Tag Archives: Nintendo

Top 100 Games – 91 – F-Zero X

14 Mar

F-Zero X
Year: 1998
Genre: Racing

Driving games are, by their nature, limited. They have little to offer in terms of longevity or variety and often, despite the best efforts of developers, can be disappointing. F-Zero X is different. The original SNES version was a good racer, fun and different and with a reasonably impressive sense of speed for the time. The N64 iteration blows it away in every possible way. There’s a lot of depth to F-Zero X in comparison with other racing games, and it’s not just in the huge amount of unlockables on offer. There’s a learning curve that’s more long than steep, with the game being simple enough for a beginner to enjoy, but mastering each track requires a huge investment of time and effort.

The single player game is where F-Zero X shines brightest. Featuring a similar concept to Mario Kart – three race series of varying degrees of difficulty, on top of a huge roster of racers. The game is customisable based on player preference. While only 6 vehicles are available at the beginning, there are 30 in total, and unlocking them all is quite a challenge. Each vehicle is unique, despite there being only three stats – Body, boost and grip. The acceleration and max speed must be balanced before each race as well, and can be tailored to suit each of the many tracks. It’s quite detailed, and finding the right vehicle for your style takes a bit of time, but once you do, you know – it just feels right. This is a game that wants to give the player an abundance of choice, and a lot of variation in how races are tackled.

The racers are weird and wonderful - from dnosaurs to robots

Variety is the greatest strength of F-Zero X. Each track is unique, with tubes, tunnels, jumps, chicanes and various other hazards to be dealt with. Choosing whether to muscle past opponents, aim for speed or play it safe is critical, but each approach can pay off. This is where the game is tough to master. It’s not too hard to win on easier difficulty levels, but when trying to unlock some of the game’s content, the races become a tremendous challenge. With 30 opponents all vying for victory, a rival seeking to knock you out of the race and constant environmental dangers, races come down to a balance between aggressively battling other racers, boosting and hoping the energy recharge is coming up. It’s very much risk-reward based, as boosting consumes energy and leave you vulnerable, creating an exciting and brilliantly realised racer. The influence on future titles like Burnout is clear in the incredible sense of speed and gameplay mechanics, but F-Zero X is an incredible title in its own right and one of the best racing games ever made.

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Facebook Group Challenges Nintendo on Human Rights

27 Feb

After hearing about a facebook group who plan to take a stand against Nintendo by not purchasing a 3DS (more from the source: Destructoid) I was intrigued enough to investigate the group and what they had to say. Jim Sterling covers the bulk of it on Destructoid, but to summarise, Nintendo are alleged to use materials sourced from Congo, where conflict over mineral resources has led to violence, communities being intimidated and most disturbing, mass rape. While most electronics companies use some materials sourced from situations like that in Congo, Nintendo have been one of the few to avoid disclosure of potentially unethical practice, having a severe lack of transparecncy about sources, and have ignored communication on the issue. The facebook group simply wants to show support for the ‘Raise Hope for Congo’ campaign, which appears a noble cause. While personally I would recommend supporting the charity itself, or lobbying government rather than a profit-hungry business, there is nothing about the campaign that I can complain about.

I would appear to be in the minority. When Jim Sterling asks ‘Do you agree that Nintendo should be punished for possibly funding human rights abuse? Or do you accept this as a sad fact of capitalism in which the poor must exist for there to be wealth?’ he fails to offer a third, apparently more popular option: ‘Do you think that the campaign is just a bunch of attention seeking idiots?’ It seems that the majority of comments are simply an attack on the group. Comments such as ‘nobody gives a f**k so get a life’ are the norm, and they receive more of facebook’s ‘thanks’ currency than those which support the group. Such vitriol seems unnecessary, and even those who attempt a legitimate complaint simply ask ‘Is that PC you’re using conflict free?’ Which, I suppose makes sense to some degree, but why on Earth do people seem to think that highlighting the unethical practices of a company who could avoid them is a bad thing?

