Review by Millers C

Reviewed: 08/03/06

This is the reason you bought an N64

First Person Shooters were traditionally games which began life on the PC and ended up being ported to consoles, to varying success. It is rare, so to speak, that a first person shooter which originated on consoles became some of the better games in its genre. But this proved to be the case with the trend setting Goldeneye 64 when it saw the light of day in late 1997.

Few had tried to capture the essence of and make the most of the clear potential the Bond license had. Before Goldeneye all we had featuring 007 in gaming were a few poor titles from the eighties and the average Mega Drive game James Bond: The Duel. Making the most of the title would be crucial to the success of Goldeneye and Rare certainly went all out to make this possible.

Goldeneye isn’t a regular first person shooter as you can choose whether you can be stealthy or aggressive in the manner that you play. Each level is detailed with background objects and guards patrol a set route, so it’s great to progress through some of the more claustrophobic indoor mission and slowly pick off all the sentries as you progress. But crucially, its all about firefights and action for the major part, with the excellent control system allowing players freedom to do this well. You can use the terrain to your advantage as well as the controls allow you to peek around corners and fire a salvo before retreating. Enemies are not brilliantly smart however and will often just run into your crosshairs, but on the higher difficulties they prove quite resistant. There are a few Boss characters in the game, but they really don’t offer much of a challenge. One of the most fun parts of the game is the two occasions where Bond commandeers a Soviet Tank and runs amok flattening Cars and Soldiers – sorry, the bike, BMW & plane are not available.

Bond isn’t restricted to his Regular standard issue Walther PPK (renamed here the PP7 due to licensing issues), he can use a myriad of stunningly detailed and awesome weaponry. Many of the bog standard soldiers carry K47 (AK47) assault rifles, but the more fearsome Janus guards carry M16’s and RC90 (An 80 round rapid fire monster) and there are an array of gadgets available such as proximity mines, Laser watches and even a Taser. Goldeneye doesn’t skip out all the violence either, blood does appear on enemies where you shoot them although corpses disappear after a moment or two, and the game also hosts some of the most amusing if disturbing death animations. Rare have incorporated large numbers of these death animations and its very interesting to find them all out. One, for instance where a guard clutches his shot neck and gurgles whilst collapsing to the floor is both disturbing and satisfying at the same time.

Goldeneye’s control system is very intuitive and was made for the Nintendo 64’s controller; it fits the profile of the game superbly. Aiming is achieved by using the shoulder buttons, firing is used by the Z trigger button underneath the controller while you maneuver Bond around using the control stick. It works perfectly and its an excellent feeling as you get the impression of complete control and it’s a control method you’ll feel comfortable with right from the beginning. There are several more methods on offer – all named after the bond girls no less! – including one which uses dual N64 controllers in an attempt to emulate the mouse and keyboard control system favored by PC first person shooters. Again, this says a lot about the games depth and attention to detail

Goldeneye is as faithful to the movie license as the game would allow; allowing for a few changes here and there to get a little more out of the storyline – after all lets not forget the movie was released two years before the game came out. The game begins like the movie – essentially in more cases it’s a scene for scene remake with many small scenes dragged out into interesting, fun and complex levels – with Bond infiltrating the dam which is part of a Soviet Facility. Some levels were added to increase the games storyline, but what we have here is 20 levels plus two secret ones so the depth in terms of missions is outstanding.

Goldeneye is still a visually accomplished game to this day, which is some statement considering it is nearly 10 years old. It does look a little bit cartoonish in its structure at times, but on the whole it looks great. Weapons and characters are finely detailed whilst the stages look splendid and well crafted and designed. Characters sometimes look a little awkward when holding weapons, however.I really liked how Rare used as much of the Bond license as possible. There are some really nice touches such as the inclusion of the Golden Gun, multiplayer modes named after the Bond movies (License to Kill is a one shot kill mode), the OHMSS watermark on the briefings and some very Bond mission briefings. Movie enthusiasts would have a field day picking out all the other references of which there are many.

There is an excellent soundtrack in Goldeneye, Rare have composed some really good tracks for the missions and have given them a Bond twist using the main and Goldeneye theme as a basis. I lost count of how many times the Bond theme was remixed in the soundtrack! But on the whole, it adds to the atmosphere of each level and gives the game a more authentic and ‘Bond’ feel. Equally impressive are the in game sounds including the guns which sound powerful and deadly to the explosions which devastate the screen if you are caught up in it.

One of Goldeneye’s biggest selling points was with its exceptional multiplayer mode, which is crammed with game modes and options. There is capture the flag, team based and regular deathmatches all named after some of the Bond movies which was an excellent touch. Unfortunately unlike Perfect Dark, there are no bots so if you’ve got no mates to play the game with; this mode will mean nothing to you. Still it is one of the best four player multiplayer first person shooters ever to grace consoles and it is really a lot of fun to play – a four way stand off in the Archives level with Rocket Launchers just has to be experienced!. You can choose the characters of the game from Bond himself to arch nemesis Trevelyan and some of the regular non playable characters you encounter in the game. You can’t customize the weapons however, you need to select from a number of preset packages which can be slightly frustrating. As far as arenas go there is nothing overly spectacular. There are several arenas based on the missions from the game while there are some that have been built specifically for multiplayer. Some are bland but others are well designed and are excellent to play in, such as the Caverns and Archives. With a gameshark it is possible to see other missions in multiplayer mode including the Cradle and Statue – in fact usage of a gameshark opens up many new possibilities in this game as Goldeneye seems to have code which is easy to manipulate. Its easy to say that Perfect Dark’s multiplayer overshadows it and it may seem basic now in comparison, but if you have 3 friends to play the game with its still one of the best multiplayer modes on the N64.

A large reason that Goldeneye remains such a timeless classic is the stunning amount of replay value offered by the game. Rare have incorporated a cheat system where game enhancing cheats are obtained by beating missions in a certain PAR time on a certain difficulty. The minor cheats such as paintball mode and DK (Donkey Kong Mode) Mode are relatively easy to win. But the more exciting cheats such as invincibility, invisibility and all guns are much more difficult to get, which adds a considerable amount of lastability to the game. Added to this are the glitches, tricks and Easter eggs that dedicated gamers have discovered which are great fun to find and accomplish. There are three difficulty levels – Agent, Special and 00 Agent – and there are more objectives on the harder difficulty levels. Also, there are cheats to obtain by playing on certain difficulties, so it’s a good idea to play through each difficulty mode, which also gives the game something else to keep you playing, and just when you thought the game couldn’t possibly give any more in terms of replay value, there are two secret levels thrown into the bargain.

Of course no game is perfect and Goldeneye does have its shortcomings, mainly due to the game’s age. It’s aged well despite it being in its tenth year but this may be enough to put some people off. Its not exactly unattractive on the visuals but still by today’s standards… Also, the game features no voice acting whatsoever which can make single player a lonely experience. Instead we have subtitles, and I can’t help but think this is one thing that would have made the game a little better. There are also a couple of missions which seem to have been recycled; this wouldn’t normally be a problem except one of them is rather dull. However, these minor flaws are very inconsequential; in fact you’ll probably like the game too much to notice or care.

Goldeneye will go down in history as one of the greatest pace setting first person shooters in history, setting the standards for which all games of this genre ought to be judged. Brimming full of options, surprises and Bond authenticity it’s a game that is an absolute joy to play and should keep you playing for many, many months - This is the reason you bought an N64.

Rating: 10

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