Goldeneye 007 is available for Series X/S and Switch – but how do the ports compare to the N64 version?
Since its original release on Nintendo 64, GoldenEye 007 has grown into an almost mythical game, the subject of countless tales of its four-player split-screen deathmatches or single-player goal-oriented missions. This myth has led to remasters and re-releases over the years, but recent releases for Xbox consoles and Nintendo Switch still came as a shock.
While their arrival is certainly cause for celebration, it wasn’t long before complaints began to pour in – about the quality of the emulation, the controls, and even the music. Given the response, I needed to find out exactly what’s going on with these re-releases, and that’s why we’re here today.
Despite its impact, GoldenEye never had a perfect remaster. The closest we got was an Xbox 360 title, which held a ton of promises – updated graphics with a toggle for the original look, 60fps gameplay, picture perfect quality, and smooth controls – but it all fell apart at the last minute and was only leaked playable Form in 2021. The game changed the face of FPS and defined the N64, but for a long time it seemed like rights issues would prevent a remaster from rolling out, despite the efforts of countless developers making reboot plans.
But in 2023, against all odds, we don’t have one remaster, but two – for Nintendo Switch and Xbox consoles, including Series X/S. Both are based on emulation; on the Switch using iQue’s emulator developed for Switch Online, while on the Xbox it uses an updated emulation layer based on the work done for Rare Replay. Each version uses its own modified ROM; On the Xbox side, all traces of Nintendo have been removed and hacks added to improve controls, while on the Switch the focus has been on removing unused textures from Roger Moore, Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton – presumably for a watertight legal defense to ensure against legal problems .
On the surface, what’s here is perfectly serviceable – it’s GoldenEye running on new consoles. It promises some improvements, such as B. Smoother performance, but don’t expect a proper remake or remaster. However, both versions have problems – especially in relation to the display of the old 3D graphics.
The Xbox version aims for 4K rendering, while the Switch works at 720p – both are significantly higher resolution than the original 240p visuals, which poses a problem when the artwork in these games was designed to be rendered at 240p can be displayed on a CRT. Increasing the resolution makes the errors visible to everyone.
Additionally, in the case of the Xbox version, the emulation highlights other issues – warbling vertices, visible texture seams, and lots of z-fighting. Well, you might expect me to criticize the emulation here, but in reality this is actually more accurate than what’s used on Switch. It’s a symptom you’ll notice with the low-level N64 emulation – so this means that Xbox version developer Code Mystics’ emulation work is pretty robust.
However, this Goldeneye port strikes an odd middle ground, where aspects of the rendering are accurate while others aren’t. For example, the unique tri-point texture filtering inherent to N64 is missing. While the 3D is rendered in high resolution, the math that drives it appears to be limited by the game’s original low-resolution output, which could explain why the gently warbling vertices and textures stand out so much. They are present on real hardware but difficult to see at 320×240.
This could have been fixed by downsampling, which involves rendering the game at 4K or other high resolution with improved color depth and other enhancements, and then shrinking it back down to the original target resolution, using all that extra data to create a more detailed look than that to produce original visuals – but one that feels true to the original artistic direction. This approach works well for GoldenEye with PC emulation, so it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t see a similar approach here, as the game looks uglier than it should.
There are also some oddities related to the frame rate. Code Mystics specifically mentioned that 60fps was off the table to prevent inaccurate gameplay, but their version has issues with enemies clipping through walls and other odd behavior. While the game plays Nintendo and Rare logos at 60fps on a real N64, it’s 30fps on the Xbox version – although the Switch port gets this right. So overall it’s an odd mix of accuracy combined with obvious inaccuracy that ultimately hurts the experience.
Of course, these are relatively minor issues compared to the actual frame rate, which was typically very poor on the original hardware – some missions ran at around 10fps for long stretches and the split-screen multiplayer didn’t fare any better. Despite this, the game still feels decent due to careful camera movements, subtle dynamics, and smooth animations, ensuring it remains at least moderately playable even at single-digit frame rates. Against this background, the new releases run much more smoothly than the original.
On the Xbox, there have been many complaints about performance with the 30fps cap and users reporting stuttering and slowdowns. I’ve experienced that too, but metering the framerate results in a near-locked 30fps – it looks like the framerate cap is working to some extent, but perhaps the distance your character travels between frames is more variable than it should be should. This makes the game feel more inconsistent than it should, despite being light years behind the original game.
Despite initial impressions, Switch runs slower than Xbox with frequent frame rate drops and unstable frame times. Again, it’s faster than the N64 original, but not as stable as it should be. This is particularly annoying when the unreleased Xbox 360 versions offer a fully locked 60 fps in all modes.
Aside from the litany of visual and performance grievances, there are a few other issues in these remasters. Most notably, the Xbox version features extremely muted sound; it’s compressed and crispy in a way the original on N64 isn’t. Considering the quality of the game’s music, this is a real disappointment. The Switch version fares better, with almost identical sound and music compared to the original version.
But while Switch performs well on the audio side, its controls are a bit messy. The default controller mapping here matches the unique N64 controller, but there are some unique quirks on the Joy-Cons or Pro controller – like firing with ZL and strafing left/right with the right stick. To fix this, I would suggest selecting the “1.2 Solitaire” control scheme in-game, then swapping the analog sticks and remapping the ZL button to ZR in the Switch system menu. You can make additional adjustments if you wish, but basically these changes allow for gameplay controls similar to those of a modern two-stick first-person shooter.
The Xbox controls are far simpler, having been tuned to behave like a modern FPS with dual analog support, typical button bindings and even a change in aim setting. These changes affect techniques used by seasoned GoldenEye veterans, such as B. penalty running, but I think for most players this is a logical setup.
Finally, when we talk about controls, graphics and sound, none of these new releases are anywhere near perfect and overall disappointing. Each has its own advantages – the controls are better on Xbox and it runs faster, while Switch offers online multiplayer via the NSO service and better audio.
The thing is, no release really does this game and its legacy justice. There’s no context here – it just feels like a random ROM dump. I could imagine something that much more robust, but it’s never going to happen. With all the licensing nonsense surrounding this game, it’s a wonder it even made the leap.
Still, it’s hard to complain about an additional way to play GoldenEye and it doesn’t take away any existing options. You can still use a real N64 or launch an N64 emulator to enjoy the game at 60fps – there are even mods to add new fonts and UI elements to the game at a much higher resolution. There are other options as well, but the point is that GoldenEye has never been more accessible.
And despite its dated looks and subpar performance, my respect for GoldenEye has only grown over the years. It brings together so many disparate elements into a cohesive and entertaining whole. The missions are all relatively short, but designed almost like miniature sandboxes, with a variety of objectives and tricks to discover. The clunky gadgets and obtuse objectives would feel out of place in a cinematic scripted game and impossible to enjoy in an open-world title, but in GoldenEye the limitations create something that feels just compact enough to be enjoyable. As you learn the cards, your execution improves, channeling almost arcade-like sensibilities.
Even the multiplayer, while very basic, remains fun and customizable. My son had never played this game before he was recruited to help with our testing and despite calling the game “the oldest graphics he’s ever seen” he was laughing and ended up jumping around the room and had a great time. The core of GoldenEye remains as golden as the name suggests.
https://www.eurogamer.net/digitalfoundry-2023-goldeneye-007-is-out-for-series-xs-and-switch-but-how-do-the-ports-compare-to-the-n64-version Goldeneye 007 is available for Series X/S and Switch – but how do the ports compare to the N64 version?