Monday, July 15, 2024

Definitive Ranking of GoldenEye N64 Levels

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About a week ago Nintendo announced their new console, coming out in 2017. The “Switch” seems to have awoken many a fan, and of course, many a detractor. I’m personally quite happy to ride the hype wave, certain that this will revolutionize the gaming industry in a lasting way. Nintendo has done it before, and for that reason, I think it’s the perfect time to reflect on its former successes.

The N64 was arguably the company’s greatest console, and with its host of groundbreaking single-player games, such as Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time, it’s not a difficult argument to win. Yet it’s also the “party” games like Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart that are the reason many a millennial has still not given up their banana-shaped controllers.

GoldenEye 007 is a game that comfortably bridges these two categories. Its multiplayer gave us split-screen combat with varying types of matches (“The Living Daylights” aka flag-tag ftw), and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still get immense enjoyment out of challenging my friends to a proximity mine battle in the stacks. However, its single-player mode was no slouch either, and perhaps one of the first times that consoles were taken seriously for their potential to produce quality first-person shooters.

Looking at the game in 2016, it’s aged…alright. Really, it’s still an all-around enjoyable game. But after completing a recent play-through, I realized that some of these missions are just real clunkers. Therefore, I give you the 100% Definitive™ list of levels, from best to worst.

1. Facility

The level that should need no introduction. This is hands-down the game at its best. You’re playing through a mission that Bond actually went on during the movie, you get to sneak around with a silenced PP7 and feel like an actual spy for a fair amount of it, there’s moments where you have no choice but to clean the room (and feel very talented for having done so), and the music is the coolest the soundtrack has to offer. Plus you get to see a 64-bit Sean Bean!

The worst that can be said about it is that for those completionists hoping to unlock the invincibility cheat, you’re going to be spending a considerable amount of time here. Even perfect runs can get screwed over by Dr. Doak’s RNG-reliant placement.

Best moment: the satisfying click-clack when you use the door decoder

Best cheat to use: 2x throwing knife. Really makes your bathroom surprise extra fun.

2. Control Room

I’m starting to wonder if maybe the soundtrack sways me unduly, because this is certainly the second best in that regard as well.

However, for a level where it’s rather difficult to sneak and where there’s a few unfortunately placed drone-guns, this one still has that ineffable 00-agent “feel” to it.

The objectives seem more varied, and by this point the guards pose an actual threat to you. Additionally, the map is straight-forward, but offers enough side rooms for you to feel like there’s plenty of choice. The maze that is the stairs leading from the first to second floor, and second to third floor can be irksome, but once you get Natalia through that first door, it’s fine. And unlike most levels involving her, she actually enhances the experience.

Best moment: protecting Natalia from the guards pouring into the room. The tension is THERE.

Best cheat to use: slow animation. Especially with aforementioned best moment

3. Train

There’s really nothing particularly revolutionary here. This is a fast paced level where you are just unloading bullets nonstop. It’s difficult on any setting above agent, and about as heart-pumping as you’re going to get with block graphics. What puts it high on this list for me is the ending of the level, where you get to play out an actual scene from the movie, more or less verbatim. Plus that watch laser is just fun.

Best moment: when you get shot in the back by the guard that emerges from a bathroom behind you. This is the kind of attention to detail I crave.

Best cheat to use: double RC-P90+infinite ammo. You’re welcome


4. Silo

Man, I must have hit my head and forgotten about that part of Goldeneye where Bond chases Ourumov through a weapons silo in in Kirghizstan. Though to be fair, the fake backstory they invented for this level is actually plausible.

This is another fast-paced shoot ‘em up, but what makes it extra fun is the self-imposed timer on the level once you drop the first plastique. It’s not quite as good as the train, mostly because every damn floor is utterly identical to the one before it, but just work your way through one, and you’ll see why it’s a formula worth repeating. Oh, and the scientists rarely get in the way.

Best moment: routing around the floor for that damned circuit board you missed

Best cheat to use: fast animation. Also chug a latte just before starting it up.

5. Archives

Can you tell that I have a penchant for canon-compliancy? The archives mission follows Bond’s arrest for his theft of the Tiger helicopter, which is more or less what happens on-screen (minus Natalia’s “boys with toys” remark). You escape an interrogation room, rescue Natalia, and even meet up with Dimitri Mishkin, before jumping out a window. In this case, it really is the objectives that push this level over the edge, rather than the cringe-worthy slew of “use this item on this random thing” that come up later.

However, Natalia inevitably getting scared and hiding in the attic is a nightmare, especially if you’re pursuing the invisibility cheat.

Best moment: working your way into the hall just after you shoot your guards. On 00-agent this can take time.

