LICENSE TO THRILL?: GoldenEye 007 (1997)

Rod becomes James Bond 007 for one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – licensed games in history. 

Who made it?: Rare (Developer), Nintendo (Publisher).

Genre: First-Person Shooter.

Platforms: Nintendo 64.

Format: Cartridge.

Released: 25 August 1997 (UK).

GoldenEye 007 was originally developed for the Super Nintendo as a 2D side-scrolling platformer. However, it became a 3D FPS for the Nintendo 64 when the console was still under the codename Ultra 64, and while it would have been awesome to see a really good James Bond game on the SNES, I’m glad they made it for the N64 instead. That’s because it is simply one of the best FPS’s in video game history, one of the best FPS games on the N64, one of the best multiplayer games ever, and one of the best video game adaptations of a film, too.

What set it apart from other FPS games at the time was the fact that the player was given objectives to complete as they progressed through a level. The amount of objectives per mission was determined by which difficulty setting was chosen – Agent (easy), Secret Agent (medium), 00 Agent (hard), and if the game is completed on 00 Agent (including the two extra levels), 007 (very hard) difficulty will be unlocked, a mode that allows customisation of certain gameplay aspects. If a task is failed during a mission, you are still able to exit it at the end but you won’t see the cutscene that usually plays after objectives are completed, and you will have to do the level all over again! Some of these objectives are quite easy, while others provide more of a challenge.

In terms of being a faithful adaptation of the 1995 film of the same name, GoldenEye does make some changes but these aren’t annoying, frustrating or seem out-of-place. Instead, what they do add seems to work really well with the rest of the game. Here are some of the differences to the film:

  • In the Frigate mission, based on a short scene where Bond tries to get at the Tiger helicopter being stolen by Xenia Onatopp, 007 instead has to do things such as plant a tracking bug on the helicopter, disarm two bombs, and rescue hostages.
  • In the game, there’s two missions where you can use the army tank. The first is the Runway and the second is the Streets of St. Petersburg, which is based on the scene where Bond chases General Orumov in said tank, who has taken Natalya hostage.
  • In the film, there’s a scene where Xenia, in the Tiger helicopter she stole, flies to a bunker located in Siberian Severnaya so she and Ourumov can steal the control disc for the dual GoldenEye satellite weapons. Even though Bond never visits this location in the film, there are two missions in the game that are set in Severnaya that take place near the bunker as well as inside it.

Overall, there are nine missions in the game, with two of those being extras unlocked by completing all the others on 00 Agent. The first of these is inspired by the Bond film Moonraker and includes the villain known as Jaws. The second one, which takes place inside an Egyptian temple, isn’t necessarily based on any particular film, but the look of the locale is similar to the Egyptian scenes in The Spy Who Loved Me. The villain in this second extra mission is Baron Samedi, who was in Roger Moore’s first outing as the superspy, Live and Let Die.

Before each mission commences, you are able to read through notes about its background, the briefing from M, the briefing from Q about the gadgets Bond can use, and even Moneypenny who will give you her thoughts. This makes it feel a bit more like the Bond films which had frequent exposition by M, Q, and Moneypenny, but with the personality of each character coming through in text form. Each mission’s locale and its layout are shown in a cutscene with a camera moving through the relevant areas, or just showing static shots of what’s happening, finally moving towards Bond and rotating itself behind his head. This is before moving into his skull and becoming the first-person view for the rest of the level. You are literally getting inside Bond’s head and seeing through his eyes, therefore becoming Bond!

At the time, the graphics were considered to be the best the Nintendo 64 had, and while they have obviously aged in the last decade, it’s not to the point of being jarring or making you feel like things are a jumbled mess. The facial textures used on characters from the film, as well as those for the scientists and enemies you encounter, look pretty good for the time. One of the funniest things about the game now is the re-use of the same facial textures more than once, and it’s even funnier when you see three, four or more enemies with exactly the same face at the same time.

There are a number of weapons available in the game and these are: Unarmed (Judo chopping), Hunting Knife, Throwing Knife, PP7 Special Issue, Silenced PP7, DD44 Dostovei, Klobb (not very accurate), KF7 Soviet, ZMG (9mm), D5K Deutsche, Silenced D5K, Phantom, AR33 Assault Rifle, RC-P90 (my favourite), Shotgun, Automatic Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, Cougar Magnum, Golden Gun, Silver PP7, Gold PP7, Moonraker Laser, Watch Laser (the same as the one in the film, on the train), Grenade Launcher, Rocket Launcher, Hand Grenade, Timed Mine, Proximity Mine, Remote Mine, Detonator, and the Taser. There are also a number of gadgets and these are: Plastique, Door Decoder, Bomb Defuser, Camera (with 007 printed on it!), Bug (tracking), Data Thief, GoldenEye Key, Watch Magnet Attract. All of these weapons and gadgets add to the overall feeling that you’re Bond.

