GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 is one of those games that will forever be held up as a milestone in the art. It wasn’t the first FPS on a console or the first FPS on the Nintendo 64, but it was unquestionably the best. And the most influential. GoldenEye 007 inspired the development of Half-Life and reportedly prompted the creation of the Medal of Honor series. It also holds fond memories for everyone of a certain age who would hunch over someone’s 14-inch bedroom TV to play the local deathmatch for hours.
Drew Roller’s GoldenEra tries to encompass everything about the title, from its genesis as a small project at Rare’s rural farmland campus to the monster it became. Its success and legacy mean it’s one of a handful of titles that would merit a feature-length making-of-documentary. In one way, the story of GoldenEye 007 mirrors that of Citizen Kane – created by neophytes so unaware of what would be achieved they went on to break new ground in the process. And while many of the team would go on to make some pretty good games, nothing would come close to their debut in impact and acclaim.
GoldenEra has gotten many of the original team on the record, including David Doak, Karl Hilton, Brett Jones, Duncan Botwood, and Steve Ellis. Their testimony is supplemented by severalrnalists and talking heads from across the games industry that helps bulk fill gaps. After all, Rare (then working in partnership with Nintendo, now owned by Microsoft) has always been more secretive about what it does than other studios. And so there do seem to be missing chunks of testimony that would have helped paint a richer, fuller picture here.
Our relationship with video games is often much more personal, beyond the usual visual cues of people queuing to buy the title on release day. And if there’s a problem with the film, it’s a lot harder to make the drama compelling, given that software design is relatively staid. Not to mention that a game’s impact has to be measured in different ways, for instance, a movie or album. After all, you can spot examples of pop phenomenons fairly clearly since they often swallow the culture around them for weeks or months.
This is, perhaps, where GoldenEra starts to feel a little saggy since it tries to cover the breadth of GoldenEye 007’s fallout without much depth. This means that the back third essentially becomes a series of five-minute segments covering Perfect Dark, Free Radical Design and Timesplitters, GoldenEye fan films, the modding community that has kept the title alive, and what happened to Rare. There’s even a little detail about the proposed remake of GoldenEye 007 and plenty of snark handed out to the subsequent James Bond games that are all, universally, not very good. But as much as you or I might take issue with the scattershot approach, it’s one way of folding in all the many varied ends of this particular story.
GoldenEra can rent or buy today on several on-demand platforms, including Google Play, Prime Video, Apple TV, and Sky in the UK. There is no news yet, on when the film will be madelable in the US.