Before there was Playstation Home, before there was Xbox Live, before there was matchmaking, before there were LAN parties, before there was online console gameplay of any sort...there was you, your best friends, N64 controllers, split-screen, and Goldeneye. (And goddamnit, kids, we trudged five miles through the snow to get to school. Past the dinosaur quarry. And you know what??!!! We were HAPPY, bitches.)
Prior to Goldeneye, first-person shooters were the exclusive domain of the personal computer. Quake and Doom ruled the roost. If an FPS ever saw the light of day on a console, it was in the form of a cheap knock-off or port with hardly any multiplayer at all (understandable given that consoles only supported up to two players, prior to the N64).
That all changed on August 25th, 1997.
An oft-delayed game that had zero expectations riding on it, based on a movie released two years prior, changed the relationship between home consoles and first-person shooters forever.
Goldeneye 007 proved that FPS could be done on contemporary consoles, and done damned well.
The single-player mode has a stunning amount of depth. Each mission has three different difficulty levels: Agent, Secret Agent, and 00 Agent. Moving up to harder difficulty settings not only makes the enemies tougher to kill, but also adds new required mission objectives as well. Furthermore, not all the missions can be completed by pure running and gunning alone. I found this out the hard way, trying to blast my way out of a prison level. My cousin taught me that the key to victory was pure stealth: Blow your cover, and there's no way to win. My friends and I spent months trying to conquer all the levels, including the ferociously difficult Aztec and Egyptian temples.
But it's the multiplayer that made Goldeneye a mainstay of dorm rooms all across the fruited plain. So much customization, so many hidden gems, so many bullets fired. License to Kill Mode (one-hit kills), Turbo Mode, Paintball Mode, Big Head Mode, battles with the Golden Gun (also one-hit kill), proximity mines, the mother effing RCP-90... What the N64 controller lacked in pre dual-stick aiming ability (an auto-aim mechanic was used instead), this game made up for in pure cat-and-mouse fun.
My buddies and I knew every multiplayer layout like the back of our hands. One didn't spawn with a weapon, so you had to act quickly before your cheap-ass opponent came to blow you away. And then there was all the fun with proximity mines....We would throw mines on each one of the spawn points, so that the next person to die was guaranteed multiple explosive deaths in succession. (This, of course, had the very real possibility of backfiring.)
I'll never know which game I spent more time playing: Halo 2 or Goldeneye 007. But I do believe this: Every console FPS that followed Goldeneye owes the folks at Rare a thing or two....and no FPS was this game's equal until Master Chief came along.