If you’re over 20 years old and consider yourself a gamer, chances are GoldenEye on the N64 holds a pretty special place in your heart. Honestly, I can’t think of a game that more of my friends played – the casuals, the hardcore and all those in between. Back in ‘97, everyone I knew was playing GoldenEye. From the excellent single player campaign and its extremely addictive, difficulty specific challenges (I still have nightmares about Cradle on 007) through to the ground breaking, 4 player split-screen, GoldenEye on the N64 had a habit of swallowing peoples lives whole.
If you didn’t play it back when it was released in the mid-90’s, it’s hard to understand just how good this game was. It’d be no exaggeration to say that GoldenEye on the N64 is one of the most influential video games of modern times. But that’s the thing; as influential as it has been, it’s just not that great anymore.
I know that might sound somewhat blasphemous to fans of the original, but the fact is, unlike other classics such as Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man, which share a timeless quality that makes them as fun to play today as they were back in the ‘80s, GoldenEye, due in part to how much the genre has moved on in the 13 years since its release, just doesn’t deliver when held up against today’s first-person shooters.
If you don’t believe me, just try it out. With review code for the Wii’s GoldenEye re-make….re-boot….re-imagining…..whatever it is, on the way, I decided to fire up the ol’ N64 to see how the original held up. Needless to say, rather than being concerned by how the new was stacking up to the old, I was more concerned with how the old was stacking up against my somewhat rose tinted memories. The answer? Not too well. Outside of a nostalgia fuelled play through, by today’s standards, GoldenEye is awkward, ugly (admittedly in a somewhat charming way) and out of date.
OK, so at its core, it’s still a fundamentally great video game, but if Activision wanted the new GoldenEye to appeal to a market beyond 20 somethings with fond memories of the original, they were going to have to make some pretty drastic changes – luckily, that’s exactly what Activision and, more specifically, developer Eurocom has done – and for the most part, they’ve done it with a great deal of success. Don’t get me wrong, GoldenEye for the Wii won’t be remembered in anywhere near the same light as the original, but ask me which of the two I want to play now and I’ll take Activision’s retooling any day of the week.
Despite Eurocom’s update of the games core mechanics to suit modern tastes, I was nonetheless still surprised by just how much they’ve changed for the GoldenEye Wii release – the story has been fleshed out and given a present day timeline, most levels, while vaguely familiar are vastly changed and the majority, if not all of the characters from the original game and movie have been completely replaced.
This is none more noticeable of course than when you realise that, be it for continuity reasons, licensing issues or likeness rights, original GoldenEye Bond, Pierce Brosnan has been given the boot in favour of Daniel Craig’s more rugged, brutal interpretation of the worlds most famous spy. This change has had a suitable knock on effect to the gameplay and storyline and, while it will inevitably sour the experience for purists, given the resultant product; it’s hard to knock Eurocom for the choice – whatever the reason behind it may have been.
Saying that, despite the changes in level design and characters, what the majority of gamers will appreciate is Eurocom’s commitment to that finely tuned balance between stealth and all out action that made the original such a blast to play. While, like the original, you can play through the majority of the game with your finger firmly on the trigger (well, on the lower difficulties at least), you are largely encouraged to take things slowly, picking off guards with your silenced PP9 (upgraded for modern times from the traditional Walther PPK) before they can get on the blower to their mates.
When things do inevitably kick off though, the extremely impressive core shooting mechanics and vast selection of control set-ups make GoldenEye’s major firefights a complete joy. Although falling just short of The Conduit’s ridiculous levels of customization, GoldenEye on Wii nevertheless delivers more than enough options to suit any taste or control preference. From the Classic Controller Pro to the superbly implemented Wii Remote controls and its myriad of sensitivity options, whichever way you choose to play GoldenEye, the controls are tight, slick and extremely responsive.
As for the actually gameplay, well, Eurocom have just about nailed that too – whether you’re sneaking your way through the levels, taking out guards one at a time with carefully placed head shots and pleasingly brutal stealth take-downs or simply charging through levels head first, guns blazing, the impressive feedback from the games ample choice of weaponry, the subtle but smarty implemented cover mechanics and (mostly) impressive enemy AI combine to make GoldenEye arguably the most polished, well rounded shooter currently available for the Nintendo Wii.
That high level of polish also extends to the games consistently impressive audio/visual design. Be it the game’s top notch graphics or surprisingly impressive voice work, every aspect of GoldenEye’s design seems carefully thought out and expertly implemented. There is an issue with the framerate dropping when things get particularly hectic, but it’s not enough to ruin the experience and is the only blemish on an otherwise great looking game.
