Gaming Memories: GoldenEye 007

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MajorMitch

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Edited By MajorMitch

Welcome to “Gaming Memories,” a blog series where I reminisce about my favorite video games. I will slowly but surely get to every game on the list, and speak to why each holds a special place in my heart. That not only means I’ll talk about why I think each is a great game that speaks to my tastes, but also where and how it affected me in a larger context. I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

As a kid, we visited our relatives (who lived two states and an eight hour car ride away) a couple times a year. At first, this was exciting because they had a NES and we did not. Once we had a SNES at our own house though, we didn't have any use for their lowly NES; that was old stuff. But when they one-upped us again with a Nintendo 64? Now that was exciting. We got to see Mario and crew in full 3D, and we got to run and jump and race in ways that we never had before. It was a paradigm shift, and playing games like Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 on our cousins’ Nintendo 64 was magical.

Even more magical, they had GoldenEye 007.

I think I could still map out the Facility from memory.
I think I could still map out the Facility from memory.

GoldenEye may not have been a better game than Super Mario 64, but as a boy who had minimal exposure to PC games in the 1990s, and who had never played a first-person shooter before, it was revelatory. I knew what Mario was (along with other platformers) by that point, so as amazing as his transition to 3D was, it was still familiar ground. GoldenEye, on the other hand, was completely new. And I liked it. There’s not much more magical to me than discovering something new I like, and the fact that I only had limited access to it via our cousins (at least at first) made those rare moments where I got to play it even more special. As such, those early memories of playing GoldenEye at my cousins’ house are among my most distinct ones. We’d take turns trying our hand at the campaign, and spend hours battling it out in multiplayer with all sorts of different settings and house rules. Every visit to our cousins' house was a chance to see and experience something new; a new interaction, a new campaign level, a new set of multiplayer rules. I took it all in with the wide-eyed curiosity of youth, and remember those early days fondly.

Once we had our own Nintendo 64, however, the memories didn’t stop. If anything, having the time to explore GoldenEye on my own terms revealed how clever and rewarding it really was. I got to play the campaign from start to finish myself, and thoroughly enjoyed its arcade structure that offered a ton of varied, stand-alone levels. Some levels were short, hectic shootouts where you barely had time to breath. Some levels were sprawling environments that you had to bounce around as you completed various objectives. Some levels demanded you take a slower, stealthier approach to avoid being overwhelmed by guards. By offering different layouts, weapons, and objectives, each of the game’s 20 levels felt unique. Then once I finished the campaign on the standard difficulty I started it again on a higher one, only to find one of GoldenEye’s smartest features: levels gained additional objectives as you ramped up the difficulty. Even now, in 2020, most video games adjust their difficulty by simply changing health and damage numbers. GoldenEye was a step ahead 23 years ago, as the way it layered in new objectives made each new difficulty setting feel almost like a new game. The way you moved through a level on Agent didn’t work the same way on Secret Agent, and re-learning the game for each run was a real treat. Throw in other fun challenges which led to unlockables such as cheat codes and bonus levels, and GoldenEye’s campaign had a ton of legs that kept me playing for months.

Being able to play a FPS' multiplayer in the living room was special.
Being able to play a FPS' multiplayer in the living room was special.

If its campaign kept me engaged for months, then GoldenEye’s multiplayer extended that to years, as I spent likely hundreds of hours battling with family and friends alike. It was one of the first multiplayer games I got into, and it remains the only one that I’ve ever pulled an all-nighter to play with friends. While in some ways it was your standard deathmatch, GoldenEye’s multiplayer had plenty going for it. First, its maps were extremely well-designed, and provided ample space to flank and jockey for a better position. Second, it offered a ton of customizable game settings, and I had a lot of fun experimenting with all sorts of different weapon configurations; “remote mines only” was always a personal favorite. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in addition to being my first first-person shooter it was also among the first successful ones on consoles. It’s hard to overstate how important that was at the time, as you no longer needed a slew of capable PCs to get a game session going. GoldenEye brought the first-person shooter to the living room, and its multiplayer thrived for it. I don’t know that I would have gotten into the genre any other way.

Today, decades later, it’s easy to look back on GoldenEye 007 and see how dated it is: its controls are clunky, some objectives are obtuse, and the escort missions suck (sorry, Natalya). But not only was it a great game that was a blast to play in its day, it also had a lot of smart, positive qualities that I still remember it for above everything else. It had a varied campaign with dynamic objectives across difficulty levels, a robust multiplayer mode with lots of options to promote seemingly endless play, and even fun little touches like the way enemies reacted appropriately to where you shot them. Yet perhaps most importantly, it was a huge step for first-person shooters on consoles, and introduced me to the genre with panache. GoldenEye will always have a special place in my heart for that, and I can’t think of a better game to fill it.

