It’s baffling to think that GoldenEye 007 came out twenty years ago, and hard to imagine the immediate impact of this game when it first came out. Movie tie-ins are often low quality and cheap gaming experiences, and this game didn’t appear to be any different at first glance. But GoldenEye 007 blew expectations out of the water and became a critical and commercial success, eventually becoming the third best-selling game on the Nintendo 64. The visuals were solid, the gameplay was smooth and snappy, and the soundtrack was iconic. The campaign was handled well and the multiplayer opened the door for competitive first person shooters to migrate from PC to consoles. GoldenEye 007 is widely considered to be one of the most important first person shooters and one of the best games of all time. It’s also responsible for some of my favorite and most cherished gaming memories.
CHEAT CODE HIJINKS
I was still rather young and pretty bad at video games during my early time with GoldenEye 007. I’ve since gone back and played it, but at the time I had to rely on my brother to unlock all of the levels, print out all the cheat codes at the school computer lab, and let me screw around with unlimited ammo and all of the weapons unlocked.
My neighbor and I got at least a year and a half of fun out of playing Bunker over and over, testing out all of the different cheats on the poor, unsuspecting guards. It was essentially our Grand Theft Auto before Grand Theft Auto. There was the Paintball cheat, DK big head cheat, Invincible mode, Invisible Bond mode, Enemy Rockets cheat, Infinite Ammo and the All Guns mode that provided endless entertainment. We’d make up different rules, like beating an entire level only using throwing knives, or combine the Invincible and Enemy Rockets cheats to go through the entire level without firing a bullet and let the enemies kill each other. The amount of explosions probably dropped the frame rate into single digits and almost melted our cartridge, but it was fun nonetheless.
While I have many funny and ridiculous memories involving our cheat code fueled single player experiences, it’s still not the main reason this game is so special to me. Like most of my generation, I grew up obsessed with GoldenEye’s multiplayer, my introduction to split-screen FPS’s. It was unlike anything I had played before, and each game would be as intense and exhilarating as the last. My brother and I constantly had matching bruises on our shoulders from punching each other for cheap kills or screen-peeking. No matter how many times I was beaten, or how many hours we had been sitting cross-legged in front of our TV, I’d always beg for one more game.
Some of my most cherished memories of family parties growing up involved my brother, ten of my cousins and I all crammed into the corner of my aunt’s living room, huddled around the TV. We often played You Only Live Twice Mode, where each player only has two lives. We had a standard “die and pass the controller” rule to allow everyone to play at some point and to reward the most dominant player. While the 4 lucky players stalked cautiously around the map, our audience would sit breathlessly, waiting for the next person to be killed. As soon as their screen went blood-red, there would be 8 pairs of hands frantically clawing and grasping for their controller.
The cutthroat nature of our elimination style made each game matter, and each decision important. (It also caused a lot of swearing and punching, which often got the game taken away for the day, so we had to learn to keep our composure.) The competitive nature of these parties made me practice at home the night before the party so I had a better chance of lasting a few games with my favorite translucent purple controller. I still sucked pretty consistently, but I always had hope and each kill felt earned and deserved. Those parties and that mentality are much of the reason I look back on this game so fondly.
In the 20 years since GoldenEye’s release, the multiplayer FPS genre has flourished with franchises like Halo and Call of Duty carrying the torch, but they may never have existed on console without RARE’s important contribution. GoldenEye 007 will always remain one of the best, most important releases in video game history, and will always have a place in my heart.