Goldeneye 007: Ten Years Later
Note from racketboy: I felt this piece from fastbilly1 did a wonderful job looking at one of the most pivotal console FPSs and how it is still relevant and practical today. I hope you enjoy it.
Few games have caused as much awe and frustration as Rareware’s 1997 Goldeneye 007. Bringing four-player FPS multiplayer to a console was unheard of at the time to the vast majority of gamers. Sure there were the PC fans who had played through Wolfenstien 3D, Rise of the Triad, or Doom 1 & 2, but the casual crowd had yet been exposed to slaughtering their friends for fun. Predating Half Life by a year, Goldeneye provided us a reason to gather up the troops and stalk the halls of the temple. But how does it play today?
Simplicity was what made Goldeneye unique and special. While not as simple as Mario Kart 64, compared to other FPSs, Goldeneye’s control scheme was intuitive enough that even the very casual gamers could pick up the majority of the nuances with just a handful of games under their belts. “Use the joystick to move and the trigger to shoot, blue button opens doors and reloads the gun” with that basic rundown of controls most anyone could join you until they either wanted to learn the more advanced controls or became bored of the game (this would become commonplace if you played with people who always hunted down the new players, you all know what I am talking about).
The controls are still spot on, and have been added into more modern games as optional controls (in Halo that is Legacy with the triggers in Southpaw). They may seem alittle akward at first, but after a couple games you will feel the groove coming back. And if you cannot get use to the single joystick controls, pick one of the 2.1 control styles and grab another controller. Sure it means on a 1 on 1 game but you will get a more modern control style.
Goldeneyes is not so much unique as it is an example of utter brilliance. The stage designs are nearly flawless. From the open breezeways of the Temple, to the labyrinth like Complex, to the harrowing halls of the Facility, the stages had the right amount of everything to make for epic battles of supremacy. Though after ten years of playing Temple it grows quite stale. The same goes for the Facility.
If you played the game to the extent that the majority of us did, you will still remember the hiding spots in the Complex, the high holes in the Temple’s main room, and ofcourse the bullet proof glass in the Facility, they will seem like old friends. But after playing them for a few hours you will remember that the Facility is bottlenecked at the bullet proof glass, the hiding spots in complex are nigh useless, and that still nobody remembers those holes in the Temple’s walls. Is this to say that the stages are bad? No, but I do not believe that most people will be willing to put in anywhere near the amount of time the use to on them. They were amazing, but by todays standards they are very plain and lack gusto. Then again I started playing through Goldeneye again a couple weeks ago and have enjoyed the spats of multiplayer quite a bit. But when compared to something like Timesplitters 2/Future Perfect, Halo, or Half Life 2, there really is no fair comparison.
The weapons in Goldeneye were always a mixed bag. I knew very few people who actually liked getting the PP7 (commonly referred to as the PPtrash) and even less who liked timed mines. Mixed bag or not the weapons still provide a nice balance that few games have replicated. Weapon sets may have annoyed many players, something that Perfect Dark “fixed,” but it just kept with the idea that the game was made to be simple. I mean when choosing Automatics, all the guns use the same bullets. How can that be any simpler? Yes simplicity is good to get new players, but the balance is what kept people coming back. The most powerful weapon will always spawn in the same place, the RCP90 is going to be outside the bathroom door, but you have a clear shot to it from most of the way down the hallway if you are crouched, and a headshot with the magnum will kill them. And while your RCP90 can shoot through that metal door, much like the moonraker, my Magnum can shoot through the bullet proof glass AND the door behind it. And for some reason fire can go through walls, 10 years and I still haven’t figured that one out. Ask any fan of the game two simple words and the stories will come pouring out, proximity mine. I could go on about games in Bunker, or the Temple respawn pattern, but that is not why yall are here. If you cannot tell already, I would say that apart from the Unreal Tournaments and possibly Red Fraction, there has not been a more balanced set of weapons, let alone weapon sets, in an fps. I just wish I would stop getting stuck with that daggum klobb when we are not playing License to Kill.
Scenario-wise Goldeneye pulled from its parents in the genre and ironed out a lot of the kinks in making a console version of them. Your standard deathmatch is fairly straight forward. But adding in a one shot kill option, License to Kill, spiced things up some (then people actually want the klobb). Limited lives, You only Live Twice, was fun for tournaments but not so much for casual play, sans drinking games potential. Flag tag, The Living Daylights, was probably our least played game type, even more so than limited lives. The concept is that there is one flag, and you try to hold on to it the longest, timewise. It never clicked with my group of friends and family, so my exposure to it is jaded and boorish. Ofcourse there are your usual team layouts, 2v2 and 3v1, neither all that profound, but a whole mess of a lot of fun. Finally we have one of the best, The Man with the Golden Gun. This is a very simple one where there is one Goldengun, it forces the weapon set to be goldengun, whoever grabs the gun is “it” and is the only one who can get points, everyone else is on a team to best them and grab the gun (best when played without a time limit). Enough variety to keep most players happy for sometime, it is hard to say what kind of impact it made since most of these scenarios had been in games before it. But there is no question that even by todays standards the scenarios are worthwhile, and more importantly they are still fun. However the lack of being able to use more than one at a time is a sad drawback. Team License to Kill and a true Capture the Flag mode would have been choice additions, but sadly it just is not so (though the first can be accomplished through modifiying players health and/or using a gameshark).
