Why It’s OK That GoldenEye Totally Sucks

Why It’s OK That GoldenEye Totally Sucks

Editor-in-chief’s note: I was annoyed when I heard that ‘an exhibition exploring fascinatingly bad games‘ being held at New York University on Friday would include GoldenEye a Nintendo 64 game I loved when I was in college. Earth Defense Force and Big Rigs I could understand. They’re so bad, they’re good. But GoldenEye? WTF?

I sent the curators a terse email: “What do you know that I don’t know about GoldenEye being a bad game? If you’d care to make an argument, I’d be happy to run it on the site. “

Curator Owen McLean replied:

GoldenEye sucks. It’s, frankly, kind of a mess of a game. If this were a traditional review I would point out the following problems: the visuals are often muddy and hard to discern, even for its time (clipping issues are also everywhere). Movements are sluggish and unresponsive, and the N64 controller is an odd fit for FPS controls. The single player campaign feels monotonous and perfunctory, with tired objective-based missions (the player has to save Natalya four separate times) and waves of unintelligent enemies . The weapon selection is unbalanced and extremely limited. The level design, especially for multiplayer, often feels cobbled-together and inelegant.

If I just described any other game, nobody would bat an eye. But I described GoldenEye, a hallowed, sacred, downright ineffable landmark of gaming to many who remember losing countless hours to its multiplayer modes with their friends back in its heyday, relishing in the beauty of accessible, split-screen, console FPS action. I was one of them, and I absolutely loved GoldenEye. I still absolutely love GoldenEye. And even though nostalgia is an extremely persuasive emotion, I would be lying through my teeth if I said it was still “good”.

But here’s the thing: it’s OK that GoldenEye sucks because it doesn’t matter if it was ever “good” or not. Does applying a set of conventional standards to a game make all of the fond memories we’ve had with it any less valid, less real? Absolutely not. Video games on their own may be objects with set values, just numbers and algorithms, but they don’t function completely until people play them, and people have unique and different points of view — it’s what makes us people, and it’s also what makes playing video games so damn interesting and fun. Games are ultimately subjective experiences, meaning that at some point objective analysis falls apart. To me, GoldenEye is an incredibly fun game that I still love to play, and for me, that is plentiful.

There’s a saying that floats around circles of film geeks: “Films should not be measured by success or critical acclaim, but simply by our affection for them.” It’s time to start looking at games this way too, or else we will find ourselves in a future gaming community inhabited by Metacritic-trawling, review score-obsessed clones, robotic consumers who no longer think for themselves and spout the same regurgitated opinions about the same small lot of games. And I think that’s something we can all agree definitely sucks.

And if anyone disagrees, they should come to our event at NYY and do a little exploring and discussing, and maybe they’ll start to think about games differently. That can never be a “bad” thing.

Event Info


Bad Is Beautiful: An Exhibition Exploring Fascinatingly Bad Games at the NYU Game Center Friday, April 13 721 Broadway, 9th Floor Lobby 5pm – 8pm

The idea of “B movies” — movies that are so conventionally bad on technical and artistic levels that they surpass “unenjoyable” and somehow end up back at “entertaining” — has existed for almost half a century. Some viewers embrace these movies because they allow them to rebel against movie snobs, and some simply find something beautiful and unique buried within the trainwreck. A pertinent quote floats around certain film circles that goes something like this: “Films should not be measured by success or critical acclaim, but simply by our affection for them.”

Bad is Beautiful looks at games in this way. It explores the idea of forgetting whether a game is “good” or “bad”, and instead encourages thinking of it as “interesting” or “not interesting”. It relishes the surreal moments that “flawed” games unintentionally create. It brings games that challenge conventional ideas of “good” out of the bargain bin and into the spotlight. It casts a sceptical eye on the Metacritic-trawling gamers of the world who stay in their safe, comfortable world of 8s, 9s and 10s and encourages them to take a risk, to explore the seedy underbelly of this art form they love so much, to diversify. It embraces the campy, the shattered, the rejected, the freakish, the dated, and the flat-out disastrous.

