Having the opportunity to review the original GoldenEye 007 game is not one that I ever expected to have in my life. A game that for me, like so many, played a huge part in my video game education growing up. How do you even make a start on reviewing such a significant and culturally iconic title?
By going back to where it all started.
In the early/mid ‘90s, everyone had heard the news – Pierce Brosnan was going to be playing James Bond in the 1995 movie GoldenEye. This was a new Bond for a new generation – my generation. Seeing the movie cemented Brosnan and GoldenEye as possibly the best Bond and Bond movie of all time; sacrilege to be writing this as a Scotsman when Sean Connery is right there, but Brosnan changed things.
Bond was modernised (at the time). He no longer felt like a Cold War relic that was becoming more and more difficult to relate to. As far as relating to a womanising international man of espionage can be done that is. Anyway, Bond fever was at an all-time high, I saw the movie in the cinema with my dad (a tradition that continues to this day for each new release) and we both loved it.
A few years later and The James Bond Experience was coming to Glasgow. This was a travelling exhibition that brought a James Bond museum around the cities of the country, allowing fans to see all the memorabilia and props from the movies as well as some of the cars and set pieces. Best of all, at the very end, stood a booth where you could try out GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64.
My dad stood patiently as I played for around an hour (no one else was in at the time) and when we were about to leave my dad must have seen in my face that I was besotted, out of character – he had a turn himself, immediately impressed with the gameplay and graphics. We left, both knowing what must be done. Being nowhere near Christmas or a Birthday the deal was struck – I had to trade my SEGA MegaDrive and my GameBoy in to get a Nintendo 64 with GoldenEye.
I had never purchased a console or asked for one as a gift before based on one game alone. GoldenEye was the first and only system seller I have had to this day; no other title has single-handedly changed my entire gaming loyalty in one swift swoop.
GoldenEye was a moment. Everyone wanted to play it, Bond fan or not. The team at Rare had created a console-only first-person shooter that actually worked well. Without GoldenEye there is no Halo, and often Goldeneye gets overlooked thanks to Master Chief’s efforts using twin-sticks for shooting/aiming to the genre. But Goldeneye was the original; the one that laid the groundwork; the one that showed the world that consoles could do it too.
Using iconic locations from the movies, across the entire Bond franchise as well as GoldenEye, Rare crafted something very special in the story and the multiplayer. Getting to play the game again on Xbox Series X|S showcases a moment in time before the internet went huge and controlled every aspect of our lives. A moment where sitting next to a buddy to see the disappointment on their face as you screen watch their location to slap chop them in the head. A moment where hard mode meant new challenges in missions instead of making enemies bullet sponges. A moment where creativity was allowed to shine and faith was given to smaller studios to do their best work.
GoldenEye 007 can’t be compared to today’s shooters in the same way the original Doom can’t be compared. They are products of their own time and era. What we have here is the impossible port, tied up behind a tale of licences and publishing that we would be best not to question, as we will never quite know how this has happened. Yes, the upscaling raises the visuals slightly, but this is no graphical showpiece in today’s terms. But, the controls have thankfully been modernised on Xbox (the same cannot be said for Nintendo Switch) and work really well.
Each level is here as I remember; each enemy placement, each task. Every single level is imprinted into my generation’s brain, and getting to revisit them on modern consoles is an absolute pleasure. Sure, the shooting has been refined since this released and yes graphics are now silky smooth, but in replaying GoldenEye 007, none of that matters. The joy of seeing how quickly I could finish the Dam or remembering how to get to the yellow tunnel on Complex multiplayer is still there to this day.
So I am sorry to those who were hoping for yet another GoldenEye 007 bashing take, however, I cannot bring myself to say one bad thing about what I still consider to be one of the greatest videogames of all time. Playing this solo, improving and finishing extra objectives as you work through the campaign mode, taking in multiplayer on the couch as it should be, GoldenEye 007 has never been better now the controls are mapped to modern controllers.
Even for players who missed the entire Nintendo 64 generation, and have never played GoldenEye, I would encourage you to fire up the game. I would encourage you to take in the level design and absorb the fantastic music accompanying each stage. When everything comes together in GoldenEye, it is like playing the equivalent of a beautiful symphony composed by the angels themselves – only here it was the team at Rare. Close enough, eh!?
So what we have is a digital capture of a moment in time. I would ask you to invite three friends to sit next to you (yes, IRL) grab bags of Doritos and some Coca-Cola, sit together and play through the multiplayer modes, take turns working through campaign mode to unlock the hilarious cheats that can be activated, and soak in the moment as it all clicks. Then tell me one modern game that can produce this feeling. I’ll wait.
I could have spent the time tearing apart GoldenEye 007, comparing it to modern shooters, but I simply could not do it. We have Goldeneye, the original, on Xbox – a game that has meant so much to me and many others out there, that criticising it for not being something else, just wouldn’t sit right.
Yes, there could have been a big revamp of GoldenEye 007’s mechanics. Yes, the graphics could have been remade and, yes online could have been included. But does any of this take away from the fact we now have one of the most iconic shooters of all time playable on Xbox Series X|S? Not one jot. GoldenEye 007 is perfect.
GoldenEye 007 is on the Xbox Store