Impressions: GoldenEye Source is a well-made blast from the past

Like many kids who reached prime video game-playing age during the mid to late ‘90s, I was enamored with the original GoldenEye: 007 game back when it launched for the Nintendo 64 in 1997. Even putting aside the fact that I was (and still am) a pretty big James Bond fan, the game was just downright fun to play no matter what specific activity I was partaking in, whether it was beating the extensive story campaign (a campaign which both followed and elaborated on events from the film), trying to clear specific campaign levels under a certain time limit to unlock cheats, or just fragging my friends and siblings in the game’s competitive multiplayer component. It’s the thrilling joy of playing that last element which the small indie team behind GoldenEye: Source sought to recapture, and amazingly enough, it has succeeded in many regards.

What’s Old Is New Again

For all intents and purposes, GoldenEye: Source, a free standalone multiplayer mod made using Valve’s Source engine, is about a faithful recreation of GoldenEye: 007’s competitive multiplayer mode as you’re ever going to find. The mod features the same playable characters, the same maps, the same weapons, and even many of the same game modes as the game which inspired it, and the Source reincarnation even contains some noticeable enhancements which make it more appealing to gamers with more modern tastes.

At its core, GoldenEye: Source is the same frantic and exhilarating experience that you played as a kid in the ‘90s. The controls are basic (and easy to learn), there’s no weapon recoil, no sprint button, no loadouts (weapons aside from your basic PP7 pistol must be found and are lost upon death), and if you want to melee attack an enemy, you’ve got to whip out your trusty “Slapper” (a fan-coined term for the melee karate chop attack) and pray your target doesn’t see you coming. It may feel odd at first playing with a mouse and keyboard instead of an N64 controller, but once you get into the swing of things, it’s hard to ignore the powerful waves of nostalgia which will undoubtedly wash over you.

Making Something Good Even Better

The GoldenEye: Source development team could have just recreated the same assets from the Nintendo 64 original and called it a day, but they decided to go a few steps further. Not only does the Source remake contain many of the same maps from the Nintendo 64 version in their original glory, it also includes reimagined versions of several maps such as Archives, Caverns, Aztec, and Bunker, completely redone with new graphics and layouts.

There’s also Steam achievement integration, cosmetic weapon skins, limited character customization (certain characters have different color options for their outfit or different head options), and fun original game modes like ‘A View to a Kill’ (players are scored based on how long they live as opposed to how many kills they earn).

The new and returning game modes combined with the different pre-set weapon lists (just like in the Nintendo 64 game) can lead to some truly crazy (and insanely fun) match types. For example, I played one match of License to Kill (standard deathmatch only with one-hit kills) where players could only use throwing knives, and then another where no weapons were allowed and players had to run around one-shotting each other with Slappers.

I then tried out Arsenal, an original game mode inspired by Counter-Strike where players have to progress through a series of pre-set weapons, moving onto the next weapon after securing two kills with the previous weapon, until one player manages to score two kills with every weapon on the list.

Like many fan-made projects, GoldenEye: Source isn’t perfect, but the problems I had with it were minuscule at best. Since using the actual character assets from GoldenEye: 007 would likely land the developers in some sort of legal hot water, they had to make original character models from scratch, and some of them look pretty goofy (Valentin Zukovsky and Alec Trevelyan in particular), though you’re not likely to notice in the middle of a tense match. Also, exiting out of the game can be a bit of a pain, since the only button command to do so completely quits out instead of returning players to the main menu (though this is more of a problem with the design architecture of the Source engine than with the actual game).

Even with the above problems, GoldenEye: Source is a near-perfect combination of nostalgia and simplified competitive multiplayer, so much so that it’s frankly quite amazing that the team behind the game is offering it entirely for free (there aren’t even any microtransactions). It may not be the most polished shooter experience for PC, but if you’re in the mood for something which feels old-school but which can still be a whole bunch of fun under the right circumstances, GoldenEye: Source definitely warrants your attention. Plus, since it’s completely free, you really have nothing to lose by trying it out other than a bit of your time, and I can almost guarantee that, if you enjoyed the original GoldenEye: 007, it will be time well spent.