Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo 64) review
"All I can say is that I'm glad Natalya didn't have a larger role in this production, or it might well have been ruined. Another thing I'm thankful for is the multi-player mode. It's both a reason to play the one-player campaign (you can unlock extra arena features) and a game of its own. I've played several first-person shooters since, and I always check out the battle arenas because I love the ones in GoldenEye. But so far, none beat what you'll find here."
As I crept through a Cuban jungle between bursts of machine gun fire, my companion dashed out ahead of me with only an ineffective pistol for protection. Sporting a baby blue shirt and reddish brown hair, she stuck out like a sore thumb. Suddenly, she collapsed to the dewy grass at her feet. Just like that I was dead, not because I took too much enemy fire, but because Natalya did. She did the next time I attempted the stage, too, and again after that. It got to the point where I was thinking to myself that the only way I would ever have fun was if I just shot the stupid woman in the back of the head at close range. So I did.
Of course I'm talking about Goldeneye, Rare's famous shooter that's fun even when you're not capping Natalya. It won a lot of awards and people have heaped praise on it almost endlessly. Still, the question remains: will those who never played it back in the day enjoy it now? Yes. Yes, they will.
A lot of movie-to-game projects suck. They emphasize the movie over the gameplay, or the gameplay takes a front seat over the license to the point where the little blob moving around on the screen could just as easily be Mario. Even when a game based on your favorite film is pretty good, it's likely to be so short that anything more than a rental seems a waste of money. Fortunately, GoldenEye falls into none of these traps. Instead, it's got a lengthy single-player campaign (and numerous difficulty levels with varying objectives) and one of the best multi-player experiences any console has ever provided. In short, the game is absolutely everything it should be.
From almost the second you power it on, you'll know you're playing a game based on James Bond (assuming the title didn't give it away). Following brief company logos, you're treated to the criminal view of an agent walking across your line of sight, turning and firing. Then blood trickles down as your vision wavers, and it's on to selecting how you wish to play while the classic music pipes out of your television's speakers. The secret agent theme carries through the whole game in even the smallest of ways. Difficulty levels don't range from 'easy' to 'hard'; they refer to your agent level. Save files are manila folders, and missions are presented with cinematic flare. In short, this game's atmosphere just feels right.
Graphics play a major role in that effect. Nothing here really strains the Nintendo 64 hardware, but it continues the covert feel begun by the opening scenes and menus. You'll wander through the halls of laboratories, along the cars of a moving train, through city streets, between headstones at a graveyard and more. Settings are typically spartan in their presentation, with few textures to speak of and uncomplicated architecture that consists mostly of staircases, wide open rooms, and scores of hallways. However, anyone who has played through the game could probably look at a screenshot or two from a given level and tell you what point in the game it was from. There's definitely variety.
There also happen to be a lot of enemies. They pour out of doorways and swarm you like ants. They also tend to fall just as easily, so the main challenge comes from smashing them all with plentiful bursts of live ammunition without running out before you pick up additional clips. It's at times like this when the game is at its best. You break out of a prison cell in one stage, for example, then grab a gun and work through the halls beyond. It's simple pleasure as you just roam the corridor, letting loose with staccatos of gunfire as you round each bend, then salvaging bullets from corpses before continuing the violence. Parents may object to the body count, but there's no arguing that GoldenEye is a great form of release when you just want to quickly pop in a cartridge and blow off some steam. Since many of the characters feel as if they were dropped off an assembly line rather than bred in Russian cottages, it's a stretch to say this particular game is going to corrupt the minds of youth. There's not even a lot of blood in sight, just chips in the walls when you miss your target or when you keep firing after he's slumped to the floor in a heap.
Obviously, none of the carnage would be satisfying if the presentation were off. You already know the graphics are about as good as can be expected, but what about the sound? Great again. You'll hear bullets bouncing all over the place, doors sliding open, glass shattering, and clips reloading. It all contributes to the atmosphere perfectly, along with understated music that heightens the tension. The sound of bullets thumping against targets definitely takes center stage, though, as it should. And if you have a rumble pack, you can even feel the controller vibrating as you unleash your fury on grinning goons and double agents.
Yes, there are double agents. One, to be specific. If you've seen the movie, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise. That's not to say the game perfectly mimics the Hollywood production (it most definitely does not), but the plot obviously owes much to the silver screen. Certain sacrifices were made to bring the story to your console (and some things were added), but the basic idea remains the same. Someone wants a satellite (for devious reasons), and Bond is on the job to put a stop to the scheme while protecting a beautiful woman who has offered her assistance.
That woman is Natalya, the lady I mentioned in my introduction. Of the few flaws that hold this game back from what it might have been, the chief one is the Russian vixen. There are several missions where you simply must lead her safely past vicious villains or the game ends. It seems like her life bar is ridiculously low (though it never appears on-screen), and she must have a magnet for bullets dangling around her neck. It doesn’t matter how good you are at protecting your own butt in these instances. You're forced to rush ahead and try to clear everyone out of the way, else restart the stage repeatedly. Near the very end of the game, things get even worse when you must lead her to a control room, then cover her while she slowly types at a computer and guards pour into the area from numerous doors. While you're looking left where you last saw activity, someone else is sniping her from a distance, so far away he almost blends with the background. Success requires spinning like a top, firing bullets and hoping against hope that you see that tiny frame of movement that means you should fire a few more bullets.
All I can say is that I'm glad Natalya didn't have a larger role in this production, or it might well have been ruined. Another thing I'm thankful for is the multi-player mode. It's both a reason to play the one-player campaign (you can unlock extra arena features) and a game of its own. I've played several first-person shooters since, and I always check out the battle arenas because I love the ones in GoldenEye. But so far, none beat what you'll find here.
The locations in which you can duel with friends are taken straight from the main game. There's a faculty where you'll remember rescuing scientists, for example, and a complex of sorts. You’ll also find a cave and a book archive. Each area is littered with hiding points and ammunition, and players will soon have every item pick-up memorized. From there, the game becomes a matter of cat and mouse. Up to four people can play at once, thanks to the Nintendo 64's plentiful controller ports, and there's really no better way to experience GoldenEye.
Suppose you begin a game with three friends. You decide to play the old-fashioned way, with all weapons enabled. Everyone spawns throughout the area, typically near a stack of weapons, and then you set about obliterating each other. A radar shows dots where everyone is, but there are multiple levels so it's not so simple as walking toward the other dot and shooting. Someone might be lying in wait, either behind that next branch in the hall, or at a balcony. You just never know. Suddenly, you see one of your opponents. He's running toward you and hasn't spotted you just yet. Maybe he's running from another player. You let loose a few shots with your pistol. A few go wide, some hit. He sees you now, and he's firing back with a machine gun he grabbed somewhere. You're outmatched, but you had the advantage and he goes down. Now your own life meter is low. Cursing, you start a dash for the body armor you know is stowed away a few turns to your right. But another player was watching, and he swoops in now for an easy kill. Two hits from behind and you're collapsing to the floor before you re-spawn somewhere else, near more weapons. ''Revenge!'' you shout, and now you have a target.
Every match can have ten or fifteen moments like the one I described above. Later, you can specify different rules, pick different characters, shoot each other in different environments. It's all great stuff, all a blast. And remember, that's only one part of the game that is GoldenEye. Whether you prefer to go it alone or to challenge a group of friends, the game is still one you simply must experience at least once. It really does surprise me that no one has managed to rival what's available here for a later release on one of the newer consoles, but they haven't. For this reason alone, the game is still worth your time. And even if someday someone does something better, I'll always have Natalya. My trigger finger itches.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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