March 29, 2023

In the late summer of 1997, about a quarter of a century ago, Golden Eye 007 stuck itself firmly into the cartridge slot and mental landscape of a generation. Pierce Brosnan’s perfectly sculpted hairdo and 007 logo peeked out of the curved dome of the Nintendo 64’s dark plastic platter, watching over countless hours spent in lo-poly shootouts, plastic trident controllers clutched in sweaty hands during endless split- screen deathmatch rounds.

In the years since, shooters – and video games in general – have changed considerably, and Golden Eyethe reputation has remained. Playing it now, whether it’s the multiplayer-compromised Xbox version or the control-compromised Switch version, is an exercise in revisiting the past for much of the re-release audience. But snatched from the nostalgia of individual memories and seen as part of a greater history, Golden Eye becomes something else: an artifact of a genre, medium and culture in transition.

Get out on the concrete of “Dam”, Golden Eye‘s opening level, the modern player will likely be the first to be struck by the game’s early 3D look. Soviet soldiers, faces clamped in pixelated grimaces, do floating somersaults in an attempt to avoid Bond’s gunfire; the rocky cliff bordering one side of the dam consists of unnaturally smooth rectangles jutting out at sharp angles; the recreation of Bond’s bungee jump from the Golden Eye In the film’s intro, a Moai-faced James plummets down with the clumsiness of a fallen mannequin.

It all looks pretty goofy and dated. However, beyond the graphical blemishes of the adolescent phase of 3D video games is a clear attempt to provide a minimalist recreation of Golden Eye, the film. The atmosphere is thick with 90s synthesizer opera singers and the blast of tinny horns echoing the Bond films’ signature theme song. Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Cumming appear as chilling, funny mirror reflection versions of their cinematic counterparts. Characters deliver blunt lines of dialogue that pepper fights with a fragmented retelling of the film’s plot. The mission objectives also complicate the action, reminding players that a spy might need to shoot a padlock off a gate, silently send out patrolling guards, or swipe documents rather than simply blasting through waves of enemies to complete their objectives. Selecting a higher difficulty setting requires players to not only fight harder, but also complete additional objectives, such as blowing up ammo caches or stealing data, to reinforce the idea that these levels are real missions of the kind that Bond in the movie completes.

Notably, it does all this while still offering the instant appeal of the popular action-first shooters that preceded it. The arsenal of guns, grenades, mines, and karate-slashing barehands offers the same, wide array of weapon choices that ’90s shooters embraced. Golden Eye moves slower than many PC shooters that preceded it (Demise, Earthquake, Blood, Duke Nukem 3Dor Heretic) but, played on the Nintendo 64 controller, it has many of the same tactical capabilities. Developer Rare understood how to translate the urgency, if not the actual speed, of computer shooters to home consoles. It wouldn’t be beat until the first Halo came to Xbox four years later.

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Later first-person shooters would further embrace it Golden Eyecinematic aspirations. The genre quickly became dominated by the moodiness and story focus of Half-life, Deus Ex, ThiefAnd System shock 2. (A year later Golden Eyeon Playstation, Metal Gear solid also demonstrated a more literal mix of cinema and espionage action, albeit from a third-person perspective.) In the early 2000s, the original Duty repressed Medal‘s efforts to make World War II films interactive, with great effort taken to recreate cinematic versions of the war’s battlefields.

Image: Code Mystics/Rare

Golden Eye isn’t as committed to replicating cinema as later games, but it also doesn’t quite belong to the same subgenre as the many arcade-y shooters that preceded it. It instead occupies a midpoint between these two dominant schools of shooter design.

This sense of existence in the space between major changes makes sense not only as a coincidence or determining factor, but also as a reflection of the Bond film and the larger cultural context that inspired its creation. In the 1995 film, the character was reintroduced after a six-year hiatus Permission to kill. Golden Eyethe first installment in the series taking place after the dissolution of the Soviet Union sees Bond navigating a new political landscape where the past manifests itself in the gangster terrorism of a former MI6 agent, presumed dead and quietly profiting from the economic chaos of post-Soviet Russia as an avenging avenger of Britain’s past.

like the game, Golden Eye sees Bond in transition. Brosnan’s first portrayal of the character softens the rampant weirdness of many of the earlier films, but is nowhere near as serious as the sassy, ​​introspective cop portrayed during the Daniel Craig era. Brosnan’s Bond isn’t exactly a gritty military man. Nor is he a hard-nosed killer or a grinning parody of a spy. Golden Eye plays a character who are both bent on thwarting a world-ending plot that stems from major contemporaneous political issues And an agent of the British Empire – one who sees good reasons to be optimistic about his future again.

James Bond Prepares A Kf7 Soviet For An Enemy Guard In Goldeneye 007

Image: Code Mystics/Rare

From the perspective of capitalist leaders, the mid-1990s could feel, at least temporarily, like an era of triumph: a victory for one guiding ideology in the apparent defeat of another. The era is now being positioned as something different – an exhalation between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of renewed geopolitical instability. In 2001, an eternal war against terrorism began, the consequences of which have defined the 21st century to this day.

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Bond reflected these changes with another seismic review: that of 2006 Casino royale, a film in which violence is depicted not by slumped gunshot victims and weightless fistfights, but by bloodied knuckles and anguished deaths. A decade after the N64s Golden Eye release and a year later Casino royale, Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare arrived to usher in the video game equivalent of this reinvention. With its success, the modern military shooter nurtured a grittier, less fantastical aesthetic that dominated the genre for a decade and is still popular today.

James Bond Stands Next To Natalya In An Alley In Goldeneye 007

Image: Code Mystics/Rare

Nowhere is this change more apparent than in the selection and naming of the weapons that swing at the bottom of a first-person shooter’s screen. The layer of abstraction that separated Golden Eye‘s Klobb, DD44 Dostovei or D5K Deutsche of the real-world firearms they replicate was swept aside for the fetishist weapon modeling (and real-world rights licenses) that would be expected from new each year Duty entry. The insect howling of ricochets that continued Golden Eye by convey a palpable sense of violence was replaced by super-precise, high-fidelity headshots. The culture that produces video games and action movies is changing, in both big and small ways.

In 2023, however, shooters – and video games in general – look set to go through a transitional period as filled with future possibilities and retrospectives as the era when Golden Eye issued. Retro style games are back to normal. Arcade action is combined with mood-driven or narrative shooters. Mainstream design trends, at least in shooters, are as concerned with the cinematic as they are with the lizard brain simply tickling. run fast And shoot faster.

In this kind of context, Golden Eye 007‘s reflection of a time between great changes feels as vital as ever.

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