It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years since mankind achieved the pinnacle of first-person shooter video gaming, but here we are. GoldenEye 007 was released for Nintendo 64 on August 25, 1997, and probably built as many friendships as it destroyed, thanks to its multiplayer mode (which included the infamous Slappers only! setting).
Jack King at GQ Magazine has a great retrospective on the iconic game:
What GoldenEye lacked in Master Swords, impish charm and a glorious steed named Epona, it made up for in two modes: a single-player campaign based on the film (which had come out almost two years prior), where you'd jump off dams and tear up Russian streets in a tank, and the famous multiplayer. The unwieldiness of the Nintendo 64 controller, with its infamous trio of grips, put everyone at a sort of handicap, so even the shittiest of casual players could give it a go in one of the arena-like levels.
It's worth remembering here that PC gamers might've already been into Quake and Doom, but your typical household was yet to adopt anything close to a proper FPS — though there were watered-down ports of the latter — let alone something that let you shoot your mates to bits. The genre was so computer native that, at first, GoldenEye 007 was conceived of as a Virtua Cop esque on-rails shooter (Time Crisis and House of the Dead, arcade staples that debuted in the late '90s, are the better known examples). Here, though, was an FPS built from the ground up, bringing myriad innovations that stick around in the genre to this day.
That GQ piece also lead me to this fun interview in The Guardian with several of the game's designers on their experiences creating a movie tie-in game that didn't actually come until two years after the movie it was based on (oops):
According to Hollis, Rare's management asked all development staff to sign a waiver relinquishing themselves from EU legislation that sought to limit overtime. Jones signed as did, Hollis says, every member of the team bar one. Midway through development, Hollis played through GoldenEye's first level, closely based on the film's opening scene. "I knew one thing for sure," says Hollis. "The game sucked." A trench mentality developed. With each missed deadline, the game's release date drifted further from the GoldenEye film. The next Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, was announced and Rare's game remained incomplete. Nobody wanted to let down their colleagues by leaving the office early. "In the final push we were working 100-hour weeks, back-to-back," says Doak.
Jones recalls that the team would typically take short lunch breaks, during which they would watch a 20-minute snippet of a Bond film. "That meant we watched about one Bond film a week," Jones says. With no internet, all source material was derived from the films, novels and reference books. Jones was mainly interested in learning on the job, and had no particular ambition to make a classic game. But when the team implemented the competitive multiplayer mode, Jones realised they had designed something unusually compelling. "We had crowbarred it in," he recalls, "but everyone was playing it all the time."
Twenty-five years later, GoldenEye 007 is still Bond at its best [Jack King / GQ Magazine]
The game's Bond: the making of Nintendo classic GoldenEye 007 [Simon Parkin / The Guardian]