The campaign which identified Nintendo's practices

There are, it seems, a subsection of the gaming community who will support a company and its products no matter what. The kind of people who get angry if anyone says Call of Duty has had its day, instead of attempting to argue its merits. The vitriol directed at the group is as idiotic as it is unfounded. Many describe it as ‘stupid’ and its supporters as ‘hipocrits’ (sic), which seems remarkably unfair. The fact that a large majority of comments mention buying a 3DS to spite the group is a sad indication that gamers simply will not criticise the companies that make games or consoles. Worst of all, most of the commenters seem to have totally ignored the point the group’s creator wishes to make, that he wants a company he is a fan of to be more open about their business practices. Instead of reading this point, which is made clear, commenters offer a torrent of abuse. Yes, the group probably won’t make much impact, and many who support it will still probably buy the product, but why criticise? If this kind of campaign was to gather some support and gain publicity, it might at least indicate to Nintendo that they could benefit, as a business, from ethically sourced materials, or if they do already use them, from disclosing that information.

If nothing else, the campaign has made me personally aware of the companies I support. I am a ‘hipocrit’ (sic) typing this on a Toshiba laptop (Toshiba were as bad as Nintendo, in terms of transparency) but I am now aware of a resource I can use to aid me in making future purchases, and will look to support those companies which have been confirmed to operate in a more transparent manner in the future. There may be more Nintendo lovers than conscientious consumers, but if Nintendo were to be made aware of this, one can only hope that it appeals to their business sense and they do make some changes. The critics are right, they will sell the 3DS regardless, but apathy has never borne change.

For more information, here are some links:

‘I Will Not Buy a 3DS Until Nintendo Takes Action Against Conflict Materials’ on Facebook

‘Raise Hope For Congo’


Original article on Destructoid

You can also let Nintendo know that you disagree with their lack of corporate transparency here

Top 100 Games – 96 – Blast Corps

21 Feb

Blast Corps
Year: 1997
Genre: Puzzle

Rare became a household name during the latter days of the Super Nintendo’s lifespan after releasing hits like Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct. Their relationship with Nintendo over the previous years had been an odd one. Often Rare were willing to make lacklustre tie-ins, but the money they made presumably allowed them to create some inventive and interesting games, RC Pro-Am and Battletoads being some of the best. Now they are part of Microsoft’s pool of developers and continue to innovate with Kinect Sports. It was the N64 they’ll be remembered for though. During the lifespan of Nintendo’s last cartridge based console, Rare delivered a constant stream of quality games while others jumped ship to make games on CD. Even their sole tie-in, Goldeneye, was critically acclaimed and though now appears dated, it’s still beloved by most gamers of a certain age. Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini and Diddy Kong Racing, amongst others, cemented their reputation as the best developer, other than Nintendo themselves, for the console.

Their finest moment though, is a game that remains criminally overlooked. Blast Corps is one of the most creative, inventive and unique games ever made. Wildly imaginative, it makes the standard driving and shooting of their other games look pedestrian. Ditching the cutesy look of most of their N64 fare, Blast Corps still has a hugely appealing style. It’s colourful and cheerful, despite the extremely basic storyline being about a nuclear load-carrying truck about to crash and cause mass destruction. This bare-bones plot gave Rare free rein to make some extremely unique levels. Essentially, this is a puzzle game, but not in any traditional sense. It has more in common with Mech Warrior than Tetris, as well as pioneering destructive scenery before the likes of Red Faction were even conceived.

Wanton destruction is wonderfully cathartic

The gameplay has several different scenarios including driving, flying and some time trials, but the real joy is in the destruction levels. Given an ever-increasing set of bizarre vehicles, the player is tasked with clearing the way for the out-of-control truck. This is achieved by flying above buildings in a robot and crashing down upon them, rolling a robot into things, powersliding a truck, using the pneumatic sides of another to destroy things and many more besides. The sheer number of options available in terms of approaching each level is incredible, and there are medals to achieve based on time limits which add tremendous replay value. With a number of secrets to unlock, a globe dotted with missions for a map screen and some fiendishly clever puzzle elements, Blast Corps is like absolutely nothing else. While Rare imitated Mario 64 and Quake with aplomb, this was entirely their own creation, and it shows just how talented and creative the developers at Rare could be.