But there’s even more that makes GoldenEye a great game. There are also cheats that can be unlocked by completing each level under a certain time limit like a speed-run (or you can input controller codes to unlock these if you want to). A lot of these just add to the fun. For example, some cheats like DK Mode (Donkey Kong Mode) give every character huge heads, shrunken bodies and bulky arms! Other cheats that can be unlocked are: Paintball Mode, All Guns, Infinite Ammo, Magnum (Bond begins missions with a Cougar Magnum and 200 bullets), Laser (start every mission with a laser), Golden Gun, Silver PP7, Gold PP7, Enemy Rockets (every enemy has a rocket launcher), 2x Rocket Launchers (Bond starts missions with a pair of them), 2x Grenade Launchers, 2x RC-P90, 2x Throwing Knives, 2x Hunting Knives, 2x Lasers, No Radar (disables radar display in multiplayer mode), Invincible Mode, Bond Invisible, Tiny Bond, Slow Animation (which decreases the enemy’s speed of movement as well as cutscenes), Fast Animation (the opposite of the latter), and Turbo Mode which increases Bond’s speed. This creates a funny moment at the end of the game in the Antenna Cradle mission after 006 and 007 face-off, where Bond jumps for the landing skids of the helicopter but completely misses and falls to his death!

If you search for them on Google, you can also find some neat tricks to use in the game, some for an advantage and others for fun. For example, in the mission on the train, once you get to the final carriage, you can increase the time given to use your laser watch on the trap door by lining yourself up in the right position in front of Xenia, and moving as close as you can without making Ouromov shoot Natalya, then firing at Xenia to effectively “kill” her. This will delay the timer from starting, and allow you to get out of the train and escape to safety much sooner.

A huge factor in the success of GoldenEye and multiplayer games on the Nintendo 64 in general was how the latter portion of the game was executed. Nowdays, it may seem pretty bland to only be able to play the game with people present in the room with you, and only four at that, but still, it was lots of fun at the time. A favourite tactic of mine, and I’m sure of a lot of other players, too, is when playing with proximity mines and planting them on respawn spots. I had all the spots in every level memorised so I could plant mines there to get double or triple kills. Another tactic I would employ is placing a mine in plain view to make the other player think they can just shoot it to blow it up before moving through the area. But I had others planted out of sight in a line that aren’t too far apart from one another, so once they shoot the mine that’s in plain sight, the player would get blown up in the chain reaction of explosions. Since all the other players were in the same room and using the same television to play, being able to see exactly where the other players are at any given time by simply looking at their portion of the screen, was a great way to ambush them and know exactly where they are. In multiplayer mode, players can choose from these scenarios:

  • Normal: the classic type of deathmatch.
  • You Only Live Twice: Players only get two lives and the last person standing wins.
  • The Living Daylights: One player must find a flag and, once they pick it up, they have to keep it without being killed by another player.
  • The Man with the Golden Gun: One of the players must find the Golden Gun and, once they have it in their possession, they can kill the other players with one shot, no matter where the player gets hit. If the player with the gun is killed, then the other combatants can pick it up.
  • Licence to Kill: Players can be killed with just one shot.

Gamers can decide before entering Multiplayer which weapon set they would like to play with. There is also a wide selection of characters to choose from who appeared in GoldenEye and other Bond films as well, such as the aforementioned Jaws, Oddjob (from Goldfinger), Baron Samedi, Mayday (from A View to a Kill), and other incidental characters that were either standard enemies in the single player mode or even civilians from the St. Petersburg level. Character selection was another aspect where players could make the experience frustrating because Oddjob was so short and therefore harder to hit, making him a nuisance when it came to being attacked at close quarters! Jaws being tall may have seemed like an advantage, but at close range, he could really be taken care of easily, even with just the use of the Judo chop!

Now we come to one of the most important elements of a Bond film incorporated into GoldenEye, and that is the awesome music! Composed by Graeme Norgate, Grant Kirkhope, and Robin Beanland, the score is excellent and suits the game extremely well. The Bond theme (originally composed by Monty Norman) and other similarly-styled music is used to create a 007-sounding experience that goes along well with the “Feeling like you’re James Bond” aspect of the game.

Overall, GoldenEye 007 really succeeds in making the player feel like they are the debonair secret agent and this is one of the reasons why the game is successful, but also because of all the elements as a whole, including the famous gunbarrel sequence at the beginning. Many of the FPS titles on the N64 which came out after GoldenEye were always met with the challenge of making the experience just as good. Many other FPS games have, of course, surpassed it in the years since its release, but that’s a given. That said, if you want to play a classic FPS shooter on your N64, then you will be satisfied with the retro fun that GoldenEye certainly offers players.

If, for some reason, you haven’t played the Nintendo 64 version (there was a remake starring Daniel Craig), then I really recommend you do. If you can get past the graphics and get into the gameplay, you will find the experience rewarding. Personally, I think it’s a much better game than Rare’s own follow up/spiritual successor, the N64’s Perfect Dark, even though the latter is more advanced than the former. It just doesn’t make you feel like James Bond!

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • GoldenEye 007 was developed by an inexperienced team; eight of its ten developers had never previously worked on video games. As programmer David Doak recalls, “Looking back, there are things I’d be wary of attempting now, but as none of the people working on the code, graphics, and game design had worked on a game before, there was this joyful naïveté.”
  • The intention for the first few months of development was for the game to be an on-rails shooter similar to Sega’s light gun game Virtua Cop.
  • It received very high critical praise and sold more than eight million units worldwide, making it the third best selling Nintendo 64 game, behind Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64. According to a paper published on the website of the Entertainment Software Association, the game grossed $250 million worldwide.
  • A reimagining of the game, also titled GoldenEye 007, was published by Activision and released for the Wii and Nintendo DS in 2010, and later re-released as GoldenEye 007: Reloaded for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 the following year.

Rod Petrie

Gamer since 1988 at the age of five. First system was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Favourite retro systems - NES, SNES, N64, MegaDrive, PS1, and PS2.

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