For years, fans have been clamoring for a high-definition re-release of the Nintendo 64 classic, Goldeneye. With Rare working exclusively with Microsoft, the chances of that ever coming true were extremely thin. Though there had been rumblings and rumors just about every year at E3 that someone was going to announce this highly anticipated game, nothing had come to fruition… until this year. During Nintendo’s E3 2010 press conference, Activision revealed their reimagining of the title with Goldeneye 007. A Wii exclusive, the title stars Daniel Craig as 007, and revisits the story of the original film, with some slight alterations. Though the game plays much better without motion controls, Goldeneye is a solid shooter in which Wii owners should find plenty to like.
Goldeneye’s story hasn’t changed much over the last fifteen years. A rogue Soviet general has stolen an experimental helicopter, as well as taking control of a satellite with the power to fire a large EMP blast wherever he deems fit. It’s up to James Bond to track down the general before he can use his weapon on the Western world. All the twists and turns you remember are still intact, though many of the actual faces have changed. Activision once again tapped Bruce Feirstein to helm the story. As the original writer of the film, Feirstein knows which beats must remain, and which must be updated for the newer, more realistic Bond portrayed in the Craig films. Goldeneye was one of my favorite Bond films, and the only really great Pierce Brosnan adventure, so getting to play through it again with a slightly tweaked narrative was pretty entertaining. Disappointingly, the only reason I think I enjoyed the story so much was because I was so familiar with it. Compared to the film, or even the previous game, Goldeneye 007’s story is very bare bones. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you make a big deal about bringing Daniel Craig on board, and how the game is a whole new experience, there had better at least be something to experience. Many of the plot points in the game only serve as a reason to move from one locale to the next, and there’s hardly any explanation given as to what’s going on or why. There are brief moments where the game does a nice job expanding the narrative, but for the most part, Goldeneye 007’s short campaign is nothing more than a shadow of the actual film’s original plot.
I really like what Eurocom did with the controls for Goldeneye 007. Probably the smartest thing they could have done was allowing players to use either the Classic controller or an old Gamecube controller. With the Classic controller, everything runs very smoothly, and first-person shooter veterans will find themselves instantly familiar with the layout. The game’s motion controls, however, are an exercise in futility, and I have never wanted to stop playing a game so fast as I did trying to play Goldeneye with the Wii remote. The motion controls are way too sensitive on the default setting, and will have you looking like a complete spaz just trying to lock on your targeting reticule. All the control schemes make use of snap aim assist, which is great considering how challenging it is to locate a target with the Wii remote. By simply tapping the left Z-button (while in the general vicinity of an enemy), you will instantly scope out the nearest enemy. You rely on this tool less when you’re using the non-motion controls, but I still ended up utilizing it quite often to pinpoint foes quickly. Seriously though, if you don’t have a Classic or Gamecube controller, make sure you pick one up before you attempt playing this game.
Those of you who recall the original title will remember that each difficulty setting added more and more objectives to complete before you were able to advance. The same holds true with Goldeneye 007, though I’m not sure it’s a great design decision. Playing on the lower difficulties won’t require you to scour the levels looking for extra intel like weapon crates or special documents. Missing a single one won’t mean you can’t continue, though it does mean you won’t be able to proceed on whatever level you started on. If you play on the Agent difficulty, you must secure all the objectives in order to play the next level on Agent. Don’t succeed, and you’ll have to play the next level on a lower difficulty. It’s a little bit of a pain, particularly when you have to save your progress mid-mission, then come back to it later and forget what you were doing. Sure, you could start the whole level over, but that can be a bit annoying if it happens again, or more than once on another level.
There are a few other tricks up Bond’s sleeve, which should help you complete a given level. You can attach (and remove) a silencer to your standard issue PP7 at any point in the game. More than a few of the levels allow for some stealth exploration, and having your silenced gun handy makes a big difference. When walking around unnoticed, any guard that sees you has the ability to call in reinforcements. If you’re able to kill him before he does, you’ll be fine, but you’ll be outnumbered very quickly if you don’t act fast. You can also melee attack unsuspecting enemies to remain hidden, but the attacks in this game are nowhere near as interesting as those in Blood Stone. Bond also has a smartphone, which can be used for a variety of different tasks. There will be times when you’ve got to locate a particular person with facial recognition, hack a door lock, or even hack an enemy turret. A small indicator pops up in the bottom of the screen notifying you that there’s something nearby that you can use your phone to interact with. It’s a neat feature, and helps keep this Bond relatively grounded in reality. There are no explosive grenade pens here.
The main reason the original Goldeneye video game is still so cherished by so many is because of the multiplayer memories we all have. Sure, Goldeneye may not have been the first shooting game to have multiplayer, but it was one of the first console games to do it so well. Whether or not the game still holds up today doesn’t matter any more, as Goldeneye 007 has more than enough multiplayer options for everyone to enjoy. First and foremost, the new Goldeneye brings back the split-screen play, complete with classic Bond movie characters, and goofy extras like Paintball mode and Big Heads. There are a few variations in the game types you can play, but the strongest multiplayer game here is Conflict, which is the deathmatch type. It’s not that the other modes aren’t fun to play; it’s just that when only playing with three other people, the other game modes just don’t have as much variation. Again though, if you had difficulty with the game’s motion controls in the single-player, those issues are compounded when trying to play on a screen 1/4 the size.
Online multiplayer is actually quite fun though, and the various modes are much more enjoyable when playing with more than a half-dozen other people. Most of the same game type options available offline are available online as well. When playing online, you can just jump into a quick match, or create a party with your Wii friends before starting a game. Utilizing a leveling system, like so many other online shooters these days, you earn experience with every kill or assist. There is a cool deathmatch type where one person randomly spawns as a hero (Bond) or villain (Trevelyan), and getting kills as that person, or killing that hero, earns your team more points, and yourself more experience. My only real experience with Nintendo games online has been with sports titles like Tiger Woods and Madden, but I was pleasantly surprised by how lag free and smoothly everything ran online with the Wii. The multiplayer in Goldeneye isn’t as fast-paced as some of the other online shooters I’ve played recently, but it shouldn’t take you long to get accustomed to the speed of the game.
Goldeneye 007 falls into a strange place when it comes to graphics. It’s not an ugly game by any means, but it doesn’t look as nice as some of the Wii’s other shooters like Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles or The Conduit. While it has to be tough to create a game that’s visually striking on the Wii, Nintendo has done it, so it would be great to see a third-party developer create something that looked as impressive as any of the Mario titles. It’s nice that Actvision was able to get Daniel Craig’s likeness, but since you rarely ever see him, it’s not that big a deal. The voice work is really good, and the facial mapping is almost as good as it was in Dead Space Extraction. That game still has some of the best character emoting I’ve seen on the Wii, but Goldeneye is a very close second. The game’s score doesn’t really share much with the original title, or the original film, but it still feels very Bond.
While the original Goldeneye influences Goldeneye 007, this new title has enough going for it that it’s entirely its own game. If anything, Eurocom has set a new standard for Bond titles, and I can only hope Activision sees the potential in the 007 franchise beyond the Bond name. While it would be nice to eventually see an HD version, I’m more than happy with playing Goldeneye 007 on the Wii. It’s a good game that everyone should be able to enjoy… provided they’ve got the right controller.