Games these days don’t have a real multiplayer option anymore. Everything’s on “Xbox Live,” and there’s no real sense of urgency or fair play. Why would anyone want to play “Gears of War” with four friends together in the same room? That’s ridiculous. It’s clearly more fun to log on and get shot in the head instantaneously by every member of “Das Kill.”
Winning – and subsequently taunting – is far more fun when you can show you’re the best player in the room, rather than trying to prove you’re the best player in the world. One game single-handedly shows the rise and fall of that perfect era of competition – no one had seen anything like it before and no one has since. That game is “Goldeneye 007” for the Nintendo 64.
Multiplayer in “Goldeneye” stands as one of the most innovative and best-designed game modes ever. The first controller to have an actual trigger, N64 makes it feel like you were really shooting your friends. And with four people playing simultaneously for the first time, “Goldeneye” helped turn living rooms into frenzied war zones full of kids hopped up on Tang.
There was an unspoken code of honor among “Goldeneye” players that was abided by most – well, some. You couldn’t be Oddjob, because he’s so small even grenade shrapnel would seem to work its way around him. You could be Jaws, but only if you were an idiot – random bullets would always find their way to his lumbering ass.
“Wait till I have a gun, bitch!” was the cry of a victim of a violator of the second unspoken rule: never shoot an unarmed player. Combatants in “Goldeneye” had access to some mean karate-chop action when lacking a gun, but to kill someone you’d probably have to make them stand still next to you for an hour while you hacked away.
The intensity of the rounds were unheard of for a multiplayer game. In the best level of all time, the Temple, two players would stand on opposite sides of a monolithic stone door until one of them had the courage to press B. As one player unloaded a Cougar Magnum and the other pumped rounds out of a KF-7 Soviet.
In addition to the game’s multiplayer mode, single-player also had its moments. Remember being tempted to shoot quivering scientists in the Silo who wouldn’t give you that damn keycard? Or getting lost in the godforsaken statue maze for hours, only to fail when Trevelyan gets spooked at the sight of your PP7? And how many times did you scream “Why won’t you die!?” at Jaws after you unloaded eight assault rifle clips into his dumb, grinning, metallic face?
And then there were the cheats. They ranged from the ridiculous (Donkey Kong Mode, where everyone has a giant head) to the impractical (Enemy Rocket Mode – why the hell would I want to give rockets to my enemies?) to the fantastic (All Guns, including a taser made out of a Game Boy).
The cheats made for some entertaining single-player scenarios. There’s nothing quite like setting off the alarm in the Surface level then unloading double RCP-90s with unlimited ammo into 700 Soviet soldiers. I’m pretty sure “Goldeneye” was a covert government project to make kids want to join the army, because after every level you were ready to ship off and machine gun some commies or terrorists or pretty much anyone holding an AK-47.
Government conspiracy? Maybe, but “Goldeneye” is still a treasure of video-gaming history and stands alongside “Doom” and “Grand Theft Auto” as one of the games that’s molded our generation into the mindless, soulless serial killers our parents predicted we’d all become. But seriously, being locked in a dark room by yourself for 16 hours whispering into a headset playing “Half-Life 2” online? Dangerous. Shouting with a room full of friends blasting the hell out of each other with digital assault weapons with characters dressed in formalwear? Classic.