I am not sure I would have even bought a Nintendo 64 had it not been for the game Goldeneye 007, a.k.a. “Bond.”
My first introduction to RareWare’s Goldeneye 007 a.k.a. “Bond”—I will henceforth refer to this game as “Bond” and nothing else—was at my friend Adrian’s house in 1997. He played a mission for me and I was completely blown away. At the time, the 3D graphics were better than anything I had ever seen before. Up until that point, the best sprites (fancy word for graphics) I had ever seen were in the game Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo (also uncoincidentally made by Rare). What I saw in Bond was some next level shit.
I don’t remember whether I played multiplayer Bond with Adrian or whether he simply showed me a mission or two. I think at that point the game was so new to me that I either played it and was terrible at the game or may have simply preferred to watch Adrian play instead. However, when I left Adrian’s house that night, I had made a decision in my mind and that decision was that I had to purchase a Nintendo 64 as soon as I possibly could.
In the early winter of 1998, I was at a Walmart and I saw that they had a Nintendo 64 on sale for about $100 or maybe it was a tad more than $100 at that point. It’s possible it was even $150, but I think I remember it being around $100. If my memory is correct, I wasn’t working at my first job (CVS Pharmacy) at this point, but I did have a lot of money saved from the paper route I had since I was in the fifth grade (where my fellow Patriot Ledger paper boys at? Holla at ya boy!). I had the $100-$150 to spend on the Nintendo 64. I did discuss the purchase with my parents beforehand, but they pretty much said it was my money and I could do what I wanted with it. Thus, Nintendo 64 officially became the first video game console that I bought with my own hard-earned money. Up until that point, every video game system of mine had usually been a Christmas gift, although I think the original 8-bit Nintendo that my family got in 1987 or 1988 was not a Christmas gift. I think my brother may have paid for that with his own paper route money, but I’m not sure. All I know is that it wasn’t a Christmas gift because we got it in the middle of the summer. And I definitely didn’t pay for it myself because I was, like, five or six years old.
Indeed, the Nintendo 64 was going to be the very first game console that I could call my own. Of course, I would share it with anyone who wanted to play, but it felt good knowing that this video game system was something I bought myself and I owned myself.
|The Nintendo 64 box|
One unfortunate thing about getting the Nintendo 64 for such a bargain price was that no games came with the system. But I still had a good amount of paper route money to throw around, so I immediately bought two games that I knew I wanted from the get-go. One of those games was Mario Kart 64, and of course the second game was Bond. And those two games were all you really needed anyway. If you had those two games it would take a very, very long time to get sick of playing them. In fact, I would argue that the only other three games worth getting for Nintendo 64 were Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Bros. 64, and Perfect Dark, the latter of which wasn’t released until the year 2000 by Rare and was an unofficial sequel to—that’s right—Bond. Although there were a couple other good games that came out here and there, I’m pretty sure you were good if you had the five games that I mentioned above, but you were even good for a while if you just had Mario Kart 64 and Bond.
Actually, screw it, all you really needed was Bond. Bond was a game that was so good that you didn’t need any other games to keep you entertained.
|The box art for Goldeneye 007, aka "Bond"|
In fact, Bond was such a good game that it may come as a surprise to learn that the first-person shooter actually came from very humble beginnings. Made by an extremely inexperienced team of about nine or ten people in a farmhouse in the middle of England’s countryside, Nintendo never expected Bond to be the blockbuster game it turned out to be. In fact, Bond was originally going to be a game for the Super Nintendo and designed as a “rail shooter,” much like Virtua Cop and Star Fox, as opposed to the free-roaming first-person shooter game it ended up being. Rare, however, had enough freedom to experiment and be as creative as they wanted to be, mainly because Nintendo never expected all that much from them. Had they not had this kind of creative freedom, Rare probably never would have ended up making the masterpiece they ended up making. To say Bond was an unexpected success would likely be an understatement. It was one of the best games ever made that NOBODY saw coming.
I remember playing the first mission in Bond as though it were yesterday: THE DAM. You start out with the silent PP7, kill a few soldiers as stealthily as possible, trying your hardest for the headshot, and then you make your way up the stairs of a patrol tower and get the weapon that blew everyone’s mind upon first playing the game: The Sniper Rifle.
