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‘GoldenEye 007’ on the Switch proves that sometimes, dead is better

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When GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo Switch was announced back in September, nostalgic gamers across the world rejoiced. Rare‘s iconic first-person shooter made waves when it originally launched in 1997, yet its complicated licensing deal between Nintendo and Rare’s owner Microsoft suggested that it would have a quiet death in the history books, despite rumblings of a remake in 2008 that never made it to release.

Today (January 27), as I hold the zombified corpse of GoldenEye 007 in my hands on the Switch, I wonder if that would have been for the best. Though I didn’t play GoldenEye 007 at launch (I was three months old) it was the second game I ever played when, five or six years later, I was bequeathed a hand-me-down Nintendo 64. For years, GoldenEye 007 was my go-to shooter – whether it was battering my brother as bad boy Alec Trevelyan or wreaking havoc on the streets of St. Petersburg in single-player, it felt unmatched.

There’s no denying that in its time, GoldenEye 007 was head and shoulders above everything else. But as I played some of the Switch version’s online multiplayer with other NME staffers, I started to wonder who this nostalgic necromancy was for. Certainly not me: abysmal controls turned tense shootouts into ridiculously awkward jousting matches, where the tactic of choice became running at each other while firing so that nobody had to try and actually aim. It became worse when we each tried new control schemes in the hopes of finding something more modern, which subjected each of our characters to nightmarish body horror as they writhed in circles while we tried to move them.

GoldenEye 007. Credit: Rare.
GoldenEye 007. Credit: Rare.

Trying to actually kill each other was so difficult, it was hilarious. While the Golden Gun of my youth seemed to be a dangerous yet fair game – one miss and you’re dead – it was now utterly bullshit, likely owing to the simple fact that my motor reflexes are now fully developed. Embracing the silliness, playing a one-hit kill mode with karate chops was the most fun we had – though even the game’s physics meant that if your victim died mid-chop, being hit by their falling body would bring you down with them.

Try as nostalgia might, it wasn’t enough. This was silly for all the wrong reasons. A huge part of it is Nintendo’s usual approach to its Nintendo 64 catalogue, which tries to make minimal changes to each title. In the game itself, that’s fair, but is there seriously a single person who seeks out nostalgia hits via outdated control schemes? It’s an awkward quandary -where is the line between modernising a game, and losing the magic?

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Sadly, GoldenEye 007 found that line by taking a sledgehammer to my childhood. It’s easy to overlook the game’s middling AI and let rip with the AK-47 to one of gaming’s all-time greatest soundtracks, but the rest? Not so invincible – sorry, Boris.

GoldenEye 007 is available on Nintendo Switch and Xbox Game Pass. 

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