August 25, 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most legendary games of all time, GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64. To celebrate, original developer Rare finally gets the chance to bring this classic back. An earlier Xbox port was shelved in 2008 due to rights issues, and a weird 2010 remake with Daniel Craig’s Bond swapped in for Pierce Brosnan disappointed fans of the original.
The new faithful remaster is headed to Xbox consoles and Nintendo Switch. We’re talking native 16:9 4K resolution (on hardware that can handle it), dual analog stick controls, a smooth framerate, achievements, and more. The creators are basically leaving all of what made GoldenEye great untouched while tweaking everything that could use an update for modern times.
So what made the original game so special?
I wanted to go back to 1997 when the game was first released to find as many fresh takes as I could about what excited professional reviewers of the time. It’s fascinating to see what impressed them, how review writing has changed, and especially what was considered good graphic design in ‘90s game magazines.
It was hard to believe that a movie-based game could be this good. It had all of the cool moments from the film and accurate-for-the-time likenesses of the actors. You didn’t just mow down hordes of demons/aliens/nazis in repetitive corridors to get the keycard and escape. Compelling missions and an overall commitment to realism in the environments, animations, and effects would usher in a new chapter in first-person shooters that we would see in Half-Life and even still in Call of Duty.
The higher the difficulty setting, the more interesting mission objectives players would receive. And if you beat certain level completion times you’d unlock outrageous cheats like invincibility, big head mode, or infinite ammo.
Who could forget blasting your buddies on the couch in four-player split-screen multiplayer late into the night? This game popularized the ridiculously huge multiplayer shooter genre on home consoles with a variety of characters, weapons, maps, and modes. You could gain the respect of your peers with enough shooting skills or earn their utter disgust by screen cheating or playing as the hard-to-hit Oddjob.
If you play it for the first time now through a modern lens, it’s probably tough to understand what’s so great about it. The graphics look elementary, the single analog stick control scheme is unfathomable in today’s dual stick world, and the multiplayer mode isn’t even online!