We took a look two week’s ago at a James Bond film that have a soft spot for, so I thought it might be a good idea to get this week’s topic out of the way on a “mini-binge”, so that we can move on to more relevant things (Ha!). Conversions of popular films into video games have a somewhat checkered history. Typically seen as a means of further cashing-in a film’s popularity, you often find that not a lot of effort is put into making them playable, enjoyable and – perish the thought – innovative & visionary experiences. A notable exception to this rule may include the Super Star Wars trilogy on the SNES, but even now as writing, I am truly racking my brains trying to think of games that buck this rather troublesome trend. Particularly nowadays, the broad plethora of detritus released in this respect is almost staggering. It is as if nothing is sacred nowadays.
My somewhat cynical outlook put to one side (for the last time, I hope), back in 1997, developers Rare put aside their finesse in creating monkey-based platformers and instead decided to enter the arena of first person shooters. This genre of video game fare had typically been the type of thing you’d see on a PC, and not a console. Controller issues was one issue, but other factors such as Nintendo’s staunch anti-violence approach to games released on the SNES had scared developers away; ID Software were reportedly so annoyed by the heavily censored version of Wolfenstein 3D, they gave the games source code to the developers of this shockingly bad clone. So when Goldeneye 64 first came along, it was somewhat of an anomaly in the Nintendo 64’s then-present library.
Goldeneye 64 puts you at the helm of James Bond himself as he attempts to thwart the machinations of the Janus crime syndicate and the insidious weapon known as Goldeneye. Players are able to experience many of key points from the film, as well as a variety of uniquely designed levels that fit seamlessly into the game’s central plot. On top of the main story, there are also two bonus missions based off the films Moonraker, Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun. There is a good variety of locales and challenges that players can expect to overcome, ranging from stealthy espionage to more explosive entanglements. Each mission is instantly unforgettable, and quality is the name of the game from start to finish.
The game has 3 difficulty levels, with scaling objectives for each. This is an extremely nice touch, as it gives the more borderline masochistic the opportunity to whet their desire for carnage further, with the bonus of new objectives to complete as well. Individual mission objectives are both well thought-out and challenging, although not without their fare share of frustration. The NPC AI, for example, has a knack for always throwing themselves right into the middle of firefight. In missions where certain NPC’s are essential for the completion of certain objectives, the results often lead to frustrating and oft parodied conclusions. Despite this, the failing of objectives is made less annoying by the fact the mission doesn’t instantly end when you fail objectives, enabling players to experience easter egg-esque moments in almost every mission.
One of the most memorable aspects of the game for me was always the cheats. You can put aside your Konami codes, however – unlike the vast majority of other games at the time, these could be unlocked by completing certain levels as quickly as possible, on different difficulties. A encyclopaedic-level of different cheats are potentially un-lockable, ranging from weapon cheats through to one of gamings best – and, if Gears of War 3is anything to go by, iconic – ever cheats – DK mode! These cheats were always a major boon for me, as they enabled me to complete the game on higher difficulties and unlock the game’s ultimate game mode – 007 difficulty, which allows the player to set their own difficulty for each individual mission, based on a number of different parameters. No game since, to the best of my knowledge, matches Goldeneye 64 in both of these regards.
Controls is probably the only area in which you could fault the game severely. This is more a problem of the N64 itself, and I have always find the controller to be one the system’s major weaknesses. I mean, how the bloody hell are you supposed to hold it?!? Usually, this wouldn’t be a problem for a game that made little or no use of the D-PAD, and Goldeneye attempts to resolve this by mirroring the functions of the D-PAD and the C-Buttons. This initial problem aside, and the main problem you find is that aiming and moving can be incredibly clunky. If the enemies were any more intelligent or agile, then this, I think, would make the game virtually unplayable. Thankfully, the AI is suitably archaic enough (by today’s standards) for this not to become a major issue.
I’ve done something rather deliberate with this review: I haven’t talked about the multiplayer at all. A major sin, you may argue, and I cannot deny that it is one of the game’s finest points. I do think, though, that Goldeneye 64’s multiplayer is often the most touted – and, sometimes, only – feature that people talk about this game. Scrapping the multiplayer entirely, and there is so much in this game for almost anyone to enjoy. It sets a fine example in how a video game tie-in should play like, and it remains the only such game to have successfully establish a legacy that many developers today actively covet and aspire towards in their work.
(Image courtesy of gamesutra.com)