This is the crap avant-garde, and it’s beautiful.

Games open for play include: Deadly Premonition, Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, Extreme Paintbrawl, GoldenEye 007, Earth defence Force 2017 and more.

Curation by Owen McLean, Game Center Open Librarian Please RSVP here


  • Right on. It’s about time someone stood up.

    Now, you know what else sucks? Puppies. And chocolate.

  • Also, GoldenEye is a terrible example for the point ultimately made in this article. It was critically acclaimed. Would not the point be better made by talking about a game that was not well received by critics but was loved by consumers? Much like many Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. I can’t think of an example off the top of my morning head.

  • +1 for Deadly Premonition. Finally beat the game a few weeks ago. It’s a terrible game but I loved it and one of the better experiences I’ve had this generation.

  • Was a massive fan of Golden Eye, spent countless hours on single player and hours apon hours on multiplayer with mates. It was an amazing game. Go back two years, I wanted to play this game again, it bought back awesome memories. Problem was now that game has not aged very well. The controls where horrible and the frame rate was laughable…I’m sorry the game just doesn’t hold up. I play alot of old school games still because they are awesome and still hold up, Golden is not one of them. I wish I had never gone back and played that game, because it basically ruined those memories. I would suggest not to play that game again, it just may ruin what you remember about that classic.

    • While that’s true – the reason it was a great game was because it was innovative and good in it’s time – sure the N64 pad was a bad fit for FPS controls, but the dual shock was a whole year away at the time and as it is Mouselook was only a few years old anyway so these things were constantly evolving

  • How utterly stupid.

    This is akin to saying Jesse Owens was a terrible runner because he wasn’t as fast as Usain Bolt…

  • A game I love that was critically mauled and that the internet ridicules to this day is Alpha Protocol. I thought it was a really good, if buggy modern world RPG, but I seem to be the only one with a kind word for the game.

    • Nope. European reviews of the game showed a lot more positive opinion of the game, as opposed to most reviewers in the US/UK/Aus who expected “Mass Effect as a spy”. It definitely had some technical issues, but in terms of overall design, choice and storytelling, it’s one of the best damn games created. The biggest problem is that people expected it to be something it wasn’t. If you accept it for the type of game it is, then the main complaint is the horrible boss fights. Anyone who hates Alpha Protocol wanted it to be something it’s not.

  • Some mates and I recently interuptted a late night Halo:Reach session with some Goldeneye and it was laughably bad. We had 4 player split screen and as soon as 3 people got in the same room the fram rate dropped down to a crawl and the whole thing became unplayable. And then there are the controls. What kind of God-awful sadist invented the N64 controler anyway. It is physically impossible to acces all the buttons without moving your hand and free aim in Golden eye basically meant standing still so you could move the oh-so-sensative crosshair around.

    Just shows how far gaming has come really.

  • It was great at the time. But no one but the most ardent of fans can say that it has aged gracefully. I tried playing it a couple of years ago with some friends, don’t think we lasted more than 15mins

  • I think I kind of do this thing anyway. There are plenty of games in my collection that I think are good, even if they’re rough around the edges. And generally I think this because I enjoy them. Take a game like Minon: Everyday Hero on Wii. There isn’t really much that’s specifically bad about it, and technically it may not be that great a game. But the cutscenes are freakin hilarious and I still manage to enjoy playing it, so to me it’s a good game.

  • I played goldeneye again recently on a N64 emu with a 360 controller. Was a blast after I worked out how to map the control to something more modern.

  • Console people have a rose-colored, beer-goggle view of Golden Eye. When Golden Eye came out on the N64 in August 1997 it was great – for an N64 game. But tech-wise, compared to PC shooters of the time it didn’t stack up. PC players were busy with online multiplayer Quake 1. But by December 2007 there was Quake 2 with colored lighting, large levels, better character animation, particle effects, 30 frames per second at 800×600 using a 3DFx Voodoo 1, smooth mouse and keyboard controls, internet multiplayer , an official Capture the Flag mode released as a download soon after. Golden Eye was laughably inferior in almost every way.

