For every fanbase for every piece of media, from TV shows, to discographies, to film series, to video games, there is something in there considered to be the Holy Grail. A piece of legend, something that has been seen or teased in the past, that has whetted the appetite of many a fan. As a Doctor Who fan that would be the discovery of the remaining missing episodes (Still waiting on Marco Polo and Fury from the Deep being found), or as a La’s fan it would be the discovery of never-before-heard songs from the band that could create that evasive second album. For fans of the most famous James Bond video game, GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64, the Holy Grail has been the graphical remake of the game that was developed in 2008.
Fans of GoldenEye have been clambering for a faithful update to the game for a long time now. Unfortunately, that old chestnut legal issues has prevented that from happening time and time again – Rights over actors’ likenesses, the Bond license and the rivalry between Microsoft and Nintendo have meant that this remake which was due for release on the Xbox Live Arcade was shut down. There was the odd screenshot and bit of gameplay leaked here and there but nothing came of it and the remake seemed lost to time.
Yup. It leaked. It took nearly 13 years but it is finally out and if you have the technical know how to set up an emulator then it’s yours to play once again. As a result, GoldenEye has had a mini-resurgence with fans relishing the chance to play as Bond with a few more pixels. Nearly 25 years on, GoldenEye’s faithful fanbase still love and adore the game. Besides being a pioneer of the first person shooter genre, one of the main pieces of GoldenEye’s puzzle is its soundtrack composed by Grant Kirkhope and Graeme Norgate. To celebrate the remake’s leak, we’re going to take a peek into one of the most legendary video game soundtracks of all time.
There are so many tracks here to choose from and as a result I have had to very reluctantly ignore a few. That being said, you really should just check out the full soundtrack when you have time.
A legendary level deserves a legendary track and that is Facility in spades. Slightly industrial sounding notes of the Bond theme peppered throughout to create the quintessential ‘super-spy slinking around like a badass’ track.
One of the best parts about the GoldenEye soundtrack is that it constantly has that undertone running through it that you are alone. Runway, which takes place after the ‘sacrifice’ of Bond’s colleague, certainly evokes that loneliness. Sure it starts off rather bombastic, if a little melancholy, at first but then as it carries on as you get further into the level, as you are presumably sailing down the runway in a tank, it takes a turn. It’s as if it’s trying to convey what’s in Bond’s mind; sure he’s escaping, but he should be escaping with his mate.
Surface I + II
Same map, two polar opposite tracks. The first time we hit the Surface level, it’s daylight with the sun turning the sky a gorgeous pink and blue, and the music is almost triumphant as Bond plods his way through the snow avoiding detection from the guards. I’ve seen some people say it scared them when they were younger but I’ve always found it strangely calming. Second level’s version though, that would scare the bejeezus out of me. This time it’s dark, you can’t see a bloody thing, and the guards are after you from the off. The music is suitably cold and atmospheric as you try not to get lost and keep calm as your enemies stalk you from the shadows. Easier said than done.
There’s also two versions of Bunker but to be controversially honest, I really don’t like the second track. The first is brilliant though, playing well into the stealth aspects of the level, with Bond getting the drop on unsuspected guards.
Time for a good old-fashioned shoot ‘em up. James Bond has a licence to kill and this track is one of the better examples to remind you of that. Bonus points though to the ‘countdown’ part of the track if you’re cutting it a bit fine and the bombs you’ve placed are about to explode. When you hear that you know that shit is about to hit the fan.
Statue may not be one of my favourite levels of the game but I don’t think there is a better track that could suit a creepy dark park full of old relics while you’re shot out by goons with shotguns. A particular highlight is when it transitions to that crescendo that just screams ‘RUSSIA’.
Driving the tank through the streets of St Petersburg would be endless amounts of fun if it weren’t for the fact you’re on a time limit, which the snare drumbeat serves to remind you of. There’s a very war-esque, military vibe with the Streets track which suits going around creating havoc in the tank.
