How GoldenEye 007 Brought Rare's Game To A New Generation
We're staring down the barrel of a Walther PPK as Bond, James Bond, has put us in his sights for a trip down memory lane. It's hard to believe it's been a whole decade since we played GoldenEye 007, and no, we don't mean Rare's sharpshooting classic for the Nintendo 64. In the rather complicated history of Bond games, there are actually two titles boasting the name GoldenEye 007. Both the 1997 and 2010 games have their own cult following; however, it was up to Eurocom to reinvent this beloved icon for a whole new generation 10 years ago.
GoldenEye 007 was released on the Nintendo Wii and had the mountainous challenge of encapsulating the spirit of the original. Just like DOOM in 1993, few games have made such a mark on the gaming world as GoldenEye 007. With this in mind, is it any real surprise Rare's OG title is frequently labelled as the best video game of all time? Sure, the pixelated faces of guards look a little clunky by today's standards, and I'll admit I did once get stuck trying to open the gate on Dam, but still, it's like a big warm mug of retro-nostalgia cocoa.
What was the legacy of GoldenEye 007 (1997)
The N64 is remembered as the definitive console of the 90s (sorry PlayStation) as it dished out consistently good titles including Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and GoldenEye 007. Bond himself had undergone something of a makeover just two years prior when Pierce Brosnan took over from Timothy Dalton, and the suave spy shed his campy 80s image for an altogether more sleek affair. With GoldenEye being such a hit at the box office, was it any surprise the game also followed suit?
Taking the original concept of a side-scroller like Nintendo was used to, Rare decided to turn GoldenEye into a first-person shooter like the first game, that showed the viability of consoles instead of PC for the genre. Until then, most would've baulked at the idea of playing an FPS on a console. GoldenEye 007 was a juggernaut of its time, that sold eight million copies (becoming the third best-selling N64 game ever) and even won a BAFTA for its troubles.
Alongside the main campaign that followed the plot of Martin Campbell's movie, GoldenEye 007 became a gem of its time due to an impressive multiplayer. Looking at how games like Call of Duty: Warzone now rely entirely on a multiplayer fanbase, games including GoldenEye 007 were the first to prove the mode isn't just an add-on chucked in for good measure. It wasn't until Halo: Combat Evolved came out in 2001 that anyone thought multiplayer even got close to touching GoldenEye 007.
Elsewhere, the influence GoldenEye 007 had could be felt for years to come. Although there was never a sequel (it wouldn't have made sense), there was a spiritual successor in the form of Rare's Perfect Dark from 2000. Rumours of a GoldenEye 007 remaster have done the rounds for decades now, but due to complicated rights issues with the Bond games, the 2010 remake is as close as we've got and had to take things in a different direction.
What about the 2010 remake?
The Nintendo Wii might be remembered as the console that got us off our backsides and jumping around, but in terms of games, there's a chequered history that ranges from the good (Mario Galaxy), to the bad (Toy Story Mania), to the ugly (Ninjabread Man). With the N64 being such an important piece of history, later consoles like the GameCube and Wii struggled to live up to the precedent Nintendo set in the 90s/early 00s. Still, the idea of remaking GoldenEye 007 was one that was too good to pass up on.
As far back as 2006, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime had spoken about the idea of adding GoldenEye 007 to the Nintendo Virtual Console. The problem lay in the fact Rare was owned by rivals Microsoft. Still, the gaming rights to 007 were now with Activision, and there were hopes something could be worked out. Rumours of a full remaster for the Xbox Live Arcade started doing the rounds, but with neither side being able to agree, ultimately, no one got to play a remastered version of the 1997 classic. In a twist of fate, Perfect Dark did make it onto the Xbox Live Arcade.
With Bond's martini shaken AND stirred, the idea slipped into limbo until Nintendo made a huge announcement at E3 2010. Eurocom was going to build on the engine of Dead Space: Extraction to bring GoldenEye into the 21st Century. Albeit with a new face at the helm. GoldenEye 007 was released in tandem with James Bond 007: Blood Stone. Daniel Craig had now settled into his role as the womanising agent, meaning the likeness of Pierce was swapped out for GoldenEye 007.
The reinventions came thick and fast, Craig was apparently a big fan of video games and took a hands-on approach to the title, GoldenEye (the movie) co-writer Bruce Feirstein penned the game's script, while Nicole Scherzinger took over from Tina Turner to sing the legendary theme song. In terms of what else was new, the revamped game was more fitting with the Craig era movies and axed mainstays like Moneypenny and Q - although they appeared in later movies. Like the original, a big pull was multiplayer. The Wii reimagining had 10 multiplayer maps, with four different modes, and featured classic villains/allies including Pussy Galore, Oddjob, and (obviously) Xenia Onatopp.
Although the 2010 game didn't quite earn the critical acclaim of the original, it was still pretty impressive. Fans responded positively to the idea, and just a year later, the game was ported to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as GoldenEye 007: Reloaded. If anything, Reloaded was even better as it boasted high-definition graphics by running on a new engine. There was also the new "MI6 Ops Missions" achievement system, support for PlayStation Move compatibility, and a downloadable character in the form of Hugo Drax.
Does GoldenEye 007 have a future?
So what's next for GoldenEye 007? We can't see a name with so much history simply slipping away into the aether. Whether you love the 1997 game, or are a little younger and have only really known the 2010 version, both iterations of GoldenEye 007 are something to be proud of. Outside the realms of official games, GoldenEye 007 has had plenty of interest, GoldenEye: Source is a mod of the original's multiplayer and been live since 2010. As of 2019, it's still in active development and has a loyal following.
There was also leaked confirmation from a former Rare employee that a remastered GoldenEye 007 was originally planned for release as part of the company's Rare Replay that celebrated 30 years with an updated version of 30 classic games. Unfortunately, while Banjo-Kazooie and Conker's Bad Fur Day made the cut, gamers were furious Donkey Kong Country and GoldenEye 007 were left out. Finally, an ambitious project to remaster the original game for yet another generation recently fell out of favour. GoldenEye 25 had been in the works as a fan project using the Unreal Engine 4 and was planned for release in 2022 to coincide with the first game's 25 anniversary.
As it stands, no one knows what's next for GoldenEye 007 or whether it be left languishing in the slots of our N64s and Wiis. With next-gen consoles preparing to muscle their way into the market, here's hoping someone has the brainwave of resurrecting GoldenEye 007 once again and giving it the attention it deserves. Also, with Craig finally hanging up the keys to his Aston Martin, we might need a whole new reimagining with another Bond at the helm of GoldenEye 007. In the meantime, we can go back and enjoy both games as they were intended.
Images via Rare | Activision