Moviegoers will certainly hit theaters in droves Friday for the opening release of Spectre, the 24th film in the legendary James Bond Series.
More than 18 years ago, though, a different kind of audience was feeling Bond — James Bond — fever. That's when the wildly-popular GoldenEye 007 video game — developed by Rare — hit Nintendo 64 to rave reviews, going on to sell over eight million copies.
I still remember the hysteria my cousin called me with back in 1997, saying he got the new title. That hysteria turned into hours of gaming with the first-person shooting title, which included both single and multi-player modes.
The gamer's goal was to lead 007 through 20 different missions, which could have been played on difficulty settings ranging from "Agent" to "Secret Agent" and "00-Agent." The multiplayer mode, which allowed up to four players at once, was revolutionary for the time — especially via the title's split-screen deathmatch games, which had colorful names ranging from "Normal" to "You Only Live Twice," "The Living Daylights (Flag Tag)," "The Man With The Golden Gun" and "License to Kill."
The game had Bond equipped with an arsenal of weapons, including pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns and the PP7, with each requiring reloading.
What really stood out about the game was navigating your first-person shooting Bond through picturesque cinematic scenes that all looked well beyond their time and stayed true to the actual 1995 Golden Eye film, starring Pierce Brosnan, plot and all (no wonder it sold upwards of eight million copies).
"When we had plenty of film material, we tried to stick to it for authenticity but we weren't afraid of adding to it to help the game design," Karl Hilton of Rare's original development team for the title, told Now Gamer in a Making of GoldenEye piece back in 2011. "It was very organic. Dave would come in and say he needed an extra door and a room somewhere and we'd add it in. Back then, it was so much quicker. It'd be half a day's work to add in a new corridor and a room."
I also loved GoldenEye's stealth gampeplay, which empowered Bond to knock off soldiers and take out security cameras before they spotted him maneuvering around the level. To carry out stealth hits, your Bond character had to gain access to telescopic attachments to his weapons, so that he could kill enemies without alerting others or guards alike. How you killed enemies spelled if more or less would come after you.
"It wasn't realistic but it meant the less you shot, the quieter you were, the less enemies came after you," Dave Doak, another member of the original Rare development team for the title, told Now Gamer. "If an NPC that hadn't been drawn and was just standing in a room waiting was alerted by gunfire, it would duplicate itself and one went to investigate. You can see it happening sometimes — if you go to the right place and make a noise, you see more enemies spawning."
Sure, better first-person shooting games have come along since, but for 1997 standards — GoldenEye 007 was ultra smooth, classic and way ahead of its time ... sort of like Bond himself.