I don’t see this track getting as much love as I think it should. Like Silo, this is a track suited for a straight shoot ‘em up, let none stand in your way kind of situation but here it’s no holds barred as Bond shoots his way through the Janus base. I think this one could be a little bit better though, if it had some backing choir vocals added to it. Can we get something like that modded into GoldenEye XBLA please?
Train is one of the more difficult levels in the game, and is a straight firefight with Bond ploughing through carriage upon carriage of guards. There’s something a little more gritty about Train’s track, as if Bond’s embracing his inner psycho as he mercilessly guns down everything in sight in search of Trevelyan and Natalya. Doubly so if you’re playing on the easiest difficulty and pick up the RCP90.
The bassline. Nuff said.
Very much a calm before the storm, Caverns can be a bit of a slog as one of the longest levels in GoldenEye. However, its length allows it to be more of the more atmospheric tracks in the game not just because it’s set in some dark wet caves but also because of its melancholic undertones. Like Runway, it feels like we’re tapping into Bond’s true feelings about the mission, how depressing it is that he is in pursuit of and out to kill a man who was once a good friend and trusted ally.
And so we come to the final level of the game with a track that sets the scene for an all or nothing climax. The stakes are high and so are Bond and Trevelyan as they do battle hundreds of feet in the air. The keyboard notes capture the intensity of the Cradle level as you dish it out with Trev and his never ending supply of minions who flank you from every corner. You might be panicking, you might be under a lot of pressure, but who cares? You’re James f*cking Bond.
Something a bit different. I could easily talk about the proper Aztec track and how grand it is but I’m giving mention to the intense version that starts playing once you activate the countdown for the shuttle. See, Aztec has a bit of a reputation of being the most difficult, anger-inducing level in the entire game, with guards that shoot lasers, drone guns that never stop shooting and Jaws wielding two assault rifles all standing in your way. If you manage to get through all that, you’ve still got to survive endlessly spawning enemies while you’re trying to get that shuttle to takeoff. With this track playing, your heart will be beating like mad and you’ll be praying to the Gods of gaming that you’re not going to blow it at the last hurdle. The timer freezing if you forget to open the launch bay doors doesn’t help matters either.
Silent Hill or GoldenEye? Either way, suitably mysterious and spooky for a level involving Baron Samedi, the man who cannot die.
So those are my picks for the best tracks from the main levels, but what about the miscellaneous bits of music you can hear across the game? Here’s a select few…
For me, of all the bits of music you hear over the course of GoldenEye, this was the tune of my childhood. Pausing midway through the game to take a breather and just leaving the watch ticking along as I collected my thoughts while this played. It is a rather calming track in my book. Plus it can lead to some hilarity if you pause in the middle of an encounter with a squad of goons and leave the game running for an hour.
“Everyone, cease fire! He’s looking at his watch!”
-ONE HOUR LATER-
“He’s got to look up at some point hasn’t he?”
Battle with Xenia
Jungle for the most part has no real music to speak of (Although it was meant to if the beta track is anything to go by), but then you encounter iron thighs herself, Xenia Onatopp midway through and engage in a boss battle with her. This starts playing and immediately puts you on your toes as you prepare for a tough battle. Or if you just aim for the head, a three second encounter.
Elevator (Control + Caverns)
Well you can’t really talk about the GoldenEye soundtrack without mentioning the elevator music you hear when you start up Control and Caverns. If you didn’t make Bond dance a little jig before exiting the lift then I’m sorry, you haven’t lived.
So there you go, that is my take on the GoldenEye soundtrack. And you know what? I’m only scratching the surface. There’s still a lot more to dig into; the main level tracks I haven’t talked about, the unused Citadel, the multiplayer versions, the main theme…Like I say, if there is one game’s soundtrack that you need to spend time listening to at least once, if there is a game itself whose soundtrack alone makes it worth playing, then it is GoldenEye. The full soundtrack is available below. Get listening.