If anything, considering the destructible environments, level of detail and the outstanding facial and animation work, it’s hardly surprising that, at times, the Wii’s relatively poor processing power and general lack of grunt struggles to live with Eurocom’s clearly lofty ambitions. While it would be easy to say that the game would have been better suited to the PS3 or 360, given the slick use of the Wii Remote and the simple fact that it would feel weird playing a GoldenEye title on anything but a Nintendo console (the terrible GoldenEye: Rogue Agent doesn’t count), the choice always feels suitable and the experience unquestionably first rate.
While the voice work is great throughout and the pleasing ‘thwack’ of a well placed head shot from your trusty PP9 has made the successful transition to the Wii version, the loss of the signature Bond theme when you die will be felt by fans of the original. It may not sound like a big deal to those new to the GoldenEye universe, but that signature tune and screen filling claret are a major part of many gamers’ memories of the N64 classic. It’s hardly game breaking by any stretch of the imagination – it just stands as one of GoldenEye Wii’s admittedly few disappointing omissions.
Although a single play through of the campaign is likely to last you around 6 to 7 hours, fans of the original will be glad to hear that Eurocom has put a distinct emphasis on re-playability. Like the original, there are numerous side missions that need to be completed depending on the difficulty setting chosen and while health in the Wii edition recharges Halo-style after a bit of time spent in cover, Eurocom has also added an additional ‘007 Classic’ difficulty that gives Bond a more traditional health bar. This touch of old school gameplay provides a major challenge and will prove a welcome addition for those who spent a lot of time with the N64 original – it also serves as a reminder as to just how tough GoldenEye on the N64 was.
Although GoldenEye Wii is home to some rather outlandish Bond-esque moments, certainly more than you would expect from a Daniel Craig Bond film, the balance between recapturing the essence of the original (movie and game) while adhering to the more grounded nature of recent Bond outings is perfectly realised with exploding barrels and missile attacks sitting comfortably next to the brutal efficiency of melee takedowns, modern gadgets and more fleshed out, reigned in storytelling. Well, I say gadgets – what I really mean is gadget. In keeping with modern times, Bond’s trusty Smartphone does just about everything. From being used for facial recognition in a busy nightclub to searching out secondary objectives and hacking turrets and doors, Bond’s Smartphone truly is the gadget of choice for the modern spy.
The multiplayer in GoldenEye, (many gamers favourite aspect of the original) proves simultaneously a huge success and a mild disappointment. While arguably the finest multiplayer shooter on the Wii, with reasonably smooth gameplay and a decent selection of game modes and options, when inevitably compared to the N64’s pioneering multiplayer, its wealth of options and fantastic level design, Eurocom’s version just isn’t in the same league. Still, the 10 maps available are all fun and the throwback to 4-player split-screen is a welcome one – the opportunity to spy on your friend’s position never gets old and actually adds an extra tactical dimension that you just don’t get in online exclusive multiplayer games.
The majority of the original’s cast make a return too with Oddjob once again proving a pain in the ass and Jaws a somewhat easy target. Some of the, dare I say, unique modifiers from the original have also made the leap, with old favourites paintball, tiny players and one hit kills all present and accounted for. GoldenEye Wii even has a few of its own with the exploding players of singularity proving silly fun.
Online, GoldenEye also delivers the goods. Although there is no voice chat to speak of and the inevitability of the dreaded Friends Codes to deal with if you want to get the best out of the games lobby system, Eurocom has nonetheless done a great job of making the experience as smooth and as fun as possible. With 9 modes for up to 8 players, there is a fair degree of diversity here. Add to that the Call of Duty-style experience points and upgrade system and GoldenEye should keep gamers busy for months to come. Of course, the choice to have experience points that unlock new weaponry and perks means that the traditional random, map based weaponry has been replaced by a modern loadout system. While this makes sense and certainly would be my primary option for online play, it would have been nice to see old school options akin to the “007 Classic” difficulty setting that would do away with loadouts for a bit of classic weapon scrambling.
Despite a few minor issues, GolenEye’s new gameplay mechanics are polished, slick and most importantly, modern. The updated storyline and new levels strike a careful balance between being pleasing familiar and fresh all at the same time. Although the multiplayerdoesn’t quite live up to Rare’s stellar work on the N64, it’s still the best online shooter that the Wii has to offer and in its own right is great fun both online and locally. GoldenEye on the Wii was never going to have the same impact that the N64 original had back in 97’, but as both a re-make of a genuine classic and as a movie tie-in (albeit loosely linked), GoldenEye is unquestionably at the very head of the class.
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