Review by Shotgunnova
Shaken and Preferred
Boasting so many accolades that they could be used for ammunition, GoldenEye 007 is one of the premier first-person shooters that has its legendary status secured...and why wouldn't it? It was an over-comfortable romp with James, who cavorted the globe with his PP7 and ended the long list of series misfires and fall-shorts. This is the shoot-em-up, and probably will remain so to those that had the pleasure of playing it before the days of Halo and pure online play. Even in the face of Doom and Wolfenstein, GoldenEye stands so tall that it puts a shadow on its competition.
And that's why Bond's simply the best.
Following the movie's plot, James is sent out to recover/destroy a satellite that has the power to destroy circuitry and cripple economies if used. The threat of using it is indeed waved around in the Englanders' face by the Russians, who are looking to use it as a retaliatory effort for the destruction of one of their chemical facilities. This is also the mission where Agent 006 (Trevelyan) met his unfortunate end. Needless to say, if Bond is looking to make some trouble for the Russians, and has every reason to be on the warpath over his friend's death.
While investigating the site of a blast where the GoldenEye satellite was test-fired, James meets up with a programmer (Natalya) who has a little revenge of her own in store, since the blast took the lives of her colleagues. From there, the game makes pit stops at the movie's key locations, with most of the levels spent in pursuit of a mad Russian colonel, a stolen helicopter, and a well-known figure from James' past who was working her majesty's secret service. The conclusion is a face off over the fate of the world's preservation...and, of course, the satellite itself needs to be done away with.
Since Bond is progressing through the game in different places with different motives, more often than naught, the game doesn't suffer from the feeling that the entire game's just a collective of missions (as opposed to FFX-2, for instance); because of this, the episodic manner in which the game is portrayed is highly effective at giving a succinct overview of what needs to be done. Short (text) dialogues with M, Q, and Moneypenny set the stage for each venture, and, just like the movies, M and Q remind 007 of his duties and to remain on guard, while Moneypenny will chide James on his associations with women more often than naught. Though minor and often forgettable during combat, these little excerpts truly make it as though James is grabbing his hat and coat and leaving an office (which is always appreciated; those were often times some of the funnier moments).
After choosing the available difficulty settings, James arrives into each mission like he's just been parachuted in -- rather naked in terms of equipment, guns, and ammo. He often carries his trademark gun and maybe a gadget to get him through the level, which means he has to seek out the rest of his support from the source: killin' enemies.
Unlike many first-person shooters, the game isn't solely about shooting people in the face and walking out the door; no, there are actual things to do within each level, and some things that were easy get difficult as the difficulty rises. Dossiers must be collected, cameras must be put out of service, guests must be protected, high-profile enemy operatives must be killed...and all while constantly running around. Not everyone is a tried-and-true enemy, and the player has to watch out for hostages and Natalya, too, when they are on the level. This just makes the timers' countdowns (when applicable) all that much more vital, as any realistic mission would be expected to have those moments. Mission objectives can range from easy to painstakingly annoying as well, with no one safe from exploding a bomb or depleting a timer, looking for that one key item/person...and that's one of GoldenEye's finer points: things match the difficulty they're set at, and when a person ups the ante to Secret Agent or 00 Agent mode, new objectives are piled onto the old ones.
While the objectives can grow higher and higher, the controls, fortunately, are no hard task. The buttons and the Z-trigger's placement on the N64 controller loosely mimic the shape of a gun, and while that makes it easy for one to get into the shooting phases rather easily, one doesn't need to waste time learning complicated movements either. The c-buttons are great for strafing around, and are generally the selection of choice when getting through the level and firing off potshots (and other things) from around corners. The r-button puts up the crosshairs should your need them when auto-aim is turned off; the b-button scrolls through the weapons Bond with alacrity.
The enemies aren't complete dullards either, and are quite adept with a gun in their hands. AI in this game is quite good, but it has shown its wear over time, now that most FPS titles demonstrate top technology when it comes to putting brains in baddies. Normal guards will fire at Bond, stop when he moves out of view, and run to hit alarms. Those that have grenades and rockets don't waste 'em completely, either, which adds another element of excitement when in a new level. Most tactics (sniping, camping, hitting them when they turn a corner) can deal with these types, though, as some of the animations of an enemy pulling their weapons and pointing them towards lend enough time for Bond to spray bullets into his foe's face.
Graphics / Sounds
Glowing with a fine luster of accomplishment, the visuals for GoldenEye do not disappoint overall. A fine eye for detail went into making the game play off like the movie, and it's obvious at first glance: logos and garage doors aren't bare, tufts of grass wave in the wind, lonely bird calls echo throughout forest settings, gates grind whenever they're moved. Enemies who meet the wrong end of James' gun also make an array of noises, as do the bullets' ricochets and the sounds of bullets passing through different materials. Though the level theme is playing most of the time, too, the sound bytes really give a feeling of real-world gusto to the "get in, get out" feeling that's never leaves for a second.
The graphics do appear blocky and a bit unappealing today, I suppose. All characters run around in blocky motions half the time like animated cardboard, and look a bit blocky. To boot, boundaries for the characters don't often match, as evidenced by the faces of guards through locked doors and walls. Still, it's a pittance compared to what the game has offered, and most people would recognize that bashing a classic's look now would make everyone ornery, and rightfully so. The graphics were great back then, as the tried-and-true excuse goes, but GoldenEye's aren't completely reduced to nothing yet -- they still deliver.
When 1997 rolled around and Bond fanatics were hailing the game as one of the best ever (and not without reason), scores of people scrambled to achieve all the cheats and secret levels. They still do today, which says a bit about how the objectives didn't seem dumbed-down over time. Cheats are obtained through objective speed-runs, with Bond bolting through the level and attempting to get funny cheats like "Paintball Mode" (vandalize building faces) or "DK Mode" (oversized, Donkey-Kong-like heads) by finishing the mission in a set time. Of course, not all are for fun and games -- the best of the best can obtain Invincibility and Infinite Ammo codes for their hard work. Completing all the missions on harder challenges also opens two new levels straight out of Bond's past (Moonraker and Live and Let Die, respectively), which showcase their own villains and level objectives (with better cheats to be repeat, of course).
But, perhaps the most enduring of the game's extras is the multiplayer feature, which capitalizes on the split-screen ability and allows four-people to play on one t.v. screen. Multiple modes of play (Man with the Golden Gun, Living Daylights) characterize the fun, nostalgic feel that allows people to kill by simply striking first or by only getting two lives until they're out. Weapon selections can be turned on as well, with the fan-favorite Golden Gun being one of the more cheap powerhouse and categories such as "Knives" and "Slappers Only" (karate chops) providing for some laughable entertainment as well as simple fun. The cast of characters one can be ranges from Goldeneye's spectrum to Bond movies straight out of the vault, with people like Oddjob (Goldfinger), Mayday (View to a Kill), and Baron Samedi (Live and Let Die) appearing from their graves to do battle with everyone's wits and quick fingers. If there is one segment of GoldenEye that is unlikely to be tarnished by newer graphics and expansive levels, it's the multiplayer one. Count on this being the life of the party if someone spots the 64 on your television. Like any good agent, you shouldn't disappoint. ;)
Pros / Cons
+ Missions require brainwork
+ Enemy AI won't be putting you to sleep
+ More timeless than the movie, actually
+ Multiplayer option still incredible to play
+ Sounds on par by today's standards
- Graphics showing their age
The Verdict: Diamonds may be forever, but so is this solid "Gold".
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