If you ask most old-school gamers, they'll tell you the James Bond tie-in GoldenEye 007 was one of the best titles made for the Nintendo 64 back in the late 1990s.
About 10 years later, original developer Rare was working on a remastered version of the game for Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade. But the remaster got tied up in rights issues and was unceremoniously cancelled. Now the lost game has leaked onto the internet and you can actually play it.
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Fans of the original GoldenEye game finally have a glimpse at this mysteriously lost title. There are multiple YouTube videos online of people playing the game, all with nostalgic joy.
The game can be played on an Xbox 360 development kit or the Xenia emulator on PC. While the emulator does require a decently powerful rig, it plays well.
How the GoldenEye 007 remaster got leaked
Where did this leak come from? Goldeneye 007 was originally released on the Nintendo 64 in 1997, and British development studio Rare was bought by Microsoft in 2002.
At some point during the Xbox 360's lifecycle, Rare developed a remastered port of Goldeneye for Xbox Live Arcade. But the game ran into licensing issues, which forced its abandonment even though it was near-complete by August of 2007.
The game did make its way to PartnerNet, which was a service for developers and reviewers to share game code online through Xbox 360 development kits.
Because security wasn't too stringent on PartnerNet, whenever a game would hit the service, it was possible for almost anyone with an Xbox 360 development kit to download the latest game code. And briefly, Goldeneye 007 Remaster went live on the service for about one hour.
According to YouTuber ModernVintageGamer (opens in new tab), Microsoft would often take development kits to landfills for disposal. Resellers would scour landfills looking for dev kits to then sell on the open market. This meant that, for a few hundred dollars, it was possible for the public to get their hands on a dev kit and access PartnerNet.
What the leaked GoldenEye is like, and why it'll never be officially released
The GoldenEye remastered game runs at 720p instead of the original's standard definition, with higher resolution textures and either a 16:9 or 21:9 aspect ratio. The game itself is floating around the internet and can be found on at least one publicly accessible website without requiring a password or login.
In 2010, Activision did release a GoldenEye 007 game for the Wii and Nintendo DS. It was a reimagined version of the original N64 title. That game did not garner the same praise as the original, but was a decent title, currently sitting at an 81 on Metacritic.
A year later, a higher-resolution port was released on PS3 and Xbox 360 titled Goldeneye 007: Reloaded. The PS3 version features PS Move controls, giving it the same motion options as the Wii version from a year prior. Reloaded sits at a lower Metacritic score of 72.
The remastered version of GoldenEye 007 is still in legal limbo. Considering that Microsoft, Nintendo, MGM, James Bond rights holder Eon Productions and even Activision may have to agree on copyright issues, and the actors in the 1995 GoldenEye movie will need to agree to have their likenesses used, an official remake or remaster may never happen.