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nateandrews

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I can’t remember ever having more than one N64 controller so I’m not sure I ever played the multiplayer in Goldeneye. I remember having an amazing time playing Nightfire local multiplayer with friends on PS2. Definitely got my fix from that!

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NTM

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Yeah. It was a game that a bunch of friends (not necessarily mine, but my brothers') would come over to play with us. I was seven when it came out and they were nine. I think the game controls terribly, which is the worst part of it for me. Today though, it's still talked about. We still have the N64 out alongside the other consoles, and sometimes when my brother comes over, we might play Goldeneye. I wasn't someone that played it a bunch, but also have fond memories of it and do have a handful if not all levels memorized.

Something that still gets talked about from anyone that has played it and brings Goldeneye up is that Oddjob was cheap. As for this or Mario 64, I would say that when I first saw Mario 64, it blew me away while Goldeneye didn't. I remember standing in front of the TV as my dad and brothers turned the game on, and I thought I had to change the channel as I presumed we were watching TV still once Mario's face popped up. I couldn't have imagined that it would 'look this good', but I was five going on six. It was such a huge jump from SNES, which was the console we were playing before it.

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#3  Edited By LeStephan

Yeah I think its really commendable for goldeneye to be the first shooting game that wasnt a doom clone and had objectives and stuff. It literally made valve change what they were doing with half life 1 at the time when they saw goldeneye on n64.

I also always thought it controlled like shit back in the day but wouldnt ever dare to say it as I was only 10 or something and others didnt seem to have a problem with it so I assumed it was just me. Nowadays I funilly enough only have few problems with the controlls but theyre clearly not great :') (mostlyt because of that horrendous framerate )

I was always amazed how people always keep talking about the multiplayer. It was fun enough but didnt feel THAT special to me, even at the time when it was the only multiplayer fps i had experienced. The first time I actually enjoyed playing multiplayer fpses was years later when I got to play UT99 and UT2003 for the first time. those immediately clicked for me. What did feel special to me about goldeneye was the whole singleplayer experience. Instead of other shootings games that just dumped you in mazes with 3 keys with matching doors to find the exit with barely any context going on (Ive learned to appreciate, no, love those kinda games too though since i dove in the rabbithole of pre-half life fpses back in 2016). Goldeneyes missions actually felt like you were on missions with goals and specific objectives to complete (because you were xD)

I also honestly dont remember ever being visualy impressed with n64 as a kid though. I was amazed by mario being and moving in 3d but it wasnt a "wow this LOOKS amazing" I always thought the artwork itself often looked way better on the snes. A lot of n64 games looked very empty and basic to me. Especialy when compared to the artwork in the manuals or magazines. I remeber at the time thinking I mightve liked it better if theyd just tryed to make the 2d prettier instead. I also clearly remember sometimes looking at stuff in n64 games, and to lesser degree sometimes in snes games too, not being able to see what stuff was meant to represent xD. Especially in tiny screenshots in magazines! I would sometimes later play the game and remember a screenshot from the magazine from the colors and composition on screen and realise I had interpreted the screenshot as something completely different when it wasnt moving and smaller in the magazine xD

I had a n64 myself back in the day and most friends of mine playstations and I would always think playstation games looked way worse because of the jaggies and the fact that " they looked like they could fall apart any moment"(not that I had the heart to tell anyone) which I now know is the zbuffer thing :p

Ps2/gc/xbox era was probably when I first started getting impressed by visuals as, to me, it felt like there were finaly enough components making out the visuals to feel like a somewhat complete image. All textures are starting to be represented, more 3d props in the environment looking like the thing they represent instead of being an abstract aproximation, models getting enough poligons to start looking somewhat good, draw distance not making everything disapear in front of you, things in the environments looking like the thing theyre supposed to be instead of some abstract aproximation :P. Basically everything is there, its just not as detailed and as much as we have in games nowadays.

Nowadays though Im way more apreciative of the more abstract visual presentation of ps1/n64 games now that I know a lot more about what going on under the hood. And some games really did manage to make the best of it imo like majoras mask or silent hill to name 2 off the top of my head. And even mario 64 looks pretty good to me nowadays actually too :P The 2d snes games are still unarguably visually more pleasing to me but that doesnt make mario64s visuals bad.

