Goldeneye

Today, there are tons of first person shooter games on consoles. Games such as Halo and Call of Duty dominate the console market with their accessible gameplay and phenomenal graphics. With the run away success of these titles, its hard to believe that a little over a decade ago, it was very rare to have a good shooting experience on a console. It was a genre that was for those that could afford an expensive computer. And, up until now, the only shooters to make it to consoles were mediocre ports of Doom and or Wolfenstein.  Now, we move to 1997 and its time for a change!

Game company Rare released Goldeneye 007 exclusively on the Nintendo 64. It revolutionized not only shooters for consoles but shooters themselves. It also stands as the third best selling N64 game next to Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 a true feat in of itself. But what makes this game so popular and revolutionary? Well, lets find out!

Firstly, there are two different ways to play the game. First there is the single player story mode that follows a plot similar to that of the movie. The game takes some liberties but it has the same plot and scenes as the movie. This is one thing that is neat about this game, its one of the first games with a story and mission objectives. Most games up until this point involved simply getting to the end of the level. Not in Goldeneye! Each mission has several objectives that need to be fulfilled in order to complete it. These range from, hacking a network, killing a villain or even bungee jumping off of a dam. Every mission has unique objectives, which gives it a lot of replay value because it adds more objectives based on the difficulty you play on. I highly recommend playing on either Agent or Secret Agent difficulty as the OO Agent difficulty is brutal. The second way to play will be touched on later in this review.

Of course, on your way to your objectives you will have to do some shooting and some sneaking. Firstly, every level in the game is littered with enemies. They all carry a variety of weapons, some more deadly than others. The neat thing is that they react differently depending on where you shoot them. Shoot their hand and whey will shake their hand in the air, shoot their shoulder and you see it move backwards from the impact. I also recommend shooting them in the crotch or the butt as you will receive some rather comical feedback! While this is fun to play around with, I should also note that the AI (artificial intelligence) of the enemies is rather good. They will swarm you if they hear loud automatic fire coming from you and even their comrades. However, if you are good with a silenced weapon or at firing a loud gun like its a semi automatic, you will be rewarded as the guards wont be alerted to your presence. Its a very fun mechanic to play with. I recommend becoming familiar with it as you need it to complete the OO Agent difficulty.

While on the subject of noise and weapons, Goldeneye offers you lots and lots of options to dispatch your foes. These range from silenced pistols to machine guns to a wide variety of explosives such as mines, rocket launchers and grenade launchers. My personal favorite is the RCP-90. This beast is a high powered machine gun with a whopping 80 bullet magazine. It causes so much destruction that you only acquire it in only a couple of levels, and in one case, its only available on the easiest difficulty. But when you get it, you become a whirlwind of destruction. You feel almost godly when you wield it and it is oh so satisfying. This game also introduced a sniper rifle with an adjustable scope, this is common now and we have this game to thank for that. I must also note that the game has no reticle as you are running around shooting, however, it helps you with aim assist. There are times where James will point his gun directly at an enemy so you dont have to mess around with the aiming. Its rather nice.

Dual Wielding RCP-90’s (done with cheats)

Another item worth noting are the secrets within the game itself. Firstly, there are two hidden levels that are unlocked by completing all the levels on Secret Agent and OO Agent respectively. I recommend going for these as they are a ton of fun as well as a decent challenge. To be honest, I didn’t find it too difficult to unlock either of them, sure OO Agent is very difficult but its doable with some practice and a lot of patience. On top of the level unlocks, there are cheats that can be unlocked by performing speed runs of certain levels on certain difficulties. Many of these are fairly easy but some are almost impossible. I managed to do them but I spent days and days working on some. Prepare to tear your hair out if you try these. However, if you want to keep your hair safely in place, there are codes you can use to unlock them as well. Just use your good friend google to help you with them.

The next item of note is the graphics, they are very good for the Nintendo 64. Sure its not pretty by today’s standards but for its time, these were tough to beat. The character models are detailed and varied. You will see way more than just the enemies moving around too. In several levels, you will run into scientists and computer programmers. Make sure not to shoot them. The levels look good as well, most of them are industrial so they don’t require too much detail but its the Jungle level that truly shines. There are trees everywhere and the ground is covered in leaves and bushes. The little details placed into this particular level are amazing.