Best cheat to use: paintball mode. It looks the prettiest here, since it’s a well-lit level with stylish green walls.

6. Frigate

Fans of the movie remember that time that Bond boarded a ship, fought some rando with a towel, and threw him down a flight of steps. Fans of the video game remember that time Bond boarded a ship, freed a slew of hostages, and successfully planted a tracker on the Tiger helicopter. I think you can see why the later is preferable for a play-through.

There’s really not a whole lot wrong with this level; releasing the hostages is a legitimate challenge, and dare I see even a fun one. However, the map is a bit on the confusing side of things.

Best moment: when you finally find the helicopter despite having heard it growing louder for the past ten minutes.

Best cheat: 2x grenade launcher. Nothing improves your aim like someone’s life on the line.

7. Runway

Man, that opening title sequence to Goldeneye was pretty great, wasn’t it? This game at least milks all they can out of it.

“The Runway” is sort of cute in how hard it tries. There’s a tank sitting there! And you need to take out turrets of randomness on higher levels! But in reality, this is a level that you can zip through in under half a minute. It’s hard to call it fun, so much as to call it “there.” But there’s also nothing to say against it?

Best moment: when you realize that the DK-mode cheat time limit is 5 minutes.

Best cheat: what are you doing? Just get to the damn plane!

8. Cradle

This is actually a level that is more fun than not, in fairness, though if you’re playing above agent, ammo becomes a problem. Here, you get to pursue Alec Trevelyan as he yells out quips from the movie that were put into a blender. There’s a drone at one point, an endless stream of ZMG-toting guards, and Alec definitely has a weapons advantage here.

The biggest issue, however, is the seeming randomness with Alec’s chase, including when he inexplicably decides to run to the end-stage of the level. It feels very repetitive, and very out of your control.

Best moment: when you miss the damn platform dropping down the latter.

Best cheat to use: Magnum. Gives you that “pistols at dawn” kind of feeling.

9. Bunker 2

It’s always a risk to return to the same level for a game, but the second time you hit the Severnaya Bunker, it’s well worth it. Sure, plot-wise Bond being there makes no sense, but it’s a crazy amount of fun to break out of your cell with the magnetic watch (Live and Let Die shout-out!), and then sneak around collecting incredibly weird shit, including a VHS copy of the Goldeneye movie.


The best part is that you get to leave Natalia in the cell for most of this, though I’m pretty sure she can’t die anyway.

Best moment: finding double silenced-PP7s in the safe

Best cheat to use: 2x laser. It’s super nice down these long corridors.

10. Depot

I’m a little surprised this level is landing right in the middle of the list, because in many ways, the Depot is quite flawed. The map is dark and not at all intuitive, and the objectives pretty much just amount to “press the B button at this thing”.

However, its unstructured nature actually feels like a challenge, in a good way. It’s not the kind of level you’d break a guide out for, but it’s one where you do feel like you’re solving something. Plus there’s one part where you just blow shit up. No, it’s not part of the movie, but it also doesn’t try to be. It actually might be the level that feels the most closely related to what came in Perfect Dark.

Best moment: when you first realize that half the guards are carrying grenades.

Best cheat to use: Silver PPK. A good shot really, really helps here.

11. Aztec

Okay, I really have no idea why this game just decided to stick two missions from Roger Moore movies at the end.

Either way, this is the better one. Your enemies are wearing yellow jumpsuits so they’re easily spotted, and there’s moonraker lasers. Plus your mission revolves around making sure a shuttle takes off, and you get to kill Jaws.

Good ol’ fan-service fun.

The map is confusing, and there’s lots of ducking through vents, but…lasers. Just don’t think and have fun with it, like anything Roger Moore-esque.

Best moment: when you have a minute to run around and do nothing as the ship is taking off.

Best cheat to use: All weapons. Start toggling through all of them, because this is not a level worth taking seriously. Klobb it up.

12. Bunker 1

I wouldn’t call this a bad level by any means, and there’s even a cameo by Boris Grishenko (he pulls a gun on you!).

There’s also plenty of sneaky-sneaking, including an objective to destroy all the security cameras.

The biggest issue, however, is that it pales to its successor, especially with its much smaller map. It’s certainly fun, but the replay isn’t quite as engaging (though this is actually another level you can beat in about thirty seconds on Agent).

Best moment: when you try and throw the Goldeneye key back onto the table and it always misses.

Best cheat to use: hunting knives. They’re oddly satisfying here.

13. Dam

The Dam is a damn good opening level to the game (see what I did there). There’s few surprises, and only one objective (jump) for the Agent difficulty. At the same time, it introduces you to your silenced PP7, a KV7 Soviet, and a sniper rifle, while teaching about B-activation mechanics, shooting locks, and alarm systems in a pretty seamless way.

