Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Goldeneye 007 (N64) Retro Review

My favorite Bond movie of all time is Goldeneye. I had never played the video game until now, so I thought I would share my experiences with everyone in the form of this retro review. Pierce Brosnan, Bond or not, is still the man in my eyes though Daniel Craig is quite good, too, as a different kind of Bond. Here's a review of Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64.

For England, James?

After License to Kill, the James Bond franchise would have six years without another film. Much like the internal troubling between the films, there was also development issues with the Goldeneye 007 video game. The game wouldn't come out until a year later in 1996, but what it would give is one of the best FPS experiences the world has ever known. It revolutionized the genre on game consoles and offered four-player splitscreen console action. It's nothing to scoff at, mind you. Now, more than a decade later, is it still true that nobody does it better?

Goldeneye 007 follows the plot of the movie quite closely, but of course, it takes some liberties to make a game out of it. The story stars off with James Bond 007 and Alec Trevalyn 006 on a mission to infiltrate and destroy a base situated near a dam. Alec gets captured and shot dead presumably while Bond sets the timer to detonate the whole facility as he makes his escape. Two years later, it appears Alec isn't dead after all. He's been in charge of the Janus, a two-faced God of lore, crime syndicate, and is leading a plot to destroy England's cash system with the Goldeneye satellite. It's up to James Bond to stop him, take out the bad guys, and save the world. All in a day's work, right? The game does not have spoken dialogue like the spiritual successor Perfect Dark does. The story is told mostly through written dossier reports with small cut-scenes and dialogue exchanges happening in each mission.

Familiar locations abound in Goldeneye 007.

Speaking of missions, there's twenty of them in all-- two of which are special scenarios featuring villains of Bond film past. These two must be unlocked by completing the previous eighteen missions with a special agent rank or better. There's three difficulties in all: agent, special agent, and 007 agent. Not only do enemies take and dish out more damage in the later modes, but there's also more objectives to complete each mission. Goldeneye 007 follows an objective-based formula which I prefer to something like Halo or Call of Duty where it's running from firefight to firefight or set piece to set piece. The way it works is that each mission has a series of objectives that must be completed such as locating a key card, destroying security cameras throughout a level, or saving hostages. If an objective is missed or failed, the entire mission must be aborted. That's the life of a double-o after all. There's also various stealth missions where a silenced weapon must be used, or else Bond will signal a bunch of guards onto his position. These missions can be a tad frustrating, but with a little patience they're not too much of a burden.

The scene where Bond and Natalya are captured.

Goldeneye 007 takes you through a wide series of locales both in and not in the original movie. These range from a frigate where a series of hostages must be rescued to the Severnaya facility where a copy of the Goldeneye key is made to meeting up with the man behind Janus, 006 himself, inside a statue park. Many locations from the movie show up, too, such as the streets of St. Petersburg, the train where Natalya, the bond girl of the movie is held by the villain, the archives, the Goldeneye bunker, the dam from the beginning of the movie, and the final showdown area, deep in the jungle at the outpost.

I'm looking at it, and I still can't spell it.

Bond loves his gadgets and weaponry, and this time around he's fully equipped thanks to Q. From remote mines to that fancy watch of his, Bond is covered. One mission has you locked up in a cell with your only hope of escape is to use the high-powered magnet of your watch to grab a cell key that rests out of arm's reach. An arsenal of weaponry is also available to Bond including machine guns, silenced pistols, magnums, mines, throwing knives, shotguns, rocket and grenade launchers, and much more. There's no weapon wheel this time around, so if Bond wants to quickly select a weapon he'll have to do it the old-fashioned way by cycling through it. Gadgets can't even be selected this way. They must be chosen in the pause menu which slows the action down to a crawl-- especially when the gadget is used multiple times in a level.