With twelve available by default, 33 after completing the game, and 64 if you used a cheat, there is a character for everyone. Be it the cast of the movie, your generic badguys, or even old Bond villains, the multiplayer characters are as diverse as the people who play them. Granted you will run into people who only will only play the short man oddjob or maybe that ghillisuit esq Siberian Special Forces, but there is little to gripe about characterwise. Newer games boast cast in the hundreds, Timesplitters, but really how many do you really need? Granted I do have over 1000 characters on my Mugen roster so I cant really talk.
Overall the multiplayer is still amazingly fun, even if the stage designs are a bit dated. All the tricks have been figured out and there are no secrets left, but with alittle practice, and some good friends, Goldeneye can still dish out what you remember it doing back in the 90s. Sure it is dated, the characters only kinda look like the people they are supposed to represent, and there are no reload animations, but it can still dole out that sweet endorphin rush of days gone by.
Goldeneye may have been known mostly for its divine multiplayer, but the single player was no slouch either. Following the movie decently, good enough for a movie game, the storyline took you all over the world. Starting off with the dam with that big green truck that you have to out run and ending with a brilliant jump to the bottom of the Cradle. While there were slow parts, Statue, and parts that were over the top violent, Runway’s tank, the game played fluidly from stage to stage. However the storytelling dynamics are ruined by stock characters and a somewhat convoluted jump from part to part with bare reasons for such a jump.
While this can be construed to be just like the movie, or most Bond movies for that matter, it does not translated well into a ground breaking single player experience. In its time it was unrivaled, but now with brilliant retellings of the second World War, stories of intergalactic civil wars of racism and hate, and a lonely MIT graduate in the wrong place at the wrong time, Goldeneye shows its age. And while that is not a bad thing in some aspects, the single player game did not age anywhere near as good as the multiplayer. This does not mean it is a horrible game, just that it has been surpassed.
Playing Goldeneye 007 Today
- Dust off the Nintendo 64
- Play a Goldeneye Mod for another game
We will hit all three of these in fair detail, pro and con, and some how-tos to make your experience more enjoyable
If you don’t have one, they go for $15 at goodwill and about $30 with two controllers and a game on eBay (pre-shipping). Goldeneye will set you back another $10 or so. (You could even find a system bundled with the game) So yes it is cheap, but there are two problems with playing it on the N64:
First of all, old hardware can be spotty, I know in college we went through a N64 in a year and a half playing Mario Kart 64 (ended up that when we added extra cooling it started to work again, but who wants a pc heatsink on a console?).
Secondly, the controllers can be a hassle. Yes the great thing about playing the game is that the N64 controller was spot on, nigh perfect, for the game. However, the joysticks on the controllers are simply tripe. How do you know if your controller is shot, the easy way to do it is hold it by one of the claws and shake it around in a gentle circle. If the stick moves around, well it might be time to get some new ones. Sure you can still play with the busted up sticks, I did it for years, but the difference between the sticks is night and day. Downside to this is it is increasingly difficult to purchase new first party controllers for a decent price, even on eBay.
There is another way, if you are comfortable with electronics, or know someone who is that owes you a favor, you can easily and painlessly replace the joystick and for about $7 per controller. eBay is littered with people selling the joysticks and the triwing screwdriver you may need. Once open it is a matter of plug and play to switch out the joysticks, I will make the safe bet of ten minutes per, but in reality it can take as few as two after you figure it out. So for about forty dollars and maybe an hour, you can replace all your joysticks, clean your contacts for your buttons, and have four N64 controllers that feel like new.
That is by far the best way to get better controllers, but if you do not already have four controllers eBay or craigslist are your best options. Do be careful though and make sure you are buying Nintendo brand controllers and not the third party kind. Even if the seller says they are first party if they have slowmo features, well that should be a hint.
The most popular of all the Goldeneye mods is obviously Goldeneye Source. Utilizing the power of the Source Engine, and the creativity of the Half Life community, Goldeneye Source provides a very faithful rendition of the multiplayer to the modern audience. Sporting both online play and more maps the game could be played endlessly. However there are some drawbacks. For one you need a decent computer to run it, Half Life 2 will run on most anything, but Goldeneye Source has brought my pc down to a crawl on decently populated servers. It also requires a copy of a base Source game, your best option would be either Half Life 2 or The Orange Box. A better question would be why don’t you already have a copy or two of Half Life 2 (but that is just the TFC fan I me screaming for later this year).
One thing that I did not like about Goldeneye Source, and this is just a personal gripe, is that they took away your ability to not fall off of things. Sure it makes sense to do it that way, but that was one “problem” with Goldeneye that I actually liked. It added something so unintuitive that it through everyone for a loop the first couple games, that and I do not like falling to my death (that’s the UT/Quake fan in me talking).
