Nintendo 64, 1998
Golden Eye was the first awesome game for the Nintendo 64. A first person shooter where you played James Bond, roughly patterned after a movie of the same name. Post-Perestroika Russian war technology seized by power hungry generals - same enemy, new context.I played most of my multiplayer in Ben's room, spring of 1998.
You get to do some spy stuff, but most of the game consists of artful killing. There's killing without blowing stuff up, killing the guards (in black) without killing the scientists (in white), killing against incredible odds, killing with incredible guns.
Microprose's Covert Action for the PC is one of the few engaging spy simulators.
The game was graphically pretty rough - the bodies have clear polygons, and the faces are clearly bitmapped on. But what they did with the moving bodies was incredible:
There were many opportunities for sniping in the game. In single player, facing a vast maze packed with Russian commandos, it was often best to hug a corner and peek down a long hall with a sniper-scope. There were a few seconds while you aimed to pop your foe in the head, and most of the time, he'd be doing something incredibly human - batting flies around him. Scratching his knee. Staring off into space.
If you shot these guards in the groin, the head, or in the elbow, they would jerk and grab that part of their body and begin limping around. It's so very lifelike, it adds a kind of electric quiver to the act of the video-kill.
And the multiplayer is well executed - the balance of weapons and mazes, and mostly the pace. You play with four people using the same TV screen, which makes it very dense and claustrophobic, but just the very fact of having 4 people trying to kill each other simultaineously induces intense manic fervor.