For the past 60 years, the world has been enthralled by the adventures of James Bond, a devilishly handsome British secret agent with a license to kill. He has existed in every form of entertainment to unbelievable success. The films especially have formed a life of their own, giving Agent 007 representation that easily surpasses any other. An impressive six actors have played Mr. Bond since 1962, and the debate on who did it best still lives. Some might think the unanimous choice is Sean Connery, the original, but people currently fawn over Daniel Craig, and Roger Moore has the distinction of appearing in the most films (7). But if you were born in the late 80s/early 90s, there’s an excellent chance that the first Bond you ever experienced was Pierce Brosnan.
Whether or not Brosnan was a great Bond is contentious, but it’s undeniable that he left a defining mark on the franchise. The gap between his first film and Timothy Dalton’s last is the longest in Bond history after all. His newest release, The November Man, officially comes to theaters on August 27th, and he’s currently doing a press tour to get people excited. One of his many stops was The Tonight Show, where the ever-welcoming host Jimmy Fallon challenged the former Bond to a friendly game of GoldenEye 007. It was a very funny segment that reached the absolute pinnacle of meta with Brosnan playing himself in the game adaptation of the movie that made him a household name. To non-gamers, it was probably just a humorous moment that generated several laughs. Nothing really special. To the gamers though, especially those who love first-person shooters (FPS), it was something else entirely. It was the brief return to the spotlight for a game many consider to be a genre defining entry.
GoldenEye was an incredibly pivotal and historical release for the gaming industry, and it really shouldn’t have been as successful as it was. Graphically, it did not look good at all. Actor’s faces were literally stretched across polygons, making them look absolutely horrific. It was also a video game adaptation of a popular movie that came out two years prior. GoldenEye introduced the world to a new James Bond in 1995, and Tomorrow Never Dies was already set to come in December 1997. When Nintendo announced that GoldenEye was coming in August 1997 and developed by Rare, people were rightfully skeptical. A two year delayed game based on a movie? Surefire recipe for disaster.
Yet GoldenEye was an industry changer for a major reason: multiplayer. The Nintendo 64 was already a different system because it featured four controller ports instead of the typical two. It completely demolished the notion of 1v1 games and introduced four player free-for-alls. GoldenEye proved that an FPS game can follow the same formula as opposed to being an only one or two player endeavor. And it was HUGE. Many people consider GoldenEye to feature the best multiplayer out of any Nintendo 64 game. Yes, that does include Mario Kart 64, Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros. It was so popular, each person crafted their own rules to alter the experience (no Oddjob and no Jaws were two popular ones), and the multiplayer was easily played more often than the main game. Can you imagine that this extremely popular feature was once an afterthought? Now multiplayer is the main staple and selling point of any FPS game. Strange how things work out.
Multiplayer is really the tip of the iceberg too. Prior to GoldenEye, the FPS genre was primarily defined by the supernatural. That’s what happens when the flagship games are Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, and Wolfenstein. GoldenEye was a deviation into more realistic territory. Your hero? A secret agent. Your weapons? Normal guns, save for the moonraker laser and the golden gun. Your enemies? Evil Russians and a double-crossing friend. Normal, regular, and amazing. Even the special gadgets were grounded in reality. A laser shooting watch might have seemed incredible at the time, but now plenty of people have actually made their own. Plus, as the James Bond video game franchise has continued over the years, many still consider GoldenEye to be the absolute best. It was very faithful to the movie and only featured two story levels that were clearly intended as bonuses, not story expansions. It wasn’t like other movie based video games that tack on a ton of extra crap solely to stretch the story out more.
GoldenEye was not the first FPS game I ever played. It is easily the most influential though. The Nintendo 64 was a highly cherished system among my brothers and I, and constantly playing GoldenEye was a huge part of that. We bonded through our nonstop sessions of gameplay in levels like Complex and Stack, and continuously yelled at whoever was using Oddjob to be that much shorter. “Screen peeking,” the act at looking at the opponent’s screen, was basically a cardinal sin. GoldenEye made me a legitimate fan of FPS games. Since those awesome days in my bedroom, FPS titles have always had a place in my library. And like many others, GoldenEye was the first James Bond film I ever saw and is still a personal favorite. I recently played the game again with a friend and, guess what, it still holds up.
GoldenEye 007 is an anomaly. It’s a game based on a movie franchise that came two years late. Under no circumstances should it have been good. Yet it was better than good. It was groundbreaking. It was everything an FPS should be and it essentially re-defined the typical shooter formula. Suddenly, fighting aliens and demons wasn’t the coolest. Regular bad people fit the bill just as easily. And this is when it was proven that multiplayer is an absolutely brilliant decision in game creation. People can get bored of a story, but coming together with friends will never get old. Even though GoldenEye has had a few remakes, the old magic has never been replicated again. There will truely be nothing like GoldenEye anymore either, not even Halo. An amazing game tied to an awesome movie that completely upends everyone’s expectations of the most popular genre in gaming? Only this N64 hit can claim that.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.