, Man! series, we explore the history of video games that are based on movies, one game at a time. This week, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1997’s Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64…

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There are few characters that are as instantly recognisable in pop culture as James Bond. Ever since the first Bond movie in 1962, Dr. No, the secret agent has been an essential part of entertainment, one that is constantly parodied and spoofed (e.g. Archer, Johnny English, Spy Hard, Austin Powers etc.) and is even beloved by other iconic characters.

While the question “What is your favourite Bond movie?” is a question that many ponder over, and used as an essential icebreaker, “What is your favourite Bond video game?” is a much easier query to answer, despite thefact that there are more 007 games than there are 007 movies (there’s over 30 games that focus on James Bond, while there’s only 26 films). There’s only one acceptable answer, and that is GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64.

 

Developed by Rare and released in August of 1997, GoldenEye 007 became an instant classic and is highly regarded as one of the greatest video games ever made. Based on the 1995 Pierce Brosnan-led movie of the same name, GoldenEye 007 is a first-person shooter that sees players take on the role of 007 as he fights to prevent a criminal syndicate from using a satellite weapon against London that would cause a global financial meltdown.

Due to the success of Rare’s Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye 007 was originally pitched as a 2D side-scroller game, then suggested as an on-the-rails shooter in the same vein as Sega’s Virtua Cop game series. After the decision to go ahead with a free-roaming 3D FPS game, development lasted over two and a half years by an inexperienced team, led by Martin Hollis (who had previously worked on the coin-op version of Killer Instinct). The process wasn’t as smooth as expected, even being “cancelled” by Nintendo for three months, as they didn’t think that the game was of a good enough standard. Rare continued development regardless, and many members of the team weren’t even aware of the game’s apparent cancellation until the very end of production.

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Blocky graphics aside, GoldenEye 007‘s action still feels great.

The game’s more realistic action (in comparison to the heavy-hitters of the era like DOOM and Quake) demonstrated that consoles were now a force to be taken seriously when it came to FPS games, a genre that was pretty much dominated by PC gamers.  It also paved the way for a massive amount of games that are popular today, so GoldenEye 007‘s importance and impact can not be emphasised enough.

Single player mode sees players guide the suave secret agent through a series of free-roaming 3D levels, each with their own specific objectives (these range from rescuing hostages and destroying certain items to meeting up with friendly NPC characters). Working your way through locations such as secret chemical plants, satellite stations, onboard the La Fayette frigate and the antenna of a huge radio telescope still invokes a sense of exploration in players, even though the graphics haven’t aged perfectly.

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GoldenEye 007‘s splitscreen multiplayer mode is legendary.

Another element that GoldenEye 007 heavily implemented was the use of stealth. Simply barging into a room full of enemies with all guns blazing won’t get you very far in the game, despite what id Software’s games had emblazoned into our head just a few years prior. Taking a slower, more methodical approach not only makes things more challenging for players, but it stays in line with the approach you’d expect to see in a Bond movie.

Weapons are also used more intuitively than in ,many other games of the genre. While differing stats for each gun was nothing new at that time, the amount of damage dealt being dependent on which body part was hit forced players to improve their aim, and go into combat situations more dexterity (something that was no easy task considering the Nintendo 64’s controller).

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Aiming is pretty fiddly at times, but landing shots on enemies is incredibly satisfying.

The game’s multiplayer mode is one of the biggest selling points of the game, and rightly so. Allowing up to four players play against each other in splitscreen deathmatches was an absolute revelation, and is still one of the most fun multiplayer experiences on any console today. Boasting a number of modes to play through, players can try to kill each other in a free-for-all battle or team up in pairs for a more co-operative feel. More modes, maps and characters are unlocked for multiplayer mode as players progress through single player mode, so the incentive to get as much play out of the game as a whole is most definitely there.

The most astonishing thing about this area of the game is that it was developed in just six weeks. According to an interview with Grant Kirkhope, the composer of the game’s music, nobody from Rare really wanted a multiplayer mode in the game, but once the development team got the mode up and running, they were taken back by just how impressive it actually was.

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The game has since seen a reboot, and has also been remade in Valve’s Source engine.

Overall, GoldenEye 007 still holds up incredibly well almost 21 years after its original release. The graphics may feel somewhat dated by today’s standards, but the game is an absolute blast to play through, especially in its infamous multiplayer mode.

It’s crazy to think that such an important game like this was almost thrown away by Nintendo at one point; an action that would have undoubtedly resulted in a completely different landscape in modern gaming.

Are you a fan of Goldeneye 007? What’s your favourite mission? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!

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