It was a Christmas miracle of sorts. On December 25 Ryan Gibbs beat his previous world record speedrun for the Runway level in GoldenEye 007 with a time of 30 seconds. Hours later he did it again, this time in 29 seconds. Gibbs’ feat is one of the most stunning achievements for an N64 game whose speedrunning community has recently been jolted into overdrive.
“Ohhhhh, hey we got it on fuckin’ Christmas dude,” Gibbs said on his Twitch stream after achieving the first record. Runway is the third level in GoldenEye 007 and consists mostly of running down a mountain road while taking out heavy artillery with grenades to enable your escape from a chemical plant via a small airplane. To put the back-to-back breakthroughs in perspective, players have been running the level on its hardest difficulty in about 40 seconds as far back as 2001. It’s taken 16 years for players to whittle that time down toward a half minute, with three of those seconds coming from a single player in the last few months alone.
GoldenEye 007 speedrunning uses the in-game timer for records. Because the community around the game formed prior to modern speedrun clocking technology, whatever shows up on the final report for a level is considered sacrosanct. As a result, the game has “Time Not Saved” glitches that can be exploited by completing a level at the exact moment objectives are met in order to skip cutscenes and thus shave precious seconds off the time recorded by the in-game clock.
Gibbs was able to exploit this in part due to a new route he discovered that’s better for consistently hitting objectives with grenades. By launching grenades high into the air with a special right-leaning trick that makes them go much farther, Gibbs is able to get the objectives to blow up right as he makes it to the level’s end. One second he’s rushing through doors; the next he’s dashing toward a plane while everything’s exploding.
Gibbs originally tied the 0:32 record for Runaway on 00 Agent difficulty back in October of 2016. That record had first been set by Randy Buikema a few weeks prior. The two players are not just masters of GoldenEye 007 but also the top-ranking speedrunners specifically for Runaway. It wasn’t until October of this year that Gibbs finally pulled a second ahead of his rival with an untied time of 0:31. The level requires a precise combination of strafing and angle grenade throwing. Blowing enemies up from afar stops you from getting shot and slowed down, leading expert runs like Gibbs’ to not just be fast but also look exactly like what the world’s top secret agent would do.
Gibbs’ double-gift to the GoldenEye speedrunning community comes on the back of a number of other world records falling this month, beginning with one that had previously stood for 15 years. On December 2nd, Karl Jobst narrowly beat Dam in just 52 seconds, something many players once speculated might be impossible. With Jobst, Gibbs, and others making such stunning progress in such a small amount of time, GoldenEye 007 has reached a strange place where it feels both more optimized than ever before but also ripe for lots more breakthroughs.