First Person Shooters. Video Game Console. The two have a history of not getting along, according to the Internet, and you can see why. When compared to the precision of a mouse and the vast array of inputs available on a keyboard, a limited controller with clumsy digital inputs just doesn't seem like it'd work.
Yet GoldenEye 007 exists and is considered one of the greatest titles known to man, as well as one of the most important milestones along this historical trek of ours - a first-person shooter on a video game console that doesn't suck.
I first saw it somewhere around its release at a friends house. I don't recall much of that day and don't think I ever played it myself, and most of what I know about it comes from watching plenty of speedruns and hearing it almost constantly get brought up in discussions of someone's gaming past.
Let's get this blog done in six minutes, shall we, James?
Nintendo 64 plugged in, controller ready, GoldenEye 007 cartridge good to go, it was time to dive off a damn, deep into this classic title.
It's a shame, then, that my AV cable (I think - I hope) is on the blink, as the colours and contrast of the menu are as bright as all Hell, and it certainly doesn't look like what I remember. Then again, what I remember is mostly people emulating it, where it looks crisper than a British secret again chatting up a target in a casino.
The game itself is playable, thankfully, but I will need to try something to sort it out. It hampered Super Mario 64 too, so I've eliminated cartridges from the equation. Maybe. I hear vaseline might help, though I read that on the Internet, so who knows how true that is. I'm getting off topic here.
GoldenEye, whether played on real hardware or emulated on a PC starts with the following set of inputs: Accept the mission, pause the game, reassign the controls.
My God, the controls. In 2018, first-person shooters on consoles are pretty much mapped to the same layout, and if they aren't, you swap over some personal preferences and probably turn the inverse look setting on or off.
In 1997, the N64 controller had one analog stick, three handles, and no idea what it was doing. In fairness to Rare, they tried their best and actually got pretty close to pulling off nice controls. With multiple layouts, you can find one that isn't batshit insane by today's standards, and I eventually worked out why my Project64 controls were off when emulating it afterwards (note to future me - good luck trying to figure out why your sticks are backwards for Banjo Kazooie or Zelda or whatever N64 game is next up).
When you finally land on a control set up, GoldenEye 007 can finally get going.
What a game, eh?
Mostly following the plot of the film, filling in plenty of gaps wherever it wants to find them, GoldenEye first tasks you with making your way to the top of the Byelomorye Dam in order to jump off it in true spy-film fashion.
Armed with a silenced pistol, you can try to do this like the Bond of the movies would do, but seeing as the Bond of the movies has a license to kill, you might as well enjoy yourselves, and this game offers enjoyment all over the place.
Knowing that the controller is not a perfect replacement for a keyboard and mouse, GoldenEye employs a few options for players to be accurate. A button to aim will allow you to line up headshots, hopefully ensuring a swift conclusion to a firefight, but - on the easiest difficulty at least - a kind of soft aim-assist will swing your gun towards an enemy, should an enemy be close enough to trigger it. No pun intended.
It doesn't conjure miracles out of thin air and does require you to at least be looking at the target in question, but when it kicks in, it gives GoldenEye more of a cinematic feel, especially when accompanied with detailed animations and the ability to shoot hats off.
I even switched to an ultrawide picture setting to make it look even better, though I can chalk that up to personal preference after having switched over to an ultrawide monitor recently.
Arms flail, bodies spin and comic faces are everywhere.
GoldenEye 007 is not a looker. Not these days. If you thought Max Payne looked particularly frightening in his first appearance, you haven't seen GoldenEye. But I can't knock it because the attention to detail to the license as a whole ought to be commended.
Just reading the mission briefings let the characters of M, Q and Miss Moneypenny shine through. Some more than others, sure, but there's a distinct Bond feel about it all.
Missions will have you complete a number of tasks depending on the missions relevance to the film, and your difficulty level. Everything from the mundane to the mighty is covered - don't kill civilians, blow up targets, get out alive. The better you do, the higher your ranking, and completing levels quickly unlocks infamous cheat codes like big head mode, so that's incentive for those who need it.
Completing levels much much quicker puts you into gaming history yourself, but I'm sliiiiightly out of those guys' league when it comes to speedrunning. I can just about get my first kill by the time an expert has completed a level - without needing to kill anyone, naturally.
Once I found a controller layout I liked and got used to the way things worked, then - or the way I worked, which was guns blazing - how far did I actually get?
So this was it. This was my final stand. Me, two klobbs and a missing key.
Typically, it wasn't until editing this post and checking the photos until I learned where the key was. At least, that looks awfully key like...
GoldenEye 007 is oft-talked about for good reason. It's a blast to play and I've not even touched upon everything that makes it a masterpiece.
As the developers were unsure of which direction the game would ultimately head in, levels were designed as places, more so than playable levels, and so you can attempt to navigate them stealthily, or with some level of caution in any case, as much as you can go in like a madman. Alarms will sound and enemies will spawn in to deal with you if you're an incompetent fool, but they will skip to their silent graves if you can get the jump on them.
What is with their little hops, anyway? Strange animations, this game. Well worth a watch.
Then there's the multiplayer, of course. I can't recall ever playing it, and as far as I can remember, the closest I've come to GoldenEye multiplayer without watching it was with TimeSplitters 2 multiplayer, where those who know can see why I'd say that.
Offering plenty of replayability and enough challenges to last twenty years at least, GoldenEye 007 sits proudly and deservedly in the notable games lists, be they for the Nintendo 64, console games, first-person shooters, or blocky licensed likenesses of actors.
It's not perfect, but first-person console games had to start somewhere, and what an explosive start they had.
Play GoldenEye again sometime. You know you want to.
Each cartridge contains a ZX Spectrum emulator and ten games developed by Rare, buried and cut off in the game code. You can't access the code on the console, but fan-made patches have at least picked it apart to see what was there.
GoldenEye 007, developed by Rare, first released in 1997.
Version played: Nintendo 64, 1997, also via emulation.