Watch my interview with renowned video game composer Grant Kirkhope. Born in Edinburgh and later raised in Knaresborough in Yorkshire, music has always been a huge part of Grant’s life having learned how to play both the trumpet and the guitar from an early age and growing up listening to a wide range of artists and bands. Throughout his storied career, Grant Kirkhope has composed the soundtrack for some of the biggest video games in history during his time Rareware in the days of the fifth generation of games with games such as Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and Perfect Dark. A freelance composer since 2008, he has also composed for a number of hit games, such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, A Hat in Time, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. Amidst his current ventures of composing for films such as The Wrong Rock, The King’s Daughter, and The Handler, I chat with Grant on his early career as a traditional musician after having toured with some of the biggest names in heavy metal, his time at Rareware composing for some Nintendo’s biggest games, the Microsoft buyout of Rare, his time as a freelance composer, his film composing career, and some of the fondest memories he has as a composer of video games:
Developed by Rare to coincide with the Bond film of the same name starring Pierce Brosnan, and created by a core team of nine people, Goldeneye 007 was received as being on the best games on the system, helping to establish a lot of the standards associated with 3D first-person shooters along with the likes of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D. Although I personally prefer Rare’s spiritual successor Perfect Dark for a number of reasons, there’s no denying that the original Goldeneye is and forever will be a Nintendo 64 classic; certainly one of the best games on the system and probably one of the best first-person shooters of all time.
Graphics – 8.5/10
The game is set across the same locations the film is set in, albeit with a few unique ones added in for good measure, as well as the multiplayer arenas. The graphics for Goldeneye, namely facial textures, have become a meme over the Internet in comparison to today’s graphics, but the fact of the matter is that these visuals were revolutionary at the time, with intricately designed levels that keep faithful to the original film as well as branch out to give players an entirely unique experience at the same time.
Gameplay – 9/10
A traditional 3D first-person shooter, the player is reliant on a range of firearms in order to shoot through hordes of enemies to progress, but it is also objection-based with players having to carry out specific tasks to complete each scenario, which was relatively unique for a game of its kind back then. Doom had features similar to this, but not the same scale. The multiplayer mode has also become insanely popular with gamers over the years with the facility to choose from a range of different Bonds and Bond villains from other Bond films as well as Goldeneye; indeed the character of Oddjob had become synonymous with gaming in general since. It’s a licensed game that not only uses the license but celebrates it in wonderfully extravagant ways.
Controls – 7/10
The biggest problem I had with the game was the controls. Players must rely on the c buttons in order to move the character as opposed to the analog stick, which caused confusion for me at the time and can potentially cause confusion for players looking to try it out for the first time, as FPS games have evolved greatly since the release of this game. It’s an even bigger problem for me, especially when comparing it to Perfect Dark, which posthumously solved this problem by having the analog stick be the means to move around, but that being said, it doesn’t make the game unplayable by any stretch of the imagination.
Lifespan – 7/10
To complete Goldeneye 007 to 100% will take around 20 hours, which for a linear FPS is excellent, especially when comparing it to other games of the genre that would go on to last considerably less time like Halo 4. But beyond that, the multilayer model has provided unlimited playtime to many, many fans of the game over almost 25 years so players looking for a long time will want for nothing where this title is concerned.
Storyline – 8/10
The game simply retells the events of the film, whereby James Bond is tasked with stopping a Russian crime syndicate from recovering and using the secret Goldeneye weapons program. In terms of storytelling in video games, the plot of the film is as well relayed as what could’ve been expected at the time, with much of the film’s dialogue being used and all of the main character’s purposes and personalities intact. In the unique campaign levels, there are certain moments that also add to the overall story in addition, so things are kept relatively fresh in this respect to help it.
Originality – 9/10
Speaking of uniqueness, at the time this game was like a breath of fresh air for gamers playing on the Nintendo 64, who at this point would’ve been more used to 3D platforming adventures and quirky racing games. Goldeneye, along with many other future releases on the system like Turok, Jet Force Gemini, or Mortal Kombat 4, would provide players with a multitude of different Gameplay experiences on the system that deviated away from the kind of game that Nintendo would develop internally. The game itself would also go on to become of the most influential games in the genre in addition, with many developers citing it as a major influence on future games.
Overall, Goldeneye 007 is definitely one of the best first-person shooting games of all time; it’s enjoyable to play, still stands out from many other FPS titles, and as fans patiently wait for the remaster that this game deserves, revisiting this classic still holds up. To this day regardless.