GoldenEye 007 on Xbox and Switch hands-on impressions
Last fall, it was announced that the classic 1997 N64 shooter, GoldenEye 007, would hit both Xbox and Switch in 2023. Today is that long-awaited day, as one of the most beloved and most influential games from its era is now available. on both platforms. Although these two versions are largely faithful remakes of the core console FPS, the key differences are present in ways that don’t immediately appear as a clearly superior version. I played a decent part of both versions to see which one is better to play in 2023.
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When GoldenEye 007 was released in the late ’90s, I played obsessively, solo and with friends, for months and months. During that time, I’ve completed all missions on client difficulty 00, unlocked all the cheats, and played through hundreds (if not thousands) of multiplayer matches with friends. As with all of my favorite games, it eventually fell through and moved on to newer versions, but my fondness and nostalgia for GoldenEye 007 has always remained.
Years later, when I was in college, I distinctly remember going into a friend’s room and running an N64 for matches of my favorite games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. And Star Fox 64 and, of course, GoldenEye 007. I am the game that has aged among the poorer of that group, thanks mainly to how far the shooter genre has come with newer franchises like Halo, Call of Duty, and the recently released Black. At that moment, I wrote GoldenEye 007 as a game with a huge impact that will never feel as good as it used to because of the huge developments in the genre since its release. This is the mindset with which I entered my gaming sessions with these new versions of GoldenEye 007.
When these ports of GoldenEye 007 were announced, we knew the Nintendo Switch Online version would be more of a straight port of the original Nintendo 64. In contrast, the Xbox version received a bit of a refresh in the form of its native 4K 16:9 resolution, stable refresh rate, achievement support, and most importantly, dual analog stick controls. Meanwhile, the Switch version doesn’t bring any inherent improvements to the FPS title, but with Nintendo Switch Online’s feature set, you can play online multiplayer and use save states (if you choose) to help with those pesky available tasks.
As advertised, the Xbox version introduces several upgrades to make GoldenEye 007 play better than ever before. The game runs smoothly for the most part and looks great at full widescreen resolution (although I did notice frame rate drops from time to time). The biggest selling point for me is how well the Xbox version plays, thanks to a modern control scheme that uses both analog sticks, just like almost every modern shooter.
It’s impossible to overstate just how much the ability to shoot and turn with the right stick while moving with the left stick makes this 25-year-old title look less advanced. I was honestly shocked at how good the Xbox felt GoldenEye was. Using the updated control scheme, I was able to hack the first few levels on the 00 client, even unlocking my first cheat (interestingly enough, the Xbox version retains the name “DK Mode”, despite the inaccurate reference to Nintendo’s own Donkey Kong). The Xbox version is the one I’ll be shooting when I look to dig into GoldenEye 007’s single player.
Jumping on top of the Switch version, I immediately felt the pressure of using the classic single-stick and full-screen controls (thankfully, there’s a widescreen option in the in-game menu on the Bond watch). To get full impressions, I started with a standard Switch Pro controller, which doesn’t translate well to any Nintendo 64 game. GoldenEye 007 is no different. Playing this game on a standard Switch controller feels downright awful, thanks to the default button mapping — aiming and moving with the left stick feels inconsequential, and the triggers/shoulder buttons feel more retracted than they should be. Thank God, A.A Reddit user Cuesport77 gave instructions for custom remapping the buttons to achieve a more modern control scheme on the Switch.
Aside from making a re-map, your best bet for playing the Nintendo Switch Online version of GoldenEye 007 (or any N64 game in the catalog) is Getting one of those hard-to-get Nintendo 64 consoles for Switch. I was lucky enough to get one in a rare window in stock last year, and after spending some time using it on my GoldenEye 007, I even did. Yes, the game still feels very dated, but it’s the ultimate way to try this version if you don’t want to reset all the controls. Even while gaming on the N64 Switch console, I still had moments of inaccurate inaccuracies, like the video below.
Of course, the biggest selling point of the Switch version is that you can enjoy the legendary split-screen multiplayer game with Nintendo Switch Online’s online functionality. This feature isn’t specific to GoldenEye 007, but it’s probably the best use case. After playing a few missions on the Switch, I jumped into an online multiplayer match. Multiplayer is still as frantic and fun as it was in 1997, and Nintendo Switch Online’s multiplayer capabilities handle remote work well. While playing 1v1 online, I didn’t experience any noticeable latency, allowing the mode that truly made GoldenEye 007 such a legendary title in the late ’90s to shine to its fullest. I’m so excited that I have an easy way to play GoldenEye 007 online.
Ultimately, deciding which version to spend your time on should come down to what is most important to you. If you’re anything like me, the dual analog controls alone make the Xbox version the better version, but it’s impossible to overlook Nintendo Switch Online’s online multiplayer capabilities — especially if your friends you used to play live with are now on opposite sides of the country. Fortunately, both versions are included in each platform’s subscription service at no additional charge, so depending on your situation, you may not have to worry about choosing.
GoldenEye 007 is available today on both Xbox (available through Rare Replay and Xbox Game Pass) and Switch (available through Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack).