N64 Goldeneye 007 Retro Review

In the first of a huge series of retro reviews, we take reviews written for Casually Hardcore back in the early 2000’s and republish them for your enjoyment. Taken from the depths of the internet not only can you read these classic reviews again but we’ll also see if the review is still accurate in 2011. Enjoy.

Let’s be honest. Film licenses never work. Money spent securing a high profile license leave little cash left over for the actual development costs of making the game. Not only that, if Enter the Matrix has proven anything, it is proof-positive developers and publishers should never rush a game through development to coincide with a films release date. Buggy, glitchy and untested are three words that spring to mind. On the other hand, if you are a developer working under Nintendo, then expect your game not to coincide with the actual film of the same name (GoldenEye 1995) but the following James Bond film, two years later (Tomorrow Never Dies 1997). Now that’s perfectionism for you.

Originally planned as a side-scrolling platformer for the Super Nintendo, Rare had far bigger ambitions for the Bond license. For starters, new hardware was required if their ambitions were to be fulfilled. This fortunately came in the guise of the Nintendo 64. Then came the design proposal: Doom meets Virtua Cop. The influences of these two games in the final product are clear, but Rare had a couple of ideas of its own to add to the mix.

From the outset, it is clear that this game is going to be unlike any other fps you have ever played. The opening level set on the dam from the film is astounding. Not only does it act as an invisible tutorial for the player to learn the controls, but also constantly throws up new and intriguing gameplay dynamics that have never been seen before in a fps. Shooting the first guard demonstrates clearly the realistic motion captured movement that Rare have implemented. Not only that, he reacts depending on where you shoot him.

This feature alone elevated GoldenEye above its peers. It allowed a player to incapacitate guards temporarily if in a no-win situation. Not only that, it rewarded players if they went for the ‘head-shot’. This would kill an enemy in one shot, but was incredibly difficult to pull off under pressure. After this impressive start, it gets better. Still on that first level, a watchtower contains a new type of weapon, unknown to an fps before it: a sniper rifle.

Using it is simplicity itself. From your elevated position and zooming in on the unaware guards on duty, the sudden realisation of what you are about to do is overwhelming. Yet you do it anyway. A moment of power followed by a pang of guilt. Why is your reaction different to the first guard you shot? A possible explanation is he wasn’t a direct threat to you and therefore was innocent. Whatever the reason, the feeling soon subsides when the other alerted guards come heading your way.

Further on in the level reveals some clever/scripted A.I. A guard, surprised at your sudden appearance runs off into the distance. The feelings of his cowardice soon fade when you realise he has just pushed an alarm and alerted others to your presence. After taking care of matters with the aid of some exploding barrels, you continue only to find a padlocked gate. Was there a key hidden somewhere in the level? After several minutes of frustrated searching, you do the most obvious thing that a secret agent would do: You shoot it off. Logical gameplay for once. Upon arriving at the dam itself, you notice in the far distance a watchtower. Using your sniper rifle you zoom in to find a guard patrolling around it. Then you notice behind that watchtower there are two more. Never in an fps has such a drawing distance been possible. The fog heavy Turok: Dinosaur Hunter running on the same hardware was amateurish in comparison.

Later levels introduce more innovative ideas. Security cameras, which detect your presence and alert guards, can be shot and thus, deactivated. Guards can be sneaked up upon from behind and shot in the back. Innocent scientists and civilians cause problems for trigger-happy players. Varied mission objectives involve the player far more than simply going from A to B. Destructible scenery and the ability to shoot bullet holes in the walls. Interior and exterior environments, most of which are accurately modelled from the film itself. An actual driveable tank replete with fully working turret is there for the taking on two levels. NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) that have to be protected/ followed/ rescued/ conversed with. Q’s famous gadgets that come in handy when Bond gets in a tight spot, including a range of realistic weaponry that proves to be useful in certain given situations (the silenced pistol doesn’t alert guards for example). This is to name just a few of GoldenEye’s features.

What Rare did so successfully with GoldenEye was to implement all these ideas so well it reinvented the genre, and in many respects created a new genre. Most of its features may have come from other games (sniper rifle was in MDK, hit location damage and civilians were in Virtua Cop), but the fact remains all these ideas had not been integrated into a first-person shooter before. Levels could be tackled how a player wished using stealth, combat or both. Difficulty settings meant replaying the game gave the player more mission objectives rather than just harder enemies. Cheats and bonus levels and items had to be earned the hard way by completing levels in a certain time limit. The attention to game detail was outstanding, every element of it polished to perfection. Not to mention an extremely comprehensive and extremely enjoyable split-screen multi-player for up to four players. Staggering.

Its influence on all first-person and action games after it is irrefutable. Aspects of its design can be seen in Half-Life, Medal of Honor, Deus Ex, Perfect Dark, TimeSplitters, Halo, The World Is Not Enough, Sin, Soldier of Fortune, Project IGI, Thief, Splinter Cell, Agent Under Fire, NightFire and Metal Gear Solid to name several. Lets also not forget this entire game was squeezed onto a 12 Mb game cartridge. When you compare that to CDs 650 Mb or DVDs 4.7 GB, it just goes to show the sheer talent that was at Rare at the time. Its position in history is assured as not only one of the greatest first-person shooters ever made, but also one of the greatest games of all time. Who says film licenses never work? A.I.

2011: Re-ReviewHaving played Goldeneye 007 recently it holds up incredibly well. Sure it runs at around 15 frames per second and feels incredibly slow compared to something like Halo or Duke Nukem but the gameplay is still as solid as ever. The graphics whilst displaying the classic N64 Smear-o-vision also hold up thanks to the lack of popup and unique environments.

The game is tough, a lot tougher than we remember. I guess being spoiled by check points and regenerating shields hasn’t helped but this is pure old skool game play with tough as nails levels and one wrong move can equal death if you are not careful. Games have moved on a lot since Goldeneye but there are still fantastic features than modern games have still not added into their gameplay. Well worth a replay even if it’s a lot tougher than we remember and don’t forget to check out the multiplayer which still plays well to this day.