The Legend Lives On
25th August 2022
MI6 celebrates the 25th anniversary of the James Bond title that set the gaming world alight - Goldeneye 007
By MI6 Staff
This week back in 1997, a James Bond title was released by Rareware for the Nintendo 64 console that would set the gaming world alight selling over eight million copies. That was GoldenEye 007, and 25 years on, it is still the yardstick by which all 007 games are measured. The monolithic shadow cast over future games would always ensure the "best game of all time", as it was touted by the trade press, kept its mantle almost unassailable.
For England, James
Coinciding with the film's theatrical release, GoldenEye 007 was originally announced for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in November 1995 before eventually being stepped up to the Nintendo 64.
The intention for the first few months of development was for the game to be an on-rails shooter similar to Virtua Cop; it only became a first-person shooter later in production. During this period, many industry watchers cast the game off as 'vapourware' and concerns were being raised over the success of the Nintendo's new console.
The development team working on GoldenEye 007 was inexperienced; for all but two of them, it was their first game. As David Doak explained, "Looking back, there are things I'd be wary of attempting now, but as none of the people working on the code, graphics and game design had worked on a game before, there was this joyful naïvety."
The game was based on the film and its novelization by John Gardner, but, as game designer Martin Hollis explained, many of the missions were extended or modified to allow the player to participate in sequences of which Bond was not originally a part or those in which he only played a minor role. The original sets that were created for the film were first converted into complete, believable environments by one group of game designers; when this process was complete, other designers began populating them with objectives, characters, and obstacles in order to create a balanced and fun game. According to Hollis, "many of the levels in the game have a realistic and non-linear feel. There are rooms with no direct relevance to the level. There are multiple routes across the level." Hollis also noted that the concept of several varied objectives within each level was inspired by the multiple tasks in each stage of Super Mario 64.
GoldenEye was developed through two and a half years, but, according to Hollis, only the last year was spent developing the game. During the beginning, the engine was built, art assets were made, and the enemy AI was written and polished. The game was delayed numerous times, partly because during development, the team decided to incorporate a multiplayer feature to the game to demonstrate the N64's 4-player capabilities.
Ultimately, almost everyone who owned an N64, owned GoldenEye, simply because it was a masterpiece in the FPS genre. The graphics were a revelation at the time and still hold up well to this day, being solid and functional. The in-game music and sound effects were great, helping to add to the tension and overall feel of the game. It was Rare’s finest hour, capturing players imaginations, letting them be James Bond and letting them have an immense amount of fun with it. As well as selling additional consoles (a special GoldenEye pack was created), it also helped fill Nintendo’s coffers from the sales of extra controllers. The N64's revolutionary controller was a hit and perfectly suited with the first trigger button and Rumble Pak, even a 007 golden controller was produced for the hardcore multiplayer fans.
When GoldenEye 007 was released in 1997, its stealth elements and varied objectives contrasted with the approaches taken by Doom and Quake, and its split-screen deathmatch mode proved immensely popular. It was considered the first game to break away from the Doom clones and revolutionized the first person shooter genre. Along with Shiny Entertainment's MDK, GoldenEye is credited with popularising the video game convention of a zoomable sniper rifle, enabling players to kill oblivious enemies from vast distances away with a single, precise headshot; context-sensitive enemy hit-locations were also pioneered by the game. In addition to the N64 game, a version of GoldenEye was in development for the Nintendo Virtual Boy, but canceled before release.
In 1998, GoldenEye received the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment "Games Award" and Rareware won the award for "Best UK Developer". It also won four awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences: "Console Action Game of the Year", "Console Game of the Year", "Interactive Title of the Year" and "Outstanding Achievement in Software Engineering". Additionally, it was nominated for "Outstanding Achievement in Art/Graphics" and "Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Design".
Keeping The British End Up
In a January 2000 poll, readers of the long-running British video game magazine Computer and Video Games voted GoldenEye 007 into first place in a list of "the hundred greatest video games". In a poll in the next year, the game was ranked 5th. Also in 2001, GameInformer magazine ranked GoldenEye 007 16th in a list of the "Top 100 Games of All Time". In 2005, a "Best Games of All-Time" poll at GameFAQs placed GoldenEye 007 at 7th. In a list made by IGN in 2005, GoldenEye was ranked 29th while the Reader's Choice placed it at 7th. The game originally received a "nine out of ten" score in Edge, with the magazine later stating that "a ten was considered, but eventually rejected". In the magazine's 10th anniversary issue in 2003, the game was included as one of their top ten shooters, along with a note that it was "the only other game" that should have received the prestigious "ten out of ten" rating.
The Legend Lives On
The game continues to be played by fans, many of whom have developed online communities based around popular aspects of the game. There are those who enjoy replaying single-player levels in an attempt to achieve fast times, those who battle others in its deathmatch mode, while others use GameSharks and similar devices to examine and to modify the game's code.
Much to the disappointment of fans and gamers alike, GoldenEye 64 was the one and only 007 title from Rareware. Electronic Arts produced some hit and miss Bond games from 1999 to 2005, and they then passed the 007 videogame baton to Activisioon. Although graphics, sound, and 3D environments have far surpassed the N64 due to the vast improvement in technology over the past 25 years, for many GoldenEye 64 will remain the pinnacle of 007 videogames - even if those rose-tinted spectacles have collected a little dust.
Activision published a 're-imagined' version of "GoldenEye 007" for the Nintendo Wii in 2010, and then released it for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2011.
However, Microsoft had developed a HD remake of the game planned for the Xbox Live Arcade earlier in 2008. But due to rights issues, this was never released. 14 years later, the game finally leaked and players were able to enjoy the Xbox remake on the popular (and aptly named) Xenia emulator in 2001.
Most recently, Microsoft is once again rumoured to be reading a re-release of the game for the Xbox with credible leaks confirming the existance of the game and Nintendo making moves in Germany to free the game up from sales restrictions. MI6 understands that the Russian invasion of Ukraine nixed the release plan of March 2022 and it is on indefinite hold until the political sensitivity of a release dies down.
US: August 25, 1997
Europe: August 25, 1997
Australia: August 25, 1997
Japan: August 23, 1997
MSRP: $69.95 USD