Let’s get this out of the way first: no game will ever be GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64. The unique combination of advancements in technology, controls, gaming and culture are not going to collide like that ever again. It was a revolution in gaming and those come along very, very rarely, and usually not in the form of a licensed videogame.
This fact won’t keep companies from trying to cash in on the name, however. EA already did it when they had the Bond license with their relentlessly middle-of-the-road GoldenEye: Rogue Agent and now Activision is taking its shot with the Wii version of GoldenEye 007. Calling it a Wii version is a complete misnomer, however, as this is an entirely different game with very little actual connection to the original GoldenEye 007 other than key plot scenarios.
Taking that fact into account and the previously discussed fact that no game will ever be the N64 version of the game, let’s let GoldenEye 007 on the Wii stand or fall on its own accord as we dig through it below.
GoldenEye 007 (Wii)
Developer: Eurocom, n-Space
Released: November 2, 2010
MSRP: $49.99 (standard), $69.99 (Classic Edition)
I’m not lying when I say that this game has almost nothing to do with the original. The plot, actors, levels, guns, gadgets, objectives, graphics, controls and multiplayer are all either different or seriously reworked. The game is simply influenced by its namesake and the similarities pretty much end there. It should be noted, however, that these influences are actually pretty cool. You’ll be playing through levels that feel familiar, but are entirely new. It’s a strange feeling to play through a room that you know, but have never played, and the team behind the game should be proud that they managed to squeeze some of the essence of the original game out without directly copying it in any way.
We’ll start with the basic fundamentals that have changed. If you’ve ever heard someone say that the new Bond is copying Bourne (an argument we can have at a later date) then you’ll understand when I say GoldenEye is copying Call of Duty. The updated gameplay plays almost exactly like every other modern first-person shooter is doing these days. Obviously the Wii’s pointer controls add a bit of a change for the player (unless you opt to use the Classic Controller or a GameCube controller), but for all intents and purposes this feels a lot like Call of Duty with emphasis being put on cover tactics and aiming down your sites to take more accurate shots instead of simply “shooting from the hip.”
This is far from a complaint at all. If you’re going to ape something, ape the best, and the game actually apes quite well. Controls are tight and responsive and easily adjusted for however you want to play. I did buckle and pick up the golden Classic Controller, and I have to say it’s nice, but in the end I played through most of the game using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck combo. This was the first time I had actually switched between standard and motion controls in a single game, and it’s just hard to relinquish the ease of pointing and shooting (and the fun of motion controlled melees) for thumbsticks.
It’s not all copying and pasting, though. GoldenEye stands on its own feet pretty well. There’s a pretty robust collection of case sensitive take downs you can preform when you’re close enough to an enemy and stealth plays a much larger role in the game than most FPS. Actually, I should say that if you want stealth to play a much larger role in the game then it can. If you want to go blazing through each level with a machine gun, that can work too. The game does a great job of setting up levels that can work either way. There were plenty of points where I was torn between sneaking up and taking out some guys with a few quick and well placed shots or blowing up the truck said guys were standing next to, and thus alerting every enemy in the area. There’s actually some great level design going on in parts of the game, especially when you’re indoors in closed quarters. There’s an amazing sequence in which you bust into a large open room and some slower background music starts playing loudly while everything slows down just a bit. Exploding pieces of furniture and decorations are placed liberally about the room too so that when you shoot their remains burst into the air and float down dramatically. It’s a really cool effect that makes you feel like you’re playing through one of those slow motion action sequences with meaningful music over it that are so trendy in films now. It’s little cinematic touches like that that make GoldenEye stand out form the crowd and give it a true Bond feeling for some of the game.
Sadly, as it progresses things start to become a bit more generic in design. It’s still fun to play, but you feel like you’ve done a lot of the stuff before in plenty of other games. In some games this isn’t a problem at all, but when you’re playing as James Bond it better feel like you’re doing something special, not just running around as another FPS character with a gun. In this same vein it doesn’t help that it sounds like Daniel Craig mailed this one in from the Arctic. There’s about as much feeling in his voice acting as there is in early Resident Evil games. OK, maybe not that bad, but you get the point. It also doesn’t help that the story of GoldenEye has been roughly handled in order to update it to modern times. (Spoilers) Instead of Alec Trevelyan, agent 006, getting revenge on England as his excuse to steal lots of money he is getting revenge on the bankers for the financial crash. It makes little to no sense and plot wise the game pretty much falls apart before it begins. It doesn’t help that Sean Bean, who played Trevelyan in the film, is nowhere to be seen, and his replacement is lackluster at best.
