Video games: Goldeneye for the N64

Video Games: Goldeneye for the N64

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Disclaimer: I watch and discuss movies as a hobby, not video games. This will directly affect the review below.

I never owned a Nintendo 64 as a teenager. I was very fortunate however to have 2 close friends who did. Both friends owned copies of Goldeneye and plenty of N64 gamepads for all the guests and I’ll explain why in a minute.

The game is loosely based on the film of the same name and invites players to sort of step into the shoes of James Bond by obliterating down 5 billion men with pistols, machine guns, grenades, mines, rocket launchers and a tank. Suffice to say that the single player mode is pretty addictive for a while, even by today’s Halo 3 Xbox 360 standards. Shooting somebody in the hand and seeing them nurse the wound afterwards was infinitely satisfying back in 1997 and still is today. The ‘story’ of the game follows the film’s plot in the sense that you can play out all the action sequences with even more gunfire then there was in the film and some more gunfights during sequences that didn’t even have action in the movie. That may sound like it could get a tad repetitive after a while, and that’s true to a certain degree.

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That’s why the multiplayer mode was created.

Oh, the hours, days and weeks of my early teenage years that were spent with friends on those multiplayer matches. Playing by 2 was fine and dandy. Playing by 3 could get intense, but when there were 4 of us in the room…well that was gangbusters. The insults would get tossed around like there was no tomorrow, mostly in a joking manner, although there were moments when ‘cheating’ (a term we would use as loosely as an untied shoe) was called out. We mostly enjoyed the all-out death-matches even though we did play the team based games every once in a while. I think it was the tension involved in knowing that you were alone against really inglourious basterds who were all ready to kill you regardless of whether you had the time to properly equip yourself with armour and firepower. I was a jerk in the game as were my friends. If you happened to run through a room yelling that you just needed a pistol cartridge because you were all out, nobody displayed any compassion, not even myself. You were completely screwed. But it was all in good fun of course.

There was tremendous variety in the multiplayer gameplay thanks in part to the different maps (the various virtual locations you could kill yourselves in) and the many options of available weaponry. You could have a deathmatch that offered lasers, heavy duty machine guns, rocket launchers (double wielding no less!), the Golden Gun, an automatic colt pistol, whatever the heck makes blood splatter. But the type of weaponry used coupled with the layout of each individual map made for some darn interesting bloodbaths. There was this one map that pitted players against each other in what looked like an underground facility or basement. Some rooms were lit but filled with columns while other areas were dark hallways. We’d often play with mines in this map. You wouldn’t know if the mines were attached to the opposite side of the columns when you entered the lit rooms or if one of your slimy friends had deposited mines on the walls of the dark hallways. Remote controlled mines or motion detection mines could be used, the latter which proved to be deadly many times, even for the player who set the mine!

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Another of our favourites maps was from the first level of the game when Bond infiltrates a Soviet compound from inside the men’s room. In that level, once a player exits the bathroom and walks down the staircase just in front, there is a nice corridor with boxes for cover and sliding doors on one side. Holy god did we ever waist bullets and grenades trying to kill each other down that corridor. Even those sliding doors were useful for taking refuge in the laboratories…until your friends opened the doors and tossed a couple grenades inside.

And then there was ‘hell’. There was this one map that looked very drab. It was nothing but a series of green rooms with walkways on the second floor that overlooked the main level. This second story could be accessed via some staircases that were located in some of the rooms but not all. Essentially, anyone quick enough to acquire proper ammo and run up the staircase to the second floor could gun down any sorry saps still running around for armour on the ground level, especially when they entered a different room and couldn’t tell if anyone was waiting above them. The worst section was this stupid and oddly arranged room where, on the main level, there were these small rooms which held many useful items such as guns and armour. Nice! No, not so nice because there was a second story balcony available for anyone with a good shot or just a huge gun to take them out. Worse still, these little rooms were uselessly shielded by glass windows. After a second bullet to shatter the glass plates, you were a sitting duck. Obviously, I’m not actually writing this with genuine anger. We always had a good laugh in that map, but suffice to say that when facing a seasoned Goldeneye player, it was a very unforgiving multiplayer level.

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Not being a ‘big gamer’ as they say, I’m not one to analyze a video game very much in depth. I like to keep things simple: is the playability entertaining enough for me, does it look good and do I feel like I’m in the world of the games story. The playability is easy enough, offering novice players a decent learning curve that shouldn’t challenge them for that long before they get the hang of things. After a few deaths, strafing for cover and shooting people in the head becomes easy as making macaroni and cheese. The variety of weapons is the real standout however. Each sounds different and unique and carries varying degrees of firepower. Mowing down rows of soldiers working for that dastardly traitor 006 with two Kalashnikovs blasting away never felt more satisfying. It’s slightly disappointing that the movie’s story feels a bit hacked up but with such gloriously violent and intense gameplay, I’m perfectly willing to forgive that shortcoming. It would have been nice if the game had allowed fans to perform some classic Bond feats, like snooping around more, using crazy gadgets to retrieve information or escape tight spots. There is a tiny bit of that, but for the most part, Goldeneye is a shoot’em up first person action game.

Graphically, people including myself were impressed with the game when it was released in 1997. Today, the characters look like three-dimensional photoshopped blockheads. In fact, every object in the game has a very polygon based look unfortunately. If accustomed to today’s PS3 and Xbox 360 graphics or the lush visuals provided by video card enhanced computers, Goldeneye looks rather crummy. For those who played it back in the day however, nostalgia will most certainly win the day. After all, the game looked great 12 years ago when we all played it like a bunch of crack addicts. Some may even find it charming when discovering Sean Bean’s face awkwardly plastered on a robot’s head. The good old days of early 64 bit graphics wil never be forgotten. Goldeneye on the N64, we salute you.

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~ by edgarchaput on September 16, 2009.

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