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Goldeneye 007 Proved Making a Fun First-Person Shooter on a Console was Possible



Goldeneye 007

Revisiting Goldeneye on the N64

Though not the first shooter to appear on the N64 (that distinction belongs to Acclaim’s Turok: Dinosaur Hunter), Rare’s 1997 masterpiece Goldeneye 007 was the first one that made console owners’ PC overlord friends just a tad bit jealous. How? With controls that were just intuitive enough to feel “right,” quality design and attention to detail that really evoked the James Bond film it was based on, and some of the most varied and addicting multiplayer available in the genre at the time (okay, maybe it was pretty much only the multiplayer). While it certainly doesn’t hold up anymore against its technologically superior modern colleagues, its influence on the genre cannot be overstated. Goldeneye 007 proved to developers that making a fun first-person shooter on a console was not only possible but having sold more than 8 million copies worldwide, also potentially highly profitable.

From the opening moments sprinting across the top of a Russian dam, Goldeneye 007 felt different than other first-person shooters previously brought to home consoles. For starters, running and gunning actually worked and worked well. This may not seem like a high bar to overcome, but back in the day, it was practically revolutionary, and a primary reason gamers from both sides of the aisle could sit down and enjoy some action-packed secret agent exploits. Thanks to the N64’s analog stick and C-buttons, navigating the maze of corridors while strafing mobs of enemies felt fluid and natural in a way that had only previously been possible with a mouse and keyboard, and the pleasure of pulling the Z trigger to pop off a couple of rounds into the back of some poor bastard’s head felt oh-so-satisfying. For once players could forget about fighting the controls and fully immerse themselves in the play.

Image: Rare

And what brilliant gameplay! Rare packed the main campaign of Goldeneye with so much mission variety and clever design that the whole game feels fresh all the way through to the end, even as it closely follows the plot of the movie. Mines are planted, computers are hacked, photographic intel is taken, laser watches are used, tanks are driven – and many, many, many people are shot along the way. There are moments of incredible action, sneaky stealth, and everything in between. Little touches abound that took existing shooter elements further than they had been, like context-sensitive hit locations on enemies that could cause them to comically hop on one foot from a toe shot or slump to the ground from one right between the eyes. Soldiers react to gunfire, charging in or tripping alarms, and even sidestep behind walls in feeble attempts to avoid death. With so much to see and so many different ways to approach each stage, Goldeneye seemed like it had endless depth, allowing players to experiment and have fun with whatever scenario presented itself. Though the visuals have aged, moments like peeking out from a ventilation shaft and shooting the hat of an unsuspecting toilet-goer before kicking in the stall doors on his bathroom friends and plucking Kalashnikovs from their bloody corpses will never get old.

Still, despite how good the rest of the game was for the time, the creativity and execution behind the game’s phenomenal multiplayer are what really propel Goldeneye 007 into the annals of gaming history. While Doom LAN parties had been all the rage on college campuses to that point, the spirit of dorm room gaming was better exemplified by sitting on an old couch and taking advantage of the N64’s four controller ports with three of your best bullet sponges buddies while duking it out face-to-face in some good old-fashioned deathmatches. If racking up kills the normal way ever got old (and really, it never did), then Rare was kind enough to provide several variations appropriately named after Bond films. You Only Live Twice is self-explanatory, The Living Daylights was essentially flag tag, and The Man With the Golden Gun tasked players with finding the titular weapon, which would grant them one-shot kills as long as they stayed alive. How many friendships were utterly destroyed by these bouts is unknown (especially because of players selecting a certain short hat-thrower), but just as many were forged.

What we know today of the first-person shooter looks and plays differently, certainly more sophisticated, but the essence of what Goldeneye 007 achieved is still there, and much of the genre’s popularity on consoles can be attributed to Rare’s masterpiece.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 24, 2017.

Patrick Murphy grew up in the hearty Midwest, where he spent many winter hours watching movies and playing video games while waiting for baseball season to start again. When not thinking of his next Nintendo post or writing screenplays to satisfy his film school training, he’s getting his cinema fix as the Editor of Sordid Cinema, Goomba Stomp's Film and TV section.