Like car keys, stray dogs and socks after you put them in the dryer, some video games simply get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes they were just released at the wrong time, eclipsed by a much bigger game, or a surprise chart topper. Sometimes they just had bad marketing, or too many misconceived ideas about the game spread by word of mouth. Occasionally the game drops in price fairly quickly and many gamers, rather than snapping the game up, just assume the price drop is because the game wasn’t that good. More often than not, at least one of these issues plague the games that should have been hits but instead, like my nephew playing Rock Band, fail to resonate with the crowd. Well in our monthly column, aptly titled Underrated Game of the Month, we search through the masses and try to find games that deserve a little attention.
I wanted to go back beyond this current generation of games this time around and change things up a bit. That said, for most gamers, this month’s title is bound to be more disagreeable than our previous editions. I first experienced Goldeneye Rogue Agent on the Nintendo GameCube my sophomore year in college. My roommate, Mr. Abbott, came into the apartment one day with a GC and a copy of Goldeneye he had purchased on a bit of a whim. I hadn’t owned a system past the Nintendo 64 and had mostly left his PS2 untouched, so honestly at the time I couldn’t care less about a new system (although I did come around a bit when I realized that there had been two more Rogue Squadron games released for GC that I hadn’t played).
I ended up changing my mind. Born out of the pure curiosity of the fact the game’s title was Goldeneye, I threw Disc 1 in one day. What I found surprised me. All I knew was that the game wasn’t related to the classic N64 Goldeneye game, and that I wouldn’t be playing as Bond this time around. With no other information in hand I dove into the game expecting some story about a billionaire evil genius bent on world destruction and I would somehow have to take him down all by myself. Boy was I wrong. I never expected Bond to die in the opening of the first level and that I would ultimately be playing as a villain for the rest of the game. Set in the classic Bond universe, but largely leaving James and the gang to the wayside, Goldeneye was a truly unique Bond experience.
Over the course of game’s wildly varied levels you found yourself interacting with, and typically fighting most of the legendary bond villains. The whole game worked around the surprisingly rich James Bond cannon, which I had never really appreciated until this game. There was something about how it had you looking at it from the other side which really helped sell it for me. Yeah, the story was a little all over the place, but it was still cool to see things from the villain’s perspective.
The game was also full of odd little quirks that really defined it. Traps for the clumsy and dimwitted henchmen to get caught in were always worth a laugh. The ability to use any random unfortunate individual in your way as a human shield was both evil and convenient. Plus there were the oddly placed “eyeball” powers that you unlocked as you moved forward. Turning henchmen into rag dolls with a mean look is simply badass. The weapons also had the typical Bond flare, including my personal favorite, the rail gun. Using the alternate sight mode you could see through some walls and fire shots at those pesky skeletons walking around on the other side. Dual wielding of two different weapons also made its return. My favorite addition though, was the action based points system. For every “deliciously evil” thing you did, you got a bonus medal. Racking those up was not only fun in-and-of-it-self, but trying to play the game a certain way to get more of a certain award boosted replayability. You quickly felt like one of the best Bond villains to ever walk the Earth and it was really only a shame that you never got to take on the big man himself.
Now the game did have issues, though. Aiming took a lot of getting used to, and while I eventually became a pro at it, it was less than perfect. The graphics were also kind of so-so, even for that generation. Not bad, but far from being top tier. Really though, the thing that killed this game was the name. EA should of thought long and hard before slapping the title “Goldeneye” onto any game, let along a Bond one. Goldeneye had been the definitive FPS of the generation before and Bond titles were still trying to compete with its’ critical and financial success. Using that title basically guaranteed mass anger amongst gamers who would immediately feel as if EA was simply trying to cash in on the legacy or worse yet, ruin the franchise. Beyond that, it simply made the game difficult to talk about. Without adding the “Rogue Agent” part to any conversation about the game, people were always bound to ask, “Wait, you mean the N64 game?”
Ultimately, EA just screwed themselves on that one.
At the end of the day though, Goldeneye was a fun and unique twist on the Bond universe. Although odd at times, it aimed to offer something different and managed to be more than just a shooter with a gimmick when all was said and done. It certainly wasn’t the best game of the last generation, by any measure, but it did deserve more than it got. Bored tonight? Go track down a copy of Goldeneye Rogue Agent and see how the other-half lives.
Do you disagree with what I’ve had to say here? Or do you have a game you want to suggest for the Underrated Game of the Month? Let me know in the comments below!