The crap story doesn’t take away from the game being entirely enjoyable as a game though, and there is plenty of replay value in the single player. The game comes with four different difficulties, all of which you can play from the get go. Much like the original GoldenEye every level has sub-objectives aside from the main goal and the higher difficulty you choose the more side objectives you have. It makes playing through on harder challenges quite fun because you’re not simply playing against harder enemies, but also achieving new things. The game also has a classic mode, which puts the player into the 007 difficulty (hard), but instead of giving you the now FPS-standard magical, regenerating health it gives you the classic GoldenEye life bars and hides armor in the levels. It’s old school, challenging and a very welcome addition to those getting tired of simply hiding behind things until you heal up.
Unfortunately the developers made an odd decision when it came to game progression. If you beat a level on a certain difficulty, but do not complete all the secondary objectives than you cannot go on to the next level on that difficulty and must play the next level on the next difficulty down. I understand the logic behind this, but it forces a player who may want the bigger challenge from the AI to go back and replay a level simply because they may have missed out completing one of the optional objectives. Not that the levels are a pain to play back through, but if you’re trying to beat a game (or review it in a timely manner) it can get aggravating when you’ve technically already beaten a level, but can’t progress on the difficulty you want to.
You won’t be blown away graphically by this game, but it certainly doesn’t look bad. There’s never a moment where I threw my hands up in disgust in how lazy the developers must have been like I have with other games. It’s very clear that time and attention went into much of this game, and it shows because it actually looks and feels good. Amazing that when a developer puts effort into a Wii game it can come out looking, playing and sounding really great. Who would have thought?
But I’ve rambled on too much about the single player when the real thing everyone remembers about GoldenEye 007 on the N64 is having fun with your friends in the multiplayer. It’s obvious why the advertising campaign behind this new GoldenEye heavily pushed the fact that there was splitscreen multipalyer as that’s what everyone loves. It’s also devilishly smart because this is a Wii exclusive and there is no way in hell its online gameplay is going to match up with anything on the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. Thus the smart thing to do is focus on the splitscreen multiplayer and deliver the online as a secondary bonus in the game, which is exactly what they did here. It worked too, the splitscreen multiplayer is plenty of fun to play with some well designed levels that realize that only four people are playing on them so the don’t get too sprawling or convoluted (a trap many games fall into when you play them in splitscreen).
I’m sorry to say that while returning to some splitscreen gaming was a blast because I got to hang out with my friends GoldenEye 007 doesn’t really capture the magic that the original had. Of course, as I stated before, nothing ever will. The new game does its best in an attempt to do so, however. There are modes on top of modes that hearken back to a day when characters having big heads was something to gush over. Thankfully it’s been so long since those days, and such modes are now routinely ignored, that it is once again time to gush over such things. You won’t be playing through any of the classic GoldenEye maps that you still have memorized like the back of your hand (as far as I saw), but you’ll definitely be playing through some solid maps in classic GoldenEye style. The best part is that you’ll get to once again see your friends’ faces. You’ll be surprised what puberty has done to some of them.
As far as that bonus online multiplayer feature goes, it’s one of the best I’ve seen on the Wii (waits for not-saying-much snickers to die down). Once again the game takes a cue from Call of Duty and other modern FPSs and offers a slew of features like optimizable loadouts, a point system for upgrading your character, and a plethora of weaponry and gadget combinations. An added bonus is a Bond villains mode, in which all the players are all randomly selected classic Bond villains (oddjobs hat throw is pimp). The mode is relatively pointless, but just dumb fun to play in.
The graphics, and more notably the sound, do take a hit when you jump into the online arena, but that’s pretty par for the course with many games. You give a little, you get up to 8 people playing online. Playing online also means you give up a lot of the fun modifiers that you can get with splitscreen. It seems a bit odd until you realize the simple fact that splitscreen play was actually the focus over online play, and yet the game still has some of the best online play on the Wii and could stand proud with online on other systems. Sadly, game specific friend codes do exist, and there is no Wii Speak support. Both of these facts make gaming with friends online a bit annoying, but far from impossible, and I can’t stress to you how cathartic it was not to have some moron shouting how gay I was every time he shot me.
I may have harped on a few flaws with the game, but overall GoldenEye is a very solid game and well worth the money if you enjoy videogames. If you’re a Bond freak then the golden Classic Controller makes for a nice collector’s item, but it’s hard to justify the purchase beyond that since the Wii Remote and Nunchuck were my preferred area of control. Either way you play, you’re probably going to have a good time, and even if it isn’t the most Bondian of Bond’s videogame adventures it is indeed a good game and one that you won’t regret playing. The new GoldenEye 007 could never be as truly great as its predecessor for a variety of reasons, but it does a superb job of following in its footsteps.