Skins are everything in modern multiplayer shooter titles. What better way to win a Fortnite match than as Kratos wielding a golden pump-action shotgun? But in order to wear character skins these days, you have to buy them with a credit card. Long before online multiplayer, FPS games like GoldenEye 007 locked such content behind achievements. Want to play as a certain character? You had to earn it. While many understandably long for such systems in the age of microtransactions, it’s worth noting that those mysterious gameplay-based unlocks usually led to quite a bit of misinformation, half-truths, and urban legends. Few of those legends are as fascinating as GoldenEye 007‘s fabled “All Bonds” cheat.
If you never played GoldenEye 007, you missed out on arguably the most influential FPS title of all time. The game, developed by Rare, is a licensed adaptation of 1995’s GoldenEye released for the N64 in 1997. GoldenEye 007 is rough by modern FPS standards, but it served as a blueprint for future console shooters, especially when it came to its revolutionary split-screen multiplayer mode. That mode offered plenty of weapons and characters to choose from, including a few legacy characters that weren’t in the GoldenEye 007 campaign such as Oddjob and Jaws. The presence of those characters (along with the game’s complex unlock system) almost immediately fueled speculation that it may actually be possible to play as every big-screen James Bond in multiplayer.
While gamers can play as Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in GoldenEye 007, a popular rumor suggested that the game also hid the digitized likenesses of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and George Lazenby. That rumor started in the April 1998 edition of Electronic Gaming Monthly Magazine. Mind you, that publication had a notorious habit of publishing fake stories for April Fool’s day, the most infamous of which was a fake guide on how to unlock Sheng Long in Street Fighter II. The aforementioned “unlockable” James Bonds skins, alternatively known as the “All Bonds Cheat,” is yet another of EGM’s April Fool’s day jokes.
According to EGM’s fake guide, the path to unlocking the additional Bonds is an arduous process that will challenge one’s skills and patience. To start, players needed to access the cheat menu but make sure no beneficial cheats were active. Then, gamers had to start the Aztec Stage, which is only available by beating every main story level on Secret Agent difficulty. Oh, and let’s not forget the icing on the cake: Players need to complete the level on 007 difficulty in under nine minutes while enemy sliders are maxed out (i.e., enemy health at 200%, enemy damage at 100%, enemy accuracy at 100%, and enemy reaction speed at 100%). If successful, the game should reward players with a new cheat option that unlocks the additional Bonds. Quite the daunting challenge and an equally impressive reward. It’s just a shame that it was all fake. Or was it?
When players read the story, many tried to achieve the seemingly impossible task. For most gamers, it was just that: impossible. Those who did succeed had the honor of confirming the whole thing was a joke. Yet, the rumor persisted. Gamers assumed there had to be some way, any way, to unlock extra James Bonds, but as history has shown, GoldenEye 007 simply wasn’t programmed with a legitimate method to play as the legacy 007s. But just because nobody can use pre-Brosnan Bonds in the game’s retail release doesn’t mean Rare never intended to include them.
During a 2020 interview with The Independent, GoldenEye 007 director Martin Hollis recounted his time working on the game. While working out what Rare could and couldn’t use, US lawyers basically handed Hollis the keys to the 007 kingdom. As he put it, his team could use “any character or piece of hardware from any of the films.” Naturally, the GoldenEye 007 team used that information as an excuse to create models for Connery, Moore, and Dalton for multiplayer. Strangely, Hollis doesn’t reference Bond actor George Lazenby in the interview. Perhaps there were separate issues with the actor, or perhaps it was simply a matter of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service still being treated as a franchise black sheep at that time.
Regardless, Rare’s developers loved pitting these different Bonds against one another to see who came out on top, but the lawyers had other ideas. When Rare employees showed Bond license representatives their “four Bonds mode,” their dreams were shot down for precautionary reasons. According to Hollis, the lawyers were “worried about [Connery] getting litigious.”
Due to a healthy fear of lawsuits, Rare dropped any hopes of including older Bond actors in GoldenEye 007 and finished the game with Brosnan as the only playable 007. But as is usually the case with game development, those early models were never entirely scrubbed from the game’s code. Basic, early textures of non-Brosnan Bonds are stored in the game but are inaccessible via normal means.
Actually, gamers have discovered the only way to “use” these unfinished textures is by brute-forcing them onto existing models, which has produced malformed and glitchy results. While All Bonds mode isn’t available in the retail version of GoldenEye 007, the mode is somewhat accessible in an unofficial capacity. Granted, players have to engage in the morally gray practice of game emulation and then use a fanmade mod with the modified textures in order to access it, but the other Bonds are technically in the game’s code.
The “All Bonds” cheat demonstrates the complicated nature of video game development. While the rumor itself is false, had Rare been given carte blanche to make GoldenEye 007 as they saw fit, gamers would have been able to huddle around their CRT TVs and all play as Bond. Plus, even when developers can’t add a feature to a game, you can always count on talented fan coders to do it for them. Unofficially, of course.