Upon first seeing GoldenEye at the E3 convention, I was underwhelmed. I mean, here was yet another first-person shooter, with the only features setting it apart being the neat-looking sniper rifle and the fact that it was based on a movie that just about everyone had forgotten about. I couldn't have been more wrong. GoldenEye not only lives up to the "quality, not quantity" mantra that Nintendo continues to tout, it surpasses it. The sheer joy experienced by putting a bullet in some Russian's head with the sniper rifle, from 200 yards, never gets old, and the countless mission objectives spread across 12 different environments and three difficulty levels ensure that the game has the staying power of - dare I say it - Mario 64.
GoldenEye closely mirrors the plot of the 17th James Bond movie, starting with the daring bungee jump sequence and ending with a showdown between 007 and Alec Trevelyan atop a huge antenna. In between, you'll shoot scads of soldiers, plant explosives, escape from a train seconds before it explodes, and execute other decidedly Bond-like maneuvers. The entire game takes place from a Doom-like perspective, except that holding down the R button allows you to aim anywhere on the screen, and with the sniper rifle, zoom in for a nice, clean head shot.
The graphics in GoldenEye are incredible. From installations deep under the snow to lush Cuban jungles, each environment looks really good, with a decent amount of detail. There is a slight bit of fogging at the edge of your view, but hey, St. Petersburg is a foggy place. The sniper rifle alleviates some of the fog, enabling you to zoom up and peep the action long before the guards are alerted to your presence. Also, the characters in the game look really good. When you run into Boris, he actually looks like Alan Cumming. The only character who doesn't transfer favorably into the 3-D world is Natalya, who looks a little too square.
The music in GoldenEye is absolutely perfect, and adds a lot of ambience to the game. For instance, one of the later levels starts in an elevator, complete with laid-back elevator music. When you exit the elevator, the level's real soundtrack kicks in. A minor point, sure, but it demonstrates the detail of the game. The only thing that could make GoldenEye's sound better is the inclusion of speech.
GoldenEye is the type of game N64 owners have been waiting for since they finished Mario 64. It has outstanding graphics and sound, and contains a certain depth in its gameplay that really entices you to finish it on all three difficulty levels. If more N64 games use this as a model, as opposed to Cruis'n USA or KI Gold, then perhaps the system really does have a shot at toppling the PlayStation's reign as the dominant game platform.