25 years, 2 actors and 8 Bond films later, we finally have the opportunity to review Goldeneye on Xbox. Rare reissued Perfect Dark for Xbox 360 with graphical enhancements and full online multiplayer way back in 2010. Goldeneye for Xbox One and Series X/S is a pretty barebones port by comparison. It runs at a higher resolution, locked 30fps and features some platform-appropriate changes within the menus. Assets and gameplay remain largely as they were in 1997.
For Your Eyes Only
Freed from the crutch of the N64’s blurry, aggressive bilinear filtering, 007’s once chiseled features are looking somewhat fatigued. The simplistic geometry of the game’s environments is really showing its age, and graphical oddities are commonplace. Explosions do not feel powerful or threatening at all, as they crawl lazily across the screen.
Still, those classic sound effects are present, correct and sure to tug on N64 veterans’ heartstrings. The game’s trademark ricochet and reload sounds, Bond’s grunts when a bullet lands and a liberal application of the Bond theme and other musical cues will take you right back to 1997.
Diamonds Are Forever
The game’s single player story follows the plot of the eponymous movie pretty closely. Speed runners beware: all primary objectives must be completed to clear a level. This applies even where it is possible to skip some to reach the exit. Also. If you fail an objective and make your current mission unwinnable, you’ll have to restart the level manually.
No mod cons here. Where’s Q when you need him, eh?
Storytelling is not one of Goldeneye’s strengths. Text briefings beforehand and crude in-game captions are its only means to relay key plot points. In short, what you effectively have are isolated pockets of gameplay stitched together with a few words. The game was arguably well behind its peers even back in the mid-to-late nineties but feels positively archaic nowadays.
Goldeneye’s very generous auto aim gives it a unique and very satisfying feel. Bursting into a room and dispatching a clutch of henchmen with relative ease still hits the spot even after all this time. The weapons have real heft, and enemies react convincingly (at a glance, at least) to incoming fire. The breadth of the arsenal available to Bond is also impressive. The Moonraker Laser and Golden Gun are among few amusing nods to the wider 007 canon.
The Living Daylights
The N64 has an enduring reputation as a split screen powerhouse, and Goldeneye’s multiplayer was one of the titles that really put it on the map. You’d think online functionality would be a shoo-in, but not so for the Xbox build. The Switch version includes online grafted onto the original split screen mode, as with previous Expansion Pak releases. This means that you can see other players’ screens just as you would if they were in situ.
The lack of properly implemented online multiplayer is an enormously missed opportunity. We’d guess that perhaps the scope of the project was limited by legalities surrounding the Goldeneye license. Perhaps that’s why we eventually got this instead of cancelled-at-the-last-minute Xbox Live Arcade version.
Goldeneye’s moment-to-moment shooting feels and sounds as good as it ever did. It’s absolutely worth revisiting, even if some aspects of the campaign have aged like a dry martini in the sun. If you can mosey enough willing participants for local multiplayer, there’s fun to be had here.
Without the fully featured online suite fans have been craving all this time, however, Goldeneye is at best a pleasant, nostalgic distraction.
Goldeneye for Xbox was developed by Rare and Code Mystics and published by Microsoft. It released digitally on January 27, 2023.
Goldeneye remains fun at its core, but the campaign is showing its age. What could have been this update's killer app - full online multiplayer - is notable by its absense.