Top 100 Games – 99 – Wii Sports

11 Feb

Wii Sports
Year: 2006
Genre: Motion/Sports

It’s the game that launched a thousand remotes. Into televisions, windows and faces. Wii Sports was a primary reason for the early success of Nintendo’s risky venture. After the relative failure of the GameCube it took a revolutionary concept to bring Nintendo back to the top of the home console market. The Wii proved to be a huge hit, thanks in no small part to this humble collection of sports. It appealed not just to Nintendo fans and children, but to people who would never play a game otherwise. The simplicity of controlling games with motions rather than the complexity of a button-based control scheme was instrumental in bringing gaming to a new audience, but Wii Sports had more than that.

Bowling is the best sport on offer

The charm of the game is instantly noticeable, from the gentle music and jingles, to the use of mii avatars, cute representations of players (or anyone else for that matter) Coupled with a surprisingly good game, Wii Sports was a simple, accessible piece of entertainment. While the boxing falls a little flat, the other games are a joy. Baseball captures the essence of batting well, without the overcomplicated and dull rules. Golf is perfectly suited to the control system, although it would be vastly improved later by EA. Tennis is multiplayer heaven for family and friends, even non-gamers, and the bowling, simply sublime. By far the best sport on offer, bowling registers gentle wrist movements to measure force and spin and is far more intricate than the likes of tennis, which is little more than wrist-flicking. It’s easy to learn but genuinely difficult to master, and the fact that it’s still fun to play now, despite a slew of imitators just shows the brilliance of Wii Sports.

With Sony and Microsoft now jumping on the motion control bandwagon its clear Nintendo struck gold with the Wii. Without Wii Sports though, it may never have worked. The perfect showcase for the new controls, and one of the biggest innovations in gaming since 3D, it may have been bettered by Wii Sports Resort, but for what it achieved in putting gaming firmly on the mainstream map, Wii Sports deserves a spot on this list.

Games as Art – Part 2

27 Jan

The Discerning Consumer

In explaining why the gaming press fails to separate those games with a more artistic nature, it led me to us, the players, and our role in shaping the industry. With the press doing nothing to tell us which games are really special, it falls to the consumer. Unfortunately, gamers are, as a group, not exactly discerning. We probably buy far too many games, and still the more interesting ones are ignored. The marketing of certain releases is obviously a big influence, yet we don’t generally go out of our way, as a film buff would, to actually learn what is really good. And how are we expected to when the games a vocal minority of gamers cry out for are simply given the same, or worse review scores as those which permeate the consciousness through advertising and media coverage. It is rare that a smaller budget, or more artistic game is previewed extensively, and games thrive on the hype machine, aided by the internet and rabid fanboy-ism. Gamers are, to pigeonhole, ‘nerds’ and as such, cling to certain franchises as horror fans do (Someone kill the man who made ‘Saw’- preferably in an ironically over elaborate trap). The ‘hardcore’ audience simply demands more sequels, or even remakes from their developer or publisher of choice. The smaller community, if it even exists, who want games to transcend these stereotypes are largely ignored, it is far easier to make money from a core consumer base that will support even a substandard product.

It’s usually developers and publishers who suffer the criticism of the vocal minority, but that seems rather reductionist. Gamers need to point the finger in some other directions. I’ve already mentioned the gaming press, but more so – at themselves. The publishers are merely satisfying the incredible demand of the majority of consumers, the same way movie, book and music companies do. In that sense, the gaming press serves a similar function, they are populist, they offer a product which praises across the board, for a variety of reasons, because there are many reasons we play games, as there are many reasons we go to the movies or read a novel. As I said in the previous article, games have not been separated as other media have. There are trashy novels, to be read on holidays or for a light read before bed, and there is literature, which is to be savoured, debated and reflected upon. In gaming terms, we consume and reflect on everything. Call of Duty (I think it’s fair I single this series out, but it’s not alone) is simply a ‘holiday read’ or ‘popcorn movie’ but it is debated ad infinitum, along with Halo, Battlefield and every other major release. The problem is the subject of these debates.

