Living up to the impossibly rosy memories of fans of the contender for the N64’s best game is, well, probably impossible. Take note that this GoldenEye 007 is not an “HD” version of the original with Wii controls slapped on. It’s a retelling of the GoldenEye story, using the movie’s screenwriter to give it a proper 2010 contemporary vibe (Bond now has a smartphone) and tossing out the now embarrassingly crusty Pierce Brosnan in favor of perpetually pouty-mouthed and bat-eared Daniel Craig. Sorry, Daniel, we really do think you’re a supremely suave Bond.
Above: More suave than us, that's for sure
The story hasn’t actually changed much, but the levels are basically all-new, with the odd homage to the original game thrown in. What also hasn’t changed, and what was absolutely crucial for the new development team to nail, is the feel of GoldenEye. The game feels like you’re playing the old-school classic, even when it’s doing things entirely differently. The weapons feel right, the music sounds right, and the look hits the right notes – and yes, we’ll trot out the old reliable phrase – it looks pretty slick for a Wii game, using rain and snow and shiny lights to occasionally trick the eyes into thinking this is true current-gen.
The game also incorporates the clever difficulty system established in the original: increased difficulty doesn’t just mean tougher and more numerous enemies – it means additional objectives to complete, which lead you into areas of levels you might otherwise ignore. With four difficulty levels changing up the way the game is played, there’s opportunity for significant replay value. You can even go to the ultimate retro approach with “007 Classic” which removes regenerating health.
The one gripe we have with the difficulty system is that it’s actually not obvious how it works – and this led to a bizarre situation for us. We began the story on Agent difficulty, which is one step up from the easy mode, so that we could experience the additional objectives. At the end of the first mission, the overview screen informed us we failed our secondary objective. Uh, what? We had no idea we were ignoring it during our progression – we followed the objective marker through the level, but apparently the secondary objectives are hidden. Weird, but not a huge deal. Yet the game allowed us to save and continue to the next mission. Again, strange. And then, about halfway through the game, when we were wondering why the game seemed so easy and we still weren’t being asked to complete secondary objectives, we noticed that the difficulty was set on Operative (easy mode).
So we went back and confirmed that yes, if you fail any secondary objectives, the game will quietly let you continue, but only on super easy mode. There was, in fact, text at the bottom of the mission complete screen saying this, but we didn’t notice it – this is the kind of choice that absolutely demands an “are you sure?” popup window. We’ll admit we can be a bit obtuse sometimes, and perhaps most people won’t miss this detail, but we’re not entirely stupid and we did completely miss it. It's a strange case of having to read fine print within a game, which is something we've never really encountered before.
Above: We were wondering why we could absorb twenty bullets
Anyway, on to the gameplay: the first mission announces itself smartly, beginning with some classic Bond stealth play and then ramping things up with a scripted, exciting truck chase. Explosions, truck collisions, and guys getting smacked off car doors all happen in rapid succession. Then, the game returns to sneaky stuff. This is the general flow of the action: sneaky part, lout shoot-em-up part, and back again. It’s a good flow. The best parts of the game are on the extremes of this spectrum: the really sneaky parts, and the really action-heavy parts. The middle part of the spectrum, and the majority of the game, is a bit less interesting.
The complex, exciting set pieces like that first truck chase actually don’t happen that often. There is plenty of opportunity to be sneaky – except it often doesn’t work, and for the wrong reasons. A big aspect that staying stealthy is dependent upon is accurate headshots with your trademark silenced P99. Except they don’t work half the time. We lost count of how many times we sneaked up on a guy, lined up the head shot, and then failed to kill the guy. We actually changed our tactics to assume our headshot wouldn’t kill the guy, and instead of pulling off cool one-shot kills, we just started plugging guys five times quickly to ensure they’d stay dead. The other problem with the stealth is that enemies sometimes detect you when there’s no way they should be able to see you – and then they shoot you through the cover they shouldn’t have seen you behind.
Above: The game looks good, but most of it is like this - generic guys shooting at you in generic "high tech" facilities
So, the majority of the game ends up being standard shooter fare where generic guys run around and duck behind cover and you do the same. Luckily, the standard controls of remote and Nunchuk feel good when aiming and shooting during most of the combat. There are issues with certain aspects of the aiming, like the aforementioned sketchy headshots and some quirks we'll touch on below, but outside of those slight annoyances, for the most part pointing with the remote and pulling the (B) trigger feels nice and has good feedback - the guns themselves are often nastily satisfying to shoot, with punchy bullet impacts and badass firing sound effects. There’s a hefty variety of them, too, with multiple handguns, shotguns, SMGs and assault rifles, also equipped with a nice spread of laser sights, silencers, ACOG scopes, and the like, so picking up almost any gun feels like a new experience.
