Goldeneye 007 – N64 Review

I was never a Nintendo kid growing up, sure I played Super Mario Brothers 3 at a friends house and knew the general gist of their stuff, but it was Amiga then Playstation for me growing up, with a healthy love of all things Sonic The Hedgehog sprinkled in there.

So the N64 kinda came and went for me growing up, it wasn’t until I was a bit older that I was more intrigued by what the console had to offer. Still every now and then some of the games would enter my world, No Mercy came up because I was, and still am, a huge WWE Wrestling fan, and Goldeneye was just one of those games you heard of as being brilliant. As a kid though, my only real experience of it came from playing it in a demo booth at PC World.

So the years went on, and I heard about the legend of this game. I heard about how important it was, how genre defining it was and a part of me always wanted to play it. So about 11 years ago, my partner got me an N64 and one of the first games I made sure to get myself for it was Goldeneye, I played a bit of it, but other things popped up around that time and for some reason my playing of it and my N64 in general fell a bit by the wayside.

That was until 2022, a year in which I started a new series on my Youtube channel called ‘Games I’ve Wanted To Play’, a series in which I finally play through games I’ve always wanted to play and document it. I only ended up making three videos for this, but those videos introduced me to Dino Crisis, Parasite Eve and The Bouncer, all of which were bloody fantastic. I always intended to make more videos, but then I got into streaming and through which a new way to experience these games and share that with others.

Which brings us to Goldeneye 007, some 11 years after I got the game and some 25 or so years after it originally came out. Let’s take a look, shall we?

From Rareware With Love

Developed by Rare and released in 1997, Goldeneye is obviously an adaptation of the 1995 Bond movie of the same name. It’s something of a rarity in video game adaptations in that it actually came out a couple of years after the movie did. In fact, Goldeneye released shortly after the next bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies.

It’s a First Person Shooter, which takes you through quite a large number of levels from the film. In each level you have to complete a number of objectives. This brings us onto the first thing I really liked about Goldeneye, depending on the difficulty setting you pick, not only do the enemies hit a bit harder and there might be more of them, but you also get more objectives to do.

This is something I’d maybe like to see other games adopt, usually higher difficulties just means you’ll take more damage/be more enemies but it’d be cool to see the introduction of additional/tougher objectives to do. I know it is something that Rare would do again for Perfect Dark, and it popped up in the Timesplitters games too. (Which isn’t much of a surprise given, it had involvement from ex-Rare staff)

Now, in a level you might have multiple objectives and one of the cool things about this, is that it’s up to you the order in which you do them. In most levels you will likely do them in the order they’re given, but some of the levels are a bit more open, allowing you to approach things a bit differently. It’s not a sandbox by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a bit more open then just getting from Point A to Point B. Perhaps amusingly, is that this design does allow you to completely miss an objective and finish the level, naturally it doesn’t progress the game and you’ll have to repeat it, but given how short some levels can be it’s not much of a frustration.

The Man With The Golden Controller

So, knowing what you have to do in the game and what it is, how does it control? When it originally released, Goldeneye was a new standard for FPS games on a console. They had existed up until that point of course, but Goldeneye was seen as a gold standard and something to aspire to. Of course, we have come a long way since then. What was a gold standard back then, feels fairly antiquated now. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with the controls a little. A big part of that is because I’ve just not used the N64 controller as much as I have other controllers.

You control Bond via the analogue stick, using the C Buttons on the right have side of the controller to adjust the camera and strafe. You can tap a shoulder button to go into an ‘aiming’ mode, where you have a visible reticule, and can use the analogue stick to move it around and maybe get a bit more precision. I say a bit more, but the honest truth is that it just doesn’t handle very well. It’s really awkward, doesn’t really behave as you’d like it to, and if anything you feel like you’re fighting against it, rather then getting any benefit from it. I generally found, just using the C Buttons to aim roughly where i wanted and relying on the auto aim got me through most of it.

Shooting is done via the Z button on the back of the controller, and you can swap weapon/reload and use in game items via the A/B buttons on the face of the controller.

It’s not hard to control, but like I say I did struggle at moments. Sometimes I felt trying to get Bond through the tighter gaps/staircases was a lot harder then it should be, this was quite evident on the final level. I certainly think if you are only used to dual analogue controls for shooters then you are going to struggle, but it shouldn’t be too hard to adapt.

A View To A Kill

There’s a bloody charm to graphics back in the N64/PSOne era, isn’t there? I remember being that age and looking at the likes to Tomb Raider and being in awe and wondering how graphics could ever get any better. A ridiculous statement, but I was a kid and it seemed like we had come so far graphically in such a short space of time, it boggled the mind how we could get any better!

Goldeneye definitely stands as one of the better looking games of the era. Some lovely environments from level to level, character models that… look like people. (I mean hell, I even recognized that one of them was supposed to be Robbie Coltrane!), some lovely smoke, glass smashing and explosion vfx thrown in there as well. You can tell a lot of work went into the games visuals, and it shows.

Perhaps the one area that suffers is the draw distance on some levels but that’s me being super pedantic. The game obviously shows it’s age now, but as older 3D games go, it’s not really aged as poorly as others might have done.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Stereo

You know what hasn’t aged poorly in the game?

The music, because this games soundtrack, as the kids say, slaps! I’m struggling really for things to say here beyond just saying it’s a great soundtrack. Stages have their own unique themes, a number of which are spun off of the main Bond theme, and others are influenced by past Bond movie themes. They all fit the stages really well and you can really see a lot of love and craft has gone into making sure it fits in well.

You Only Live Twice (Or Three, Four, Five… as many times as it takes really)

So, I suppose we have the answer the question. What did I really think of my time with Goldeneye? It was admittedly difficult to not come into the game with a large amount of hype knowing the legacy behind it all. At the same time, I was careful to temper my expectations, I knew aspects of it wouldn’t have aged perfectly and I think that put me in a good place to play it.

Did I enjoy it? I absoutely did. It was a great game, but not flawless. There were definitely some moments and choices with the missions that became frustrating. Especially some of the latter missions, the Jungle mission, the mission in which you have to protect Natalya whilst she is hacking a computer and the final level itself did have problems. It felt like there were some sharp difficulty spikes with those missions or just due to the nature of the mission, it was harder then it should have been.

In particular, escort missions, or protect the NPC missions, have always and will always be a difficult thing in a game. I don’t know how common they were back when this came out, but I can imagine it was still a newish thing so I can forgive it despite the frustations.

The other thing, and this came up in the final mission. Endlessly respawning waves of enemies, which again is something that still happens in games to this day, can be a little bit of a hindrance.

Overall though, I played through the game on the easier difficulty and it wasn’t too bad a time. I failed a few missions a couple of times but compared to how difficult some games of the era can be, I felt Goldeneye was pretty fair.

Would I recommend the game? Genuinely, I would. I think if you’re getting into playing retro games via emulation or even the original hardware, then it’s a must have! It might take some adapting to, if you’re so used to modern titles but I didn’t find it too hard to adapt to, and what you have here is a game with a super strong core and worthy of being on anyones shelf.

Comments

  1. Probably one of the greatest games of its time. Spent countless hours playing the single player and multiplayer aspects of this. Yes some of the controls are clunky, like the aiming part. But this was more or less the one that provided the springboard for games like Call of Duty and Battlefield.

    If you haven’t tried it, I recommend Perfect Dark for the N64. Made by the same people who made Goldeneye.

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