What’s less seamless is the mystifying mission for Secret Agent and 00-Agent, where you go beneath the buildings to do something with some computer mainframe. It really just forces you to stay onto a glorified training course, and the longer you’re there, the more apparent it becomes.

Best moment: when you accidentally get stuck behind that damn truck and have to wait forever for the door to open.

Best cheat: slow animation. It’s not that you’ll need it, but it just feels so satisfying to zip through, and mercifully the doors aren’t subjected to the slowing.

14. Caverns

I don’t know what this level is. I don’t know what this level is even trying to be. All I know is that it’s basically a straight-forward path, and the only thing keeping it interesting are the enemy weapons you pick up. You won’t be upset playing through this, but…just. Why?

Best moment: I guess when you call in Jack Wade, but that’s also the only moment that’s possible to remember here.

Best cheat to use: Bond invisible. It’s actually downright fun in this case, and one of the levels where invisibility doesn’t compromise a mission, like in the facility when Alec can’t see you.

15. Statue Park

I do have to appreciate how wonderfully this evoked the movie, but boy is it not fun to play through. The map is dark and incredibly confusing, and the enemies seem to spawn from nowhere (and blend perfectly with their surroundings). You’ll spend more time than not passing the same damn giant hammer, feeling like Frodo and Sam in Emyn Muil. You are going in circles, yes.

Best moment: Sean Bean, back from the dead.

Best cheat to use: tiny Bond. It makes the statues seem really scary, plus you wanna look your best for Alec, don’t you?

16. Egyptian

And here we are at the second Roger Moore level, this one inspired by both The Man with the Golden Gun, since you have to pick up a golden gun. And also Live and Let Die again? For some reason, your objective is to kill Baron Samedi, who still can’t be killed, and still is not over you disrupting that whole opium ring, I guess. So what’s there to do but chase him around an incredibly dark map after locating the golden gun in a puzzle room of no-logic?

The memes make it not a total loss, but the actual gameplay leaves a lot to be desired.

Best moment: every time Baron Samedi laughs. They really nailed his characterization.

Best cheat to use: Gold PP7. You have to win this pissing contest.

17. Streets

I might get skewered for this, but there’s also a reason I blacklisted “Strand of the Ancients” in WoW: I don’t really like vehicle quests. The Hoth battle in the N64 Shadows of the Empire might be a small exception, but they actually put effort into those mechanics. With this tank? Not so much.

The map is awful, but I’m pretty sure if you guess mostly right-turns, you get there fast. However, you also get to deal rockets being fired at your head, and mines to ride over. The car you’re chasing isn’t even in-sight at any point! The worst is the extended objectives for harder difficulties, where you actually have to explore these damn buildings to find Valentine. It’s like a maze, but one you’ll likely die in the middle of 6 or 7 times before remembering it. Give me the Zora trials on the moon any day.

Best moment: when you see the end gates and your eyes fill with tears of joy.

Best cheat to us: turbo mode. Don’t bother with the tank and just end this nightmare as soon as you can.

18. Surface 1

Look. The surface levels suck. It’s just snow, nothing but snow. However, this is the surface level where you can actually see something, and where your objective is mostly “go towards that giant dish.” You’ll do it, but you won’t be happy about it.

Best moment: when you realize the Klobb is the only gun you have any ammo for.

Best cheat: invincibility. You’re going to be accidentally missing guards anyway, and this is not a level worth repeating. Slap it on and call it a day.

19. Jungle

As much as I’m happy that Xenia’s “good squeeze” wasn’t adapted to the video game, this was not the way to go about it. You’re once again shoved into a dark level, but this time all your enemies are in camo, and there’s random drone guns everywhere. The only positive is that Xenia is carrying a decent weapon you get to use, but it’s just a slog-fest where you’re almost guaranteed to die the first few times around. Don’t get me started on 00-Agent.


Best moment: Xenia has very cool music.

Best cheat: DK mode. It actually helps a ton here.

20. Surface 2

I have nothing good to say about this level. NOTHING. It’s “Surface 1”, but with objectives that take you to buildings that are more inconveniently located, and with a dark RED sky so you can’t see fucking anything. But you’ll get shot still, don’t worry.

Best moment: when you accidentally trigger alarms and send everyone crashing towards you.

Best cheat: enemy rockets. Just go full-on with the misery.


It should be noted, however, that no matter how bad this list is towards the bottom, it beats every level from The World is Not Enough N64. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some flag-tag to play with lasers in the complex.

Images courtesy of Nintendo

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