Gamers don’t look at their hobby the way a film buff does. They pore over technical details, differences between consoles, graphics, frames per second and every other aspect of the coding. Content is last on the list of priorities and story has only recently become a strong focus, but only as far as looking to generic Hollywood action movies for inspiration. I’m sorry, but Uncharted 2 is just not that good, it’s another generic cover shooter with a slightly more interesting exploding background. It’s not that there’s no place for that kind of thing, I enjoy a simple distraction from the existential dilemma of modern life as much as the next man, but I often want more from my entertainment, I want to think and be challenged. Games very, very rarely do that. What young game designer, who has creative and intelligent ideas, has a chance to use them in an industry so dominated by large publishers, huge budgets and worst of all, an audience that rewards mediocrity and repetition. Did we really need another Assassin’s Creed game this year? Yes, the sequel was an improvement on the original, but maybe the developers would have been better off spending far more time crafting a third instalment which was a huge improvement over the second, which told a new story in a new way. The critical praise and consumer reaction to Assassin’s Creed 2 however, meant that the publishers wanted to strike while the iron was hot, and build a franchise. There’s more profit to be made now, and into the future as things stand in gaming, from franchise-building, which has become the goal for publishers.

Gamers should celebrate the original, the new IP, but we stick with the brand we trust. Magazines don’t drop review scores even if the sequel is almost identical, and we continue to give money away for a few more tries at something we enjoyed, in absence of guaranteed fun from a brand we don’t know. This incredible lack of trust in a new commodity has led to countless iterations of the most tired of formulas. Final Fantasy may change its story and characters in each new game, but the brand remains, despite the game being unrecognisable to those who remember its heyday. The franchise has changed, but utterly failed to innovate, and that remains true for most of the industry. Mediocre games which achieve even moderate success garner sequels. Was it really necessary to give us another ‘Kane and Lynch’? Well, yes, of course it was, the gaming public never tires of shooting people. Even Rockstar, when attempting to create a game set in the Old American West, an entirely admirable change from the greys and browns of urban grime or warfare, chose to resurrect an IP most had no knowledge of. Pointless, but they surely had their reasons to do so, and it boils down to the importance of brand recognition in generating interest. Even an obscure brand is more valuable than an entirely new entity.

If we want to see games challenge other art forms and establish themselves as worthy, then we need to change the way we approach the industry. Firstly, buying every major release, or most of them, is an exercise in futility, they’re mostly the same as each other, and most of those which offer something different end up being clones of other games. How many versions of God of War have appeared since Kratos first ripped the head off a mythical beast? And God of War is derivative itself, it’s just a more polished scrolling fighter. If sequels, imitations and remakes stopped selling as well as they do, then developers would be forced to push the envelope and create something more unique. This in turn would increase competition to provide the most originality and creativity, to offer something different, be it story or gameplay, and to innovate rather than imitate. It is through this that we might see more artistic games. We also need to stop clinging to our precious franchises. Yes, the characters might be ones we like, but seeing them in their seventh game is simply absurd. I’m not quite as critical of Nintendo for this however, they do attempt to create a new Mario or Metroid experience somewhat regularly, and while say, Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy share similar core mechanics, they are vastly different games. There is a good reason why Nintendo continue to compel a new audience, and it is quality and imagination, not the same game over and over.

The backlash over Metroid: Other M is an interesting example of the problems with how we approach our hobby. Metroid Prime had three games in its series, it had run its course after adding the innovation of Wii controls. Nintendo wisely moved the franchise, which they know makes them more money than a new IP, that’s the market reality, to a new developer. (As much as I’d like to see a whole new game, setting and character, Nintendo do have to make money.)This was a disappointment for many fans, but do we need a fourth Metroid Prime game? Yes, Team Ninja changed some of the main character’s traits and personality, but they also made something different, and that should be commended, and Nintendo praised for taking a risk when every other company is content to offer the same thing in a different box. We, as consumers, even those of us who consider ourselves informed, are failing to reward intelligence and innovation, and the backlash against us has begun as the games we play have become more bland than ever. Thank goodness for the downloadable games of XBLA and PSN, where some wonderfully original titles like the beautiful and poignant ‘Flower’ or the unsettling ‘Limbo’ can be found. The problem however, is that without marketing from the companies, without reviews and press reflecting it, and without gamers making the effort to seek it out, imagination will always be trumped by the safety of the familiar, and this will inevitably lead to the continued lack of respect games receive in the artistic pantheon.

