Life moves pretty slow on a video game magazine when the last pages are being sent to the printer. As a writer on Edge, I’d have to be available in the office to write captions and headlines, but often we were there long into the night as the art team designed pages. So the writers and subs would have nothing to do but wait and play games. And for many months, the game we played was GoldenEye.
Released two years after the film, into a market where tie-ins were never exactly epoch-making products, it’s fair to say expectations were low for the N64 shooter. But this was a shooter by Rare, the veteran Midlands-based developer of Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct, and the game that would introduce a lot of players to the concept of using an analogue stick to look around in a 3D game – it’s difficult to overstate how important that was.
But it was the multiplayer mode that really counted. Four players, one screen, an array of locations and weapons, and all the characters from the single-player campaign. Sneaking around the Basement’s corridors, lurking in the jail cells in Bunker, hiding in the toilets in Facility – these were seminal moments in first-person multiplayer game design, introducing more complex notions of stealth, surprise and delay to the shared gaming experience. We would usually play in Normal mode, but as the hours dragged on and the sunlight began to creep in behind the blinds, we’d switch to Slaps Only, in which players could only get kills by slapping each other to death. It was great to get that very British sense of ludicrous comedy in an ostensibly violent genre.
It is interesting how fables around the game and its development have survived – and still intrigue. The fact that it is officially cheating to play as Oddjob in multiplayer mode; the brilliance of the pause music, which has been heavily memed on TikTok, and how it was written in just 20 minutes by Rare newcomer Grant Kirkhope. The fact that Nintendo legend and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was so concerned by the death in the game that he suggested a post-credit sequence where James Bond went to a hospital to meet all the enemy soldiers he “injured”. I think the sign of a truly great game – like any work of art – is how many legends become attached to its making.
It is lovely now, to see the game getting a release on Nintendo Switch and Xbox Game Pass, but it is hard to imagine how modern players will react to what is now an artefact. Perhaps they will wonder why we considered it so special, so groundbreaking. They may not realise how many of the features we now take for granted in shooters were inspired by this one game.
For me, when I hear that music, when I see those strange cloudy visuals, and blocky character models, I am transported back to those late deadlines, lots of us packed into the Edge games room, chasing each other around blank corridors with Klobb submachine guns, sneakily looking at each other’s portions of the screen to see where everyone was on the map.
But what do you remember about the game? What were your favourite missions and characters? Let’s reminisce!