All that said I can immagine me being an outlier in my opinions as a little kid :P one of the subjects I still remember from kindergarden (yes, when I was around 5 years old, im now almost 30) when I still lived in france was "apreciation of art". Where we had to learn to distinguish different artists and styles and had to try to reproduce said painting styles ourselves. I loved that so much. But yeah, that got me to be critical about anything visual from a very young age :)

(sorry for the spelling mistakes, i've gone back into this thing like 4 times now already and if I keep doing this ill be sitting here till tomorrow xD)

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wollywoo

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GoldenEye was a great game that has aged very poorly. The graphics are really... not great. It was trying for a more realistic look at a time when the hardware was just not capable of that. As a result, all of the characters look like they are paper dolls with a few pixels glued on here and there. The controls are also pretty strange from a modern perspective when we are used to dual-analog.

My memory of GoldenEye is that it was a leap into more modern, 'mature' gaming for me. I was fairly sheltered in some ways, and never grew up watching Bond movies since (apparently) they had some slightly sexy stuff. But my parents were fine letting me play this game since it didn't have any of that. The violence here was sorta shocking to me, really; you had real human enemies that doubled over in pain when you shot them - much more realistic violence than in, say, Doom, even though that had much more blood and gore. Really, it's a bit disturbing when you think about just how many dudes Bond kills in this game throughout the course of his swashbuckling spy adventure. But it's fun!

I had a ton of fun playing both single-player and multiplayer. The campaign was fun in Agent, but it really got interesting at the higher difficulty levels. One thing I liked about GoldenEye and Perfect Dark is that the enemies were so dumb and slow. That means that you can predictably nail headshots. You become an expert killer as you play through the levels over and over, and it feels great. I'd play through Facility on the hardest setting over and over again just because it felt so great. The later levels I could never beat on harder settings. Control, in particular, absolutely up a wall - I never knew what the secret was to protecting Natalya.

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MajorMitch

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@ntm: Ha, Oddjob was cheap! Mario 64 really wowed me too, and in the long run it's certainly the better game and the one I like better too. It probably looked more impressive too. But at the time, there's was something extra special to me about GoldenEye due to the fact that it was the first real FPS I played, and it was on a console no less. I think that made it stick with me in a wholly different way. (Side note: Mario 64 is also an all-time fav that I will write about someday as well.)

@lestephan: Honestly, I think I probably remember the campaign a little more fondly than the multiplayer too, but both were hugely important factors in my fondness for GoldenEye. The campaign objectives are something that shooters still don't really do (outside of direct follow-ups like Perfect Dark), and they gave that game a unique vibe that I appreciated. I actually thought other FPS campaigns were boring for a while after GoldenEye/Perfect Dark because the campaigns had much less dynamic objectives. Eventually I found other things to appreciate in FPS campaigns, but I still miss the objectives idea.

It's interesting the trajectory of how visuals of the N64/PS1 era were received. At the time I think a lot of people thought they were impressive for just seeing stuff in "3D" for the first time, but there were also people like you who weren't that impressed. Then as time went on and those visuals didn't hold up, more people seem to admit that, yeah, that era just didn't look that great, haha. Especially coming off the SNES which had great art that could have gotten even better had they stuck with it like you say. But I think we're almost circling back around in a weird way; I for one have always had fondness for that N64/PS1 era and what it represents, and understanding the limitations they had at the time makes me appreciate what they were able to do even more. And even their sparseness and abstraction can have a place, where everything isn't "realistic" and high fidelity. It was certainly an interesting time for games if nothing else!

@wollywoo: I think you're on to something about GoldenEye landing as a more "Mature" game for people who had mostly been on consoles to that point. Especially for Nintendo kids (like me) who grew up with the NES/SNES, the leap to a 3D game where you shot other human beings (a lot of them too as you point out!) was a big jump in that way. So it stood out, even if the graphics/controls were rough, and have aged even worse.

Oh man, I definitely agree that part of the joy for me with the campaign was that level of mastery. I too played levels over and over just to get better at it, and once I could beat a level on the highest setting, I still enjoyed running them because of how good that mastery felt. (Not that I was ever all "that" good, but mastery by my standards at least.) You point out Control, which was definitely one of (maybe the) toughest level in the game due to how hard it was to protect Natalya. I remember trying and failing that level so many times on the highest difficulty, experimenting with the best places to stand to protect her, and eventually figuring it out and beating that level was one of those early gaming feats I remember being proud of. I enjoy overcoming things like that in games I like, so that was a good feeling for me at the time. Fun stuff :)

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