The Five Worst Movies Based On Games

25 Jan

I may not be a classical hero, but I can say with more than a little confidence that a special corner of the underworld is reserved for those in the movie industry who decide games should be turned into the most hideous and insulting of cinematic creations. There may be the occasional film related to games that actually deserves to be watched, such as ‘The King of Kong’ or… well it’s not exactly the most artistic of genres. With that in mind, I’m going to try to choose the worst five. I have friends who know film, but who, like me, are entirely willing to forgo our intelligence, values and tastes to watch the latest Resident Evil, or sit through another abomination directed by Uwe Boll, so I can claim a small level of expertise in the field. Before we go any furhter, honourable mention to a few who just weren’t quite awful enough to make the list (or in the case of DOA, that I forgot about until I was finished)
Resident Evil: Extinction, Dead or Alive, Silent Hill, Wing Commander, Hitman, Max Payne and Prince of Persia. Yes, they are mostly awful, but that’s only a taste of the horrors ahead. It’s about to get a lot worse.

At number five, we find that most hideous of creations, the ‘good’ game movie. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within’ had an enormous budget, was marketed heavily, and had the backing of one of the few mainstream publishers of games who focus heavily on story. Why it became so unwatchable is beyond me. Credit where it’s due, the effects are phenomenal. This looks better than CG movies do now, but with a loyal fan base rabidly expecting a strong plot and great performances from the voice actors, it should come as some surprise that the movie was a confused mess of incoherent plot. Of course, for those of us initiated to Squaresoft, this came as no surprise. Production values through the roof, marketing which promised a true epic… Final Fantasy VIII anyone? What we got, after so much to look forward to, was a story which was excruciatingly dull. But it looked pretty, so pretty.

Thankfully, most game movies are well aware that they’re bad. They don’t pretend, they don’t try to be clever, they just give gamers what they love in movie form. What’s not to like? Well, frankly, a lot. Doom took one of gaming’s most beloved franchises and assumed this would be enough to make a successful movie. Quick pop quiz – What is Doom’s plot? Even if you know that it’s about space marines stranded on a planet full of hostile creatures from Hell (or something), it hardly screams ‘Oscar nomination’ does it? Featuring a particularly wooden performance from The Rock, who actually salvages some credibility with a fun, WWE-esque heel turn, (um, spoiler) the movie is an abomination. The plot is actually quite close to the game, which hardly helps matters, and the performances are so poor they make Steven Seagal look like Sidney Poitier. Close your eyes during the first person ‘nod’ to the source material, or you may suffer motion sickness. I’m not kidding.

Kylie Minogue, Jean Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia… yes, that’s right, people you may have heard of. (If you haven’t heard of Raul Julia, shame on you.) And yes, I’m talking about Street Fighter: The Movie. You’ve seen it, I know you have. No gamer hasn’t, and no gamer doesn’t regret it. Ok, it has a certain appeal that increases after a few beers and an inventive drinking game, but this is still a hideous effort at creating a movie based on a game. Featuring most of the classic characters in bit part roles, we follow Guile (Van Damme) as he tries to stop the evil M. Bison. (Julia) This involves a battle between the U.N. and Shadaloo, E Honda as a cameraman, Dee Jay as an I.T. worker in Shadaloo HQ and Cammy as Kylie Minogue. No, I don’t know what’s going on either. At least the screenwriters here tried to create a plot (unlike the Neanderthals who worked on Doom) but what they created made little to no sense, and all attempts to include as many characters as possible seemed to just exacerbate how poor each interpretation of said character was. Re-imaginings of classic characters don’t get worse than this…

OH WAIT! Super Mario Bros. Yes, the lovable plumber’s pipe-diving adventures were considered plot-heavy enough for a movie adaptation. Of course, the imaginative and interesting world of Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom isn’t Hollywood ready. It needed some grit, some edge, some more moronic buzz-words. So it got a makeover, a darker, more mature one. With Goombas now 7-foot tall beefcakes with pinheads, Yoshi a velociraptor and Dennis Hopper as ‘King Koopa’ phoning in one of the worst performances of his career, this could only be awful, and awful it was. Bob Hoskins, another credible actor, sells his soul for the attempt to flush his career away as Mario, while John Leguizamo finds as many ways as possible to make the audience cringe as Luigi. Somehow all the Koopas are gangsters in an alternate universe that looks like the set designers drunkenly recreated Total Recall’s Mars. How this film ever made it past so many executives, producers, editors and actual talented actors without being canned is a testament to the folly of man more damning than any act of evil I can think of*.

