Fifteen years ago, video game history was made.
In 1997, Goldeneye 007 was released exclusively for the Nintendo 64 video game system. A critical and commercial success, Goldeneye 007 was one of the best games of its era and still is one of the best games of its genre, the first person shooter.
Developed by Rare, the same folks that gave us Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye 007 is an action title based on the 1995 James Bond film of the same name. As Bond, players must fight friend turned foe Alec Trevelyan, who is attempting to use the Goldeneye satellite for purposes of greed and villainy. Players will hunt Trevelyan and his cronies across several locales, among them a dam, a jungle, and the cradle of the Goldeneye satellite itself while battling to the tune of a killer soundtrack.
Goldeneye 007 is a blast to play (pun certainly intended). The game adroitly mixes action and stealth gameplay into a wonderful concoction of violence and espionage. Players can use a variety of weapons (shotguns, pistols, machine guns, etc) and signature Bond gadgets like his watch, which fires a laser and doubles as a magnet. Plus, it’s generally awesome.
The gunplay is especially marvelous due to the then novel feature of dual wielding, which allowed players to hold a gun in each hand. Dual wielding is great, mainly because there’s almost no adherence to real physics at all. It is possible to hold a shotgun in one hand and the laser from the Bond film Moonraker in the other. It’s ridiculous and ridiculously fun especially in multiplayer. The ability to simultaneously shoot friends with a rocket launcher and a sub-machine gun is pure digital bliss.
It’s not all about firepower, though. Some missions require the player to remain hidden, lest he or she risk setting off alarms, making loud noises or getting spotted by security cameras will all trigger an endless wave of enemies. Destroying security cameras before they could capture the player and dispatching quietly with a melee chop or silenced weapons prevents those infinite swarms of enemies from appearing.
Multiplayer is where the title really shines. Goldeneye 007 featured split-screen battles for up to four players. The game features five multiplayer modes: Normal (regular deathmatch), The Man with The Golden Gun (features a one shot killing golden gun), The Living Daylights (capture the flag), You Only Live Twice (two lives only for each player) and License to Kill (one hit death from any weapon). Players can choose characters and locales from the Goldeneye film itself as well as the James Bond universe as a whole. Bond villains such as Jaws and the devilishly diminutive Oddjob are playable characters alongside Bond himself and other characters from the film like Natalya.
At the time, there was scarcely a thrill like setting up landmines and watching opponents walk unsuspecting into them. This was well before good, reliable online capability on the consoles, so all trash talk had to be done in person. Just watching a person react to an unexpected sniper death was immensely satisfying. It’s amazing that multiplayer was one of the last features of the game, only entering the title during the final months of its development.
To understand the historical importance Goldeneye 007, one must know the time in which it debuted. In the 1990s, the first person shooter genre had much of its library on personal computers, not video game consoles. This occurred for a variety of reasons, many of them related to the PC’s stronger hardware, better controls (with mouse and keyboard) and multiplayer options through local area networking as well as the internet.
The Nintendo 64’s hardware offered Rare some solutions to those issues. The Nintendo 64 was a graphical powerhouse (especially in regards to 3D graphics) for its time, capable of creating 3D worlds and characters. The system’s unique controller design was fortuitous for Rare. The controller featured a three prong design with an analog stick in the middle and four yellow buttons (called “C” buttons) on its upper right side. The C buttons could be used for aiming in four directions—up, down, right and left—while the stick was used for movement. It wasn’t mouse and keyboard, but it worked and Rare smartly tailored the game’s control scheme to suit its play style.
Goldeneye 007 set the precedent for home console shooters during its time and continues to inspire shooters now as evidenced by the new re-imaginings of Goldeneye 007 on today’s consoles. Furthermore, it’s difficult to imagine the creation of Halo or Resistance without Goldeneye 007 ever existing. Even well over a decade later, Goldeneye 007 remains one of the most enjoyable and addictive video games the industry has ever seen and probably will see. It is truly a masterful work of digital art.
Peace & Pixels