GoldenEye N64 box art

Image: GoldenEye box art. Rare/Nintendo

Playing Eurocom’s reboot of GoldenEye for Wii compelled me to go back to the GoldenEye so many of us grew up with on the N64, and I’ve found a few points which make it stand out, even today. Sure, the title has had detractors for years, and those people have made very good points. The single-stick controls of the N64 (not to mention the inherent flaws of that stick), the choppy graphics and choppier framerate all hurt.

The theme of this article is, fundamentally, about choice. If there is something that has unfortunately slid into obscurity since GoldenEye‘s release it is choice in FPSes. Players are too often forced through war-themed roller-coaster rides, required to take shelter behind conveniently placed crates, and expected to blow up well placed gas tanks.

Today, I’ll be taking a look at the game’s single player mode. In part two, which will go up tomorrow, I will exam the title’s multiplayer.

10. The action

GoldenEye Bunker

Image: GoldenEye. Rare/Nintendo.

What makes GoldenEye‘s single player so appealing is its sandbox nature. Players in the mood for some action can choose to ensnare hapless Russian guards, convincing them to stream into rooms booby-trapped with explosives and featuring a one-man army equipped with more firepower than Sarah Conner on her craziest day.

To really blow off some steam, players can rapidly move Bond around obstacles and terrain while blasting wildly at the enemy. In order to unlock many of the game’s cheats, this is often a requirement.

9. The stealth

GoldenEye Graveyard

Image: GoldenEye. Rare/Nintendo.

Not every mission requires an explosive solution. Often times, the best course is stealth. On the higher difficulties, it is near-mandatory. Whether it is crouching behind a corner or whipping out your silenced pistol, this N64 game provides plenty of opportunities to feel like an assassin. The game’s dumb enemies play right into the fun, too. Silenced shots are enough to disguise your actions, even when you happen to pop the guy standing right beside your next target.

The fact that the game changes so radically depending upon difficulty is a further testament to its quality. On Agent, GoldenEye can be an arcade-y run-and-gun shooter if the player is inclined, while on 00 Agent, it becomes a strenuous stealth game.

8. Unlocking cheats

GoldenEye cheats

Image: GoldenEye. Rare/Nintendo.

In a world stacked with Achievements, it’s refreshing to play a title that encourages players to excel for the sake of something a little more tangible than mere bragging rights. In GoldenEye, you’re encouraged to play, replay, and play some more the levels of the game in order to achieve sometimes extraordinarily difficult completion times.

Meeting these goals unlocks cheats that can be used in both the single and multiplayer modes, altering the gameplay further and providing even more replay value.

7. Popping that guard’s hat in Facility

GoldenEye Facility

Image: GoldenEye. Rare/Nintendo.

Much has been made over the years of the joy of popping that fellow’s hat off in Facility. That moment can never be over-hyped. Feeling like a stealthy god hovering over him from the vent is thrilling enough, but plucking off his hat without setting off his suspicion is even better.

An additional layer to this moment has only struck me now, upon a modern replay. Is unleashing the headshot on him after knocking off his hat immoral? Shouldn’t I be hopping down to face him like a man?

6. The Bunker

GoldenEye Bunker

Image: GoldenEye. Rare/Nintendo.

GoldenEye is a game about doing whatever you want. It’s about experimentation, about play. No level does this better than Bunker (the second time around). It is during this mission that the player is thrown into a sprawling military facility, featuring a complex design with multiple looping hallways that feed into one another. The corridors are laced with turns and offshoots, and the player is left no choice but to explore it all to complete the level. There are stacks of items needed, a host of security cameras to take out, and an army of guards ready to rain bullets down upon your prison-breaking self.

Bunker’s genius, the best realized pinnacle of all of GoldenEye’s many levels, is that it gives you a list of goals, and a tiny push to get started. Think about it: the player begins Bunker with a magnetic watch and an obvious key to grab with it. From there, it is up to you to pluck off guards as you encounter them, to find your own way, and figure out the angles of the security cams. Try finding anything like this in the modern world of direction lines and check points.

10 Reasons Why the Original GoldenEye Still Kicks Ass, Part 1