The modern first-person shooters roots can be traced back to two pivotal 90’s titles, 1993 hyper violent Doom and the N64’s stealthy GoldenEye 007. This 007 title was created by British powerhouse Rare who in the 90’s were on a role with a slew of games being developed for Nintendo platforms including critically acclaimed Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct. Up to now Rare’s back catalogue consisted primarily of platformers and beat-em’-ups, GoldenEye 007 was to be their first attempt at a shooter and boy did they nail it. Now for the big questions, how does this N64 shooter hold up and can it still compete with modern shooters?
GoldenEye puts you straight into the position of MI6 agent 007 in his 1995 feature of the same name. You can play out first hand scenes from the movie in mission form. This title isn’t one for holding your hand as your dropped right in the middle of an environment with very little instruction and have to work out for yourself exactly what to do. This can fall into both the good and bad category as you get to freely explore areas but you’re left with gadgets that you have no idea how to use which are key to completing scenarios. Before setting out you can change the difficulty from Agent (lowest) to 00 Agent (Hard) or all the way up to 007 (Special). Increasing it alters the amount of damage you and the AI take like you’d expect but you also get additional mission objectives. Not only did this encourage players to improve their skill but push them to replay scenarios to see how the levels suddenly expanded with more to do.
Back in the day there was a Hollywood flair to the game with some great looking explosions to emphasize it. Environments were perfectly recreated from the movies sets and actors faces were mapped out on to character models, well as best as the technology at the time could handle. Now however, well just look at it. Textures are blurry and characters look barely human with their huge angular heads and overly proportioned clenched fists. For Hollywood flair you might now have to turn to the 2010 reimagining featuring some top graphics and a star-cast lending their voices to the game. While we’re on the subject of this games legacy after this game Rare went on to try their hand at another shooter that would be GoldenEye’s spiritual successor using a lot of what they’d learn from this escapade; Perfect Dark another game that received critical acclaim.
This game was at the forefront of the modern shooters and it was still trying to come to terms with how it would control. While it got the general control scheme that would be used from then on, the N64 controller isn’t really ideal. With only one stick to aim your gun you’ll have to rely on using the c-buttons for movement. Going back into this scheme is incredibly fiddly and plays hell with your coordination skills which will take surprisingly hours to get the hang of. You’ll find no fast paced action here; this being a spy title the gameplay pushes you towards being stealthy. Using the shoulder buttons to aim roots you down to the spot, plus it works in a different fashion to today’s games. Looking around in FPS games now moves you whole perspective, in this it’s got an on-rails element to it. While aiming your camera stays still and the reticule moves around the screen, only when you move it to the furthest points of the screen does the camera actually move. Plus releasing the c-stick resets the sights to the centre, really not ideal for run and gun tactics.
So what made this game so innovative at the time other than the fact it was it was a more realistic 3D shooter. That would be down to its location based damage. The whole concept of headshots sprung up from this game, one hit kills if you manage to nail the AI in the head. And it’s not just shots to the noggin’ that affect them. Arms, legs even the groin; damage is distributed evenly around the body and enemies even react to where they’ve been hit. This mechanic was so important that it is now rooted deep within every first and third person shooter out there.
The multiplayer mode is still the main highlight of the game as you take control of Bond himself or a number of classic villains and mercilessly chase down your friends and line their lungs with lead. We all remember the good old days of gunning down your mates as Scaramanga or getting annoyed at the person who picked Oddjob and thankfully it’s still hugely entertaining today. Multiplayer is split into 5 different modes, there’s your bog standard deathmatch, You Only Live Twice, Living Daylights, The Man with the Golden Gun and Licence to Kill. Great game mode titles! You Only Live Twice leaves you only two lives to play with before you’re eliminated, Living daylights is flag tag, Licence to kill is on hit only and The Man with the Golden Gun (arguably the best mode) means the person holding the golden gun is the only one who gains points. Even with all of the fiddly control schemes and dodgy graphics as soon as you get some mates together in the 4player split-screen carnage the fun soon seeps in.
GoldenEye 007 the N64 classic it’s sad to say is starting to show its age. Controls are very fiddly and it’s not great to look at but you can’t say it’s not fun. Straight from the off you get a huge nostalgic sense as you take the leap from the dam into the chemical weapons facility. If you’re feeling a bit rusty the robust difficulty setting will ease you back into it or just skip the single player entirely and dive straight into the addictive multiplayer modes. It may take some time to get back into the swing of things but it’s worth it to experience a classic piece of gaming history.
This Retrospective Review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down.