A look back: GoldenEye 007
Much has been written and said about this one. It wasn’t just an influential game for me, for millions of people (8 million to be more precise) this game revolutionized shooting games and the multiplayer experience. For the industry, it shaped every game in the genre that would come after it. For me, it was just as…if not more significant than Mario Kart 64.
Like many others, to me this game began as a mystery. Through the same channel I’d received my Star Fox promotional VHS tape, I also got a manila folder gussied up to look like an MI6 intelligence dossier. Inside were various screenshots of the game, lists of all the weapons, and all sorts of stuff to whet the appetite. At the time most of my Bond experiences were flipping through channels and seeing sweet car chases. I liked James Bond movies, but certianly not the kind of fan people think of me as today.
I was actually introduced to this game, shortly after it had been released by renting it from the IGA in Cimarron. The OLD IGA before they moved out to the east side of town. I remember you walked in the doors, and straight ahead of you were the shopping carts. Just to the right of that, the rentals section, and the N64 games were in the first little section of racks they had set up. I’d often rented Turok: Dinosaur Hunter…not one of my favorite games, but similar in that it was also a first person shooter. Knowing some basic information on GoldenEye, I intended to compare it to Turok, and hope that it was a bit more interesting.
From that first time I played it, I knew this was a great game! My expectations were almost immediately exceeded. It had a look, sound, and feel that was new and fresh. It wasn’t just a quest to find the biggest gun and lay waste to all that was in your path. No, you were often rewarded for conserving ammunition, using your silenced pistol, and sometimes, sneaking past enemies all together. The levels felt natural, not linear. It really seemed like you were dropped in the middle of enemy territory and had to seek out your objective, not just being lead from one room to the next.
I enjoyed this game so thoroughly I remember taking the game back to White’s when the game was due, and while checking it in, asking if I can go ahead and rent it again! By the time I actually got around to buying the game, I’d probably spent half its price renting it already! FINDING the game to buy is a story in itself.
Perhaps it was my strangle hold on the rental copy that kept me from going out and buying the game. Or perhaps I didn’t have the $70 that N64 carts were demanding in those days. Whatever the reason I initially wasn’t in a rush to purchase the game. But as time went on, others began to realize how phenomenal the game was. Renting it got harder and harder to accomplish, so I decided it was time to make the sacrifice. Right about then the GoldenEye shortage of 1997-1998 struck. Access to games in Southwest Kansas at that time was limited to begin with. You had Wal-Mart and Hastings. That was pretty much it. And for what seemed like ages, you couldn’t find a copy of this game if your life depended on it! One glorious day I spotted the game high and locked away behind the glass in Wal-Mart. Without hesitation, I grabbed the nearest clerk. Soon was on my way home with FINALLY my own copy of GoldenEye 007. Infact I still have the original box today, it sits on my desk next to the computer.
One of my goals in this series is to get as close to experiencing the games for the first time all over again. To relive all the excitement I experienced as a kid. When I picked this game up again, I made the decision to go straight to “00 Agent” mode (a.k.a. Hard Mode). I’m glad I did. I’ve played on and off for years, but it’s been a long time since I was up to the challenge 00 provides. You really have to have knowledge of the levels, and have a strategy. Instantly it all started flooding back. Every detail I’d memorized so long ago was suddenly as vivid as it ever was, and while rusty, the rhythm of each map (when to go, when to stop, where to wait) all was coming back to me. It’s just about as close to time travel as I’ll ever get! It’s all so difficult to put into words, I may have to try making a video.
I remember spending ridiculous amounts of time working on unlocking all the cheats. For each level there was a “Target Time” that would unlock a certain cheat, be it unlimited ammo, paintball mode, or many others. Some were easy. Some were borderline impossible! Amongst my proudest were the Facility in 1:50 and the Archives in 1:20. I remember for a long time Paul and I were neck and neck on the number of cheats each of us had unlocked. I eventually unlocked all of them except one. The Train in 5:25.
As brilliant and amazing as the single player game was, multi-player is where this game TRULY shined. One of my favorite past-times was getting a few friends together and playing 4-player matches for HOURS on end. I’d invite a couple friends over and we’d stay up until the sun came up, playing death match. Hilariously hopeless proximity mine matches. Insanely frantic power weapons matches. And of course…Slappers Only.
The seed was planted and soon spawned GoldenEye Fest. It began as just a gathering of some friends. The first one was only perhaps 6 or 8 people in the living room, but it was a blast! We drew up a tournament bracket for fun and decided to see what happened. Some matches were close. Some were horrendously lopsided, but everyone had a good time. From there it just got bigger.
By the time we’d reached GEF IV, there were now 2 “Tournament TVs” and one “Free Play TV”. For a total of 3 N64 systems, 12 controllers, a lot of food and drink, and a crowded living room! I was always surprised at the turn out to these events. Not everyone I knew were avid gamers, though the tournaments consistently drew 12-18 competitors, and usually a few spectators. It was just a fun time of getting together, eating too much food, drinking too much pop, and having a good time.
It didn’t take long for two people to stand out amongst the competition. Paul (a.k.a Wolfman) and myself. I made the attempt to seed each of us on opposite sides of the brackets so we each had an equal opportunity to meet in the finals. The early rounds were always the most fun to watch. Moderately skilled people going at it against people who might have been only the second or third time playing the game. They were always un-predictable, and very telling of strategies for the keen observer.
I used to spend weeks leading up to the party, getting things organized. I sent out all the invitations, to the PPC’s. (Preselected Potential Corpses) Ha ha! And once every one had confirmed, I began drawing up the bracket, seeding the players and deciding on the rules. Usually the first round or two were 4 player matches with the top two or three advancing. Semi-finals and Finals rounds were always 2 player only, to heighten the tension, and also to focus on true individual skill by preventing the ability to get “ganged up on”. Weapons were determined before hand. And most all levels were allowed, EXCEPT NO CAVES!
The GoldenEye Fests continued to enjoy great success into the 2000’s. GEF VIII was the last time I hosted a GoldenEye tournament. However the format continued with GoldenEye’s spiritual sequel Perfect Dark. Heath Litton won a home made trophy with a golden N64 controller at Perfect Dark Event I, and the final event PDE3, actually took place as a S.A.D.D. function at the high school my senior year. Almost 60 people attended and a 12 foot wide projection screen was the centerpiece and spotlight for the Championship. I choose not to participate, to encourage folks to sign up. Still, I was quite proud of how far it had come. Quite the evolution from five or six friends sitting around a TV munching on some chips and sucking down 2 liters.