GoldenEye by Alyse Knorr, One of the Best books from Boss Fight Books | Book Review

GoldenEye is one of the games that I remember most for its multiplayer mode. The game was huge in the late 90s and was one of the games that my friends and I constantly played. Before reading this book, I didn’t know much about the game’s development or the James Bond video games.

Alyse does an excellent job of weaving the experiences of people, including herself, playing the game into the story of how the game was made. We also hear about the relationship with Nintendo and what happened after Microsoft bought Rare. This last part is briefly mentioned. It wasn’t the book’s focus, so I understand why it wasn’t covered in detail.

The way the game was made was very interesting! The team was creating something that wasn’t generally found on a home console. The few First Person Shooters that had been released for consoles were inferior ports of PC games or hampered by the controllers at the time.

Reading this made me think about two things I would like to see. I would like to see a book about the history of Rare and a book about the history of FPS. If either of these books exists, I would also like to know about them.

History of Rare and How they changed

One of the more interesting things in this book is how Rare changed over the years. Like many stories I’ve read about British developers, they started programming for the ZX Spectrum. That version of Rare disappeared after the Stamper brothers sold the company. It also wasn’t called Rare.

 In the late 80s, they started making games for the NES and worked with several publishers. However, their relationship with Nintendo would be a turning point for the company. They were trusted with the Donkey Kong IP and would make Battle Toads.

Nintendo would also invest in Rare. This made them the first Western third-party developer and, later on, the first second-party developer. They would play a huge part in the N64’s library by providing many of the better games on the system.

Then Rare was offered the GoldenEye game. They had a broad contract that allowed the developers to use things from other James Bond movies. The game would make Rare a lot of money.

This was when the attitude started to shift at Rare. We hear more about money and compensation for the developer’s work. This was something that I’ve read about plenty of times. It seems like this same scenario plays out in many video game companies.

They talk about the freedom that Nintendo gave Rare. They were allowed to be more creative, and Rare’s management protected its development teams. This changed when Microsoft bought Nintendo’s shares in the company.

I understood there was more to this part of the story. The book would have been much longer if Alyse had gone more in-depth. It would be nice to hear more about it in another book.

GoldenEye’s Place in Video Game History

GoldenEye sits at an interesting point in video game history. The way the game was made, the freedom that the development team had, and the state of the N64 all had a hand in how the game came together.

Alyse does a great job of explaining the role that GoldenEye played in showing that FPS games can work on a console. As I read this, I thought about the other FPS games released on consoles during the 90s.

There were several ports of PC games that were released on the console. Very few FPS were programmed for consoles. The only other one I can think of is Disruptor on the PS1.

Consoles weren’t the place where games like this were played. They looked better on the PC, and they played much better as well. However, GoldenEye was different. It is one of the games that showed that these games could work on a console. Having analog sticks helped these games immensely!

Alyse uses some quotes from John Romero, one of the creators of Doom, to hammer this point home. John gives the game a ton of praise. He also points out how it did many things that hadn’t been done in an FPS yet.

How GoldenEye was made, and Project Management

This is brought up in retrospect. While the team was pushing the boundaries on what the N64 could do, they spent much of their time iterating the design. Many technology projects do this, and if the project you’re working on has the time, it can be very effective.

In this case, it resulted in an excellent FPS that created much of what would be expected from a modern FPS. If they weren’t given the freedom and time to do what they were doing, then we probably wouldn’t have the version of GoldenEye that we have now.

It was brought up several times in the book that the team didn’t have any project management experience. They were all relatively new to game development and didn’t have a detailed design document.

This reminded me of the stories I’ve read about indie game development and games made in the 80s. They were trying to make something fun, everyone was working together, and they weren’t afraid to try something new. Not everything they did worked, but they didn’t let things stop them.

The part that I found the most interesting was how the game was originally going to look.


GoldenEye was going to be a rail shooter. This is a genre of arcade game where the player to ushered through the game. In this style of game, you stop to shoot at groups of enemies, and once you’ve defeated them, you’re moved to the next location.

The game that I most associate with this genre is House of the Dead. However, the game that they took inspiration from is Virtua Cop. Both games are a lot of fun, but they are best played with a light gun controller.

I don’t think this type of game would have worked well on the N64 controller. I know this controller gets a ton of flack, but it does work well for some of the games on the system. Not all of the games.

The id Software games are also brought up. When I first played GoldenEye, Doom was the first game I thought of. There were a lot of Doom clones made at this time, and it was easy to see the influence of Doom in many FPS.

However, GoldenEye was much more than Doom. Because it was a movie-based game, there was more of a story which was something that id didn’t think was necessary at the time. The dev team also thought about adding more to the movie’s plot. I wonder how many people noticed this back in 1997?    

Memories of GoldenEye

I don’t remember GoldenEye for the single-player mode. I think I tried it once at a friend’s house, but we probably moved back to multiplayer mode. It was much more fun, in my opinion.

This was one of the games that we played almost every weekend in high school. I was the only one who didn’t own the game or an N64. This meant I was terrible at the game!

Eventually, I ended up hating GoldenEye for a while. I got sick of the constant questions about why I was so bad at the game. It wasn’t even trash talk! They wanted to know why I sucked at it! Now, I think that is funny. Like they thought it was a problem and if they knew why it could be solved.

Looking back at the game, I think it was very impressive for the time. They crammed a lot into this cartridge. It also made a significant impact on the N64 at a time when it was struggling to keep up with the PlayStation.

There is a lot of revisionist history about the N64. The internet seems to have created odd ideas about the system, and the truth is somewhere in between. It has a small library, there is a lot of shovelware on the system, and the controller isn’t as bad as people say.

That being said, GoldenEye is one of the best games on the system! Both the reviews and the sales numbers make this clear. It is one of the best console FPS games, and I have some fond memories.

Final Thoughts

I think Alyse does an excellent job of telling the story of GoldenEye, Rare, and the development team behind the game. I found it to be very interesting, and it brought up a few fond memories.

While I was reading this, I thought back to one night at my friend Drew’s house. I worked at Little Caesars then and brought a couple of pizzas over. I think we spent the whole night eating pizza and playing GoldenEye.

It was one of the first party games that I can remember. It was fun to have all four of us playing GoldenEye into the late hours of the night.

Over time I’ve changed my mind on GoldenEye. I think it is one of the best games from the 90s. It’s not as good as I remember, but I think it is still a fun game.

There are more stories in this book. I didn’t want to tell them all here, but they are all fascinating.

Published by Paul Werkema

Hi! I'm here to share my hobbies with all of you. I love video games and books, so I write about the books that cover video games or are novels about video games.

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