Goldeneye is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, allowing the user to play as James Bond: shooting, running. Jumping, shooting, fighting, (and shooting) their way through level after level to uncover a British double agent and stop the nuclear detonation of a Russian built satellite weapon. Goldeneye is based entirely off the film of the same name.
To me, reviewing Goldeneye is like looking back on Atari Pong: sure it’s outdated, but nonetheless groundbreaking.
The year is 1997. 5-year-old me clad in Spiderman pajamas, anxiously sitting on the end of our plaid couch, eyes transfixed on the presents underneath the Christmas tree. I couldn’t decide if I wanted Pokemon Snap or Goldeneye for the N64 that year, flip flopping between the two like a politician’s stance on abortion during campaign season.
To my surprise I received both that year. However, Goldeneye was the one that has stuck with me for so many years, not just as a nostalgic memory, but as one of the best videogames I’ve ever played. Here’s why:
Aesthetics & Gameplay:
Goldeneye was a first in so many ways, and many of these firsts are found in the Aesthetics.
Remember, its 1997. The most recent first person shooter, Quake (1996) bolstered graphics that looked like this:
Then a year later, a game comes along looking like this:
It’s hard to imagine it now that we live in an age where virtual reality can be purchsed at a WalMart, but for its time, the landscape was totally immersive: the player could create bullet holes in the wall, the gunshots sounded real – and varied depending on the weapon – guards would pause and survey their watch towers instead of mindlessly walking back and forth. And you even got to use the bond laser watch.
Goldeneye gave birth to the headshot: it was the first shooter game designed with location based damage, wherein enemies would react based on where they were shot (shoot an enemy in the foot, and instead of falling over they’d hop around for a couple seconds before firing back).
Each level had a distinct “feel” and personality, and this was due not just to the visual aesthetics but the soundtrack that wove the game together. Just like every other aspect of this game, the soundtrack showed time and dedication to get just right. Levels set in post-cold war Russia were narrated by soviet trumpets, darker levels that involved sneaking around more than shooting were played out over tense (and when you played the level for days at a time to complete, irritating) electronic backbeats.
Perhaps the game’s biggest success wasn’t in the story mode at all, but what it did for the Multiplayer experience. The game’s multiplayer was more intense than it had any right being; friendships created and destroyed over this game, countless nights of my youth spent hunting each down other down in complex levels, usually ending in controllers being thrown and accusations of “cheating” (looking at the other person’s screen to see where they were) abound.
Uniqueness and Impact:
Goldeneye did something a film and a TV show couldn’t – it allowed you to be James Bond, and as a pre-pubescent boy, there was nothing cooler than being James Bond.
Overnight the game became the new standard all FPS’ would aspire to be. Out of all it’s firsts, the most impressive is that Goldeneye created a new medium altogether: the first immersive FPS.