Coming in at number one, with a bullet (I can hope) is not one movie, but a man. A man who has sullied the name of many a beloved franchise, who has done more to upset gamers than the Australian government’s policy on censorship. (Presumably) Well actually, that’s kind of unfair, because House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark and Bloodrayne are hardly ‘beloved franchises’ but he still butchers them with aplomb. Let’s start with Alone in the Dark, which stars ‘ham for hire’ Christian Slater in what is easily the worst performance of his career, and that’s saying something. Slater veers between overacting and barely being awake, and his co-stars are far worse. They fight monsters, and supermen, and monsters and eventually he sleeps with the female lead in the kind of love scene that makes you wonder if Slater has ever actually seen a woman. So, awful then. House of the Dead is horrible too, but for different reasons. It starts off similarly to most generic horror movies, but suddenly angry and confused zombies in Halloween outfits are running around like headless chickens. The scenes are shot in a way that I’m sure Boll thought would make the viewer disoriented and afraid, but it just makes one confused and upset. Unfortunately I’m yet to subject myself to Postal, Bloodrayne, Bloodrayne 2, Bloodrayne (not joking here) 3, Far Cry, Rampage or any of Boll’s other works. Boll is so unpopular, and his critics so vocal, that he felt the need to challenge some of them to a boxing match (see main image for proof). In true moronic schoolyard bully fashion, Boll failed to reveal his semi-professional ability and he unfortunately got to cause some pain to the critics who stung him with words. An online petition even exists to try force him to retire. He’s been panned across the board, his films are considered some of the worst of all time, yet the fact I’ve seen two of them, one on non-satellite television no less, really speaks for his audience. We gamers are not a discriminating bunch.

*(Dramatisation – may not have happened)

Then and Now – Goldeneye 007

21 Jan

Then

I have to have one, I need it, I can’t live without it. That essentially sums up my feelings about the Nintendo 64 after playing Goldeneye. I was just a fool with a PlayStation and a copy of Star Wars: Dark Forces, in all its pseudo 3d, Doom-lite glory. Goldeneye was incredible, a proper first person shooter on a console. I had played Quake and Doom on friend’s PCs and been impressed, but Goldeneye blew them out of the water. The levels looked amazingly detailed, the graphics were mouth-wateringly good and the gameplay was sublime. The N64 control pad was the perfect companion, the Z button was my trigger, the R my sights. Everything worked beautifully in tandem. The missions were immensely good fun, with plenty of options and actual stealth. I didn’t have to just run around shooting monsters, I was using a silencer, taking out cameras, throwing knives at guards. Then there were the cheats earned for completing levels in a certain time, all of which just added to the fun. (Paintball mode!) More difficulty meant more objectives and more of the level to discover. The game just kept on giving. I had only borrowed it from a friend after I got an N64, and he didn’t get it back for some time. The cherry on that cake though, was the multiplayer. There were four of us playing at once, four! I’d never seen the likes of it. It was even more fun than the single player. Proximity mines were my weapon of choice and I was as devious as they come with them. My friends died and had no idea why, until I taunted them mercilessly. Hours and hours of my life were poured into Goldeneye, and if I could do it all again I probably would, because they were an absolute blast.

Now

Rare produced some of the N64’s biggest games, including Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark and the phenomenal and underrated Blast Corps (If you haven’t played it, pick it up and thank me later) They were instrumental in the success of the console outside Japan, and the pick of the litter was Goldeneye. Revered as the game that brought the FPS to consoles, for better or worse, Goldeneye brought a huge number of innovations to FPS gaming, from the stealth elements to the use of objective-based mission structure. Goldeneye became the template for future games of its ilk. Sadly, like most original titles, it was later games which would make the most of its innovations. The late 90’s saw the FPS genre explode in popularity, and with it came shooters which were far more technically impressive, and still stand up wonderfully today, Half Life being the most notable example.

Goldeneye is still a fun game, don’t get me wrong, but it has a huge amount of flaws which are blatantly obvious under modern scrutiny. The biggest problem is the controls, which seemed so good at the time. The use of the analogue stick to walk forward, but look left to right was a poor choice, strafing is difficult and thanks to my becoming used to modern FPS controls I tended to stagger drunkenly forward in a zigzag pattern, rather than just smoothly going in a straight line. It took some getting used to, but the controls are far from intuitive and at certain moments I found myself fumbling for the right button to strafe and trying to change my weapon at the same time. Turok actually managed to get the FPS controls nailed down as best they could be on N64, but changing to a similar control scheme here was a miserable failure, thanks to Goldeneye being made for the default system. Trying to shoot the hatch on the train level was an exercise in futility.

