This New GoldenEye Documentary Is An Entertaining Account Of The Making Of An FPS Classic

The story of GoldenEye's development is as entertaining as the game itself. Rare's seminal N64 shooter was revolutionary, influential, and sold 8 million copies—yet it was made in a barn by a ragtag group of inexperienced twenty-somethings who had no idea what they were doing. This is something that's explored in GoldenEra, a new feature length documentary about the making of the greatest Bond game. It's out now in the UK, with other regions to follow, and if you're a fan of GoldenEye or the history of video games it's well worth a watch.

Directed by Drew Roller, GoldenEra features new interviews with the game's creators. Martin Hollis, David Doak, Brett Jones, Graeme Norgate, Grant Kirkhope, Duncan Botwood, and Karl Hilton are among the developers grilled—and they all have plenty of anecdotes to share. It's a real treat hearing them reminisce about this wild time in their lives, and what it felt like being responsible for a game as groundbreaking as GoldenEye. There are also interviews with people whose lives the game has touched, including players, journos, and modders.

It's a pretty standard documentary, with talking heads, archive footage, and gameplay clips. But it's elevated by some slick visuals and motion graphics. At certain points, moments from the game's development are re-enacted inside the GoldenEye engine—complete with those brilliantly blocky character models and their stretched, texture-mapped faces. Snappy editing gives the film a breezy pace, but it still manages to cover all aspects of the game's development—including the music, art, motion capture, and level design. It's pretty exhaustive.

However, I do wish a little more time was dedicated to the nitty gritty of the game's production. It only briefly talks about Graeme Norgate and Grant Kirkhope's legendary score, which as a big fan of the music was a little disappointing. I never really got a sense of exactly how Rare built its groundbreaking 3D engine either. Personally, I'd have liked there to be less focus on speedrunners and modders, and more time spent on the specific trials and tribulations of making a game as pioneering as this. But maybe that's just the game design nerd in me speaking.

The best thing about GoldenEra is how it's a vivid snapshot of a time when creators could make games free of relentless corporate oversight. Rare was largely left to its own devices, and the result is one of the best games ever made. Nowadays, anyone working on a licence as major as James Bond will have to hack through a web of red tape and meddling, clueless suits to make any creative decision. GoldenEye's iconic multiplayer mode was added late in production, under the noses of the nervous money men, which is frankly incredible.

The documentary also looks at what the developers did next. We get a little insight into Perfect Dark, the post-GoldenEye game Rare made when the owners of Bond jacked the price of the license up and Nintendo didn't want to fork out for it. Some time is spent on Free Radical Design, a studio founded by GoldenEye alumni David Doak, Steve Ellis, Karl Hilton, and Graeme Norgate, who went on to make the brilliant TimeSplitters series. It's not just a film about GoldenEye itself, but on how its success impacted and inspired the wider games industry.

GoldenEra is a quality, well made documentary. Even though it could have gone more in-depth into certain things, it's an entertaining document of the making of an important video game. It's clear Drew Roller and the other filmmakers are passionate about the source material, and it's great seeing the developers getting nostalgic about the game that made their careers. Some of them still can't seem to believe how lucky they were. That's not to say these weren't immensely talented people, but as David Doak says in the film: luck is a big part of success in the games industry too. That's what they don't tell you going in.

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