Reading through the reviews made me realize that these writers approached GoldenEye differently than the average gamer of the time. They were on point with their critiques, but they gravitated toward different elements.
Unless you kept up on all the latest video game magazines and websites back then, you most likely heard about GoldenEye through word of mouth. A buddy told you about this awesome Bond game where you could shoot each other. You’d go over to their house and in the span of an afternoon they had sold you all on buying your own copies so you could hone your skills for the next rematch. If you needed more convincing, they’d load up the campaign and shoot enemies in the nuts so you could see them grab their crotch and crumble to the ground. What more did you need?
Compare this to reviewers who naturally gravitated toward the single-player campaign first for evaluation and devoted the most ink to it. After spending many hours beating that, they try to rope people around the office—who all had their own work to do—into playing a few rounds of multiplayer so they could see and experience all the modes.
Back then, some outlets had multiple writers on reviews to all offer their own numerical ratings. This allowed readers to find writers who they aligned with and it also underscored whether a game was really great or terrible when they all agreed. This also allowed for easier multiplayer session setup since they all had to play it for review anyway instead of getting pulled off another game they had to get through.
You can see a glint of the smack talk in these multi-person reviews that would take over the gaming world after GoldenEye’s release. “I was very impressed with the Four-player Mode, even if the precise aiming took some getting used to, right [Dan] Hsu?” chided Electronic Gaming Monthly’s mysterious “Sushi-X.”
While these multi-writer reviews were great for offering varying perspectives, the reader didn’t get as much in-depth info about the game since everyone just offers their short hot take and a number. The single-writer pieces generally had more details, which is welcome when we’re trying to get to the bottom of what people thought back then, but reading through these classic pages was a delight no matter the format.
[Disclosure: I worked at Game Informer, one of the outlets cited for this piece, for over a decade and occasionally freelance for them as well. Rally Director of Creative Production Lisa Mason also worked at Game Informer for many years, but neither of us reviewed GoldenEye.]