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GoldenEye 007


The fun is back with more than just a new coat of paint
GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64 is fondly remembered as the harbinger of the reign of first-person shooters on home consoles, partially because it gave a new audience a crack at behind-the-trigger fun, but also because it delivered outstanding (albeit local) multiplayer FPS fun. Though it's been over a decade since the title arrived on the scene, it's still considered one of the best FPS games ever, and retains a loyal fanbase that has been dying for a chance to play the game on a current-gen system. Unfortunately, legal issues prevented that from happening, but instead, Activision and Eurocom hooked up to bring a new GoldenEye to a new generation of Nintendo, facing down a potentially more deadly foe than any from James Bond's rogues gallery: nostalgia-fueled expectation.

Gameplay:

While fans of the N64 game expected and desired a remake of the first big console FPS, that wasn't the way Eurocom rolls, so they went back to the source, bringing in GoldenEye writer Bruce Feirstein to update the storyline, replacing then-Bond Pierce Brosnan with now-Bond Daniel Craig, and modernizing the film's politics and global context. The results are a fresh, timely plot and a Bond that's a bit more brooding and serious, not to mention some excellent writing that steps well beyond your average game storyline. The whole game is imbued with a cinematic sense of pacing, style and design, especially in the camera angles used to tell Bond's (and your) story, not to mention the awesome title sequence, featuring The Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger's cover of Tina Turner's original theme.

goldeneye 007 bond jungle fighting

The single-player mode takes you through a re-imagination of the GoldenEye plot, told, for the most part, from behind Bond's guns, as you utilize either firearms skill or stealth (but mostly a mix of the two) as you tackle your mission over several stages, though there's no slavish devotion to the film. Your progression through the levels is determined in large part by which difficulty level you choose to play, as the more difficult levels offer additional side objectives to enhance the game's depth, encouraging you to explore. While you're either blasting away at the enemy or trying to sneak by them most of the time, you'll also be taking part in some quick-time events and on-rails vehicle stages, as well as utilizing your smartphone (replacing the original's watch) to gather intel (i.e. take pictures) and hack computers. The variety keeps things moving well, though the first time a quick-time event occurs you could easily miss it, as it seems out of place. The somewhat frequent lack of guidance as to what you're supposed to be doing is one of the few obvious flaws in the game. You'll often find yourself just trying things to see if anything happens.

Since you can play every part of the game (outside of the quick-time and on-rails bits) in whatever way works for you, every time you play you can have a different experience, and the AI, which is quite aware of you and your methods, will push you to try something new. Though you may want to run through an area with your guns blazing, it often doesn't make sense, when you can just climb through a vent and save ammo and life. But then a camera catches you moving, and your heart races, knowing this is your chance to pull the trigger and pull it often, using the wide variety of guns and gadgets available in-game. There's a huge satisfaction in picking off bad guys with your sniper rifle, hunting down ghostly blobs in your scope, but you're not going to be able to do it easily, as the first guy whose head explodes tends to alert his pals, and they are very good at figuring out where the shot came from, and you're usually catching lead quickly.

goldeneye 007 bond gadget helicopter

Naturally, the one thing everyone wanted to know about this game is how the local multiplayer came out, considering that was the reason the game achieved its legendary status, and this refresh should make anyone with positive memories of the original quite happy. Yes, it's not the same game, thanks to new maps and a change in how weapons are handled (with selectable loadout caches instead of collecting gear after spawning) but the modes you remember fondly are back, like the limited-lives "You Only Live Twice" and the one-hit, one-kill "License to Kill," along with new ones, as well as modifiers to change the gameplay, like the original's "Paintball Mode." Though getting to play as characters from the Bond films is a draw, and the action is fast and furious in the split-screen local multiplayer, the maps feel a touch small (though very well designed), and respawns frequently put you right in the line of danger. At one point, I was able to hang out and watch my opponent respawn a short distance from me three times in a row, earning him a quick death each time. Despite those minor flaws, the multiplayer remains a blast, though you're far less likely to get a quartet of pals together in the same room. Instead...

