After years and years of rumors, whispers, fan outcry, and endless internet theories, Rare’s beloved Nintendo 64 first-person shooter, GoldenEye 007, is finally out on modern consoles. And while for many this is something to celebrate, these new ports aren’t quite as good as they could have been.
First, the good news: After 20+ years of waiting, GoldenEye is now fully playable on Xbox consoles and the Nintendo Switch. And regardless of everything else in this post, it’s still really nice to have easy access to this classic N64 game in 2023. Sure, emulation has always existed, but this is different. Now a random person with Game Pass, and no knowledge of ROMs and such, can easily download and play GoldenEye like any other modern video game. That’s cool. And it would be silly to ignore that, especially because—up until today—that just wasn’t possible due to various rights holders not seeing eye-to-eye on letting this game exist on more platforms.
Okay, now the bad news: This port is pretty barebones and basic. We knew before today that the Xbox port would lack online multiplayer—only Switch is getting that—but since its release last night fans have found other shortcomings, too. To be clear: If you just want to experience GoldenEye again for a few minutes—which I think is true for probably 70% of people who’ll be trying this game out this weekend—this Xbox port is fine. It still supports the classic split-screen multiplayer, too (do you still have your cardboard screen divider?). However, if you want to spend more time with it or have played the original game endlessly, maybe even via emulation, you’ll likely be disappointed by some things.
For example, the game is locked to 30 frames per second. According to the devs behind the port, this is because the original ROM code is being used to emulate the game on Xbox. Which makes sense, the original game was designed to run at 30fps. However, fans have figured out ways to break this cap and for years now people have been playing GoldenEye 007 on PC at twice the framerate. And watching footage of one of these fan-created mods points to another issue in the newly released Xbox and Switch port: low-res text. It’s hard to read how much ammo you have left because it’s so fuzzy. Oddly, in-game assets look better and sharper. Again, this is a problem fans fixed years ago.
Other issues involve weird audio bugs, incorrect decals and textures, and noticeable rips and seams in the geometry when walking around levels. The devs behind this port suggest this is just a result of the game moving from SD to HD and that many of these issues are present, but harder to spot, in the original N64 version of GoldenEye. But GoldenEye fan projects like 1964 GEPD have greatly reduced flaws like visible seams in the level even when playing at 4K.
Some especially diehard GoldenEye 007 fans are asking for an update to patch the game, improve it, and fix some of these issues. But that’s unlikely to happen as it seems outside the scope of this project, which more or less appears to be focused on simply getting GoldenEye running on modern hardware using the same N64 emulation tech developed for 2015’s retro compilation Rare Replay.
Ultimately, while I’d love for this port to get some more enhancements, like 60fps support, I also understand that, given the legal baggage the game’s saddled with, it’s kind of a mini-miracle that GoldenEye 007 is playable at all on an Xbox console. If I want more bells and whistles, I know where to go and how to get it running on my PC. But if I just want to chill out on the couch and play some GoldenEye for a few minutes, this new port will do just fine. And maybe one day that awesome-looking remake that leaked in 2021 will officially see the light of day…