Here's to GoldenEye, the game that shaped a million childhoods 5 years ago

Here's to GoldenEye, the game that shaped a million childhoods

There are some experiences that every boy in the '90s shared. Finding porn in a bush was one. Playing GoldenEye 007 to death was another.

You didn't have to have a Nintendo 64 to play a lot of GoldenEye. The lines between PlayStation and N64 kids were clearly drawn, but GoldenEye transcended all boundaries. While disc vs cartridge divided us, GoldenEye brought us together.

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No birthday party or after-school gathering was complete without a few rounds; the sights and sounds burned into our eyes and ears from the many hours spent in the game's company. We all remember the illicit thrill of the Golden Gun, the absurd hilarity of DK mode, and the great unspoken rule of GoldenEye: no Oddjob.

In the '90s, first-person shooters were still very much the domain of the PC gamer. Early pioneers Doom and Quake birthed the genre and decorated its interiors with hellbeasts and nightmarish visions of other worlds colliding with ours. Beyond arcade-style light gun shooters, FPS games were not part of the console landscape.

 

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Photo: Rare / milosz12510

 

GoldenEye would change that. At the time, the Nintendo 64 was the premier multiplayer console. Not only did it hold some of the top multiplayer titles (Mario Kart 64, F-Zero X and Super Smash Bros. to name but three) but it had four built-in controller ports - no multitap faffing here.

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This was a console that was designed with multiplayer gaming at its core; it was, in fact, the first console that could comfortably support four-way split screen gaming without experiencing significant slowdown. Nintendo knew what they were doing, but they had to have the goods to back it up.

GoldenEye 007 was developed over two years by British games company Rare. Initially the game was intended to be an on-rails shooter similar to Sega's Virtua Cop, but the decision was taken to make it free-roaming - a decision that would prove to be critical in the game's success.

Despite coming out two years after the film, GoldenEye was a smash hit, and became the third biggest-selling N64 title of all time - the only game in the top five that wasn't developed by Nintendo themselves.

 

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Photo: Rare / zelda42293

 

Anyone who played GoldenEye at the time will remember why it was such a big hit. It was a brand new experience, full of detail and realism. Windows shattered when you shot them; people bled when you shot them; chairs exploded when you shot them. It was just like real life.

The single-player game offered new ways to play: you could run in all guns blazing and wipe out every enemy in sight, or take the stealth approach, taking out enemies selectively and destroying cameras to avoid detection.

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But it was the deathmatch that changed everything. The huge arsenal of weapons; the choice of levels, each with their own unique features and playing styles; the different multiplayer modes available - this was the genesis of what is now the biggest genre of gaming.

And we loved it. There was never an excuse for boredom if you had a couple of friends and a copy of GoldenEye handy. GoldenEye parties were thrown. Tournaments were held to determine who was the Greatest GoldenEye Player of All Time in the World Ever.

Friendships were forged while dual DD44 Dostovei were wielded. Many happy hours passed roaming through the vents of Facility. And what kind of adolescent male didn't find it funny to shoot those Russian soldiers sitting on the toilet?

 

 

Photo: Rare

 

Future generations will never fully understand what GoldenEye and games of its ilk meant to us. Multiplayer is the dominant force in gaming right now, but it's no longer tailored to split screen. Gamers now sit alone in rooms, connected through headsets over the internet, with a widescreen TV at their lonely disposal.

Nothing will ever feel the same as four teenagers, up later than they should be, going Slappers Only round Facility. Once you put down your PS4 controller and switch off your machine, that's it. There's no one to turn to and say: "Fuck it, let's go Proximity Mines."