Goldeneye 007 is a game that needs no introduction. Even if you’ve never played it, you’ve undoubtedly heard about it at some point. When looking over lists of the best FPS games of all time, Goldeneye is often found in the #1 spot. However, unlike many retro games, it seemed like the original Goldeneye was never going to be re-released digitally. For this reason, many younger gamers were never really able to see what all the fuss was about. Until now.
Originally released in 1997 for the Nintendo 64, Goldeneye became an immediate hit. This may seem strange for a game that was designed as a tie-in to a blockbuster motion picture. Typically, licensed games like this tend to fall a bit short of expectations. But Goldeneye was unique in that it brought a solid FPS experience to a home console, complete with local multiplayer. Up until Goldeneye was released, FPS games seemed destined to remain something reserved for PC players. Sure, games like Doom 64 had seen moderate success. But from a playcontrol perspective, the experience always seemed to pale in comparison to the mouse and keyboard combo that PC gamers used.
Earlier this year, a digital re-release of Goldeneye was finally made available for Xbox Gamepass and Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. Now, after decades, players are able to experience this game on modern hardware and see just what all the hype is about. This release also means that it is the perfect time to me to share my thoughts on the legendary classic.
As I mentioned above, when enjoying the game today, players have two choices; Xbox or Switch. It’s important to note that there are some pretty big differences between the two versions. This is surprising considering that both releases are simply modified ports of the original game ROM. The difference lies in the emulators used when developing the re-release. The Xbox version seems to focus on sharpening and improving the visuals, while also tweaking the playcontrol for the Xbox controller. The Switch version, on the other hand, seems to be going for a more original experience. Yes, the graphics have still received a boost from the higher resolution of the re-release, but the Switch version does not offer 4K visuals. Also, this Switch port suffers a bit when it comes to FPS. The big draw of the Switch release, however, is online multiplayer. (The Xbox port only offers local). There are some other, small differences. But ultimately, they are very minor in the grand scheme of things. Personally, I tried both versions and I feel that the Xbox release is a far superior experience overall. This is the version that I played for my review.
I should also mention that there is a Nintendo Wii game of the same name. This Wii release was marketed as a remake of the original Goldeneye, but in reality, it has very little in common with the original. It’s a decent game in it’s own right. But I find it impossible to compare it to the original since it is so radically different.
The story of Goldeneye essentially mirrors the film of the same name. For this reason, I won’t get too much into the story here, other than to say that you play the character of James Bond as he carries out a number of missions for British Intelligence. Each mission is presented as a playable level. Over the course of the game, players will explore underground bases, the Siberian wastes, and even the jungles of Cuba.
By today’s standards, Goldeneye looks very dated. This is true even with the modern resolutions offered by the re-release. In fact, the high-res of both the Switch and Xbox versions actually end up making some of the game’s visual oddities a little more noticable. Of course, back in 1997 on the N64, this game looked as good as anything else out there. That being said, it’s not the graphics that make this game worth your time and attention. The truth is, it’s just downright fun to play.
For starters, the various missions throughout the game give the player specific objectives that must be achieved before the level can be completed. This means that playing the game doesn’t just involve mindless carnage. Players will need to be smart in order to complete the tasks they are given. For example, the overall goal of a specific mission may be to infiltrate an enemy base. However, while doing so they also need to keep an eye out for a computer disk that contains the enemy’s plans. Also, while inside the compound, the player must locate an NPC and collect important intel. If this NPC gets killed in the crossfire, the mission is a deemed a failure. Goldeneye offers various difficulty levels and more often than not, this means more objectives like the ones listed above must be completed before the level is finished.
There’s also various “cheats” and easter eggs that can be unlocked by completing specific goals within a certain period of time or when playing on a certain level of difficulty. There’s also special rewards for completing the game. Finishing the game on easiest setting, opens up a roster of playable characters for multiplayer. While, completing the game on the next difficulty setting unlocks an entirely new level based on the James Bond film Moonraker. Players who wants to unlock every secret in the game will have quite a task on their hands.
Goldeneye is also famous for being one of the first FPS games on a console to get the playcontrol “just right”. Part of the reason that previous FPS titles never fared well on home systems was the control scheme. Goldeneye utilized the N64 controller in a way that made moving your character and aiming at the same time just feel natural. The game features an optional “aim assist” function that helps players hit their targets without having to stop moving and manually aim the crosshair. Of course, opinions on this feature vary greatly. Some players love it, others hate it. Personally, I have never been a fan of the N64 controller, and likewise, the legacy controls for Goldeneye. However, the great thing about the new port of the game is the revamped control schemes (this is true on both platforms). The re-release now features a number of control layouts that make the game accessible on modern hardware in a way that a straight port of the original just wouldn’t have been able to accomodate.
