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Goldeneye 007 Review

Publisher - Nintendo
Developer - Rare
Platform - N64
Type - 3D Shooter/Adventure
Score - 10/10

The first-person shooter is the fastest growing genre on the Nintendo 64. GoldenEye 007 is the fourth first-person shooter to hit the market, after Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Doom 64, and Hexen. The question is, after Turok, why do we need anything else? GoldenEye has some good answers. GoldenEye pushes the gameplay in new directions, including missions that involve more than shooting everything that moves, sniper sighting, and Rumble Pak support. And to top it all off, it's multiplayer, with up to four players battling it out.

From the first mission, you'll realize that getting through the game will take more thought than typical shooters. In the style of the James Bond movie on which GoldenEye was based, every mission has a number of goals, ranging from just fighting your way to the end of the level to rescuing hostages to photographing objects with a spy camera. Brute force won't always be useful. Saving the hostages, for example, requires precision and speed, as you must take out the captors before they kill the hostages and without killing them yourself. Stray bullets can also destroy objects you need to complete the mission, encouraging you to look before you shoot. This is not to say that the game lacks action. There's plenty of it, with hordes of guards to kill, levels that operate on a timer, and weapons of mass destruction. It's just that the game also requires thinking and stealth. In many situations, bringing out the big guns is just asking to be surrounded by overwhelming numbers of guards.

The other characters aren't that stupid either. If you make noises, guards will come to investigate. Letting yourself get caught by a security camera or letting a guard get to an alarm tends to be a bad idea. When you enter a room and shoot the first person you see, beware the other one who's running to get help. You'll encounter characters whose principal goal in life is to survive, and both friends and enemies who you'll need to talk to in order to complete the mission. Their responses to your behavior will determine the success of the mission. And not everyone with a gun is trying to kill you either. The best strategy on some missions may be to provide cover and let your friends do all the dirty work.

While the missions and the other characters are cool, the most dramatic development is the sniper sighting. Like in Shadows of the Empire, GoldenEye gives you an aim button. But the use of the aim button is very different. When you press the aim button, you get a sight, so you can accurately target your victim. But that's not all. Depending on the gun you use, you zoom in, increasing your accuracy. The most extreme example of this is the sniper rifle, which lets you calmly line up shots on guys who are so far away they can't even see you. But it will help out even with basic pistols. Other things you can do with the aim button are duck, great for hiding behind objects, and lean out around corners. It's great for popping out, taking out someone, and dropping back into hiding before anyone else can respond.

Hexen had four-player split screen battles, but on the whole it was pretty disappointing. The only options were deathmatch and cooperative, and the game suffered from enough other problems that multiplayer options couldn't save it. GoldenEye gets it right. In addition to basic deathmatches, which can be timed, played to a certain number of kills, or unlimited, there are many other gameplay modes, loosely based on other James Bond movies. You Only Live Twice limits each player to two lives and lets you battle it out until there's only one person standing. The Man with the Golden Gun adds a golden gun which can kill any other player in a single shot. By extending the choices of the players, the game extends the gameplay.

Of course, innovative ideas are only half the story. The best idea in the world for a game doesn't matter if the execution isn't there. Fortunately, GoldenEye gets that right too. Let's start with the graphics. While the game lacks the flash of Turok, it looks good in a more realistic way. There's a much greater variety in wall textures than Turok, so every section has its own distinct feel. Transparencies are put to good use in glass windows, partitions, and objects. GoldenEye has incredible sight distances. The horizon is always so far away that draw-in just isn't an issue. If you can't see something, it must be behind something else. As a result, there's little use for fog effects, but these are used well anyway. There are scenes at night where the darkness obscures your vision, and the blue cast at the horizon at the Severnaya bunker adds to the feeling of cold. The game goes in for graphics details like bulletholes in the walls. There's nothing like shooting through a series of panes of glass and seeing a bullethole in each one ending with a hole in the wall. The environment is interactive, like in Duke Nukem, so if you shoot anything enough times you'll destroy it. You'll be rewarded with a big explosion, and in the case of glass, shards flying everywhere. This is way cool, except when you accidentally destroy something you need for the mission.

There are some limits to the graphics though. The game can be slightly choppy as a result of its slow framerate. This doesn't affect gameplay, but the world looks less smooth than Turok. GoldenEye doesn't make much use of lighting effects. In Turok, your gun changes color based on the lighting and the direction of the light source, and you won't find that here. The game has problems with bodies partially passing through doors. Sometimes you'll know there's someone on the other side of a door because you can see their arm pushing through. And the jungle level has serious problems. For the first time, draw-in causes problems. You just can't see far enough. And the color of the fog they chose to mask the draw-in is ugly. In fact, all the colors are ugly. After the wide variety of excellent interiors and exteriors up to that point, the jungle is quite a shock.

The other characters are excellent. Like in Turok, they are fully polygonal and therefore much more realistic than the 2-D sprites of Doom and Hexen. The characters exhibit a wide range of uniforms, and have texture mapped faces that resemble the characters of the movie. Unfortunately, the character's heads don't have quite enough polygons, so they look better from some angles than others. The animation isn't quite as smooth as Turok, but it's definitely not bad. The characters have a substantial variety of activities, and they move smoothly from one motion to the next. The best part is how they react to being shot. They don't spray blood, but their clothing does discolor around the area where they were hit, and they react to where they are hit. Hits in the arm will cause them to grab the arm, while hits in the leg will cause them to drop to their knees. The hit location also controls the damage done. They may recover from a shot in the shoulder, and it may take several shots to the body to take them down, but a single shot to the head will drop them every time.