Oh man. Think about how fun it was getting that first kill with the sniper rifle up on the patrol tower there. You zoom in as far as you can, or maybe not all the way because if you’re zoomed in all the way, your breathing actually makes it a little difficult to aim. You go for the head. And, if you’re a skilled marksman, you take the Soviet soldier out in one shot.
It’s only a few minutes into the game at this point, but this is basically when most people decided that they were in love with Bond. The rest of the mission is great, but it’s definitely that first experience with the sniper rifle that hooks everyone in.
|Using the sniper rifle in the Dam mission|
The next mission after the Dam, the Facility, was always awesome, mainly because of the very first part of it when you’re crawling through a vent, shoot a soldier who is on the john and then you drop through the ceiling into a stall that is in the middle of a large restroom. Then you have some fun opening and closing the bathroom stalls to see if any Soviet soldiers are hiding in there. There is something that feels so authentic about this opening sequence to the Facility mission. The environment feels very “real” and it’s no surprise to learn that the game’s levels were designed by an actual architect named Karl Hilton. In fact, Hilton had more architectural experience than he did video game designing experience.
|The first kill from the vent in the Facility mission|
Another favorite mission of mine came four or five missions into the game: the Frigate. This was a hostage-saving mission and, admittedly, this was one of those missions that you only beat properly once or twice or at least enough times to advance in the game. Every other time you played this mission you basically picked up not just one phantom gun but the double-phantom (i.e. one gun in each hand) and then you went around the level shooting everything in sight (hostages included) and blew up every computer in sight as well. In short, this was a go-to mission of mine whenever I needed to blow off some stress. Play the Frigate. Get the double-phantom. Destroy everything. Ahhhhh ... goodbye stress. Serenity now.
|Double-phantoms in the Frigate mission|
Other favorite missions of mine included the train (probably my third favorite after the Facility and the Frigate), the Archives, the Bunker and sometimes the Silo or the Surface were fun to play as well.
My least favorite missions, only because they usually gave me anxiety, were Statue and the Jungle. Oh, and also the Control Room because that mission was extremely difficult, especially if you played it on 00 Agent mode. Come to think of it, I never beat that mission on 00 Agent mode. Never even came close. It’s possible I never even beat it on Special Agent mode, now that I think of it. Damn drone guns got me every time.
Speaking of modes, there were three different levels of difficulty that you could play missions on. The first level was Agent, the second level was Special Agent, and the third and most difficult level was 00 Agent. Each level of difficulty required you to achieve different mission objectives within the mission; obviously, the more difficult the mode (like Special Agent or 00 Agent), the more mission objectives there were to accomplish. I think the Control Room mission is known to be the most difficult level to beat on 00 Agent, second only to the Aztec level, which is one of the secret levels that opens up once you beat all missions on Secret Agent.
Like I said before, I never beat the Control Room mission on 00 Agent, nor did I ever beat the Aztec mission. However, I remember watching my friend Marc trying to beat both the Control Room level and especially the Aztec level on 00 Agent. The Aztec was so difficult that you literally couldn’t afford to take more than a couple hits of damage—especially if you had just started the mission—without needing to start over again. The second Marc got hit by a bullet near or around the beginning of the mission, he would restart the mission because he knew it wasn’t worth the time trying to beat it at that point. He had to accomplish the mission in basically a flawless way. I think it honestly took him a zillion tries before he actually beat Aztec. Once that mission was out of the way, though, the subsequent Egyptian mission was easier and I think he beat that one rather quickly.
|The Aztec mission|
So, yes, I was never all that great at doing the missions in Bond. I especially wasn’t as good as Marc was at the missions. He beat the game completely. I don’t even think I beat all the missions on Special Agent.
However, when it came to multiplayer mode, I was definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Oh yes, multiplayer mode. A mode in the game that almost didn’t exist to begin with. Can you believe that multiplayer was the very last thing the game designers added to the game and it was something Nintendo didn’t even want at first?  In fact, multiplayer mode wasn’t even added to Bond until April of 1997, four months before the game was released in August 1997. If they’d had the time, the Bond designers would have spent more effort on the character animations in this mode. For example, they would have altered the animation we see when a character crouches on their knees and goofily slides around on the floor. This animation is cheesy, indeed, and they would have animated this crouching move into something more realistic, but they simply didn’t have the time. Rare had already spent about three years on the game and 2 million dollars or so. Nintendo said it was time to stop development and release the SOB.
|Multiplayer mode. Pistols in the Temple.|
It is certainly ironic, however, that multiplayer mode, perhaps the funnest and most addictive part of the game, was something that was only added to Bond at the last minute. In fact, it was actually developed in secret by one of the designers just IN CASE Nintendo was interested in having it in the game. I guess once they witnessed the mode firsthand, Nintendo realized this was something the game really needed to have as a feature.