It would be impossible to mention Goldeneye without talking about the multiplayer. For most gamers, this is the part of the game that they remember most. The colorful cast of characters, the brilliant level design, and the spilt-screen presentation made Goldeneye the perfect couch-competitive FPS. One of the biggest gripes that people had with the Xbox release is that it lacked online multiplayer. While I certainly understand this criticism, a part of me also appreciates that fact that it sticks with the vision of the original. My personal introduction to Goldeneye was through my old roommate who had the game on his N64. I never played the single player scenario until I sat down to do this review. All of my prior experience was from sitting next to my old friend and playing against each other – taunting and laughing the whole time. I suspect that personal connection is what really made this game so special to so many gamers.
For this reason alone, I’m glad that a version of this classic is now available to play on modern systems. I recognize that most modern gamers might not appreciate all the subtle things that once made this game so groundbreaking. But at least for those of us who yearn for that occasional dose of nostalgia, we once again have access to a treasured game from our youth.
Version Reviewed: Xbox X/S
Difficulty: Variable – Goldeneye offers a number of difficulty settings. Unlike most games, increasing the difficulty doesn’t simply make enemies faster, smarter, and harder to kill. In this game, it also gives the players more objectives to complete when working their way through the various levels the game has to offer. For the most part, I found the difficulty settings to be fairly accurate. However, a certain level of challenge is always present, even on the easiest setting.
Multiplayer: Local (Xbox), Local and Online (Switch)
Story: The developers of the game really did a wonderful job incorporating the story from the Goldeneye film into this game. The levels are all based on locations from the movie and match up surprisingly well. As someone who hasn’t watched Goldeneye since the day it was released in the theaters, and had essentially forget everything about it, I had no trouble following the entire plot through the events of the game. Good stuff.
Originality: Despite being a spin-off of an existing movie, this game is not just some re-skinned FPS. Everything about this title feels new and exciting. The unique playcontrol, the ambitious multiplayer, and even the innovative level design. All of this makes for a really original experience.
Soundtrack: This is weird one to gauge, because almost every piece of music in the game is some form of the 007 Theme. Normally, this would be something that I would complain about. However, considering that the game is, after all, a James Bond game, it’s somehow oddly appropriate. Not to mention, all of the various mixes and arrangements are just fantastic. Groovy jams.
Fun: It goes without saying that playing this game with friends is a blast. But I also highly recommend the often overlooked single player scenario. I had a wonderful time exploring the levels, learning all of the tricks, and seeing everything that the game has to offer. Playing this game reminded me just how fun classic 90’s FPS titles used to be.
Graphics: Compared to today’s games, this is going to look very blocky and dated. But as I often remind my readers, at the time it was released, it was pretty cutting edge. Today, the game looks better than ever thanks to the widescreen resolution of the re-release. Just know that it is certainly a product of its time.
Playcontrol: It is difficult to talk about the playcontrol without mentioning the original N64 release. While I’m not a fan of the controls on the original version, I can easily recognize how innovative they were at the time. Personally, I find the default controls of the new Xbox version to be leaps and bounds better. Regardless, the game offers a number of customizable control schemes so there’s something for everyone.
Downloadable Content: No.
Mature Content: Violence, mild language
Value: If you’re looking for a physical copy of the original, you can usually find used carts for around $20-$30. However, you now play the game for next to nothing if you subscribe to Xbox GamePass or Nintendo Switch Online. Goldeneye is available as part of these subscription services at no additional cost.
Overall score (1-100): 95 – When it comes to retro FPS action, this game is about as good as it gets. It really scratches that retro itch in a way that’s hard to explain. The first time you sit down with it, it might not be obvious why it’s held in such high regard. But if you give it more than a cursory look, it soon becomes clear why this game is so legendary. If possible, find a friend to enjoy the multiplayer with. But don’t forget to give the single players experience a spin as well.
Original System: Nintendo 64
Available today on: Xbox One/X/S, Switch – (Updated as of Fall 2023)
Best Experience: Xbox X/S – (Updated as of Fall 2023)