GOLDENEYE / Rare / Nintendo 64

Goldeneye was an odd choice for a movie license at the time, not only because the game came out almost two full years after the movie hit theaters in the U.S., but also due to the setting of having the normally suave secret agent mowing down small armies of troops single-handedly with heavy weaponry. Worked out all to the good, though.

Goldeneye was the first excellent console FPS. In single-player mode, you guide Bond through a series of missions loosely based on the events of the Goldeneye movie. The game made numerous breakthroughs for the FPS genre in general - 3D guard models that actually looked, moved and responded like humans, targetted damage to different body parts (though everyone has one generic health bar, head shots do a lot more damage than shots to the legs or arms, resulting in a one-hit kill in some cases), an inventory of Bond gadgets like a laser watch to be deployed as part of the mission objectives, and complex missions with multiple objectives that incorporated stealth and NPC interaction. With modern shooters like Halo 3 and Half-Life 2 doing all this stuff in advanced graphical glory, it's easy to take Goldeneye for granted, but if you were an established gamer back in 1997 this game was an incredible jump forward from what we thought of as the "FPS standard" at the time.

It wasn't even the excellent single-player mode that made the game, though (although that probably would have been enough for greatness even by itself.) What people really flip for is the multiplayer mode, with split-screen action for anywhere from two to four human players. The arenas were carefully designed to, for the most part, dissuade camping or holing up near some spawn point, the graphics were still clear and perfectly acceptable even with the screen cut into four (except maybe on a 13" TV or smaller), and there was a whole slew of amusing characters and tons of customizability as far as weapons and terms of match.

Something has to be said for the Bond theme, too. Composer Graeme Norgate did an excellent job creating a series of rock/techno Bond theme remixes for the game that manage to never get old while still constantly riffing on the familiar theme. The sound effects are similarly excellent.

All that said, the game is not wholly without flaws, and while it has aged very well compared to prior FPS games like Duke 3D and Quake, some players may find single-player missions at this point a little on the boring side. The missions are a mixed bag; some are brilliant, while others are padded out with "hunt around in huge mazelike area for random-ass guard in random-ass spot who drops random-ass keycard to open random-ass door somewhere" stuff that is just about as tedious as keycard-hunting in DOOM can be. Levels also use rather bland and samey textures making it easy to get lost, which can be really frustrating when the game imposes a time limit on you. The major problem here is the guard AI - it's incredibly dopey. I mean, it was still a major advancement over Quake and Duke 3D and all that, but at this point in FPS development it was still pretty primitive. Guards rarely use cover, like to stand out in the open or slowly kneel and strike some pose while you have the drop on them, and blithely run into ambushes. They apparently have some AI routines for dodging and shaking your aim, but they are implemented kind of poorly, causing them to do lulzy bunny hops or side-steps at random in the middle of gunfights where they are out in the open. The only way the game generates difficulty at the higher levels is simply by spawning tons of them at you and giving them really powerful weapons (and giving you really limited or no body armor.) Annoying AI also extends to a couple of single-player missions, where you have to escort someone who has no sense of getting out of the way of gunfire or not getting between your line of fire and the enemy. On the flip side, in the missions where you have an armed AI companion, they tend to race ahead and just devastate the enemy troops, who don't seem very inclined to target them.

Anything possibly aggravating or disappointing about solo player mode is made up for by multiplayer, however, which is the real charm of the game. Amazingly, it wasn't even originally supposed to be a multiplayer FPS - when they started work on the game in 1996 it was originally envisioned as a rail shooter like Time Crisis or House of the Dead. Even when they switched it up to FPS style, multiplayer was only added in at the last minute by one dood who was just playing around with the code. Thank goodness for coincidences I guess. Anyway, this game is basically a must-have if you have an N64.

Links :

* Goldeneye Online
* Goldeneye Source (A Half-Life 2 Conversion)

Videos :

* Gameplay Video
* Goldenpoop
* Goldeneye IRL