Game: ‘GoldenEye 007' (1997) Dev. Rare
Based on the 1995 James Bond film 'GoldenEye', this first-person shooter for the Nintendo 64 console became a classic of it's genre and firm multiplayer favourite among gamers...
British video game developers Rare had a 49% stake in their company from Nintendo from the early 1990s following a string of successful games for the NES working with other developers internationally. To fuel output for the Nintendo 64 console following hits such as ‘Donkey Kong Country’ and ‘Killer Instinct 2’, the team at Rare focused on some smaller projects for the next few releases.
It was in 1995 that Pierce Brosnan ignited the big screen as James Bond in the 17th film of the franchise ‘GoldenEye’. The film brought the action and adventure of 007 to a whole new generation of movie fans, whom were also the many millions of a new generation of video game players exploring new consoles and new technology used for home entertainment.
The lead developer in charge of their new project, ‘GoldenEye 007’, was Brit Martin Hollis. With the licence acquired from EON Productions and MGM, it was down to Hollis and his team to ride on the success of ‘GoldenEye’ and the James Bond franchise to develop and produce a game as exciting, authentic and fun as watching the movies.
Previous shooters that bore influence on the gameplay and design included ‘Doom’ and ‘Virtua Cop’, but Hollis wanted to move away from a pre-determined route and allow players free roam across levels so they were in control of where Bond went and how he approached the missions. The licence from EON / MGM allowed Hollis to explore not only the levels and characters from ‘GoldenEye’ itself, but to expand on locations only teased in the film and even go back to classic films for bonus levels and characters including ‘Moonraker’, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and ‘Goldfinger’.
With nothing but passion for game design, and a love for the Bond franchise, a team of 11 developers took two years and $2m to bring ‘GoldenEye 007’ to gamers in August 1997, just months away from the new 007 film ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’.
James Bond fever was well and truly back.
Taking the role of MI6 agent James Bond, you are placed in his shoes for a first-person shooter that follows the story of 1995s ‘GoldenEye’. You must battle a rogue agent who is intent on crippling the world’s economy with a stolen space-based weapons programme, able to hold cities and governments to ransom. The tracing of the weapon will take you from dangerous post-Cold War Russia to sun-kissed France and to the humid jungles of Cuba, facing villains and dangers in each mission.
For each mission in each location, Bond will have several objectives to carry out such as obtaining crucial data, top secret information, save hostages or defuse bombs. It’s down to you if you want to use stealth or go in guns blazing, but each action has a repercussions; the quieter you are, the less attention you will bring on yourself. If you’re louder and more brash, you get the job done quicker but the bad guys will be onto you and hunt you down. This is one of the many elements about the game and the A.I itself that never make playing the game repetitive, because each time you play bad guys who patrol the levels will be in different positions, and may notice you earlier or later. You can’t predict anything, and it makes for real fun replaying.
The game starts as any real 007 adventure, with a CGI gunbarrel, credits and end titles to make this a real cinematic experience for Bond fans and general gamers.
But it’s not just the single player that immerses you in the Bond world, but also the multiplayer that was near revolutionary for the next generation of video game consoles in the 1990s. The Nintendo 64 allowed four friends to play together on the same machine with classic split-screen mechanics. ‘GoldenEye 007’ allows you to get together with your mates, choose a new or classic Bond character, decide your weapons and location and go for it in an all-out battle to survive. Numerous game modes add spice to the gameplay such as ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ where if you find the golden gun, then one shot will kill the enemy. ‘Licence To Kill’ means one shot kills for all. ‘Slappers Only’ is a choice that removes guns and forces you just to, well, slap your opponents to death!
Levels are tight and exciting, thanks to numerous platforms, hiding places and elevations for you to hide out in and stalk with your crosshairs aimed. There are many times when, no matter how much you think you know where other players are, when you focus on taking down a target, someone may well sneak up behind and take you down!
With an exciting Bond soundtrack, this is the closest real-life Bond multiplayer game that has ever been, and even now the 007 games have tried to replicate the fun and simplicity of ‘GoldenEye 007’.
With Rare being such a small outfit, a small number of designers and programmers were working with cutting edge 3D technology to bring the world of Bond to life for the Nintendo 64. An SGI Onyx graphics machine was used to help build and render the 3D graphics, and Nintendo’s own NINGEN software also helped. Programmer Mark Edmonds, designer Duncan Botwood, and artists Karl Hilton and B. Jones worked on the mapping of locations and characters from the film, bringing them to life in the most authentic way possible with the slight limitations faced.
Some limitations faced included the rendering of the 3D models and the colour palette (richer colours were more expensive, hence a more simple, bleaker tone of RGB colours used).
The world of ‘GoldenEye’ was as immersive as it was in the films, and the more so. 3D locations were built upon scenes glimpsed in the films such as the Soviet facility, the Russian MOD headquarters and the Cuban jungle. While the polygon textures were not the smoothest, the detail was as authentic as ever to bring the film to life; locations were expanded on, costumes and character clothing were detailed, and weapons and explosions were as real looking as possible.
Sound and music
Composers Graeme Norgate and Grant Kirkhope took charge of the score, influenced heavily by the Soviet-esque/synth-based movie score by French composer Éric Serra. The game’s score continued the air of post-Cold War espionage and mystery of 007’s spy world, using a mix of varied tempo for dramatic effect and reworked renditions of the popular James Bond theme for a very 1990s gaming audience.
Norgate also worked on the sound effects; while no speech was recorded and it was just text-based talk, explosions, computer terminals, gun-shots and more added the atmosphere needed mixed with the score. The sound effects were nothing but authentic, using different levels of volume and pitch for various elements such as guns and explosions, so nothing was overly repeated. This helped add a real-world touch to the real-world exploits of Bond and certainly made sure you felt the danger and excitement in using weapons or hacking into computers to get the information needed.
Low expectations only made the success of ‘GoldenEye 007’ greater. It became the game of a generation and signalled a new era of first-person shooter that played in a much more realistic way. The games design was accessible by all, and it meant that no two games were the same thanks to the AI that played differently each time. The game also bore a “sister sequel” in ‘Perfect Dark’ that used an upgraded engine.
Becoming the third highest selling Nintendo 64 game, gaining critical acclaim and winning multiple awards, it was a winner across the board. It was also a winner with the real critics – the gamers. Not just single player, but the multiplayer. Multiplayer on ‘GoldenEye 007’ brought families and friends closer than ever when playing video games, and while it was the source of many fallouts and rivalries (who played as who and what weapons were used), it was nothing but fun and entertaining for all. Split-screen gaming was introduced to many on a whole new competitive level, with a realistic shooter that was based on such a beloved film franchise that felt and looked real to play.
The success of ‘GoldenEye 007’ bore numerous remakes and reimagining's of the game for new consoles with updated graphics and engines. While never hitting the highs of the original, the games took the classic GoldenEye story from the N64 and introduced new contemporary plot elements and updated character models, such as Daniel Craig in the new modern era of 007.
‘GoldenEye 007’ helped with the rejuvenation of James Bond for the 90s and introducing the character, films and game to new and old fans, which continued into the 2000s and Daniel Craig’s films that also became first and third person shooters, all walking in the shadow of the revolutionary game that came before them all.