GoldenEye is finally coming back to consoles. But that good news has been quickly overshadowed thanks to its upcoming launch being anything other than simple. There are two versions of the re-release, with different versions for Nintendo Switch and Xbox, and neither of them are the much-anticipated remaster that leaked last year. It’s a weirdly convoluted situation.
As part of the recent Nintendo Direct, N64 classic shooter GoldenEye was announced for Nintendo Switch Online. As with other games in the Online collection, this is an emulated version of the N64 original, not a remake or remaster. It does, however, have one new feature: online multiplayer.
At pretty much the same time, Rare – the Microsoft-owned studio who created the original version of GoldenEye – announced on Twitter that a GoldenEye re-release will also be coming to Xbox via Game Pass, and made available free to owners of the Rare Replay collection. However, the studio’s description of the game made it instantly clear that the Switch and Xbox versions are not the same. The Xbox version “includes achievements, 4K resolution and a smoother framerate – even in split-screen local multiplayer.” No mention at all was made of online multiplayer.
Later, official Bond website 007.com confirmed that online multiplayer is exclusive to the Switch version. It also noted that the Xbox version is different to the Switch release, calling it a “4K remaster” rather than a re-release.
25 years after its original release, experience GoldenEye 007 faithfully recreated for Xbox consoles. Includes achievements, 4K resolution and a smoother framerate – even in split-screen local multiplayer! Coming soon to @XboxGamePass. pic.twitter.com/kpBlJKqFR9
— Rare Ltd. (@RareLtd) September 13, 2022
However, this remaster of GoldenEye is not the remaster that has been pretty much an open secret among the games industry for years. During the Xbox 360 era, Rare created a full remaster of GoldenEye with updated graphics and a function that allowed players to instantly switch between the original and updated visuals, much like the Halo 1 and 2 remasters.
This version eventually leaked onto the internet in 2021. Following the leak, members of the development team revealed that work on the GoldenEye remaster had been pretty much finished and the game was all but ready to be released, but Nintendo stepped in and canceled it. Allegedly, Nintendo did not like the idea of an N64 game releasing on a Microsoft console.
Over the past year, a number of leaks revealed Xbox achievements for GoldenEye. This may have given some people hope that Rare’s full remaster was finally on the way. News of the game being in limbo due to the Ukraine war would only have fuelled that hope. But instead the version that will be released is just a high-definition version of the original Nintendo 64 version. You’re getting the same 1990s graphics, just cleaned up. The updated visuals remaster, it seems, is (officially) for Rare’s eyes only.
So that's two versions of GoldenEye: one with online multiplayer on a console frequently used on the go, and another without it on a platform known for its world-leading online infrastructure. And neither are the much-wanted Rare remaster from the Xbox 360 era. Given the long trouble with re-releasing GoldenEye (due to licensing disputes on multiple fronts), perhaps we should be celebrating the fact we're getting it all – but this feels like a strange kind of celebration.
Matt Purslow is IGN's UK News and Features Editor.