Licence to Kill (LTK) is a glamorous way of saying "one-hit kills". The term can, in theory, be used universally, but is almost always used with reference to Nintendo 64 first-person shooters GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark.

LTK mode first appeared in GoldenEye's deathmatch mode. It appears on the list of multiplayer modes alongside Normal (a standard deathmatch), You Only Live Twice (last person alive wins), and The Living Daylights (flag tag). To play LTK mode at the same time as one of the other play modes is very simple; select e.g. Flag Tag on the Mode menu, and on the Health menu, set all players' health down to "-10 (Hero)". This has the same effect. In Perfect Dark's multiplayer mode, the "one-shot kills" option appeared, but by that point, GoldenEye was three years old and the name "Licence To Kill" had stuck.

When you play an LTK game, the deathmatch will continue as normal but a single shot anywhere on the body with any weapon (or even a fist) will kill any player instantly. This calls for a large change in tactics from a standard deathmatch:

  • Most notably, your preference in weapons will change. Where a Klobb (the worst weapon in the game) was previously an inaccurate and pitifully weak SMG, it now becomes extremely dangerous, and where a Cougar Magnum was the most powerful pistol in the game, its low fire rate and small capacity leaves it overshadowed by otherwise weaker pistols.
  • In GoldenEye, body armour becomes useless. One shot will kill you regardless of how much you're wearing. (In Perfect Dark, picking up a shield will protect you from exactly one shot.)
  • Going for headshots is also pointless now. Ordinarily, getting a headshot does huge amounts of extra damage, and marksmanship is a very worthwhile skill - but this is invalidated in LTK mode. The auto-aim automatically aims for the chest, which makes kills pathetically easy to gain, so it's customary to turn off the auto-aim when playing LTK.

Dont get me wrong: LTK matches can be the tensest, most enjoyable matches of your life. Play LTK. You'll enjoy it. But it is important to note that the three effects above mean that LTK is never used as an alternative to Normal mode in organised competitive tournaments, where prize money may be at stake, and a level playing field is very important.

LTK in solo missions

LTK's popularity quickly extended past multiplayer, because it was possible to emulate LTK in the solo missions. First you need to finish GoldenEye on 00 Agent and unlock 007 Mode, which allows you to customise your enemies' various attributes. The same extra options appear when you complete Perfect Dark on Perfect Agent. Set them up as follows:

  • Enemy Health: 0% (so that if you shoot them, they die instantly)
  • Enemy Damage: 1000% (so that if they shoot you, you die instantly)
  • Enemy Accuracy: 100% (this means a single shot fired out in the open will kill you)
  • (GoldenEye only) Enemy Reaction Time: 100% (this makes them react fast)

In LTK mode, GoldenEye and Perfect Dark become ten times harder than before. You'll need encyclopaedic knowledge of the location of every enemy and drone gun to make it through any level without being shot once. Surface 1 and Surface 2, where enemies with sniper rifles pick you off from a quarter of a mile away, are near-impossible to survive for more than ten steps, and with the full set of objectives to complete, even the simplest of levels becomes a massive challenge. Although many people have done the odd level here and there (I recommend starting with the Facility in GoldenEye and Skedar Ruins: Battle Shrine in Perfect Dark), only a handful of people have completed GoldenEye or Perfect Dark fully on LTK.

There is no reward for completing either game on Licence To Kill, but if you're the kind of hardcore gamer who is up to this challenge, then success and recognition are their own rewards. The GoldenEye LTK World Records (fastest times) can be found here and the Perfect Dark records here.

Dark LTK: for when LTK is too easy

The few hardcore gamers in the world who find LTK mode trivial have only recently begun experimenting with the obvious continuation of the theme - setting Enemy Health to 1000% as well. Now an enemy in Perfect Dark will require a headshot to be taken down with any sort of efficiency, while an enemy in GoldenEye will need something of the order of eleven headshots. Solo missions played using these maxed settings cross the line from being merely difficult to tactical nightmares. To even finish a single level requires judicious use of explosives, intense rationing of ammunition, huge amounts of planning, staggering accuracy, Jedi-grade reactions and an awful lot of patience - but it can be done, and indeed has been for many levels. Not for the faint of heart.