As for my friends and I, we were about as addicted to multiplayer mode as everyone else was. After playing it for hours upon hours, usually in Marc’s finished basement on his late-1980s-style television (you know, the ones that were built into a wooden box), my friends and I reached a point in multiplayer mode where we became extremely good. We were elite. And we were incredibly competitive with one another.
Although there are several different scenarios you can play in multiplayer mode, like Man with the Golden Gun (where you find a golden gun within the level that enables you to get one-shot kills), License to Kill (one shot from any weapon and you’re dead), You Only Live Twice (where you only get two lives and then you get eliminated from the game) or the Living Daylights (which is basically capture the flag), my friends and I usually did either the ‘Normal’ scenario or License to Kill.
‘Normal’ mode was when you picked a weapon or group of weapons and then hunted each other down, killing your opponent once their energy bar and body armor ran out. There were several weapons to choose from and several levels to choose from, but there were only about three or four weapon scenarios that my friends and I would play with and only four or five levels that we would choose from: the Complex (known to my friends as ‘the Plex’), the Facility (known to my friends as ‘the Faculty’), the Archives (known to my friends as ‘the Chives’), the Basement (known to my friends as ‘the baaaaaaase-ment’ said like Madam Ruby in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure [that goes without saying, right?]), the Stack, sometimes the Temple, occasionally the Bunker and very rarely the Caves. The other levels, like Library, Water Caverns and the Egyptian, were garbage in our eyes.
We normally began our “Bond session” with something like proximity mines in the Complex, which we would usually call “proxos in the plex” for short. There is one area of this level where the proximity mines are located, which we would refer to as “the fort,” and usually whoever gets in this area first is able to dominate the game because you basically booby trap every pathway that leads up to this fort with proximity mines and then wait for all of your opponents to get blown to bits. If you knew that somebody got to this area first, the best thing to do would be to try and take them out of there with the badass AR33 Assault Rifle as quickly as possible before they got situated and booby trapped every surrounding area with the mines. If you failed to do that, you could also try getting mines in their second location on the opposite side of the level, throwing them into the fort from far away, eventually all the mines would explode from being in too close proximity with one another and the fort would consequently become one big fire ball. Once the flames cleared, not to mention the stench of roasted flesh, you could go up there and take the fort over for yourself.
|A view of "the fort" from below|
The other good level to use proximity mines in was the Facility. Much like the fort in the Complex, the key to succeeding in this level would be to situate yourself in the bathroom (one of the two areas in the level where the proxos are located) and then throw mines everywhere outside of the bathroom, and wait for everybody to get blown to bits.
Now, if you were really savvy with your proxos, you would rig the body armor, ammo boxes and even weapons with the mines, usually in ways that were the least obvious so as to trick your fellow opponents. You would also rig the areas in a level where players commonly “spawned,” meaning the areas in the level where players are born again after they die. If you rigged the right places, you could kill your opponent within seconds of their spawning.
Other popular weapon/level scenarios were as follows:
Rocket launchers in the Stack. I think this was one of my favorite scenarios because I was good at shooting a rocket launcher from long distances and successfully hitting my target. I also liked shooting people from below the catwalks. Or, from the next room over, you could sometimes see somebody’s legs or even feet in the very long distance, you could shoot a rocket that way and take them out.
Grenade Launchers in the Temple. I’m not sure if it’s because the Temple has those large open spaces, but grenade launchers worked very well in this level. The fun thing about the grenade launchers was using your geometry skills and banking the grenades off of walls, almost like you’re shooting pool, banking your cue ball shots in such a strategic way so that they hit one or two sides of the pool table first before hitting your target.
Power Weapons in the wherever. Power weapons basically worked in any and all levels. The RC-P90 was the weapon everybody wanted, but if you were good with the shotgun, you could take your enemy out with just a few shots or sometimes even two shots if you aimed right for the cabeza.
Now, all of the scenarios I’ve mentioned above were good for a lot of fun times. But, to be frank, hours upon hours could be spent playing one particular scenario and that scenario only:
That scenario would be License to Kill with pistols.
