In 1997 gaming changed forever for me and a lot of people in my peer group. It was the year that Rare released GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64. Now, the N64 is an incredible console in its own right; some of my best gaming memories from childhood are because of this console, but no memory is quite as vivid as when I first slotted the cartridge in and became Bond. James Bond.
Inspired by games like Virtua Cop and Doom the novice team at Rare worked hard to produce something great. Even if at the time they didn’t know it. Featuring at the time advanced systems like AI NPC reactions, position-dependant hit reactions, and a specific aiming system.
So, in this anniversary year, I had to attend the panel at EGX 2022 to find out more, and then, when I got home, pull out my original copy of the game and settle down for a walk down memory lane.
The game takes you through the events of the 1995 Pierce Brosnan movie of the same name, albeit with some modifications to make a game and provide more variety in locations. As a single-player experience, you get to infiltrate the facility, have a showdown in a tank, and save the world in style. Playing across numerous levels you get access to over 20 different weapons and a supply of gadgets. While stealth is often encouraged… sometimes you just want to shoot as many hats off guards as possible!
GoldenEye 007 was a masterpiece of its time. Having three difficulty modes, challenges that unlocked multiplayer options, and more.
Where the game took a whole new life was in its multiplayer. Four people could take on characters from the franchise and run around a variety of Bond location maps to claim victory. There were special modes (slappers only and Golden Gun being particular highlights!) and you were cheating if you played as Oddjob. It was the glory days of couch-based multiplayer gaming.
It’s no surprise that GoldenEye 007 still holds a fond memory for a lot of gamers, with many still playing it today. Sure, the graphics are a little dated and the controls feel alien compared to what we’re used to now, but GoldenEye 007 has nostalgia, charm, and just being a solid game. There was a reason it performed so well, was highly rated, and won awards after all!
Anniversary Panel at EGX 2022
One of the EGX 2022 highlights had to be the 25th Anniversary panel for GoldenEye 007.
The panel featured artist Brett Jones and game director Martin Hollis discussing the game’s development.
Martin spoke about it all began, how they met the cast, and once hearing about a rumour of a game being made; he asked to make it and was granted the project. Brett, on the other hand, was fresh out of university and was made to go through a test to make a moving camera arc. The reason why he only found out a few months ago! Despite the inexperience of the team, and the fact this was a ‘franchise game’ it was easy to recruit for. You just need to ask them to work on a Bond game.
Originally the team didn’t know how the Nintendo 64 was going to work, or any of the technology involved. So originally the design document talked about how they might connect consoles together to allow for multiplayer. Brett explained how the process never felt pressured for the team. (Martin felt it though! and recalled how he got told off via a lengthy fax for missing the deadline.)
The entire game was built from scratch. Brett had to model everything and was limited, due to the technology of the time, in polygons and textures. He pointed out that later in the development, the fewer polygons he had to use which is why Mishkin, for example, has a triangular-shaped head.
To create the game, the team used a lot of motion capture was used, and the suit was never washed! Brett recalled how the game had over 1000 animations which meant having to recreate a lot of ways to hit someone. The animation for being pulled backward was done via tying a rope around someone’s waist and physically pulling them! When they tried to mo-cap the opening walk, every time it looked like he had a limp, so Brett had to manually edit the capture to make it look right.
It was astonishing how the game came together (and looked so good for the era) when there was no possibility of researching anything online. Set visits, a library of books, and studio visits were the only way to get the textures and designs. Martin pointed out how it took a lot of work just to get the team to adopt email!
It was amazing to the team just how much of the Bond music got to be included in the game. while the pair admitted they paid a lot for the license, the ingenuity of the sound team to take snippets and make whole tracks was technically phenomenal. It was important that the music was involved as that brought Bond DNA into the game, as the developers said, it makes you connect with it emotionally. Makes you believe you are Bond while playing. It was a shame that for licensing reasons they had to take out three previous Bonds from the multiplayer, but not before an office farewell tournament!
One of the interesting things to learn was that the game originally planned on having the opening credits but unfortunately, it had to be cut as it was only a 12MB ROM!
Despite the cult status of Goldeneye 007, the development team never realised they had something special on their hands. It was a game made in a time with less technical capability than today. Based out of a barn the Rare team made something truly generation-defining. Overall, the panel was a fun and engaging insight into the world of game development for one of the best games of all time.
Final thoughts on 25 Years of GoldenEye 007
If you can still play it today, I urge you in this anniversary year to blow the dust out of your cartridge and relive some gaming glory days. It’s one of the greatest video games of all time. If you don’t have the original, you can check out GoldenEye 007 soon on Nintendo Switch Online and Xbox Game Pass. Also, be sure to check out the documentary about this amazing game online!
Happy 25 years GoldenEye 007, and happy 60th James Bond.