GoldenEye, Rare’s iconic N64 first-person shooter, will turn 20 years old later this year.
Since its release in August 1997, GoldenEye has been a favourite of countless gamers, influenced many, many other projects, and even been remade with the Daniel Craig’s likeness.
While the years may not have been overly kind to its visuals nor some aspects of its gameplay, there’s no doubt that GoldenEye remains one of the best games ever made. It’s a true yardstick – every Bond game since, FPS or not, gets compared to it (fairly or unfairly).
With that in mind, what is it that makes the game still so memorable so long after its release? Let’s take a look at 10 reasons we still love this classic shooter almost two decades on …
- 1 The Multiplayer Mode was Perfect
- 2 Its Near-endless Replayability
- 3 Being Able to Shoot Guards as they Used the Toilet
- 4 Being a One-Shot-Kill Boss with the Gold PP7
- 5 Getting to Edit Levels to Your Own Taste
- 6 Proximity Mines (Nuff Said)
- 7 Pulling Off Exquisite Headshots
- 8 Getting to Play with Bond’s Gadgets
- 9 Cruising in a Tank
- 10 Using Unlockable Cheats to Become Invincible
The Multiplayer Mode was Perfect
Ah, GoldenEye’s multiplayer mode. Who can forget this time-devouring treat?
Almost every game seems to offer some kind of multiplayer mode now, but back in 1997, being able to have as many as four pals shooting at each other on one screen, in a console-based FPS, was pretty amazing.
GoldenEye featured plenty of options to customize your multiplayer experience. You could choose from multiple scenarios, including You Only Live Twice (two lives each per player), Licence to Kill (one-hit kills) and, of course, The Man with the Golden Gun
In the latter, getting your hands on said gun made you practically god-like … until someone managed to take you out with a lucky shot or well-placed explosives. Then you were just another loser trying to get back the prize you’d so shamefully lost.
The variety of characters was incredible, too. To start with, you only had access to the key heroes and villains (Bond, Xenia Onatopp, Alec Trevelyan etc), but by progressing further through the game, you’d unlock extras.
Jaws, Oddjob, Baron Samedi, and others became available after enough effort, giving you the chance to play as your favourite Bond characters. It was awesome.
Its Near-endless Replayability
While the multiplayer mode kept us playing for years, the single-player mode had more than enough to keep us entertained too.
Most obviously, the three different difficulty levels (Agent, Secret Agent, 00 Agent) added plenty of depth. Not only were enemies tougher and more accurate with their shots, higher difficulty levels also brought more objectives, revealing new dimensions to levels you’d already played through.
On top of this, the game was just so well-designed, you’d play levels through again and again just to re-enjoy great moments. The train level in particular was a blast to run through, with its narrow confines and escape-a-locked-room finale endlessly exciting.
Being Able to Shoot Guards as they Used the Toilet
At the start of the Facility level, Bond makes his way through a ventilation shaft. The only exit brings him out over a toilet cubicle – a great spot to slip in unnoticed.
Now, it just so happens that a few guards are on a ‘rest’ break (maybe it was something they ate), and by peeping into an occupied cubicle from the vent’s exit, you see there’s a guard sitting on the toilet.
He’s also wearing a hat …
With your silenced PP7, shooting the hat from the guard’s head was something of a challenge. If you missed and hit the guard himself, he’d obviously be onto you. But if your aim was true, you got to witness the man staying seated, oblivious to the high-speed bullet that just missed his skull by mere inches.
A great, iconic moment from the game.
Being a One-Shot-Kill Boss with the Gold PP7
The Golden Gun was great and all, but it only carried one shot – meaning you had to reload after every single squeeze of the trigger. This gave enemies a tiny window of time in which to take you out.
This is where the mighty Gold PP7 came into play. This gorgeous little one-shot-kill gun carried seven rounds instead of just one, giving you the power to waste multiple opponents before you have to reload. It also meant you got more than one chance to kill a single enemy, giving you a little room for sloppy aiming.
