When Rare first announced its intention to create a first-person shooter (FPS) based on the pop-icon spy, James Bond, I was really skeptical. After all, tired Doom clones had already driven life from the genre and games based on movie licenses were usually bad by legendary proportions. It didn't seem like a formula for success, but leave it to the boys at Rare to break all perceptions. Instead, they've responded by producing one of the most surprising games of all-time: GoldenEye 007.
It's very difficult for me to describe a game that is so close to perfection. Almost every aspect of GoldenEye reaches unheard of plateaus. It is a game that combines all its elements into a seamless gaming experience. While the plot of the game is heavily steeped in the movie of the same name, it isn't hindered by it. Instead of recreating all the elements in a linear and literal fashion, Rare went to great lengths to examine all the characters, scenes, and story developments in the film to extract the most relevant parts for gameplay. Rather than blindly trying to recreate the film, Rare discarded everything that wouldn't work in an interactive game and adopted, changed and added elements that would work. So instead of depending on the source material like a crutch, the developers used the license material to merely add on to what is an already solid gameplay model.
While the game will feel familiar to anyone who has ever played an FPS, it still manages to take nearly every aspect of the genre one step further. Traditionally, the goals have always been to recover multiple keys and consequently exit to repeat the pattern on another disjointed stage. GoldenEye, on the other hand, is guided by mission objectives relevant to the story and each stage is a progression. Designed so well, the missions never feel scripted and play out dynamically according to the player's actions and personal style. Play the game all gung-ho like in Quake and you'll find yourself quickly surrounded by guards. Stealthily manuevering about (like a spy should) is usually a more productive method and although it isn't necessary, it becomes integral to the game. The realism also lends itself to the extremely accurate hit detection of the enemies. Not only did Rare include a revolutionary and intuitive aiming/sniping feature for more precision, they also complimented that precision by including more reactions in the enemies depending on where you shoot them. Hit the target in the leg and watch him hobble, land a shot on his hand and watch him shake it profusely in pain, and place one in between his eyes and watch him drop dead. It's this kind of attention to detail that really grabbed me and allowed me to suspend disbelief.
Rare has controlled and directed every part of the game with a kind of craftsmanship that is unlike any other. The music is great the way it sets the mood for each stage. The control options are aplenty and sure to please anyone's preferences. Weapons selection is tremendous, but limited to only particular stages. This is another testament to Rare's control. Not only does this keep things fresh by introducing different weapons later in the game, but it also keeps the challenge level high by not unbalancing stages with particularly powerful or inappropriate weapons. Throw in a multiplayer feature that is so deep and intense that it practically needs a review of its own, and it becomes glaringly obvious why I believe GoldenEye is something beyond special.
You have to give credit to Rare for taking a preexisting genre and totally breaking all the rules. Instead of simply trying to capitalize on trend, they took the genre to a whole new level. On top of that, here is a game that not only changed my perception of games, but also changed my perception of the world. Never shall I pass a security camera again without itching to disable it with a pinpoint accurate shot. Altering a person's perception is not an easy thing to do and qualities like that make for some very interesting art.