How GoldenEye 007 Made the Console FPS Relevant
The world of first-person shooters is a two-fold market between PC players and console players nowadays, but this was hardly always the case. Certainly, there was a time when PC dominated the market and the idea of the console first person shooter was little more than a mess at best with ports of PC shooters console often having been of shoddy quality. When Rare was given the license to develop a game based on the GoldenEye 007 movie, they did more than complete the rare task of creating a successful licensed video game from a film.
It was on this day in 1997 that Rare released GoldenEye 007 exclusively for the N64 and opened the discussion on both the market of console shooters and the more “realistic” approach that would culminate in numerous hit franchises later on.
There were many different early concepts for GoldenEye 007 as a game during Rare’s planning period. Having just come off of success with the Donkey Kong Country series, a 2D platformer was considered. When the team eventually turned towards the idea of a 3D shooter, it started as an on-rails shooter. In particular, game director Martin Hollis credited Virtua Cop for inspiration of many of GoldenEye’s mechanics, such as innocent characters in the terrain, body-part dependent hit reactions and the alternative focused aiming format that could be used.
The team working on the GoldenEye game regularly visited the filming set in order to photograph locations, set designs, blueprints and tons of other material to make the game authentic to the movie, but they weren’t shy about going beyond the boundaries of the film either in order to make the game more enjoyable. They even intended to include the likes of previous James Bonds such as Sean Connery and Roger Moore in the multiplayer mode. However, in a 2011 interview with NowGamer, writer David Doak revealed that the owners of the license demanded the other Bonds be removed as to not pull the spotlight from current Bond actor Pierce Brosnan. Unfortunately, some of our favorite Bond players would never see the light of day in the final release of the game.
The game does do its part to follow the beats of the movie as closely as would be fun. Bond. During a mission to destroy a secret chemical weapons testing facility in Russia, Bond and fellow agent Alec Trevelyan’s cover is blown. Trevelyan seemingly dies and Bond narrowly escapes. The game follows Bond through several years of attempting to thwart a group known as the Janus Crime Syndicate as they prepare a Russian satellite known as the GoldenEye to fire an electromagnetic pulse down upon London, crippling a large cornerstone of world financial stability. On Bond’s globetrotting mission, he engages in hostage rescue, demolitions and adrenaline pumping gunfights with enemy soldiers and operatives.
The campaign of GoldenEye 007 was enjoyable, but the real star of the show was absolutely the multiplayer. With the four controller ports on the N64, players could engage in up to four person deathmatches with a slew of customizable rules that could be put in play for each match. The weapons in the game were delightful as well, featuring real-world replicas of many iconic weapons such as Bond’s signature Walther PPK, but also including fictional weapons from across separate movies such as the Golden Gun and the Moonraker Laser. Despite previous Bonds not making it into the game, the multiplayer characters featured iconic figures such as Jaws, Mayday and Baron Samedi in addition to the film’s regular players and the games cast of enemy mode. That said, shame on you if you jumped on little, hard-to-hit Oddjob first chance you got.
With everything in play, including its exclusivity to the N64 at the time of its release, GoldenEye 007 marked perhaps one of the most notable early times console first-person shooters had ever gotten one over on PC gaming. It paved the way for companies like Sony and Xbox to push the possibilities further. Even further, it popularized a more realistic form of first-person shooter, far away from the Dooms and Quakes of yesteryear. Those games would still continue to thrive, but GoldenEye 007 would make way for the likes of Medal of Honor and Perfect Dark, which would ultimately lead up to franchises like Battlefield and Call of Duty still pushing that boundary today. GoldenEye 007 may have aged more like milk than wine in the time since its release, but its contribution to the industry is undeniable.