Written By: Alex Westphal
Golden Gun Mode, Facility, Remote Mines on Bunker, screen-peeking, "Big Head Mode," Oddjob... if you currently have intimate knowledge and memories of all the above, then you probably had an AWESOME 1997 winter break, on account of one groundbreaking game.
If you were old enough (and coordinated enough) to hold an N64 controller leading up to Christmas 1997, then there was only one thing you wanted - GoldenEye 007. This game was the console gaming community's introduction to true FPS gaming, and it became a full-blown phenomenon (not to mention, very hard to find) upon its release leading up to the holiday.
Looking back, it's crazy to think that there was a time in gaming when acclaim for exceptional games was unanimous, and GoldenEye was one of those titles. For the first time, gamers were spending hundreds of hours in multiplayer bouts and tournaments before even realizing there was a huge single player game to visit.
The variety of content in multiplayer was astounding, even by today's standards. The players could change the rules of play before starting any match, and customize each match to be unique. Imagine playing an entire map with nothing but remote mines... because you set it up with nothing but remote mines. Or, how about the classic one-shot "Golden-Gun" matches on the wide-open "Temple" map? There are few shooters that have released since that offered this kind of variety and levity, making the game so addictive as a result.
And in those days, there were also unlockable maps, weapons and game modes for multiplayer, and the player actually played the campaign to unlock them. That's right, there were NO "map packs" or "add-ons" to purchase - Only good, old-fashioned slogging through levels one-hundred times to get the job done.
Speaking of the single-player campaign, this was one of the best and most challenging FPS of all time. To get the best "cheats" and unlocks, you would have to blitz through levels on high (007) difficulty, arcade-style. This momentum kept players running through levels dozens of times, and also fostered one of the internet's first great communities for gamers to discuss and trade strategies for the toughest levels.
This was a game that made or broke friendships on a regular basis, and the culture that players fostered around unwritten multiplayer rules and boundaries (i.e. no screen-peeking, no body armor camping, no shooting through doors) were as entertaining as they were grave warnings... under penalty of charlie horse and/or wedgie.
No rule was taken more seriously by the community than the stand against the use of the character "Oddjob" in multiplayer. This was a non-starter - you see, he was just too short to hit with any kind of consistency. This was a glaringly apparent problem on one-shot kill play modes, and less of an issue on remote- or proxy mine play.
OH, and proxy mines... there was no game mode more masochistic, chaotic, and anarchist than "Proxy Mines." This is the mode we played after 8 straight hours of killing and we just didn't care anymore, and it was absolute bedlam. The awards that the game doled out to players post-match were especially fun to read after these matches (i.e. most deaths, least kills).
There were so many great games back then (I will be writing about the rest, as well) and many honorable mentions, but GoldenEye changed the landscape and affected the appetite of the average console gamer more than any other in 1997. So many games (including GoldenEye 007 remakes and a dozen other 007 games) have atttempted to capture the same zeitgeist that the original 007 did, but have all fallen short. If you haven't played this one, I would recommend finding friend with an N64 and a copy and spending some quality time in Golden-Gun Mode - and be careful not to grab the controller with the floppy thumbstick.