This was, I think, by far the most fun scenario and I think this was the scenario that separated the men from the boys. There was a level of skill and slickness that was necessary to be good at License to Kill (i.e. one shot and you’re dead) and my friends and I got REALLY good at ‘License’ and I mean REALLY good.
You have to know how to lean around corners, how to strafe (with the N64’s yellow arrow buttons), how to quickly duck and you even have to learn how to crawl and/or slap if you find yourself in tight quarters and in a bind. In fact, sometimes it was actually easier using your slapper as opposed to a pistol. Using your slapper would often catch your opponent off guard … unless, of course, they already knew your habits and, in my case, my friends knew each other’s habits before long. In fact, I was known to do a lot of cheap shots with slapping and/or crouching while slapping, so they knew to expect such cheap shots from me. Let’s just say I was known to get the “Most Dishonorable” award more often than anyone else. I would occasionally get the “marksmanship” award as well (especially when playing Rockets in the Stack), so it’s not like I was a complete coward. I mean, if I were a total bitch, I would have chosen Oddjob for a character every time I played, which I never did. Oddjob was the most unfair character due to his short height that made him difficult to shoot. No, instead, I usually chose the female Moonraker Elite, whom my friends and I nicknamed “Emma.” Okay, she was on the short side as well, but nothing even close to the height of Oddjob!
|Oddjob was so short!|
|It was difficult to shoot Oddjob due to his height|
But, yes, playing in License to Kill mode took a tremendous amount of skill, no doubt about that. Perhaps the most skilled License to Kill player of all, however, was the one who knew how to use the Cougar revolver in a manner so that they pulled the trigger just a moment before they actually had their intended target in their sights. This was done because the Cougar was so slow in shooting that your target would be out of your crosshairs by the time the shot actually got off. Cougars also shot through doors so that could certainly come in handy. If you were behind a door or perhaps hiding in a bathroom stall (think Facility) and your opponent had a Cougar, you knew you needed to get the hell out of there. The door was not going to provide you sufficient protection from the Cougar bullet.
The best levels to do License to Kill in were the Basement, the Facility, the Archives (although the game only allowed you to play multiplayer in the Archives if you had three players or less; four players were apparently too much RAM for the Archives, I guess), and sometimes the Bunker or the Complex were good for ‘License’ as well.
The worst level for License to Kill and perhaps the worst overall level was the Library, which was basically a combination of the Basement and Stack. My friends and I never played the Library. In fact, whenever we set the level to “random,” which meant the computer chose a random level for you, once we saw that the ramp that led down to the basement was open and not closed, this meant we were dealing with the Library and we would immediately quit. What was wrong with the Library? It was too big of a level and it took too long to find people. Closer quarters was always better, like what you got in the Complex, the Facility or the Archives. The latter level, the Archives, was a two-floor level, but it was still small enough to be enjoyable.
Other honorable mentions as far as scenarios go:
Lasers (i.e. Moonrakers) in the Temple.
Throwing knives in the wherever (Basement and Facility worked well for throwing knives).
Grenade Launchers in the Archives, Basement and the Complex.
Rocket Launchers in the basement could be fun as well.
Remote mines in the wherever. These can be fun because, if you press the A and B buttons together on the N64 controller, you can detonate the mines right away, so you can literally throw the mines at your enemy and detonate without taking the time to take out your detonator watch. There are also good guns that come along with the remote mines scenario, including the AR33 Assault Rifle and the ZMG, which was basically an Uzi.
What is the worst weapon for multiplayer?
I would probably say sniper rifles and maybe timed mines. A close third is grenades but those can be fun to use if you time the release right (you take the grenade’s pin out by holding the N64 controller’s trigger [i.e. ‘Z button’] and then release the button when you want to throw it but make sure you don’t throw it too late or you’ll blow yourself up). There are also some cool guns that come along with the grenades scenario, like the Dostovei (probably my favorite of the pistols) and the Soviet. Ok, there is the Klobb as well, but who out there actually likes the Klobb? I used to call it the pebble-shooter because it literally felt so weak you might as well be shooting small pebbles at your enemies.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned phantom gun—you know, the one I used to wreak havoc in the Frigate mission—is nowhere to be found in multiplayer mode. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m assuming that this may have had something to do with the fact that they added the multiplayer mode to Bond so late into the production process. They probably didn’t have enough time or maybe not enough memory to have the Phantom in multiplayer mode.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that multiplayer mode also came with a whole slew of options, many of which enabled players to reach even greater heights in terms of their skill level. If you really wanted to be multiplayer elitists, you could choose to turn auto-aiming off (with auto-aiming, your gun automatically aims at an opponent when they’re reasonably close to your line of fire). You could turn sights off as well so you had to aim using your eyes with no help from crosshairs. Additionally, lowering everyone’s health in multiplayer was sometimes fun to do, maybe so that you had a half or even a quarter of a normal health bar.
