GoldenEye 007 was an iconic game of the late 1990s, with everyone huddled around their Nintendo 64s to get in on the split-screen action. 25 years later, we spoke to some of the masterminds behind it, and how the game’s legacy stands strong today.
When gamers discuss what some of the most iconic video games are, GoldenEye 007 is one title that is sure to be mentioned. The game defied all odds – being from a licensed movie franchise and all – and was a colossal success for the Nintendo 64.
GoldenEye managed to sell more than eight million units worldwide, making it the third best-selling game for the N64 behind Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64. In 1998, GoldenEye won the Games Award at the BAFTAs and in the same year, won four major awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.
One aspect of the game that players still talk about is the audio design and soundtrack. One of GoldenEye’s composers, Grant Kirkhope, sat down with Dexerto to discuss his work on the game as well as reflect on the development process, initial reception to the game and how, 25 years later, the game is considered a classic.
How an inexperienced team came together to create a classic
Development for GoldenEye 007 began in 1995, with Rare enlisting a team that, before GoldenEye, had very little experience playing games. Kirkhope has managed to build a name for himself now with World of Warcraft, Banjo-Kazooie, and the Civilization franchise on his resume. But back then GoldenEye was one of his first-ever jobs, and a breakout one at that.
“I think I didn’t know enough to feel the pressure like I’ve only been there a few weeks really, and it’s my first job I’ve ever had in my life and I was playing rock bands and all sorts of stuff before I went to work at Rare,” he told Dexerto.
“I was just excited to be there. None of the team had made a game before. So you know everybody was just kind of going, I don’t know, sounds right to me, looks alright to me. I sometimes feel that’s why the game is good because no one knew what we were doing. We just kind of crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.”
Kirkhope chalks the success of GoldenEye 007 up to the “essence” of the team as being a pivotal factor. And of course, the fact that everyone working on the project was a “massive Bond fan.”
However, for Kirkhope and the rest of the audio team, the hardest obstacle they had to overcome was the limitations of the N64 cartridge: “I think the whole cartridge was 8 megabytes like megabits. It was tiny and we had one megabit for the music… We couldn’t have anything that was even remotely approaching CD quality. We couldn’t have anything that long, so we have to kind of wait to loop symbols, which is ridiculous.”
Kirkhope added that despite being a slightly “dreadful” process he is amazed that “people still like the sound of it these days” given “it’s pretty primitive.”
GoldenEye’s iconic multiplayer mode almost didn’t ship
One element to GoldenEye that really helped the game reach the heights it did was its groundbreaking first-person shooter experience. In particular, the game was one of the first examples of how the FPS genre could be a juggernaut for the multiplayer experience.
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GoldenEye’s split-screen multiplayer game mode is what many gamers will have fond memories of. To this day, people still fire up their N64, grab up to four controllers and boot up the classic split screen experience.
While this element of the game was a major contributing factor to the success of the game, it was apparently something Nintendo didn’t think it would be worth “investing in.” Kirkhope said this was likely due to the game already being 2 years late.
However, the dev team decided to go “behind Nintendo’s backs” and make the multiplayer in secret. It’s amazing to think of GoldenEye 007 without multiplayer really, an experience that Kirkhope describes as a “fun memory” for many people.
“That was the college dorm game for years, sitting on your bedroom on the floor, having beers and pizza and hitting each other when you’re playing. I feel like that’s ’cause people play online these days, it’s. I think they’re super fun times that people will remember, especially about that game, I just think that’s a great memory for people.”
Even now, the multiplayer experience lives on, with online tournaments still held as a way for players to compete and show off their GoldenEye skills. Big gaming events like PAX have even held these tournaments.
GoldenEye 007’s legacy 25 years on
Players may look back on GoldenEye 007 with rose-tinted glasses, but whether you played it or not, it’s undeniably a gaming classic. Kirkhope admits the game “doesn’t look great” to anyone but admits that he still feels “privileged and humbled” that so many people still want to play it and that all these years later it is still talked about.
“I’m glad people still want to play it. I think that nostalgia really does play a big part of that game. If you’re part of somebody’s childhood and even in the smallest way, it’s such a special thing that’s not lost on me.”
And when finally asked if he would ever work on another James Bond game, Kirkhope was quick to jump at the chance: “Sign me up. I’ll start tomorrow. I’d love to do it.”