I don’t remember the first time I played Goldeneye, but I still remember the layout of almost every level. All of the objectives on every difficulty became burned into my memory a long time ago. The stylishness of all the spy gadgets and missions touched off a feeling of obsession that we can all relate to. I just had to have more. Many of us who fell in love with what is arguably the only great James Bond game poured hours into every mode it offered and hoped the franchise would just keep on going. Unfortunately, the Bond franchise peeked right there in 1997. Fan remakes, and even the strange Reloaded version for Wii featuring Daniel Craig and a completely new cast, have been chasing that energy ever since. Even though Rare managed to follow up with their own original spiritual successor, Perfect Dark, they tragically saw a big drop off in quality shortly after. But at the time of its release, this game wasn’t just the first shooter I loved, it was also the first time I had ever experienced James Bond.
By the time I finally watched Goldeneye on VHS, I already knew the entire story and the basic framework of most of the action scenes. If you take the time to play the game and read all of the dialogue sequences and mission briefings, you can really see how faithful of a translation it is. Obvious changes were made to keep the game action-oriented and focused entirely on Bond, but I remember vividly noticing all the little differences for the first time. I was actually kind of shocked to see the most minor character, Defense Minister Mishkin, die in the movie where in the game, he lived after apologizing to James for his false imprisonment (take a minute and see if you even remember who I’m talking about…it’s OK if you don’t, I really was obsessed with the game).
So once I had discovered the then-current Pierce Brosnan movies, what else could I do but go back and see everything else the franchise had to offer? The most mysterious bits of the game at this point were four characters that were only available in multiplayer: Baron Samedi, Jaws, May Day, and the infamous Odd Job. So from there I had to see all the movies they appeared in. Somehow I mistakenly thought that most of them were in Live and Let Die (only Samedi is). So after watching that, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, (Jaws shows up in both of those) and A View to a Kill, I had seen a good mix of the Sean Connery and Roger Moore eras, but there was still much, much more. A secret unlockable in the character selection screen showed portraits of every actor who had played Bond, and that included the lesser known Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby. Who were those guys? What were their movies like? When were they made? These are the questions that began the lifelong fanaticism.
It didn’t take long at all for the villains to become my favorite part of the series. I wanted to know who each of them were, what their evil plans were, and most importantly, what elaborate method Bond would use to kill them and the accompanying witty one-liner. Movies that follow a tried and true formula like that really help to feed a kid’s growing obsession. I remember printing out a website dedicated to cataloging the Bond villains and consulting it in order to figure out which movie I wanted to see next. My mom even took me to the library where I looked up information about Ian Fleming’s books. I borrowed a copy of Thunderball and got about as far as I could at the time, as I was still only in fifth grade. My birthday and Christmas presents were used for getting a full collection of all the movies on VHS.
Since then, I’ve upgraded the collection to DVD. The only movie I haven’t seen all the way through is Octopussy; the one were Roger Moore literally dresses up as a clown so I’m still not in a hurry to see it…but I did make sure to watch the villain’s death scene. I’ve read every original novel with the exception of the short stories and The Spy Who Loved Me (this one is a strange outlier to the rest of the series because it’s both much shorter than usual and it barely focuses on Bond, instead it’s told from the point of view of the Bond Girl). I could also name all the movies in order, tell you what year they were made, who directed them, and throw plenty of trivia around too (The Man With The Golden Gun features the very first movie stunt that was planned using a computer!).
And the whole time my Bond obsession was continuing, Goldeneye 007 was still my golden standard for shooters. I would replay the single player missions, use GameShark to add the cheats and bonuses, and still play multiplayer with my friends. When they had moved on to other games, I used the AI-controlled characters in Perfect Dark to play multiplayer mode by myself. I didn’t stop playing them until around 2004 when my friends were all playing Halo 2, and it took a very long time for me to get comfortable with dual analog sticks. So when the rest of the gaming world was discovering Half Life, Halo, Quake, Red Faction, Counter-Strike, and every other FPS out there, I was still just playing through Goldeneye 007. Of course I did eventually grow and move on to the great modern FPS games. Movement with dual analogs feels so natural now that I don’t even know why it was a struggle in the first place. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to use the N64 analog stick for the first time after coming from modern FPS controls. I have a feeling the entire game would be very unfriendly to a new player. There are no tutorials and very little guidance, which makes the more complicated objectives frustrating. But Golden eye was so well designed, it feels like I just always knew where everything in that game was. Don’t ask me about the Aztec or Egyptian levels though, those parts are still a bit fuzzy.