The speed of the game is also pretty high on the list of flaws, low frame rate means the enemies move even slower when a lot is happening on screen, with the occasional feeling of a lag between control and on-screen movement. Explosions ratchet the pace of things down even further and it becomes quickly apparent that the great graphics come with a price. It’s not totally game-breaking, and it’s usually an element of games I don’t take any interest in, but it’s too noticeable to ignore here. Especially when there are exploding crates almost everywhere. Those great graphics are rife with glitches too, enemies clip through walls, managing to kill you despite being behind a closed door, and this is a fairly common occurrence. The Jungle level is a real low point for the graphics, a confusing mess where you can be shot by seemingly invisible enemies. It would have made a great Predator game though.

While I’m on the subject, why are there exploding crates everywhere? It’s as if the game designers just wanted to frustrate in as many ways as possible. Crates explode, hurt you, then the slowdown causes you to get shot a few times and later in the level you die, knowing that if it wasn’t for those crates you’d still be alive. What are they keeping in them anyway? Worse still, if the crates hadn’t exploded, Natalya might still be alive, instead of her death causing an instant failed mission and a restart. Escorting her around is absolute torture, and the point where you have to protect her as a constant stream of guards shoot from every conceivable angle is one of the most frustrating in gaming history.

The inclusion of a vehicle level seemed extremely impressive when the game was released, but the tank level is an absolute mess to play now. Mines are impossible to see, they’re the same colour as the ground, and the controls are horrible. It’s next to impossible to drive and shoot at the same time, but stopping means being hit by rockets, as does trying to speed through the level without shooting. Might I remind you, tanks are not fast. The stealth doesn’t really work either. Trying to replay the second Bunker level is confusing to say the least. There is no way to get out of the cell you start in without alerting the guard and seemingly no way to get the silenced pistol without killing a roomful of guards with a rifle, and incurring the wrath of the endless stream of respawning goons that fill the level, and again, cause massive slowdown. Then Natalya stands between you and the guards, you shoot her, and that’s all she wrote, quit, restart. I remember there being throwing knives in a pit to the right of that cell, but I can’t find them anymore, and really, a secret like that shouldn’t be necessary to complete the level.

I’m probably being far too critical, Goldeneye was unbelievably good when first released, and for good reason. It has some really well-designed levels, looks great and is a fun game to play. The weapons feel satisfying and varied, and the challenge of increased difficulty and tougher objectives remains a good reason to play, better than the pointless achievements we’re stuck with this generation anyway. There are some real highlights amongst the levels. The Frigate and Train levels stand out in particular, and the mad dash through the Facility necessitated by that time limit (which must be beaten to unlock a cheat) is still thrilling. The enemy AI may be poor, but it’s forgivable for a game as old as this, and the difficulty is pitch perfect aside from the occasional frustration, mostly due to some poor design choices. Again, forgivable considering the sheer number of new ideas on offer.

It’s tough to say whether Goldeneye is still worth playing. As an FPS, probably not when games like Half Life 2, or even the original Half Life, exist, but on its own merits it is a fun slice of N64 action. The multiplayer is still great, though having only four players makes some of the maps feel enormous, and you can spend a lot of time aimlessly wandering around in circles, though it’s all worth it when a proximity mine takes out one of your friends and you get to gloat. The post-match rewards are a really brilliant touch, and checking them after every game is always entertaining. I still get ‘most cowardly’ more often than not. Single player is a great example of well-crafted gaming, one which still has that addictiveness thanks to the unlockables and the genuine feeling of progression. Not having checkpoints or regenerating health is a huge plus in my book, and makes things far more challenging. Knowing one hit means instant death, but being so close to the end of a level you just manage to push through and complete it, that’s what gaming is about. There are better games, and Goldeneye is something of a museum piece in the FPS world, a seminal innovator which has been bettered but still deserves high regard, and I’d still rather play it than Black Ops.