Review by Catacombs
Still the best after all these years
Of all the games I've played over the years, on all different kinds of systems, from the NES to the PS2, no game has left me with fonder memories than Rareware's first-person shooter GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64.
I've got a lot of ground to cover in this section, so I'll start off with the single-player mode. There are 18 regular missions, roughly following the plot of the James Bond movie the game is based off of, with three different difficulty modes (Agent, Secret Agent, 00 Agent) for each level. The Agent missions (the easiest difficulty) are naturally pretty simple; the AI reacts slowly to your presence, the objectives may be as simple as not killing any civilians or scientists as you traverse the stage from Point A to Point B, and it usually takes only one to two hits to kill an enemy (assuming you hit them in the chest or head; hitting them in the leg will merely disable them for a few seconds before they resume firing at you). However, from there, things get a bit harder. Secret Agent, while still manageable for new players, is a big step up from the Agent mode; the objectives become much more complicated than hitting a button near a computer, and the enemy soldiers are much more alert to your presence. Also, you'll find subtle changes made to each level that make your mission a much tougher one; security cameras will appear in the most crucial areas of the stage that, if they see you, will sound an alarm that will bring in soldier after soldier after soldier after soldier... which usually results in either an aborted mission or a dead James Bond on your screen. Once you beat a Secret Agent mission, a 00 Agent mission will open up; these are the hardest missions in the entire game (not counting the hidden 007 mode, of course), and will require full knowledge of every aspect of both the mission stages and the game mechanics for you to beat them. This may all sound pretty tedious when reading about it, but believe me, once you pick up the controller and start playing, you won't want to put it down.
While the single-player mode is well thought-out and it alone would make this game a 10/10, Rareware went one step further and included what is in my opinion the greatest multiplayer experience in any console game, ever. Even after seven years, it still manages to rival that of Counter-Strike for the PC. While it's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes it so amazing, I'm pretty sure it includes at least one of these three things: a) level design, b) weapons, c) the different game modes. The level design, for starters, is roughly the same type of design found in the single-player missions, except they've been reduced in size and given a more fitting layout for 2+ players to battle in. The weapons, which are the same here as in SP missions, are just plain fun to play with; you can set the game up so that the only weapons you can pick up are pistols, or automatics, or laser guns, or proximity mines (a personal favorite of mine), or even "Slappers Only" (nothing is more fun than frantically karate-chopping your friends to death).
Also, you can choose to play from a number of different modes, which include Licensed to Kill (one shot is all it takes to kill your opponent), Flag Tag (a bastardized version of Capture the Flag), and The Man With the Golden Gun (only one Golden Gun in the level, and the character who has it can kill anyone with one shot). Up to four players can play these missions, and while the framerate may suffer a bit because of it, it doesn't hamper the playability of the game whatsoever. I've had some of my all time top gaming moments playing four-player mode with my step-brothers and friends that no other game can ever recreate.
First and foremost, is the Z trigger. Once again, we're reminded of how brilliant the people over at Nintendo are when it comes to controller design; there were the shoulder buttons for the SNES, and now the trigger button for the N64, which is used in GoldenEye to fire your weapon. Since your left index finger is always resting on the trigger while playing, shooting your gun becomes second nature, something that's vitally important in a first-person shooter. Although you can't jump in GoldenEye, there's no real need to, as there are ladders or stairs at nearly every wall or ledge. The C< and C> buttons are probably the most important buttons to your survival (other than Z); they allow you to strafe left and right, swiftly dodging any enemy you may need to avoid. B both opens doors and reloads your weapon, and might I say this game does a really quick and effective way of reloading; it may not be incredibly realistic to take less than a second to reload an 80-bullet magazine, but it contributes a great deal to GoldenEye's fast-paced nature.
And these are only the standard controls; there are three other totally different control settings you can use, one of them involving not one but TWO N64 controllers.
Okay, okay, you've gotta cut GoldenEye some slack; for a game that came out over seven years, the graphics aren't all that bad. Sure, the environments are pretty blocky, and the characters' faces look stretched out (particularly Natalya's... yuck), but back in 1997 they were pretty revolutionary. And even by today's standards, they're not horrendous or anything. Besides, GoldenEye's not really about the graphics, it's about the gameplay, which it has in spades.
Unlike the graphics, the sound effects and music are as good as anything you'll hear in a video game today. Every gun makes its own distinct sound when fired, and if you put me up to it, I could probably tell which gun was which just by playing the sound of it firing. Every sound in this game is perfected to a tee, whether it be opening a door, breaking glass, or the groan of a guard you just shot.
As for the soundtrack, well, it blends in perfectly with the atmosphere of the game, especially the single-player missions. Rare didn't just throw together one or two bland James Bond-esque songs and reuse them for every single level; there's a song for the Dam mission, a song for the Depot mission, for the Train mission, etc. One thing I loved about the music that isn't really a big deal, but goes to show the time and effort Rare put into the soundtrack, is the corny, lite-jazz music that plays whenever you're in an elevator. You'll have to hear it yourself to truly appreciate it, but as I said it's just one of many subtle moments in GoldenEye that contributes to the quality of the game as a whole.
REPLAY VALUE: 10/10
If the several difficulty modes in the single-player mode don't have enough replay value to last you several dozen years (and, trust me, they do), there's also the glorious Cheat menu. Simply put, certain missions under certain difficulty modes have an optional time limit built into them. If you beat those missions under their respective times, a cheat (ranging from Paintball Mode to Invisibility) will unlock in the cheat menu. The best part is, you can't use those cheats on any missions except ones you've beaten. As someone who despises cheat codes of any kind, this is one of the best ideas I've ever come across in a video game. Not only do you have to work for your rewards, but you can't use said rewards to cheat for you.
Add the multiplayer mode to the mix, and you've got yourself a game that will keep you entertained infinitely longer than you'll ever want to spend on an FPS, but the sheer addictiveness of it all will keep pulling you back in years after you finish playing.
And I haven't even mentioned anything about the bonus missions...
Countless games since 1997 have tried to duplicate GoldenEye, including the Electronic Arts Bond games (which, by the way, are disasters); and while a few have succeeded technically, they've never been able to match the feel of GoldenEye. Why this is, I can't say. I guess it's just one of those cases where everything came together and fell into place at exactly the right time. No FPS will ever top this masterpiece in my book.
REPLAY VALUE: 10/10
REVIEWER'S TILT: 10/10
FINAL SCORE (AVERAGE): 9.58/10
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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