Goldeneye 007 (Xbox) Review
Add this to the list of reviews I didn’t think I’d be writing in 2023. Goldeneye 007 was a killer app on the N64, and is legendary in the console FPS world. But how does the new remaster hold up?
007 played by Pierce Brosnan makes an unexpected (and difficult) return to our screens in the guise of a slightly improved emulation of the original game. That’s not to say that it isn’t improved. The control scheme makes it immensely playable and it looks beautifully sharp (in a stylised kind of way).
And while the Switch version is different enough that this can’t cover that, I’m happy to report that Goldeneye remains a fantastic game. It is worthy of your time. In fact, it has plenty that modern game makers would do good to remember.
Rather awkwardly, you are not able to buy Goldeneye individually. This is part of the difficult issue mentioned above. Getting to this stage has been a rights nightmare. So you can only access it through Game Pass and Rare Replay. The latter is excellent and cheap and should already be in your collection anyway.
But get access, because you won’t regret it.
Remembering the Golden Days
Goldeneye on Xbox feels like a modern shooter. It took absolutely no regressing on my part. I didn’t have to remember how to awkwardly move left and right on one analogue stick, and forward and back on the other. Each button did what I expected it to do.
And each level basically does what I expect it to do too. You get gadgets, guns and endless bad guys to slaughter. In the middle of this are missions to complete, and speedruns to attempt (which unlock CHEATS – remember CHEATS?!).
The mission structure desperately needs an objective marker. I’m sure there are people who disagree, but sometimes the list of things to do are vague and unique, and a Google search is necessary to avoid wasted time. But the flip side to that is that it is nice to play a game that doesn’t feel monotonous in its structure. One levels is never entirely like the next, despite your techniques and weaponry usually staying the same. It is this variety that keeps it fresh, even in 2023, and makes the speedruns feel like actual achievements (which rightly come with digital achievements too).
The story is mostly played out in briefing text, but it is not a required part of playing Goldeneye. Especially if you’ve seen the film.
The N64 Of It All
I have a great tolerance for retro games, but this doesn’t necessarily feel like one of them. It’s true that it came out in 1997, and that should not come as a surprise to anybody playing it. But if exactly the same game was released sans-licence as a modern indie title, nobody would be saying it feels dated. There would probably be a complaint about vague objectives and a few surprisingly difficulty spikes, but overall it’s get a positive response.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this game is that it exists at all. The rights are spread across Microsoft (via Rare), Nintendo, MGM and maybe even Activision into the mix. It is telling how big a deal this is that the Microsoft version contains a Donkey Kong reference, both in-game and in achievements. That this is such a small thing, and yet feels so big, speaks to the real minefield of everything else that makes up this game.
The fact we’re playing at all is incredible. That it feels so good on Xbox is a bonus. Visuals are dated (or stylized). The N64 had a pretty specific look that sometimes looks great and sometimes looks bad. Either way, the sheer open space of nothingness in many levels offer a decent tell of its age.
A special mention has to be made of the music, which is absolutely fantastic. Atmospheric and creative, it is far more enjoyable to listen to than it deserves to be. Don’t take my word for it. Just check out the many memes discussing this very fact since Goldeneye came out a few weeks ago.
Goldeneye is one of the most iconic shooters ever made, and it is fantastic to see it still mostly holds up. In an age of bloat, where everybody wants to make giant open worlds or massive setpieces, it’s great to play a game that doesn’t actively waste your time. It has enough content to entertain, but it earns your attention.
Resolution and control upgrades are really all that’s needed to bring this quite comfortably into the 21st century. Any more would be a different game.
And while some will struggle with its older feel, and others will be annoyed by it being blocked from direct purchase, it’s still a great feeling game. It’s a remaster fit for Bond himself. You’ll feel like 007 – or at least a weirdly shaped avatar version of him with Brosnan’s face stretched across. And really, isn’t that what we all aspire to?