Not long after celebrating its 25th anniversary last year, the tangled nest of rights issues surrounding GoldenEye 007 was untangled just enough for the classic first-person shooter to be ported to modern platforms. Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, as well as digital owners of Rare Replay, now have access to Rare’s seminal FPS.
Of course, your platform of choice may have a significant impact on the experience, with the Switch version being the only one to support online multiplayer (but being saddled with less-than-ideal controls, to say the least). Some complaints have emerged regarding various technical issues, the Xbox version’s developer, Code Mystics, has provided explanations where it can, such as how 60fps support (which was now included) created issues and how visual glitches are authentic to the original version on Nintendo 64 .
However you feel about that, there’s no denying GoldenEye was a critical game in the history of first-person shooters, particularly on console. But what’s it like to play now? Rose-colored glasses can make an old game seem better in our memories than it would be to actually play, so we put the game through its paces to see what we make of the game in 2023.
A campaign that still has its charms
I think for most people, multiplayer is what comes to mind first when remembering GoldenEye. And for as much fun as I did have with it, it was Perfect Dark that caused me to dump countless hours into multiplayer thanks to its introduction of bots. For me, GoldenEye was first and foremost a game about taking turns running through the campaign, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the campaign to be such an enjoyable experience.
What I particularly like is its approach to difficulty, with the higher settings not only giving you less ammo and making combat more challenging, but layering in additional objectives for you to hunt down and complete. While the lower-end is typically as simple as “get to the end of the level,” others require you to locate and destroy objects, use gadgets to activate computers or other equipment, or avoid civilian casualties. And beyond a simple briefing, your hand isn’t held from one objective to the next. Instead, you have to scour levels and generally figure out what to do. That can lead to the occasional bout of frustration if you can’t figure out the objective, but it’s nonetheless been fun to run through these levels for the first time in decades at a higher difficulty than I could manage as a 10-year-old kid. — Chris Pereira
1997’s GoldenEye is one of my favorite games of all time. My family never owned an N64, but for one week every summer, my parents rented one (yes, really, that was a thing). I have very fond memories of playing the James Bond game for N64 with my friends and siblings growing up. So I wasted no time in jumping into the re-release on Xbox Game Pass when it launched. My first thought? Nostalgia is a seductive liar.
After playing the iconic opening Dam mission, I immediately felt how dated the game is (of course!), but that is part of the charm for this re-release. It was a blast revisiting the iconic locations that I enjoyed so much in my youth and seeing the low-res character models and hearing the silly death gurgles brought me back. But the game doesn’t hold up very well (obviously!), apart from enjoying it as a piece of nostalgia. I always had the most fun playing multiplayer, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I’m guessing that will help rekindle my fondness for the iconic shooter. GoldenEye 007 feels like a perfect example of what makes Game Pass great. It’s a game I have a huge interest in, but wouldn’t necessarily feel wonderful about plopping down the cash to buy it outright. GoldenEye 007 will always hold a special place in my heart, and I look forward to playing more and more of the re-release in the days to come. — Eddie Makuch
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Classic fun, modern frustration
I’ve been playing GoldenEye since before I could even read. The game’s sound effects are permanently etched into my memory, and I’ve probably played the first Dam level upwards of 100 times. Jumping into the game on Xbox Series X|S felt like going back in time, but looking at the game as I remembered it rather than what it would actually look like if I set up my Nintendo 64. Every shot from James Bond’s PP7 gave me a rush of nostalgic joy, as did seeing the goofy little hops and somersaults that the hapless enemies use to avoid gunfire. None of this carried over to the Nintendo Switch version, which is essentially just an emulated version of the original N64 game–without attempting to rectify the controller differences. This makes it, at least without customizing a controller profile on the Switch itself, basically unplayable, but the Xbox version felt like reuniting with an old friend.
But old friends sometimes have problems you don’t remember like the positive stuff. In the case of GoldenEye, its progression system feels borderline archaic in 2023. Fire one shot off target and accidentally kill Natalya? You’ll have to restart the entire level, because there aren’t any checkpoints. Certain levels are short enough to make this less of an issue, but it certainly stings to have it happen just as you’re about to reach the exit. — Gabe Gurwin
The feeling of being a super spy
I’ve already said my piece about how the Switch’s emulation-based approach makes it a less-than-ideal way to experience the classic, whereas the Xbox version feels properly updated to control more-or-less like you’d expect from a first-person shooter. I can’t recommend enough that if you have the choice, you should play on an Xbox console. That serious caveat aside, though, what surprised me the most was that after years of assuming that it wouldn’t really hold up, it actually does surprisingly well. It’s not as if the experience feels entirely modernized, but it is comfortably nostalgic.
After intending to just get my feet wet by finishing a stage or two, I ended up playing more simply because I was enjoying my time with the muscle memory of guard placements and gadget use. And all these years later, I still love how every stage is structured with multiple tiers of objectives, making the process of learning about each stage a sort of clockwork puzzle. The stages are short but that makes them repeatable, so after multiple trips you’ll learn every little pattern and point of interest so that you can execute the ultimate flawless run. Nothing else captures the feeling of being 007. — Steve Watts
As a first-time player, I’m pleasantly surprised
I never played GoldenEye growing up. The only times I ever did were in college when a roommate whostill carried their N64 with them like it was the nuclear football would want to boot it up and play a few split-screen games. However, those instances were few and far between, as I found, like many players (both newcomers and nostalgic ones alike), that the game had not aged particularly well. With these low expectations in mind, I was honestly tickled by the game’s campaign on Xbox. Refreshed controls and uprezed textures have gone a long way to highlight that the core of GoldenEye’s gameplay is as rock solid as everyone remembers.
In a world where new FPS games are dropping all the time, each with their own litany of unique mechanics and quirks, it was a breath of fresh air to play something that really just nails the fundamentals. It was also easy to understand how revolutionary its 3D sandbox was at the time of its release, and how it’s no wonder so many people hold this game in such high regard.
I will never touch the online with the Switch version and its archaic controls, however, lest it taint my experience. — Tom Caswell
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