Online Play

Though the original is best-remembered for the local multiplayer action, today's anti-social gamer is more likely to be looking to play against others online, and this new Goldeneye offers up plenty of it, with plenty of options that will please anyone looking for a shoot-out, especially Wii players who have been somewhat starving for these experiences. For all the complaints that the Wii doesn't work for online play, it's games like this that prove it's simply a matter of the developer and publisher supporting that kind of play (thankfully with friend codes being optional.) Here, you get nine online modes, which include Bond-style versions of traditional FPS multiplayer games, like Deathmatches, Capture the Flag and Time of Possession, but you need to check out Classic Conflict, where you play as a one of Bond's famous foes, including the hat-throwing Oddjob and mean ol' Jaws.

goldeneye 007 bond multiplayer golden gun

Taking on seven other combatants in several arenas, I felt no difference in the experience here versus the the average online play on the X-Box 360, with stutter-free gameplay and a pretty active gaggle of players no natter which mode I checked out. The one thing modern FPSers will miss is the ability to talk to your fellow Bondians, the absence of which is especially obvious during team play, where communication is important, but there's likely a large group who won't miss a screeching 14-year-old's epithets and slurs also. While the usual voice chat is not included, you do get an XP system that actually affects game play, as better online performance will increase your rank, unlocking new weapons and tools. Having this encouragement will probably get you to play more than you might otherwise.

Controls

Eurocom went all out in setting up the control schemes for Goldeneye 007, making just about every controller shy of the Balance Board accessible to the game. While you have plenty of options, you're going to find just one probably works for you, and for many that's going to be either the GameCube controller or the Classic Controller, or more specifically the new Classic Controller Pro (which is available (in limited edition gold) in a bundle with GoldenEye 007.) This is the now-classic console FPS experience, using the left thumbstick for movement and the right for aiming, while using the plethora of buttons for everything else. Anyone who's played an FPS in the last eight years will be most comfortable with this scheme, and it's a good one for anyone picking up the game.

Now, I'm a huge proponent of the Wii-mote/Nunchuk control scheme, as the split between the controllers lets you hold your hands in a far more natural way than any one-piece peripheral, but I can't fully recommend utilizing the Wii-mote for GoldenEye, for the simple reason that movement is problematic because it's tied to aiming, as you need to point to the sides of the screen to turn around. With some practice, and a good deal of fine-tuning in the handy controller settings, you'll find you can't get more precise shooting than the pointer system, and the ability to peek out from behind cover (available only with the Wii-mote) is great, but the classic controls will usually feel more comfortable. The less said about the Zapper scheme the better, as there are far too many button presses needed on the face of the Wii-mote, so you either have to take your hand off the trigger or the thumbstick, neither of which is an ideal situation in the middle of a firefight.

goldeneye 007 bond snow level

Achievements

In both multiplayer versions of the game, there's an accolade system that's similar to achievements, but it's got a definite sense of humor to it, as you not only get accolades for performing well, but also for performing poorly, like "Marked Man" for longest death streak, and "Quantum of Solace" for getting the least number of eliminations. Many of them tie into certain achievements, but there are others, like "Zen Master," which are just plain silly. In all, it adds another layer of enjoyment to the already fun multiplayer modes.

Graphics

Comparing this game to the shooters on X-Box or PS3 isn't really fair to the underpowered Wii, but you still want a good-looking game to play, and there are few games that look better on the console, as the levels are beautifully designed and the characters are nicely detailed, while the animations are impressively smooth, using a few tricks here and there (including jarring,up-close combat and some well-utilized blurs) to push the graphic envelope. Sure, it's pre-rendered, but the title sequence, which follows the first level (in a perfect callback to the films) is absolutely gorgeous, while the blood spill that covers the screen (like in the first game) is dead-on Bond. When things get a bit hectic, with several foes and lots of explosions and effects, the video can get a touch choppy, but overall, the game moves very nicely. For some reason, on my display, the game came off a bit dark at first, but after playing with the sliders, everything evened out well.

Sound

In a perfect world, this game would shame every Wii developer who ever relied on text boxes and warbling to emulate speech into using real voices, but in reality, it will simply stand as one of the best audio presentations on the Wii, thanks to first-rate talent like Daniel Craig and Judi Dench, who have the advantage of speaking quality dialogue. The excellent cinema-quality, Bond-appropriate score (by Bond composer David Arnold) and real attention to detail in the sound effects make the experience all the more enjoyable, like hearing boots walking on the catwalk above you or listening in on a discussion between two guards. Even if you just had the bullet effects, of which there are many, you'd have great sound, as it's immensely satisfying to hear the cock of a rifle, followed by the "thunk" of a perfect headshot, but they went ahead and made great use of the remote speaker for both atmospheric effects and as your smartphone (which you'll miss if you only play with the classic or GameCube controller. So do try different ways of playing.)

And in the End...

If this game was only made to satisfy Nintendo 64 owners brimming with nostalgia for the original, it probably would have been a pretty miserable failure, since today's gamer audience is made up in large part by a new generation who may have never even seen an N64. So instead, we got an engaging update of the film's story, loaded with touches that pay homage to the first game, and the kind of quality and deep gameplay options that really let you get your money's worth. The end result is a game that's among the most entertaining overall on the Wii, and easily the finest example of a first-person shooter the console has to offer.



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