Along with all these different options, there were “cheats” as well. These game cheats were obtained by doing missions in the game on either Agent, Secret Agent or 00 Agent. For example, one cheat enabled you to turn radar off in multiplayer, which meant the only way you could know where your enemies were was if you peaked at their screen. Some people, however, would take things a step further and tape carboard dividers onto their TV, basically creating small cubicles for each player, just so nobody could look at each other’s screen. Now that we have more updated versions of Bond on Xbox and the Wii, online play makes it impossible for players to peak at their opponents’ screens. Add this on top of no-radar mode, not to mention ‘no sights’ and ‘auto-aiming off’, and the men of Bond are definitely separated from the boys.
|The cardboard approach|
As for my friends, I honestly don’t think we played no-radar mode all that often; we usually used radars. Also, I’m pretty sure we left auto-aim on most of the time and left sights on as well. So maybe we weren’t as elite as we thought we were.
In addition to no radar, there were other fun cheats in the game as well. DK Mode (obtained when beating the Runway mission on Agent) was one of the funnest cheats that made every character’s head the size of beach balls. Paintball mode (obtained when beating the Dam mission on Secret Agent) was another fun cheat where your gun essentially turned into a paintball gun; instead of leaving bullet holes if you were shooting a wall or blood if you were shooting a person, colorful paint stains would be left behind instead. Other cool cheats were Invisibility (obtained when you beat Archives on 00 Agent), Tiny Bond (when you beat Surface on 00 Agent), unlimited ammo (when you beat Control Room on Secret Agent) and all guns (when you beat Egyptian on 00 Agent).
|Natalya in DK Mode|
Add all these cheats onto another slew of options within Mission mode, like playing in cinematic 16:9 ratio screen mode, adjusting the volume of the sound FX and the music separately (for example, you could play missions with only sound FX, no music), not to mention having a choice of four different control styles to choose from (Honey, Solitaire, Kissy and Goodnight) and what you realize is that Bond was probably more jam-packed with cool options and cheats than you ever remember it having. Indeed, Bond was an incredibly dense game with so many things to do and you can tell the game designers put a whole-hearted effort into the making of it. For a movie-based game (games based on movies were usually flops), Rare was NOT messing around when they were making this game. Were they aware that they were making perhaps one of the best video games of all time?
But I have to think that, at many points during the course of the game’s production, the main nine or ten designers responsible for making Bond likely realized they were making something incredibly special.
MATT BURNS is the author of several books, including his bestselling Kindle singles I Used to be a Gamer and I Dream of Dream Machine. He’s also written several novels, including his ‘punk novel’ Supermarket Zombies!as well as Weird Monster, Johnny Cruise and The Woman and the Dragon. Check out these books (and many more) on his Amazon author page HERE.
Other trending articles by Matt Burns that may be of interest to you:
I Dream of Dream Machine (a memoir of the local video arcade)
NEVER FORGET the Fun-O-Rama (a traveling carnival memoir)
A Love Letter to the Emerald Square Mall (about the death of the shopping mall age)
 Ehrenworth, Mikey. “The Retrograde Podcast.” The Complete History of Goldeneye 007 (feat. Alyse Knorr), Episode #23, iTunes, 25 July 2023.
 YouTube, “The Making of GoldenEye 007.”
 Riendeau, Danielle. “Multiplayer wasn’t planned in ‘Goldeneye’, and Other things I Didn’t Know.” Vice, 17 July 2018, https://www.vice.com/en/article/mb4eyy/goldeneye-n64-multiplayer-unplanned.
 YouTube, “The Making Of The N64 Classic Goldeneye.”
 Riendeau, “Multiplayer wasn’t planned.”
 YouTube, “The Making Of The N64 Classic Goldeneye.”