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The greatest game I ever played: GoldenEye 007

The greatest game I ever played: GoldenEye 007

The greatest game I ever played: GoldenEye 007
27 June 2016

Picture the scene: clutching a Walter PPK like your life depended on it, you stealthily lurk around a corner of a science facility fully aware you're not alone.

It could be in an adjacent laboratory. Or back near a neatly stacked set of crates. The radar suggests as much. Warily, you turn around to check it out when a figure emerges from the shadows. Too late. You fire, aimlessly. BANG. Blood fills your vision faster than the elevator in The Shining, as the sassy trumpets from the Bond theme blare out, alerting you to the fact you’re no more. You put the controller down, high-five your friend on a mutually satisfactory double kill and go again.

Having spent countless hours of my youth wrapped up in the warm embrace of N64’s Goldeneye, it’s near impossible not to go full on Partridge - stood in his caravan, acting out the entire sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me in vivid detail - when relaying my formative experiences on this hallowed 1997 first-person shooter. Which, to paraphrase Alan, is also the best game ever made.
The strafing was exact, the auto-aim tantalising, and of course the weapons themselves beautiful (the brutal efficiency of the golden gun mode bordering on the sadomasochist). Where Rare's fiercely futuristic follow-up Perfect Dark had arguably too many bells and whistles, weighing its playability down with levels that were too large and guns that were too complicated, GoldenEye 007 really was perfect, balancing just the right variety of weaponry and simplicity of surroundings.
Even the soundtrack was magnificent (that industrial drip drop score from the Facility level still occasionally echoes in my head to this day), as were the graphics, far more than anything out there at time, making Mario’s efforts to maximise the Nintendo console’s capabilities look paltry in comparison. Back when first-person shooters were largely the preserve of PC gamers, and N64 games cartoonish, it was further ahead of the curve that it had any right to be.

Ah the Facility toilets, home to many shootouts

Not least in detail. From that vertigo-inducing dam jump, to the moment you flatten an entire town with a tank, from fumbling around in a cramped vent above a gent's bathroom (who said the 'double-O' life was glamorous?) to running amok on a train, ducking and weaving between compartments as continuous gunfire shrills overhead, it was as though you were thrust headfirst into the very film itself - a premise countless spin-off titles have promised but so few have actually delivered.

Of course it helped that the game's developers had more than a licence to kill - they had the licence for the entire franchise, the keys to Fortress Fleming, pulling in not only the likes of Brosnan’s tuxedoed hunk and the eternally cragged face of Sean Bean for gamers to acquaint themselves with, but a host of old favourites too; among them the diminutive OddJob, who, if you selected for multiplayer, made you a big fat cheat.
And yet for all the frantic brilliance of single player mode (featuring more hyper-violent Russians than a group game at Euro 2016) GoldenEye 007 was all about the multiplayer. If Doom was the forefather of co-op gaming, then this was the granddaddy of the death match, its wonderfully designed and – ahem – Complex levels seemingly opening up a new hidden passage or tactic with every showdown.
For that was the other beauty of the N64: unlike other consoles which required multitap for any more than two players, this one, with four ports already available, forced you to have four controllers. I doubt I’m alone in my unabashed appreciation for this deathmatch either. Ranging from 'Slappers Only’ to remote mines, the options were many and great. In fact drop any former player into its labyrinth of levels right now and I'd wager their instincts would kick in within seconds and they'd be scuttling off to some safe point to pick up a Kevlar vest before you had time to stir a Martini. Muscle memory from time gone by. 

Because if you've never spent hours running around a sprawling temple dressed in a tuxedo attempting to judo chop a midget assassin then, frankly, you've never lived.

Complex: a pixelated slaughterhouse

You want greatest impact? Blow the cobwebs off Space Invaders. You want the most cutting-edge graphics? Go fork out £50 on whichever shiny title the PlayStation 4 just spewed up. This one was, and still remains, the best of them all.

In 2014, US TV host Jimmy Fallon coaxed Pierce Brosnan into playing the classic game on a big screen in front of a studio audience, who seemed to derive more pleasure from the spectacle than he did; while in the same year, that menu bar which flashed up on 007’s watch whenever you paused in a mission came full circle (literally) when it was phased in for smart watch overlays - each nostalgic nod testament to the everlasting brilliance of a game I consider is the best ever made. Ahead of next year's 20th anniversary, who knows what nostalgia-tinged treats lie in store.

In the meantime, I implore you to dig the game out, as I have done this past weekend, giving my housemate a few beatings with Power Weapons - helpful reminder: RC-P90 are devastating; Klobbs are useless - and making him feel the warm lead of my Magnum (Oh, James!), to give it a play once again. It still holds up, no lie. 

If you haven’t got a copy then get yourself on eBay. After all, you only live twice.