GoldenEra (2022) Movie Review – A nostalgic documentary looking back at the game with a license to thrill

A nostalgic look back at the game with a license to thrill

1997 was a great year for video games. Playstation owners could play Tomb Raider 2, Final Fantasy VII, and Gran Turismo. PC gamers enjoyed such titles as Wing Commander, Riven, and Fallout. And owners of the N64 were treated to such games as Diddy Kong Racing, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and Star Fox 64. These are just the tip of a game-packed iceberg as many more great titles were released. And the best of these?

I think that would have to be GoldenEye 007, the groundbreaking first-person shooter developed by British gaming studio Rare that suddenly made everybody want to go out and buy an N64. At the time, I had a PS1, which I was inspired to buy after seeing footage of the original Tomb Raider game which was radically different to anything I had played on my 8-bit Commodore 64 as a kid. After playing through Lara Croft’s amazing first adventure for myself, I was of the opinion that games couldn’t get any better. How wrong I was!

After a friend invited me around to their home to check out Goldeneye 007 on their brand new N64, I was blown away by my gaming experience. This was partly because of the game’s graphics which were amazing for their time. But the biggest pull for me was the multiplayer aspect of the title. Running around the game’s intricate maps as Bond or one of the classic Bond villains was tremendously entertaining because my friends were by my side doing the exact same thing.

Much fun was had as we tried to take one another out with the game’s vast range of weapons (the one-shot-kill Golden Gun was the most coveted) and we played well into the night. Needless to say, I went out and bought an N64 soon after and my PS1 (and poor Lara) eventually became redundant as I hosted a nearly-endless number of GoldenEye ‘DeathMatch’ battles of my own.

With its smart enemy AI, inventive stealth mechanics, and 4-way split-screen gaming, GoldenEye 007 was quite unlike the first-person shooters that had come before. It paved the way for the next generation of shooters, including Halo, Half-Life, and Call Of Duty, and it is still a game that is widely talked about today.

To understand the game’s legacy and popularity, you should check out GoldenEra, a brand-new documentary from filmmaker Drew Roller, that delves into the making of the game and its cultural impact.

We get to hear from many of the game’s developers through talking head interviews and video chats and we learn that many of them were relatively new to the video game industry when they worked on the Bond title. The game’s main designer David Doak was formally a research scientist at Oxford University, for example, and several other members of the team also had careers outside of the gaming world. These interviews are insightful and entertaining and they are spliced with footage from GoldenEye 007 and many of the other game titles that this inexperienced but talented team were responsible for creating.

Outside of the development team, we also hear from other people within the gaming industry, including the developers who were inspired by Rare’s game and the game journalists who provided coverage of GoldenEye 007 during the time of its release. There are also interviews with gamers, including the speed runners and modders who have kept the game alive through their gaming pastimes. It’s clear from these interviews that GoldenEye 007 is still held in high regard, even though it has been 25 years since its release.

Sadly, younger gamers, especially those who have grown up with online multiplayer gaming instead of couch-based battles, won’t be as enthused about the game. But if you’re of an age where you still remember where you were in life when you first picked up one of Nintendo’s coloured gamepads to play a local deathmatch with your mates, you should relate to the passion of the interviewees who discuss the game and its influence on their lives.

The documentary is full of trivia that you may be unfamiliar with, even if you do call yourself a fan. Did you know that Nintendo head Shigeru Miyamoto wanted Bond to shake hands with his hospitalised enemies at the end of the game? Did you know the development team at Rare worked not in a high-tech office block but in a set of converted farm stables in a tiny little village? I certainly didn’t and I was surprised at some of the other revelations and anecdotes that are featured within the doc. These little nuggets of information are rarely less than interesting so there should be something here to surprise and engage you.

After discussions about GoldenEye 007‘s development and the various delays that happened before its release, we get to hear about the game’s impact on the gaming world post-launch, the awards that it won, and the game titles that were directly inspired by Rare’s masterpiece.

We also learn more about the game’s development team and how some of them moved on from Rare to form Free Radical, the gaming studio that is perhaps best known for TimeSplitters and the Star Wars Battlefront games. There is also a discussion on the state of the gaming industry now and how it has changed, not always for the better, since GoldenEye 007‘s release.

But while the documentary is fascinating, I get the feeling that more could have been said within the 100-minute running time. We never hear from the Stamper Brothers, the founders of Rare, so we don’t know what they thought about GoldenEye 007‘s success. And beyond surface-level discussions about the disagreements between the GoldenEye team and Miyamoto, we don’t get to learn much about the behind-the-scenes politics that may have contributed to the game’s delayed release.

These are only nit-picks though as Drew Roller’s documentary is still well-made and if you have any interest in video games, this doc should be required viewing. It might even give you cause you to scour eBay or your local games shops to pick up a copy of GoldenEye 007 and a Nintendo 64. This is something that can be especially recommended if you have 3 other buddies to game with on your sofa as you will be able to experience the gaming highs that I first experienced when I played Rare’s incredible and influential game many years ago.

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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