The Rebirth and Death of GoldenEye

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posted 5/20/2008 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
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After the shock and awe of Super Mario 64 wore off, it was clear that the N64 was off to a rough start. Troubled by software delays and technical issues, The N64 was losing more and more ground to the versatile and popular Playstation. Nintendo needed another killer app to buy them time.

They turned to one of their oldest allies, UK developer Rare. The British development house had a secret weapon in the works. It was an old project, starting life as a movie-licensed rail shooter for the SNES, but after a year in the oven it was now a full-fledged first person shooter. A small team of inexperienced developers toiled for two and a half years, finally releasing their game long after its movie counterpart had left theatres and gone to rental stores. GoldenEye 007 was born.

The game was a sleeper hit in every sense. The obscure little shooter began to get a reputation, as enthusiastic word of mouth spread throughout the gaming community. No one expected a movie tie-in game to change so much, but here was GoldenEye, quietly, modestly upending tea tables, to the surprise of even Nintendo.

Rare gave the N64 the life it needed, to keep going until Ocarina of Time was finished. Rare would continue to pull Nintendo’s behind out of the fire, releasing consistently great games that made Nintendo’s chronic software delays tolerable, but GoldenEye would stand out as their killer app. Its many innovations single-handedly revolutionized console first person shooters, and pioneered the concept of FPS deathmatch on a home console.

GoldenEye did for console shooters what Half-Life did on the PC—it showed people what was possible. It’s safe to say that Halo, Resistance Fall of Man and many other shooters owe their existence to GoldenEye. At the very least, the modern shooters we enjoy today would be very different without the influence of Rare’s pioneering FPS.

To this day, GoldenEye still has a strong and dedicated fan base, who explore the game’s code with ROM editors, hold multiplayer tournaments, and relive its memorable single player campaign.

So what happened to this legendary game? Where is its legacy? Rare’s spiritual follow-up, Perfect Dark, played similarly but was not set in the James Bond universe. The later Timesplitters series, made by ex-members of the GoldenEye team, was also similar but had an original story that satirized FPSs. Electronic Arts purchased the James Bond license soon after Rare gave it up, and made several games that tried to imitate GoldenEye but never quite replicated the magic of the original.

With so many games being re-made, from old classics like Metroid and Metal Gear Solid to recent games like Chronicles of Riddick, you would think that GoldenEye would be an obvious candidate for a facelift. There have been numerous rumors of remakes and sequels since the game’s 1997 release, but any hope of the game’s resurrection were stopped cold by a myriad of legal hurdles. Rare is now wholly owned by Microsoft, and the Bond license passed from EA to Activision. GoldenEye’s revival has been trapped in a mess of red tape for years, preventing it from being reworked or even offered on current download services, like Nintendo’s Virtual Console and the Xbox Live Arcade. That is, until recently.

When the Xbox 360 and Wii launched a couple years back, there were rumors that GoldenEye might show up on either console’s respective download service. It had happened for arcade classics like Pac-Man, and Nintendo was re-selling its old games, but for a year or two there was no word of a GoldenEye revival. In late 2007, the rumor returned with a vengeance, fueled by leaked reports that Rare was working to putting GoldenEye on Xbox Live Arcade.
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