If you didn’t want to enter a cheat code, the only way of unlocking the Gold PP7 was to complete the Cradle mission on Agent in less than 2.15.
Getting to Edit Levels to Your Own Taste
After completing every single mission on 00 Agent, you unlocked 007 Agent mode. This served as a level editor, allowing you to set your own health, accuracy, damage, and enemies’ reaction speeds.
This was a genius way to boost the game’s lifespan, and gave the best players an extra challenge. Of course, it also meant you could make levels ridiculously easy if you only had a few minutes to spare or wanted an unfair advantage.
Proximity Mines (Nuff Said)
There were different types of mines in GoldenEye, and while the remote mines allowed for some fun stealth-kills, the proximity mines did all the work themselves.
Placing these in the path of an approaching guard, or slapping them on a wall seconds before a multiplayer opponent came your way, was exquisite. Without having to worry about hitting the detonator on your watch (a la remote mines), the proximity mines were the lazy / cautious player’s handiest tool of death.
Pulling Off Exquisite Headshots
Along with Team Fortress and MDK, GoldenEye was one of the first games to incorporate headshots. The ability to zoom in with sniper rifles is something we take for granted today, especially in FPS games, but when GoldenEye hit, it was incredibly exciting.
Taking an enemy down from afar, with a well-placed headshot, always made you feel like a boss. Watching the guard either drop to the ground or fly back wildly is particularly hilarious now, too, given the blocky models and stiff animations.
Still, you didn’t even need the sniper rifle to shoot enemies wherever the hell you liked. Fancy capping them in the arm, leg, or groin until they die? Feel free. Again, this is par for the course now, but back then, it was pretty innovative, and it helps to make GoldenEye feel a little less outdated even today.
Getting to Play with Bond’s Gadgets
In the movie, Bond uses a laser in his watch to cut through a panel in the floor of an armoured train, before making a hasty escape (with Natalya, of course) while said vehicle explodes in true cinematic fashion.
Rare recreated this moment beautifully in their GoldenEye game, equipping you with the very same laser watch! Depending on how adept you were with the N64 controller, cutting around the panel required a fair bit of concentration, and it was a standout moment, making great use of one of Bond’s coolest gadgets.
Another cracker was the magnetic watch. When Bond found himself in a jail cell, stripped of all his weapons, his trusty watch allowed him to steal the guard’s key and make his escape without raising the alarm.
Touches like this helped to make GoldenEye the best Bond simulator we’d had until then (and possibly since), making him feel like the world’s greatest spy rather than just another generic good guy with guns.
Cruising in a Tank
Rare may have done a terrific job recreating the escape from the train, but they went even further with the tank sequence.
In the St. Petersburg Streets stage, Bond got to navigate this cold Russian city from said tank, with full use of multiple weapons. You really did get to feel like you were unstoppable, even though enough damage would total the tank and leave Bond dead.
This really helped to mix things up a little, giving us all a break from the brilliant-but-linear on-foot action.
Using Unlockable Cheats to Become Invincible
While you could enter cheat codes, GoldenEye provided you with plenty of unlockable cheat options. Getting some of them took hard work and determination, but were well worth it.
Cheat options either affected the gameplay itself, or just tweaked the visuals somehow. ‘Invincible’ obviously made Bond indestructible, while the likes of ‘DK Mode’ and ‘Tiny Bond’ created some amusing aesthetic differences.
One of the best cheats, though, was ‘All Guns’. With this activated, Bond somehow found room to carry his entire arsenal about his person, giving him a nice selection of weapons for every situation.
This made some moments completely different to how they were without the cheat. For example, when Bond is held in a cell and forced to use the magnetic watch to steal the guard’s key, he tells Natalya that he has ‘a cunning plan’. Following this line up by simply selecting the automatic shotgun and blowing the guard away without even the barest hint of mercy might not have been a faithful recreation of a seasoned spy’s tactics, but man, was it funny.
What are your favourite things about GoldenEye? Let us know!