Why GoldenEye 007 is still one of the greatest video games ever

The Nintendo 64's first masterpiece is twenty years old - here's why it changed gaming history

The Strokes debut album. ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’. The Adam And Joe Show. Nothing is more satisfying than when a bunch of inspired amateurs produce a game-changing slab of popular culture on a shoestring, which is just one of the reasons that GoldenEye 007, the legendary first-person N64 shooter cobbled together by the inexperienced developers Rare, is still considered one of the greatest video games ever made. To mark its twentieth anniversary a documentary on its importance is being made by Rollercoaster Films, a good enough reason to look back on why this blocky Bond caper left us shaken, stirred and dizzy as hell from diving off that goddam dam…

The graphics were amazing

For 1997. Today they look like Dire Straits have directed a Bond film, but at the time they seemed revolutionary. As the camera swept in over vast snowfields and gargantuan enemy bases swarming with patrolling Ruskies as the Bond theme played out, it felt like we were being dropped from above right into 007’s dinner jacket. The Bond girls were recognisably human, machine gun turrets actually emitted steam and that 3D swan dive off the dam at the start was heart-stopping stuff for a generation still playing Grand Theft Auto from above. The first time you stepped into this immersive world really did feel like Being Pierce Brosnan.

The aesthetic was perfect

The soundtrack would switch seamlessly between classic 007 twang-da-da-dang-dangs to arcade bleeps as you exited a lift into an underground bunker crawling with hapless pistol fodder, the routes through the levels were suitably stealthy and, best of all, you had that watch. Not a normal watch, Bond, but a laser-shooting electromagnetic timepiece that helps you get crucial keys, laser your way through trapdoors and generally feel like a Bondy boss.

The rifle scope made Deadshots of us all

It seems unthinkable now, but back in the 90s you could shoot the average Franken-Nazi directly in the face and it’d harm them equally as much as a graze on the shin. GoldenEye introduced the scaling of damage on enemies depending on where you shoot them and how protected they are at that point, which revolutionised shooters. Suddenly you were either a gung-ho bullet-sprayer with all the finesse of Prince Philip firing into a barrel of endangered species or a superhuman sniper using the brand new scope mode to one-shot enemies from all the way across the sodding map. The cult of the headshot ninja was born.

It was the best party game around

GoldenEye 007’s multi-player mode seemed like just as much of a life-changer. Friday nights in 1997 were all about sitting in your mate’s games dungeon slaughtering each other mercilessly in the You Only Live Twice, The Living Daylights, The Man With The Golden Gun and License To Kill death matches. It helped to introduce gaming as a group event and helped pave the way for Halo and the eGaming explosion. And no, you couldn’t be Oddjob, you overpowered, untargetable, evil-hatted git.