Either of two ducks, Bucephala clangula or Bucephala islandica, of northern regions, each having a short black bill, a rounded head, yellow eyes, and black and white plumage. A winter visitor to the lakes, estuaries and coasts of southern Europe, Goldeneye ducks form large flocks which rarely come ashore. They breed on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The male can be recognised by its black-green head and white cheek patches.
(Reader's Digest Great Illustrated Dictionary)
Like more than one Rare title before it, GoldenEye started life as something completely different to that which it has finally become. Originally pencilled in as a SNES platform game, it leapt the generation gap with the advent of the N64 and fell into the mould of a Virtua Cop-style shoot-'em-up on rails: from there, as the machine began to flex its processing muscles, the game engine evolved to provide a fully 3D free-roaming environment, allowing for the cinematic experience to be recreated as closely as possible - but this time with the player dropped into the leading role.
GoldenEye's realism and loyalty to the film are the main factors setting it apart from other first-person shooters on the market. Rather than simply blast everyone and make good his escape from each level, Bond enters missions with a number of specific objectives, relevant to the scenario and current difficulty setting, which he must fulfil before moving on. Full use is made of the analogue controller as 007 employs stealth rather than an unnatural resistance to bullets in order to make progress - he can walk and run at variable speeds, duck, climb and look in any direction, interacting with the scenery wherever possible (hiding, blowing up the furniture, attaching mines, peppering walls with bullet holes and so on).
The enemy soldiers, bearing the features of shifty-looking Rare staff members, have over thirty different animation routines for being shot or blown up, depending on how and where they get hit. The development team put great effort into the AI routines, ensuring that Bond's polygonised opponents copy human beings in every way but emotions. They also reckon that after four years the enemy soldiers will start to develop their own emotional responses. You know, hate, love, fear, envy. They haven't got around to putting a failsafe in yet.
For maximum authenticity the actual production script was followed all through the design process, as were the notes made by the team during their visits to the set. The actors' permission to use their likenesses means that Bond's missions brings him up against characters instantly recognisable from the film, not to mention a few other traditional 007 enemies lurking in secret sections of the game.
One of GoldenEye's biggest assets, however, is the four-player deathmatch mode which allows players to select one of a range of characters to battle their friends in specificially-designed arenas, with weapons that range from pistols and sniper rifles through to grenade launchers and remote mines. So even the Q Branch multi-purpose watch prototype which provides Bond with vital assistance during the game proper won't give him any advantages here...
GoldenEye received an August '97 launch in the US and Japan, meeting with landslide acclaim and, from many corners, the accolade of best game yet for the system. The full-screen, borderless PAL release which followed in November would become the fastest-selling N64 title in the UK to date.