GoldenEye is the first game that completely successfully pulls off four-player split screen action, and the graphics play a major role in that. Unlike Mario Kart, you retain your full field of vision, so you can see adequately around yourself. Slowdown and choppiness seem to be less of a problem than in the one player game, and while the game restricts you to indoor environments for the multiplayer game, draw-in is still never an issue.

The sound is satisfying. The music is principally based on variations on the James Bond theme. The music is played in a wide range of styles and with enough variation to avoid becoming boring, while adding to the atmosphere of the game. The sound effects have the same level of realistic detail as the rest of the game. Every gun has its own sound, both when it is fired and on impact. Guns with silencers have a discrete muffled noise, while the assault rifles let you know you're throwing some lead around. The game also has pleasing impacts, ricochets, and explosions.

The controls are pretty cool. GoldenEye gives the same range of motion as Turok (moving forward and backward, turning left and right, looking up and down, and strafing left and right) with a slightly different control layout. This definitely causes problems switching off between the two games. The controls have a couple of variations, including one that's more like Turok (although looking up and down isn't quite as natural) and layouts for two controllers. Rather than use the digital pad or the C buttons in combination with the analog stick, you can use two analog sticks. I experimented with this for a little while and concluded that it would take some practice, but it could give you an unmatched degree of control. In addition to aiming, other controls include opening and closing doors and reloading. It's always unpleasant to find yourself beginning a big firefight with only one round in the gun, so reloading beforehand is key.

Since this is a James Bond video game, you have a wide range of special gadgets to use, including key copiers, modems, and trick watches. These are typically used by selecting them as a weapon and then "shooting." Everything works great, with one exception. At the end of one level, Bond has to do some precision work with a tight time limit to escape a deathtrap. Since it's on the floor, the game has you kneel to help you out. But what tends to happen is that you uncontrollably switch back and forth between standing and kneeling, and it becomes very difficult to accurately aim as a result. Having to repeatedly play a single level strictly because of a control problem becomes a little frustrating.

If Starfox was the game that introduced the Rumble Pak, GoldenEye is the game that demonstrates its capabilities. Every gun has its own characteristic rumble. And there are a lot of guns. The pistols range in power from effective only at short range to fatal, including both single shot and automatic models. The rifles also have a variety of functions, from the sniper rifle which is great for picking off targets at huge distances, to several assault rifles, each with its own range, number of bullets in a magazine, and power. Bond can carry some guns in either hand, doubling the firepower. And the weapons don't stop there. There are a variety of explosive devices, some on timers, others triggered by Bond's watch, and still others based on proximity. Once it's set, don't get too close. The amazing thing is that they all feel different. Silenced guns barely tick, while automatics seem to vibrate at their firing speed, and the high powered guns have a substantial recoil. And in spite of all that, you can't avoid feeling it when you get hit. The game makes sure to let you know. If you're using two controllers and have Rumble Paks in each one, they both vibrate simultaneously. It would have been nice if they behaved differently, especially when you're holding a gun in each hand, but you can't have everything. And if you're thinking of going multiplayer, make sure you have Rumble Paks to go around. You won't want anyone to miss out.

If you're a big James Bond fan, there's one question still on your mind. How true is the game to the movies? Well, Bond doesn't typically spend the entire movie shooting the bad guys, but if you accept that change for the sake of the game, it does pretty well. The mission briefings from M, gadgets from Q, and witticisms from Moneypenny are all on target. The game seems to be consciously emulating Bond movies in its overall style, and the narrative of the game reads like a Bond movie, complete with unknown adversaries, plot twists, death traps, and beautiful women, giving the game a movie-like feel. This is weakened by the fact that it's unlikely that you could play through the entire game in one sitting. If you're wondering how closely it follows the movie GoldenEye, there are some minor plot changes but it has the same general outline. The locations are incredibly true to the movie, starting with the textures on the walls and doors, and extending to the layout of the levels. If you watch the movie after you've been playing the game for a while, the staircase leading down from the bathroom at the beginning of the second level will look very familiar. Knowing you're playing the same levels as the movie can provide a thrill. Bond does go to some places that he doesn't make it to in the movie, and even some places that aren't in the movie, but it gives the game an added range and depth and solves some plot problems.

In case there's any doubt, let me assure you that GoldenEye has tons of replay value. The game has three difficulty levels, starting with reasonably easy and progressing to requiring divine influence to survive. In addition to the standard tricks to increase difficulty, like making the bad guys harder to kill and more accurate shots, GoldenEye gives you more mission goals. It's one thing to fight your way to the top of the dam and bungie jump off, and quite another to disable the alarm system, plant a remote modem, and upload the contents of the main computer before you go. When it's just more monsters, it's easy to lose interest in beating the harder levels, but GoldenEye gives you something new to do each time.

Turok's still the king of big guns, big explosions, big dinosaurs, and big blood, but don't discount GoldenEye. If the normal range of first-person shooters leaves you wanting more, GoldenEye will satisfy that need. Even if Doom gave you everything you ever wanted and still does, you'll have a hard time giving up the sniper sight. And GoldenEye's multiplayer options will keep your friends busy for days. The game does have substantial graphic and control problems, but on the whole they just don't matter. If you're a first-person shooter fan, GoldenEye 007 belongs in your library.