GoldenEye 007 was my first true experience of a first-person shooter (FPS). Yes, I had played Doom – a classic, of course – but at twelve years old I didn't really appreciate how great it was, instead sticking to racing games and 2D platformers. My memory may betray me here (and feel free to correct me in the comments below) but I don't remember GoldenEye arriving with any major hype – at least not on the scale of Ocarina of Time or Super Mario 64. I was excited for it because I had loved the film and it appeared like I would be able to immerse myself in its world.
From its release, playing GoldenEye became an obsession outside of school hours for the rest of 1997 and probably most of 1998. This is because it took me many months to finally unlock 007 Mode and the Egyptian level. It has since become the most re-played game I own, out-beating so-called "better" N64 games as well as classics for the SNES, Game Boy and non-Nintendo consoles. But why is that?
I cannot deny that a large reason for returning to it is the wonderful memories it evokes. For example, those gut-churning moments protecting Natalya in Control on 00 Agent. Or that summer of '97 when myself and three friends remained pasty pale thanks to successive days indoors playing multiplayer. Those opening title screens and music immediately transport me back to my childhood bedroom and I still get excited retrying all the different modes, time challenges and cheats. Ultimately, GoldenEye is the main game that reminds me of a very happy childhood I was lucky to have.
My First 3D FPS
FPS titles hadn't been on my gaming radar at thirteen years old – I was all racers, football sims and platformers. I did briefly have Doom on my SNES but, as mentioned, I didn't enjoy it much. I'm not sure why. But what I am sure about it that, thanks to GoldenEye, I now love Doom 64, Doom for GBA and a variety of other FPS'. I now see that it was the first time I could really feel I was lost in a movie because of the true 3D. Oh and not any movie – a movie I adored at the time. Oh and not as any character either – but as James Bond! I love returning to that feeling because I still get it. Being immersed in a film I love, as a character a young boy would aspire to be, is still an experience I don't get from any other game in the same way despite the graphical and gameplay limitations of the hardware. I now love FPS games, so how can I not return to where it all began?
A bold subheading because I know there have been plenty of games matching the quality that GoldenEye has. For me, it got a lot of gameplay aspects so right that I find myself returning rather than seeking that same level of quality elsewhere. I'm probably missing out but with GoldenEye I know what I will get, I know I will love what I get and feel thoroughly satisfied by the gaming experience on offer. For instance, the replay value is phenomenal considering this game was being developed twenty years ago. There's so much choice depending on my fancy: do I go for time and get a cheat? Do I put cheats on and have some fun? Do I work on the next 00 Agent level or really test myself on 007 Mode? Or do I make up my own criteria for tackling a level such as head shots only? And this is only for playing on my lonesome!
In addition to that, I return to GoldenEye more than any other FPS because I find its levels more replayable due to their design. When I compare them to others in the genre I sometimes play, such as Quake 2, I find the clarity of their layout and objective-driven play far more appealing to try over again. Likewise, I'm more drawn to their relative simplicity. The more linear levels like Train, Facility and Caverns allow me to focus on what's important; I'm not much of an explorer when enjoying a FPS. This helps explain why Archives, Depot and Frigate are my least favourite and why I personally prefer playing GoldenEye over Perfect Dark. However, I can certainly appreciate why others would say the complete opposite to me.
One-player aside, the replay value for multiplayer cannot go unsaid despite the potential to ramble on for pages. Suffice to say, I have yet to find a friend or acquaintance that hasn't been willing to relive some childhood fun with multiplayer GoldenEye. A few takers for WWF No Mercy, Mario Kart 64, ISS 64, yes. No takers for Diddy Kong Racing, WipEout 64. But GoldenEye never fails…
Personally, the arenas make or break this kind of multiplayer experience and the majority are designed just right: sized nicely whether two, three or four-player; some with hidden areas, secret doors, multi-floored; some based on the one-player mode, some unique to multiplayer for that surprise element. Battles never have to be the same and players can then get tactical, sorting the men from the boys. When three like-minded friends join you, how can one not keep returning to these battles again and again when the opportunity presents itself?
Attention to Detail
Some may rightfully say this final section doesn't further my argument as to why GoldenEye keeps being returned to. Yet, I feel it does. This is because the developer's attention to detail helped me fall in love with the game. And when you love something, you want to enjoy it as much as you can!
For instance, Facility has the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek sign above one of the doors. Moreover, there are smaller details such as the inverted hammer and sickle on Bunker's walls. My favourite one, however, comes from Surface and involves a little bit of creative inference from myself. You may have noticed, in Bunker, there is a guard in a green uniform plus purple hat and another with a brown uniform plus green hat. Well, in Surface, I killed a brown-uniformed guard minus the hat in one of the brown huts. Further on, another brown hut houses a solitary green hat left on the desk; surely the hat owned by the brown-uniformed guard from earlier. So why was it left behind? What emergency caused him to up from his desk without a moment's hesitation to put the hat on? Maybe knowledge of Bond's imminent presence? An issue with the GoldenEye? Dissent in the ranks? What I just love is Rare's efforts with small details like this, and when I can see the love put in I want to return to appreciate it and maybe discover something new.
In eighteen years I have thoroughly enjoyed many games for various consoles and still return to them occasionally. But GoldenEye has honestly been my most replayed one of the lot. I'm open to something usurping it…but nothing has yet.