GoldenEye Remastered



When a licenced tie-in game arrives two years after the movie it's based on, that's usually not a good thing. When GoldenEye finally landed on the Nintendo 64 in 1997, the next James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies was just three months away. And yet, almost out of nowhere, it was a phenomenon.

Before Halo and Call of Duty, not only did GoldenEye prove that first-person shooters could work on consoles and not just PCs, but they could thrive. A year before Half-Life, Rare (a developer that's still to this day known more for colourful adventures) made a serious storybased FPS with in-gameplay cut-scenes and objectives other than just shooting things. Plus, a four-player multiplaye­r mode with an incredible range of options that had Nintendo 64 owners stuck to their split TV screens.

There's only one real problem with GoldenEye — it's tied to the Nintendo 64. Being a licenced game it would inevitably struggle to be re-released, but GoldenEye found itself in a particular­ly bad mess of rights. Nintendo gave up the James Bond licence to Electronic Arts, who would eventually secede it to Activision, and Nintendo's stake in Rare was sold to Microsoft in 2002. Therefore any company wishing to re-release GoldenEye 64 or a remastered version would have to pass it by Nintendo, EA or Activision, Rare, Microsoft, and MGM/Eon Production­s.

So it's astonishin­g that someone even tried, and as a recent leak reveals, got really far too.

In 2007, Rare — deciding in a most Bond-like manner that it was better to ask for forgivenes­s than permission — began work on a remaster of GoldenEye for Xbox Live Arcade. It was a straightfo­rward remaster, with improved textures and controls draped over the original game, and the ability to play multiplaye­r over Xbox Live.

GoldenEye Remastered was basically finished, and most of the licensees signed off — most notably, Activision, Rare, and Microsoft. Nintendo, however, would prove predictabl­y stubborn, and reportedly their refusal to give permission killed the project with the efficacy of a blast from a GoldenEye satellite.

The remaster languished in rumour and the occasional clip for 14 years, but now suddenly, out of the blue, GoldenEye Remastered has been leaked. If you can get hold of it, the game is playable on the Xenia Xbox 360 emulator — the most appropriat­e emulator name ever, given that Xenia is one of the villains of GoldenEye. There are a few obvious things missing, as the leak is apparently of an early beta build, but nothing that'll stop curious fans from playing and enjoying the whole thing as if it was legally available.

It's honestly bizarre to go back to GoldenEye again after so many years. Pre-Halo it was one of my most-played multiplaye­r games, and I loved the single-player campaign too. It's over a decade since I last played it and I can still get by pretty much on muscle memory. I still remember the secret doors in ‘Archive', which had body armour hidden in them on the multiplaye­r map. The little island across the water on ‘Dam'. Robbie Coltrane hiding in the shipping container on ‘Statue'. The soldier coming out of the bathroom behind you on ‘Train'. The throwing knives down the well on ‘Bunker', which you needed the Magnet Watch to get.

In the years since GoldenEye was released, a lot of people have tried to downplay what a great game it is — accusation­s of it being “good for its time” and “not something you'd want to play now” have dogged GoldenEye for years. This is

probably more to do with the ageing graphics and the terrible N64 controller than anything, since GoldenEye remains an incredibly solid FPS with some clever level design.

Probably the best example is ‘Frigate', the game's seventh mission. The level takes place entirely on a ship where the Janus organisati­on is attempting to steal the EMP-proof Tiger helicopter. The goals are to plant a tracking device on the chopper, disarm bombs in the engine room and bridge, and rescue all the hostages. It's actually a surprising­ly open and non-linear level, with multiple ways to approach these objectives — and yet some paths are better than others. Take a sneaky side entrance to a room and you could get the drop on the terrorists, but take the “obvious” route and they might have placed a hostage between you and them. It's very clever, as is the way the different difficulty settings don't just make the enemies tougher, they give you more objectives to do too.

The real big deal about the remaster is the improved graphics, which make a big difference but don't change the experience. Granted, even by 2007 standards they're nothing mindblowin­g, but being able to actually see across the entire map on the previously insanely tough ‘Surface' changes everything, to say nothing of the final level ‘Cradle'. The game is now modern enough to be less-ironically enjoyed, and if you want to see what's improved, just click a button and switch to the original graphics. It'll be a shock.

That all said, it's not all vodka Martinis for GoldenEye. While still fun to play, there are a load of problems that a remaster can't fix. There are no checkpoint­s, which equates to shorter levels, but it's still frustratin­g to die or fail an objective at the end of one and go back to the start. Natalya is still a burden, and it's far too easy to kill her by accident. Objectives often aren't obvious, especially on harder difficulti­es, which can lead to a lot of backtracki­ng. The AI is laughable.

Neverthele­ss, if GoldenEye Remastered

was officially available to buy, people would see just how impressive an FPS the game remains over 20 years later — and yet it's GoldenEye’s

legacy that remains most important. Not only as the game that revolution­ised the whole idea of a console-only FPS, but also one of the first FPSs to be more than just a run-and-gun shooter. The remastered version almost has as much history as the original game, and if it got released it would've been the game that — like James Bond himself — defied all the odds. It's sad that's not the case, but at least it's possible to try it out if you so wish, and maybe at some point it'll actually get released for real. Because if there's one thing Bond doesn't know how to do, it's how to stay dead.

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 ??  ?? Above and Below: How much of a difference would the remaster have made to the game? See for yourselves as we show two scenes rendered by the N64 on this page.
Above and Below: How much of a difference would the remaster have made to the game? See for yourselves as we show two scenes rendered by the N64 on this page.
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 ??  ?? Above and Below: On this page, the same two scenes rendered on the Xbox 360. The difference is staggering.
Above and Below: On this page, the same two scenes rendered on the Xbox 360. The difference is staggering.
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