Another problem with Goldeneye 007 is a doozy. It's a problem that games still have to this day-- infinite respawning enemies. This only happens when you're caught or you give away Bond's location, but it's quite annoying shooting down wave after wave of enemies-- making little to no progress while fighting a losing battle. It makes otherwise manageable missions infuriatingly challenging. Thankfully, Perfect Dark didn't have this issue on the scale that Goldeneye 007 does. Regardless, this does not make the game broken or impossible at all.

How's that for a pain reliever?

The other half to Goldeneye 007 is the multi-player which kept younger versions of gamers up all night fragging one another till the sun came up. There's around ten arenas to duke it out in and many of these are taken directly from the single-player mode. Some of which are better than others such as the bunker, facility, temple, and complex while others are not very good at all such as playing three versions of the same level in the library. Each level has an adequate number of ambush spots and nooks and crannies to explore and hide.

In multi-player, there's no bots, so it's up to players to find their own opponents. Up to four friends or enemies can take each other out in this mode. There's various different scenarios. Live and Let Die are words to live by here. In the standard mode, the goal is to get the most points within a set time limit while in You Only Live Twice, each players gets only two lives to work with before their goose is cooked. In The Living Daylights, the idea is to grab a flag and hold onto it for as long as possible while earning points for doing so. There's also modes where players grab a golden gun, killing any player they shoot with one bullet, plus a team mode and one shot-one kill rules. There's plenty of options and weaponry to choose from in Goldeneye's engagement mode.

On the control side of things, Bond plays nicely with the other boys. The C-buttons are used to look around and side-step enemies. Think of it as the second analog on a dual-analog controller. Meanwhile, aiming is assisted with auto-aim, making it easier to shoot enemies down. One of the problems here is that you can't shoot through enemies to kill them, but they can shoot through their fallen comrades to damage you. Nonetheless, you can also crouch with the C-down button, hold R and select a C-direction to look around corners to know what's coming. You reload with B and exchange guns or gadgets with the A button. Truth be told, this set-up feels like second nature and it controls remarkably well.

I'd personally look at the explosion
because it'd be awesome.

Presentation-wise, Goldeneye 007 isn't much to look at now. There's a lot of muddy textures, the characters don't have individual fingers, and the draw distance is pretty poor-- kept up by lots of fog. Regardless, there's not too much in the way of slowdown which I wasn't expecting seeing how Perfect Dark performed graphically. The music by Robin Beanland and Grant Kirkhope is absolutely wonderful with plenty of cues from past Bond films, and it sounds very close to something out of the movie with the factory-sounding noises used.

All-in-all, Goldeneye 007 gets high marks. It's a blast to play solo or with friends, and the mission structure is open enough to keep the game from feeling linear. While not as good as Perfect Dark, Goldeneye 007 has enough weaponry, gadgets, levels, and objectives to shake things up and not stir them. Overall, the team at Rare have done a fantastic job of bringing 007 to consoles with awesome gameplay that holds up to this day. The name's Bond. James Bond.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]


coffeewithgames said...

My most played N64 game. I actually preferred Goldeneye's single-player campaign, over Perfect Dark's.

Jebby said...

Nice balanced review and I agree with all your pluses & minuses. I prefer it to Perfect Dark partly because I didn't really play Perfect Dark until well after its release and partly because I prefer the reality based setting and less slowdown. I'm sure multiplayer is much better in Perfect Dark but I've never played it with friends. I'm playing through Goldeneye again right now on 00 Agent difficulty and also trying to unlock all the cheats.

J.J. said...

Hi! I know that my question may be curious for some people.
I'm searching for any kind of information in order to find or convert the original Goldeneye 64 animated sky (I mean the one you can see Statue Park, Depot or Surface for example) as/into a video, animated gif or something like that.
If you've got any information, if you know a Games Shark or Action Replay community, group of cheaters, gamers...that could help me to find it, I would be very interested ! Maybe Goldeneye 007 : Source developers know something about it.

Ah, just an explaination: it's for a multimedia art project. This sky that I known in youth is really, really interesting, and perfectly squares with that I want to do.

Forgive me about any approximative way of speaking, I'm French. ::)
Thanks dudes!