There are some occasional weird quirks with aiming and firing, though. For some bizarre reason you can’t aim up or down at anything more than a shallow angle – if an enemy is above or below you, you literally cannot shoot them without maneuvering to a different location. The aim down sights mode (ADS) also behaves erratically if you turn off the “snap to” function (where it auto-aims toward enemies when you hit Z) – which we did, because we didn’t want auto-aim taking away our satisfaction of pulling off skillful shots. Unfortunately, we learned why the ADS snap-to function is on by default – the game can radically alter the angle at which you’re looking every time you hit the Z button. Point at a guy’s head, hit the Z button, and you may be looking at the crate next to him. Don’t move the reticle at all, release Z, then hit it again, and you might be pointing at the wall.
Above: Where the reticle goes when we hit Z... nobody knows
Still, even though there are annoyances with some of the aiming (which you can bypass partially by swapping in a Classic or GameCube controller), and a decent portion of the combat sections isn’t hugely inspiring, there are quite a few awesome parts to the game. Like we said, when the stealth worked, we really felt like too-cool James Bond, taking out guys with silenced shots or creeping up and smacking their faces into control panels. And the set-pieces that do happen are all well designed and allow for some amazing moments.
For instance, the tank driving level is full of beautiful demolition, giving you machine guns, tank shells, and heat-seeking missiles to flatten half the city – with actual entire buildings collapsing in the mayhem. Another level has you infiltrating a facility while rival factions battle outside. It effectively evokes a war zone, with bullets flying everywhere and enemies getting plugged right before you can train your sights on them. Running, sneaking, and shooting your way through it is seriously exciting. And these fantastic sequences increase in frequency until basically the whole last part of the game is like it.
Above: This tank owns our face. Also, that helicopter's
Of course, GoldenEye is nothing without multiplayer, and we’re happy to say that here is where the game really shines. Taking a cue (in a long line of games taking a cue) from Modern Warfare, GoldenEye invokes an online multiplayer system where you gain experience, levels, and unlock weapons and gadgets (perks, naturally). Up to eight players can compete in a multitude of modes, including Conflict (free for all), Team Conflict (team deathmatch), Golden Gun (the super gun spawns randomly in the map, and whoever has the gun gets bonus points per kill and of course, a one shot kill), Black Box (objective-based mode where MI6 needs to destroy the box, while the enemy needs to download data from it), GoldenEye (domination - hold control points), and Heroes (one player on each team has more health, damage, and gives a health boost to nearby teammates). We also saw License to Kill, Team License to Kill, and Classic Conflict as additional modes locked until you reach higher levels.
Yeah, so it’s a beefy offering. There are also ten maps, so plenty of variety to go around. We had a lot of fun with the multiplayer, we must say. It’s hard to tell how well designed the maps are without a lot more time put in, but the combat was fast and intense, and the different modes really changed things up. We particularly enjoyed Golden Gun and Heroes because either becoming a super soldier for brief moments or killing that super soldier always got the heart pumping. We could see people playing the online portion for quite a while, especially with all the goodies to unlock.
Again, though, it wouldn’t be GoldenEye without offline four-player splitscreen, and here the game is slightly different from online, with smaller maps to account for fewer players, and the addition of many classic and new modifiers to mix things up, like: Hotshot (only headshots are effective), Paintball, Move Your Feet (standing still will kill you), Revenge (get damage boost each time you’re killed), Rubber Grenades (super bouncy grenades), Sticky Grenades, Nick Nack Mode (all players are tiny and cannot vault over obstacles). Getting four sets of controllers over for some trash-talking parties might not be easy, but the gameplay makes it worth it, and yes, the multiplayer does mostly capture the feel of the old GoldenEye (although we must admit our memories are colored by time).
Above: Paintball spices things up when you're feeling a bit goofy
So, we certainly have a good GoldenEye, with a pretty fun single-player campaign and multiplayer that’s even more fun. Does it live up to the original? Heck no – we said it was impossible, remember? It is a damn fine, “serious” shooter on the Wii, and that’s saying something. Even without the limited options for mature action for Wii owners, GoldenEye 007 is a solid game in its own right. If nostalgia is still tingling strong or you’re hankering for a real, guns-blazing and sneaky-assassinating experience, you won’t go wrong here.
Nov 2, 2010