Finally, its time to talk about the best and most memorable part of Goldeneye 007. The Multiplayer. For many, this is what made Goldeneye so much fun. The game offers intense shooting action for up to 4 players at a time. It may not seem like much today but this was a big deal when it was released and I’ll be honest, there is something to be said for gaming with friends that are sitting right there next to you. Online is fun but I’m a split screen fanatic. But I digress, after you set up number of players, you can chose from the 6 available levels. Each of these are fun in their own way. For example, the Complex is like an industrial building with all sorts of different floors and passageways. On the other hand, you have the more wide open temple that has several large wide open spaces connected by a labyrinth of tight tunnels and corridors. Now you may be thinking that 6 levels is rather pathetic, well, there are several more that you can unlock by completing certain missions in the single player mode. But I will be honest, my favorite level is easily the complex. After selecting level, you choose the game type you wish to play. These are varied as well and include the standard deathmatch as the main focus. However, there are other modes to try such as, “The living Daylights,” which is basically flag tag, the longer you hold the flag, the more points you earn. There is also the, “Man with the Golden Gun,” where one man gets the one hit kill golden gun. This weapon can change hands if you manage to kill the person holding it. Other options that you can choose before you start a match are the game length (time limit or kill/score limit), weapon set, character, control style and aiming options. As you can probably tell, there is quite a bit to keep you busy here and is one of the main reasons Goldeneye became so popular.

Multiplayer Madness!

All in all, this game is a classic of not only console FPS games but all FPS games. The gameplay is fluid and varied and the multiplayer will always keep you coming back for more. Sure, there are times where you will experience slowdown due to too many bullets flying and sometimes the AI is stupid. But, lets be honest, this game rocks so hard that you don’t even care. I loved this game when it first came out and I love it now. Its a masterpiece

10/10

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Baldur’s Gate

Baldur’s Gate, released in 1996,  is the second game created by the RPG (role playing game) juggernaut Bioware. For those that don’t recognize the name Bioware let me give you a brief introduction. They are the same company that has made such critically acclaimed titles such as Mass Effect 1,2,3, the Dragon Age Series and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. All of these games have won universal acclaim from critics and have received numerous awards for gameplay, story graphical ability. But before these modern successes, they were a smaller company that cranked out two of the best CRPGs (computer role playing game) of all time. These being Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2.

But, I am sure that giving you details on the developer hasn’t convinced you to play this game so I suppose I should go on. For starters lets look at the box and its contents. For starters, there are 5 cd’s (or none if you download it) and each of them have some pretty unique artwork. All of this artwork has significance to some of the important areas of the game, its rather neat to look at and I remember being impressed when I saw them as a kid. Another, and probably my favorite, thing in the box is the map of the city of Baldur’s Gate and a map of the Sword Coast (the game world). It is highly detailed and is a lot of fun to look at!! The next thing you will notice is the game manual, it is rather large at 160 pages. I highly recommend reading up on this book as it will be very helpful as the rules are a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition rules. Now this may have scared some of you a bit but trust me, you aren’t sitting there, rolling dice and writing on a sheet of paper. Everything is done in real time so not a single dice needs to be rolled by you.

(Click the pictures below to open gallery)

The next thing I should address is the story itself. Its spectacular! I won’t spoil anything but I can say that it starts out with a humble beginning and escalates into a battle for the entire Sword Coast! The villain Sarevok is rather compelling as you learn about him through letters and other documents that you find from defeating his minions. This allows you to see his intentions unfold in a rather unique way and it sometimes creates a sense of urgency that few games do without the use of a time limit. But the story is more than a quest to stop a villain, you really only see him a few times. Instead you travel all over the Sword Coast helping the locals and completing side quests. While the main quest arc is good, the side missions are just as much, if not more, fun. These can involve saving damsels in distress, killing monsters for stealing a sword, or even saving a man who accidentally turned himself into a talking chicken. Where as the story quests are more serious and intense, the side quests are just good fun, they aren’t terribly serious and have plenty of humor throughout. That’s another thing that I really appreciate about this game, the majority of it has a light hearted nature to it. Funny and crazy characters are common and even some of the villains you fight are entertaining such as a bandit who expels some gas when he sees you.

Sarevok as seen in the intro

While the story is good, its the gameplay that really makes the game so special. To begin with, you custom make a character. You get to choose his class, such as a Fighter, Mage (Wizard) or Thief. There are more classes than this to explore and play around with and the game does a good job of explaining the ins and outs of them. After this, you get to choose your alignment which is if you wanna be a goody two shoes, a complete jerk  or anything in between. There is even an alignment for those that are insane! After this you customize your stats and skills. I could easily write a thousand words on that so I will leave it up to you to choose those. Finally, you can customize your aesthetics, such as look and sound. After this is done, its time to get into the game world.

