As it turns out, we didn’t have to track down a stolen gunship, nor enter the password “knockers” into any computer systems, to get our hands on one of the rarest and most elusive video games ever made. We just had to wait a few days.
This past weekend, the long-rumored Goldeneye 007 remake project, as helmed officially by Microsoft and Rare before being summarily canceled, finally landed in a fan’s hands. This Spanish game-streamer’s video of the gameplay made the rounds, and four days after his YouTube upload, someone decided to go one further and upload the full, working ROM for public consumption.
And Ars Technica has it.
The upload, which we discovered on a publicly available site without any passwords or logins, includes an NFO file dated August 24, 2007, complete with an elaborate ASCII-art title card that you might expect from a hacking or game-ripping group. This one has a unique name, however, that we haven’t seen before: “Fyodorovna.” If that name escapes you, it’s the middle name of fictional Bond character Natalya Simonova, who figures largely in the film and video game of the same name.
The resulting 7Z file weighs in at 231MB and contains a folder simply titled “Bean,” which was the game’s original codename—and its name on the deprecated Xbox 360 Partnernet service, which the attached NFO says these files were sourced from in August 2007. Partnernet was previously used by owners of Xbox 360 development kits to share in-development game projects, but its access was shut down near the end of the Xbox 360’s lifecycles after game leaks were attributed to its unprotected file-sharing ecosystem.
No limits, no fears, no substitutes
I easily booted the game’s files on the Xevia emulator using Windows 10 with zero tweaks or workarounds on my end—due in part to the enclosed ROM being patched to not require use of an Xbox 360 dev kit. Other than a few stutters while the game loads mid-mission assets or sound effects into memory, everything seems to work swimmingly, even when maxing Xevia into a 4K full-screen window on my RTX 3080 testing rig.
Among other things, that means the canceled game’s most intriguing promise—classic Goldeneye 007 split-screen deathmatches, only with refreshed graphics, updated textures, and a locked 60fps refresh—works without a hitch. (Teenaged me, who played a lot of less-than-30-fps Goldeneye on N64, can hardly believe it.) While I would have loved to access this kind of affectionately refreshed Goldeneye action on an official retail release of the game, this Fyodorovna version on my PC, with four Xbox gamepads connected, will have to suffice.
The leakers at Fyodorovna have instituted a few other tweaks, including one not seen in Graslu00’s video from a few days ago: native 21:9 resolution support. Additionally, a few of the game’s menu options have been removed by default, particularly the Xbox Live online mode (which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t work as enabled in Graslu00’s version). But “system link” remains, and that means savvy users will probably figure out how to chain together online sessions of this remake using Xlink Kai before long.
It’s also a real treat to finally see how the Xbox 360 project implemented a “toggle updated graphics” button. Tap the Xbox gamepad’s right bumper at any time, whether in single player or multiplayer, and the entire game will transform from newly refreshed graphics, textures, and geometry to an apparent 1:1 match for the N64 original—complete with that console’s telltale, smeary anti-aliasing. Hilariously, this build lets any player toggle the graphics back and forth at any time, and cannot be disabled, so get ready for split-screen action to get interrupted by whichever one of your multiplayer friends likes to swap the graphics as a distraction.
In terms of gameplay specifics, Spanish streamer Graslu00 already spoke at length to Ars about how this game handles mechanically—look for the bullet-point list on this article’s second page—and I can immediately confirm his descriptions are on point. AI, character speed, even the sway of a sniper rifle in your hand as held as a melee weapon: It’s all here. (The same link also includes a history refresher on this lost project, in case you’re still wondering what the heck is going on with a completely remastered multiplayer map like Temple.)
The top-of-article gallery focuses largely on stuff I didn’t see in Graslu00’s upload from Friday, particularly the new-to-old comparisons enabled by tapping the right bumper mid-game. Should I discover anything else riveting while playing the Xbox 360 version to completion, I’ll be sure to let you know. (Which I’m doing, by the way, because the game’s multiplayer arena selection isn’t fully unlocked without doing so.) Otherwise, if you’ll excuse me, I have, uh, work to do. And if you try to guilt me about playing this oddly sourced ROM, I’ll respond by asking if all the vodka martinis ever silence the screams of the men you’ve killed.
Listing image by Microsoft / Rare