Review by UltimaterializerX
"Not only is Goldeneye the most influential console FPS title, but even by today's standards it's one of the best games of all time outright."
While Wolfenstein 3D invented the first person shooter concept, Doom popularized it. And after Doom's fast rise to legendary status for several reasons, FPS titles were popping up all over the place for the PC.
But what about console gaming? Putting FPS games on the console was at one point unthinkable due to it being difficult to implement the control scheme, and rightfully so. Imagine trying to design an FPS title for the Genesis or the SNES -- but it wasn't long before Nintendo went and invented their analog stick, and Goldeneye 007's splash onto the console world that came soon after changed gaming forever.
Goldeneye the game is based off the events contained in Goldeneye the movie, and the game does this with stunning accuracy. The full extent of the plotline and characterization isn't captured perfectly, but there's enough so that the game does the movie proper justice. However, there are depths a game can reach that movies cannot and vice versa, so it all evens out.
The main story of Goldeneye is that the Goldeneye satellite (capable of destroying anything that uses electronic circuits) gets stolen shortly after the destruction of a Russian computer research facility, which was an operation that both 006 (Alec Trevelyan) and 007 (James Bond) were involved in. But 006 gets killed in the Facility blast, and the Russians fully plan on using the Goldeneye on London as retaliation for 007's efforts. It is up to Bond himself to put an end to all of this, and he has the added motive of the Russians killing his good friend 006.
Or so he thinks. It doesn't take long for the entire world of Goldeneye to turn upside-down against Bond, and by the end of the game only Bond and a female computer programmer (Because what validity does anything Bond-related have if James isn't meddling around with hot chicks?) can save the world from being destroyed at the hands of the Goldeneye.
You'll go through the game in a simplistic mission-by-mission format, complete with debriefings and mission objectives so as to get a general idea of all the necessities of where to go and what to do. The game can be played on three different difficulty settings -- Agent, Secret Agent and 00 Agent -- though it's recommended that you go through the game in successive order of difficulty. Not only will it get you accustomed to the challenges that lie ahead, it will allow you to appreciate how the game improves as it progresses both from a difficulty perspective and from the perspective of mission objectives and exploration.
FPS titles before Goldeneye were all about simply blasting the hell out of everything that moved, but one of Goldeneye's big influences on the genre was that it went outside of "look and shoot" style gameplay. In Goldeneye's universe, you have to tell the difference between friend and foe, complete mission objectives, use a ton of little gadgets and go through the events of Goldeneye the movie through the eyes of James Bond himself. Every man dreams of being James Bond, and the time has finally come to do just that.
On the surface Goldeneye looks relatively simple, but it's actually one of the more deep titles out there even by today's standards. Copious amounts of detail had to be factored into making every aspect of the game work as one, and it really pays off when you get into the game. The graphics, though choppy, were top-notch for its time with wonderful detail going into nearly every aspect of every level. And given how big most levels of the game are, that's quite a bit of detail to worry about. Floors, walls, clouds, snow, forests, doors, shadows, hiding spaces, corners, the clothes on the guards and even the guns that everyone in the game totes are all accounted for with wonderful clarity and variety, and all this does a wonderful job of making you feel like you're in the game's world. Goldeneye also does all of the little things well, such as a small ammo display that doesn't obstruct your view, simple-yet-customizable controls that are easy to learn even for FPS newbies, very noticeable difficulty jumps when crossing over into higher difficulty settings, and of course wonderful enemy AI.
By today's standards the AI isn't all too great, but for its time it was top-notch. Guards will pull out all the stops in their effort to prevent you from completing your mission, especially on 00 Agent. Most will simply use their default weapon and blast you with it, but guards have no qualms about pulling out grenades on you every now and then. The more elite guards in the game will have better weapons equipped with which to murder you, and the very elite guards will have the best weapons in the game available to them on top of full Body Armor that you must deal with. Players who are fans of allowing the auto aim to do their work for them will notice that the Body Armor laden guards will be able to fire back even if you shoot them first, and even guards not of elite caliber will be able to pull this off from time to time. Goldeneye even has a couple of tough bosses to deal with, and they're equipped with the nastiest tricks and equipment in the game. And while most of the enemies will simply run after you (smart players will eventually learn to camp and simply pick off guards as they blindly run around corners into the sight of Bond's crosshairs), a few of them will hang back and play the waiting game with you on the later levels.
But where Goldeneye's single player shines isn't in the bare bones, but in the whole package. The detail put into the game is beyond insane, especially for its time. Sure the enemies are a handful to deal with, but there is so much more than that. A good deal of the mission objectives in the game are fairly difficult to figure out, especially for those who've never played an FPS before, and most of which has to be accomplished while dealing with guards being all over your every move. In some of the later levels, all it takes is one mistake for a mission to fail. You'll have to deal with not only the guards being highly skilled in whatever weapon they're equipped with (You'll notice that enemies who have weapons with scopes, for example, are extremely accurate even from a distance. On 00 Agent, you'll learn to fear enemies that are equipped with Sniper Rifles, KF7 Soviets, AR33 Assault Rifles and the like), but exploding crates, guards setting off alarms to call in their elite Special Forces buddies for assistance, drone guns, cameras, and so much more. You'll even have to deal with the unexpected every now and again.
