Skip to main content

Memory Leaks: GoldenEye 007

🕵️ But you can't touch them, no, 'cause they're all spies...

GoldenEye 007 is a 1997 first-person-shooter developed by Rare for the Nintendo 64 console. It was based on the 1995 James Bond film of the same name and adheres loosely to the movie's narrative while fleshing out the environments and backstory. The overall gameplay and story mode were celebrated, however, the reason this game is so well-remembered is because of the multiplayer death-matches. Ironically, the death-match wasn't even intended to be part of the game--it was just something the devs screwed around with in their downtime, but it was so popular at Rare that they ended up including it. And lucky them. For many people, it was the reason to own a Nintendo 64.

How I Remember It...

I was one of those people. I missed out on the 64 when it was new (my family eventually got one, but it stayed at home when I went to college). In high school I had a friend named Mikey and we'd get four of us together to play games at his house. The rotation included Mario Party, Mario Kart 64, and Killer Instinct Gold, but once GoldenEye 007 came out, we just sort of forgot about those other games. We'd cycle through game modes and had a lot of options since Mikey had unlocked all of the content since he owned the game. Of course that also meant he kicked the rest of our asses. I was fairly low on the social totem pole, which meant I had last pick of characters, but I settled on Baron Samedi, which I don't know if I would have done had I had any idea how much baggage is attached to that character (if you haven't seen Live and Let Die, it's hard to tell if it's merely a racist Bond film or the most racist Bond film).

Of course, Oddjob was not allowed since his smaller sprite gave him an advantage. This is one of many house rules that inevitably arise around this game. See also: no proximity mining spawn points. I remember playing a fair amount of "Man with the Golden Gun" mode, in which one player has the golden gun, which instant-kills anyone it hits, and you have to kill that player in order for someone else to claim it. We also liked "License to Kill"--another one-hit-kill mode--but we'd play it with pistols. That one was actually fairly sporting. And explosives were always fun. I got quite good at hitting people with a grenade launcher by banking it around a corner.

In very "me" fashion, I was terrible at this game and then kind of got obsessed with it and eventually got so good that no one wanted to play with me anymore. We'd play "License to Kill" mode with pistols and I just wouldn't bother picking up a weapon. I'd just run around chopping people with my fist. I beat the entire game on its hardest setting in order to unlock everything. The single-player campaign is actually quite good, it's just overshadowed by the death-matches.

This game did ruin me for FPSs for a while, at least on consoles, because of the quirky Nintendo 64 scheme. This was an early console FPS to really used all three dimensions, but it had inherited the control sensibilities of its forebears. You used the analog stick to move forward and backward and to turn left and right, and then the C-buttons (basically a mini D-pad you operated with your right thumb) were used to look up and down and to strafe left and right. Compare this to modern control schemes where the left stick moves the character and the right stick moves the camera. Very difficult to pick up Halo 3 when you're used to that bass-ackwards way of playing. Although I couldn't have been the only one, since Halo 3 had the GoldenEye controls as an alternate pre-set.

Since it came out two years after the movie, it wasn't part of the marketing blitz for the film, which means it had enough development time to be good. I count this as one of only two AAA video games based on movies that are genuinely great games, the other of course being The Battle for Middle-Earth. And like BfME, its movie tie-in status has effectively rendered it abandonedware, which is a shame, considering how beloved it was. A remake for the Wii came out in 2010, but it was pretty far removed from the original, subbing in Daniel Craig and reimagining all of the level designs. It's not great. A fan project on the Source engine has been floating around for years now that was only the death-match levels, but I don't know if it's still being maintained. There are rumors of a new remake, and of course people holding out the faint hope that it might be released as part of the Nintendo Switch Online expansion pass.

If they do that, though, they'll have to fix the control scheme.

In MEMORY LEAKS, Kurt is going through his favorite video games. See more posts.