    • Well of course it was. I loved playing Quake and later Half-Life, but that didn’t stop me from playing and enjoying GoldenEye for hours at family or friends’ houses. At the time the gulf between PC games and consoles was so blatantly obvious that comparing Quake and Quake 2 with GoldenEye felt completely absurd. We didn’t have rose-tinted booze-goggles, we just didn’t compare apples and oranges 😛

      • I think we pretty much agree. I played and enjoyed some Golden Eye split screen too. But there were some rabid console folks, who hadn’t seen PC games, that would go on and on about Golden Eye. And when you tried to suggest there were much better games on PC they would have none of it. I’m even talking in 2000 when that game was 3 years old and PC gamers were already playing Quake 3 and Counter Strike.

        • ahh, yes… those people were obviously wrong haha

          GoldenEye was fun, and still is when the cousins pull it out at family gatherings… but even at release there were much better things going on in my computer room. *insert dirty joke here*

  • I haven’t revisited Goldeneye for years, and I seriously doubt I ever will, for the reasons put forth above. Hoever, I never played Perfect Dark on 64 and so was pretty excited to play the XBLA remake last year.
    Unfortunately I found it unplayable – level design especially was appalling, and it was so muddy, even with HD fidelity, that I couldn’t see anything.
    Leave nostalgia in the past, unless it’s a genre or gameplay style where visuals literally don’t matter – I’m thinking of 8-bit platformers and, specifically, Abe’s Oddysee and Exoddus.

  • Goldeneye may have aged badly, but it wasn’t a bad game. It was revolutionary as far as fps’ go. Most fps’ took something away from Goldeneye, and there are things it did which sadly games don’t equal (if they even try to implement) today.

  • Goldeneye is suprisingly playable on a PC emulator with one of the various graphics packs applied. Did this on a hdtv a few months back with 360 controllers and it was a lot of fun!
    Not everyone likes the graphics packs, but it does get rid of the muddiness!

  • I couldn’t really tell where the quote ended and the article resumed. You should really fix that.

    And I can understand him saying the game hasn’t aged well, but to call it bad I’d have to disagree.
    Graphics, clipping issues, the controller, these were the limits of the hardware not bad game design.

    “The single player campaign feels monotonous and perfunctory, with tired objective-based missions and waves of unintelligent enemies…. The level design, especially for multiplayer, often feels cobbled-together and inelegant.”

    I’m sorry but I love the level design in Goldeneye.
    Having extra objectives for higher difficulties worked perfectly with the whole spy thing, the levels took a while to get to know, the levels were fun to replay as you tried to determine optimal paths through them, and the timed rewards for each difficulty in each level gave you real goals to keep working towards.
    I’d take that over a one way path any day.

    • Yeah, great levels. I haven’t seen any modern FPS with anywhere near the amount of replayability I got out of Goldeneye.

  • I think he’s trying to compare GE by todays gaming standards – which is just flat out wrong. If he would actually contextualise his argument he would find that GE stood out heads and shoulders above contemporary shooters. Yes of course the game had its hard limits and flaws but compared to the offerings at the time it was amazing, replayable, deep and fulfilling.
    This guy shouldn’t be curating anything to do with games as far as I’m concerned, he has a serious lack of perspective.

    By the way, I’m a Lecturer at Qantm so this kind of thing is what I do for a crust.

  • I’m playing Goldeneye right now, and I can assure you that it hasn’t lost it’s magic. I play a lot of modern games, but Goldeneye makes me tingle all over with delight.

  • Not only this game sucks ALOT but this game killed gaming. This and the fucking game called half life. Holy fuck

  • This game isn’t just overrated – it is the gaming equivalent of placing Satan at the right hand of God.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!