GoldenEye 007 for the N64 holds a very special place in my gaming psyche. It’s not the best game by a long shot and it hasn’t aged well, but I’m not ashamed to say that it’s probably my favorite game ever, for a lot of reasons that aren’t related to its technical merits or tangible, measurable qualities. Simply put, GoldenEye is the game that really made me into a gamer. If you’ll permit a small anecdote, I’ll explain.
For most people, Mario or Zelda make them a Nintendo fan. Having glossed over all that, a quirky movie licensed game called GoldenEye 007 turned me into a Nintendo diehard overnight and I’m still recovering today. I was a PC gamer and only sporadically until about the 6th grade—Doom, Dark Forces and Duke Nukem was most of my experience with video games and aside from some NES and Genesis binges at friends’ houses I didn’t know much about consoles. Then I met a friend who happened to own an N64, and GoldenEye re-wrote what my feeble mind considered possible in a video game. The level of realism and interactivity in the single player, not to mention the frantic multiplayer combat, and all of it powered by dynamic fully animated 3D, was unlike anything I had witnessed in a first person shooter. It wasn’t long before I’d wheedled my parents into an N64 for Christmas, and not much longer before I began catching up on my long re-education into the rich library of Sega and Nintendo classics.
So why all the waxing nostalgic and personal anecdotes? Well, hopefully it will help this review make more sense and give it some weight and context. It’s a rare opportunity to critique a re-imagination of something that you hold as a defining aspect of your youth, something that shifted your perceptions so radically.
And that’s why right now I’m going to make one thing clear: this is not the GoldenEye you remember. It is not the N64 game with a new coat of paint and a few modern tweaks. This GoldenEye is a completely new and different game, with a few nostalgic streaks to be sure, but it isn’t a remake of either the 1997 N64 classic or the 1995 film that kicked off Pierce Brosnans’s tenure as 007. It’s really more of a reboot, a total overhaul of the GoldenEye idea, taking bits of the N64 game and the general story from the film and doing something completely fresh with all of it.
Naturally I was skeptical, but the people doing it—Eurocom—have plenty of experience with Bond games. After a somewhat rocky start in 2000 with the ambitious yet flawed The World is not Enough, they developed 2002’s 007 Nightfire. Nightfire proved Eurocom’s 007 chops; elements that only half-worked two years prior in N64’s TWINE came together like a finely mixed vodka martini in Nightfire. It played like an homage to Bond lore in general and GoldenEye in particular, with a cinematic story that referenced everything from OHMSS to The Spy Who Loved Me and a surprisingly deep multiplayer that brought back a whole roster of iconic 007 locations and playable villains and allies. Eurocom knows their stuff and they’ve earned the privilege to rewrite GoldenEye, literally.
Eurocom began their update by hiring Bruce Feirstein, screenplay writer on the original film, to update the entire story to the modern 007 continuity. Daniel Craig is Bond in the new GoldenEye, and the game’s entire world and premise have been molded to fit Craig’s take on the franchise. Cold War plots have morphed into economic crisis espionage. Instead of a gadget-laden watch, 007 uses a sleeker, more realistic smartphone. There are a few nostalgic touches along the way; the very beginning of the game, as Bond and Trevelyan infiltrate the dam,which looks just like the first area in the N64 game. Once they board the truck, though, it’s an almost entirely new experience. You’ll see a clever reference here, a re-worked texture there, maybe some dialog callbacks, an architectural homage or a familiar objective, but by and large the game has rebuilt the level structure and progression from the ground up.
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