You will first find yourself in Candlekeep, a sheltered town for those who seek knowledge. From here, you can choose to go through the tutorials or just go out into the world. I highly recommend talking to everyone in Candlekeep on your first run through as you will gain invaluable information and some experience points as well. After the tutorials are through you are thrust into the game world with only a few simple instructions on what to do next. Now this is where the game gets very interesting. You have this massive world to explore and do as you please. You can build a band of heroes or a vile gang of villains, its all up to you.

But lets talk about how you do this. You will be doing lots of talking to the people you meet in the world. But the conversations go beyond just simply reading, there are many dialogue options. It is possible to avoid fights or start fights by saying the right words. It is a very neat aspect of the game and makes you feel like you are actually a part of the world. This game also encourages exploration, the world is very big and can take around 50+ hours to explore in its entirety. While on the other hand, the main story is about 10-15 hours in total. But lets be honest, the real fun of this game is the exploration. Thankfully, every area has its own unique feel, there are different enemies and quests everywhere you go. And trust me, there are many different kinds of places such as towns, forests, plains, mountains, farms and even the sewers.

The next thing you will do a lot of is fight. In the beginning they tend to be small with only 3 to 5 warriors going at it. However, as you progress, these get larger and more intense, many times you will find your party being outnumbered. Thankfully, the combat is very simple, you just click on the enemies and your warriors will attack automatically. All the dice rolling is done by the computer and the battles only pause when you want them to. This is accomplished by pressing the spacebar and is a godsend. When the game is paused, you can give members to each of the possible six members of your party at the same time. When you unpause they will execute these orders when they are able. Yes, there is more than just simply hacking your way through hoards of enemies. Many times you will need the help of magic to succeed.

I love the spell effects in this game so much, they are flashy and varied. There are magical auras, fireballs, lighting and even exploding skulls. But not only that, there are tons of ways to combine spells and effects. It is extremely fun to play around with. With the proper combination you can make your mage a killing machine or make a warrior nearly invincible. I tend to go with the killing machine but there are times when I have had to change tactics based on the enemies that I fought.

The enemies themselves are varied as well. While there are typical stock fantasy enemies such as goblins, orcs, dragons and wizards there are others as well. These others tend to have different abilities or even immunities that you have to discover. For example, some enemies are immune to basic weaponry so you will need a magically enhanced weapon to hurt them. Others can poison your characters or turn them to stone. These are so much fun to fight against and guarantee that you will never get bored.

That leads to another fun aspect of Baldur’s Gate, the equipment. Many of the items you will encounter have magical effects that you will learn about after you either have them identified at a shop or use the identify spell.  Some of these magical effects allow you to hit your opponent easier or do more damage. However, some of them increase spell resistances or even your base stats themselves. However, my personal favorites are the ones that have special abilities that you can use. Such as the Cloak of the Nymph which allows the wearer to use the spell Charm Person once a day. This is one of the most compelling features about this game as you always want to see what kind of loot you will get from an enemy you defeat.

The Equipment Screen

As far as graphics go, they were pretty good for its time. The characters with all their weapons and armor on look really cool though they lack detail. There are also many times where you will see the characters weapon through their body. On the other hand, the world is beautiful! Buildings have lots of detail and are all of varying layouts and looks. Some are made of wood and others are made from bricks. Many of these buildings have unique symbols or banners that help you identify what they are. While the in game graphics are good, the videos that are included are even better. There are several of them throughout and look very good, my personal favorite is the last one that pretty much assures you that a sequel is on the way.

The musical design is epic, plain and simple. The battle music is intense and gives a sense that you are witnessing a truly brutal battle. On the flip side, the music in the towns is calm and cool. It puts you in a mood to just kick back and explore them. But on the negative side, you will hear the same songs a lot. It makes you wish that there was more. The voice work is good as well, its a cheesy B actor way. But to be honest, I would have it no other way. I find that the bad vocals are part of the games charm.

All in all, this game is awesome. The story is amazing and has plenty of twists and turns that keep you invested in it. The game play is deep and rewards creativity. The graphics and sound are good and do a good job in creating a fantastic world. It has its flaws however. There are some glitches that will cause the game to crash and if you alt+ tab out of the game and return to it, you wont be able to initiate dialogue with certain people. This is remedied by restarting the game. Another criticism is the map, there are no way points on it. You have to remember every single location or just wander around aimlessly to find where you need to go. This becomes a big issue when you get into the city of Baldur’s Gate itself. Several people ask you to meet them at a location but you are forced to wander around until you find it. Its not fun. This is really the only major issue that I have with the game, sadly it is a big one! But, do not let this deter you, this game is seriously awesome! I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys role playing games or even a deep story that keeps you entertained up until its crazy finale.

9.5/10