And there's more. Did you shoot one of the friendly scientists by accident? Watch as he pulls out a gun and opens fire on you as you're helpless to fire back -- a scientist death could mean a mission failure. Did you accidentally make too much noise with that KF7 Soviet of yours in Bunker II? Say hello to seemingly endless waves of guards. Don't know how to use your Bomb Diffuser correctly on the Frigate? Better remember fast, because you'll blow up a boat full of hostages and the helicopter you're tracking if you screw up. Did you forget to pick up that one tiny little item required to clear the Silo? Too bad. You fail anyway.
And don't even think about trying to rush through the Aztec temple before knowing the place better than your own house, because you'll soon find out that you can die in a flash at virtually any point in the mission. You don't want all of the hell that you went through to reach Jaws to go to waste, do you? Oh right, even if you go through that level perfectly, infinite Moonraker Elites with their Moonraker Lasers of infinite ammo and doom will soon be all over your ass and can kill you with ease if they happen to catch you from behind. Have fun.
Speaking of Aztec, one of the best features of Goldeneye are the unlockable features. After clearing the game on Agent, you'll unlock a ton of extra characters that can be used in multiplayer, including classic Bond characters such as Jaws, Oddjob, Mayday and Baron Samehi. Clear it on Secret Agent and you'll unlock the extra level Aztec, which is the hardest level in the game with relative ease. And once you clear the game on 00 Agent, you'll open up a fun stomping ground in the Egyptian Temple.
However, the unlockables that drive everyone crazy and give this game's single player mode near-infinite replay value are the unlockable cheats. In every level of the game (including the two secret ones), there is one cheat that can be unlocked by completing the level on a certain difficulty in under a set time limit. Figuring out which difficulty setting a level needs to be completed on is easy enough, as you'll see a target time displayed upon the level's completion if a cheat is available, while said target time isn't there on the other two difficulty settings. For example, you'll see a target time after beating the Dam on Secret Agent, but it's not there on Agent or 00 Agent.
Actually clearing the target times and getting every cheat from every level, however, is another story entirely. A few of the cheats are fairly simple to get, but most aren't. And even though most of the cheats will be acquired with enough practice, there are a couple that have eluded gamers even today, nearly a decade after the game's initial release. Beating the Facility on 00 Agent in under 2:15 is one of the most well-known challenges in gaming, and for a time after Goldeneye's release many gamers maintained that the feat was impossible.
Welcome to just how addictive Goldeneye is. There is a perfect gaming experience for the casual and hardcore gamer alike, complete with everything required to heighten the experience. Great graphics, a stunning soundtrack, infinite replayability and truly feeling rewarded after completing a difficult task will keep you coming back to Goldeneye again and again even if you're good enough to earn four 007 files that have all cheats unlocked.
And that's only speaking of the single player.
Mastering the single player is a large part of Goldeneye's appeal, but there is a whole other brilliant world to discover when it comes to the game's multiplayer. Anywhere between two and four people can plug themselves into the N64 in preparation to beat the hell out of each other, and they can set up multiplayer matches in virtually any way they desire. There are eleven maps to choose from (as well as a random option), multiple weapon settings, various individual customization that can be done (most notably the selection of one's character), and multiple play options that will keep players coming back again and again to beat the crap out of their friends. Normal multiplayer is fun enough as is, but License to Kill (One Hit Kills), You Only Live Twice, Flag Tag, the various team/handicap battles and setting up the prerequisite for victory add that much more to the multiplayer and the overall replayability of the game.
The best part of Goldeneye's multiplayer is that while it's fairly deep and involved, it isn't overly deep so that all of the options are intimidating. The desired multiplayer match can literally be set up in seconds, whereas Goldeneye's quasi-sequel Perfect Dark requires a considerably larger amount of time to get things going. There is a certain perfect balance that Rare was able to pull off in designing Goldeneye's multiplayer, as well as Goldeneye as a whole.
There is a certain magic that goes into playing Goldeneye that few games possess -- the famed "magical it", if you will -- and it only takes playing the game for about 30 seconds to discover a title that you could very well become attached to for life, even this long after the initial release of the game. Everything Goldeneye does is perfect, from the gameplay and its replay value to the little details, graphics, and music. Goldeneye has it all, and its appeal extends well past the FPS fanbase. It is a game not merely for fans of the first person shooter genre, but simply for fans of great games.
Even more mythical is that Goldeneye was the first of its kind in that it brought the FPS genre from PCs to consoles and managed to get it nearly perfect on the first try. Goldeneye has been grown to be the Mario 64 of the FPS genre, and one needs look no farther than the game's massive influence as proof of how great the game truly is. Many games have been lauded as great over the years, but it takes a true legend to formulate an entire genre while still being able to stand the test of time and be as good or better than games of its genre released years afterwards. Goldeneye is akin to Metal Gear Solid in this manner in that no matter how many stealth action games have been released since the dawn of MGS, MGS can still proudly state that it is as good or better than any other stealth action game since.
The same holds true for Goldeneye and FPS titles. If you haven't bothered playing it by now, what in the world could you possibly be waiting for? The next Goldeneye? Don't hold your breath, because you will likely never see another FPS (or even another game, period) quite like this. And no, Halo does not count.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/16/05, Updated 06/11/10
Game Release: GoldenEye 007 (US, 08/25/97)
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