Personally I prefer the mods for the Unreal Tournament series, even if they were never finished. The maps were redone in a more UT style, ie the columns in the Library main room, and really fit the game. However the guns are worthless, in comparison to even their original form. I take it to mean that the Lizard people are just that strong that it takes several shots from the Goldengun to kill them. Just using the maps with the UT weapons leads for some funny battles, but this is in no way a substitute for the original game.
Either choice is good, but for a real rendition, there is really no reason to look any further than Goldeneye Source. Sadly though it is a pcgame, meaning one player per pc (this is not Serious Sam you know), taking away some of the fun, but online and lanparties do alleviate you of that.
Ah the sticky subject, well this one is still kind of iffy. Rareware utilized a unique skybox that so far the emulation community has yet to duplicate. Meaning all stages that are supposed to have a sky just have black, makes Surface kinda apocalyptically foreboding. It really does not affect multiplayer that much but it is worthwhile to point out. Emulation has several major advantages over the other two options. Not only do you still have four players on one system, you can also have online through kalliera (project64k and mupen64k). You can also enhanced the graphics, though I would suggest against that, and you can up the ram to the game so you do not have as many slowdowns as you use to. However you are stuck with pretty crappy controls, and to play fourplayer with less slowdown you need a fairly “cherry” pc. The pc problem can be fixed over time or simply for a couple hundred if you are not so technically inclined, the controls are another problem all together.
You could cheat and use a mouse and keyboard, but that takes away ALL of the challenge. The more common way of playing is with pc controllers, Logictech’s DualShock styled one being the most obvious choice (which racketboy personly uses and enjoys). The Wiimote can also be used through glovepie and a Bluetooth dongle, but like the mouse and keyboard I believe the precision takes the challenge out of the game, well except when you are fighting the auto aim.
However, there is a still another easy way to get better controls, console adaptors. For N64 to USB you have two choices, Adaptoids which are the more expensive, N64-only solution or the PS1/PS2/N64 adapters that are available from eBay, Amazon, and other retailers. Sadly I have missed out on the last shipment of Adaptoids and currently play using a Super Joybox 5 and PS2 controllers. It is by far not the most ideal way of playing, the deadzone on the PS2 controllers is smaller than the N64 so sometimes when strafing you start looking up really quickly, but it is very much playable.
Another fantastic aspect of emulation is that you can hack the game. Not only can you start out with all 64 players in multiplayer available by default, you can play new stages in multiplayer. That’s right there are stages for Goldeneye that you have not memorized; Namely the Cradle (the last stage for the single player game) and the Citadel (a beta multiplayer stage – unfinished but very playable). However any stage can become a multiplayer stage with the help of the Goldeneye level editor care of the brilliant minds of the Rare Witch Project. This editor allows you to lay down items, characters, weapons, cover, statues, and even miniaturized tanks, if that is what you fancy. With this powerful tool you could simply add another set of body armor to a stage or go so far as to create your own stage – though I feel I should warn you that this does involve a fair bit of work and I did end up crashing the emulator countless times, my entire pc once, for one reason or another (standard fare for me and level creation actually).
With the ability to make new stages and missions, coop missions at that; this could be seen as reason enough to configure an N64 emulator and figure out the editor. This powerful tool actually breathes more life into the game than anything else. Thanks to SubDrag, Zoinkity, Wreck, whoever else worked on this, and the Project64 team, almost every qualm I ever had with Goldeneye over the years is instantly gone. Sadly there is still no way to play a standard game of capture the flag, but I can live with that. Also with these tools you can finally have that All Bonds cheat, granted it really is not worth it. Sadly the last update to the Rare Witch Project was in 2005 and they never did get enough levels to create their repository they were hoping for. But hopefully enough people will take interest with it now in that even a $300 pc from Best Buy (on sale this week) can run the emulated game as well as the console and we have just passed the 10th anniversary. Granted I hope to get four adaptoids the next time they go on sale, so maybe I am not the best one to lead this charge.
SupDrag has many videos of his fantastic maps up on youtube for those who wish to know more. He even went so far as to port some of the better Perfect Dark stages to Goldeneye then, using a backup device, tested them on a console. If that is not a hardcore fan, then what does it take?
So this started out as a simple review of an old game to more modern counterparts, but evolved into much more. As you can see the game is as good as it was back then, even if games have surpassed it in different categories. You still get to be Bond, you still get to save the world, and you still get to kill you friends. Best of all, even after all these years the game is still fun. Subdrag and his team took the game to the next level and sadly most people did not realize that. Now, days after the 10th anniversary, we can finally give the game a proper revival. With all sorts of licensing issues it is doubtful that it will ever be re-released on a modern console, but it is fairly easy to track down, cartridge or rom, and even better the game has expanded from those twenty missions and eleven multiplayer stages we all were enthralled with back in 1997.
And who knows, maybe we will have a grassroots revival of the game, mapmakers with flock to the editor and create amazing things. Then the online community can take off and really bring the game back. If that happens, I might have to chair a league.