GoldenEye is probably the most fondly remembered game of all time. The announcement of the game remake probably made you want to dust off your N64 and play a few rounds of multiplayer with your friends. If you do, you'll most likely realize that it plays pretty badly when compared to any shooter from the last 10 years, so the time is ripe to reinvent GoldenEye for modern consoles. With GoldenEye 007, the team at Eurocom has crafted the best first-person shooter on the Wii as a worthy successor to GoldenEye's mighty legacy.
GoldenEye 007 isn't so much a straight-up remake as it is a reimagining of the original film. The basic plot remains the same, but motivations have changed, certain events have been altered, and the entire game has been recast. This means that Sean Bean isn't 006, but his replacement is decent. Most importantly, this means Pierce Brosnan is out as James Bond and Daniel Craig is in. Purist fans may be running screaming and waving torches at these changes, but it works. The developers brought in the writer of the "GoldenEye" film to rewrite the story so that it'll work with Craig's version of Bond.
Since GoldenEye 007 is a reimagining of the original, you don't expect to see much content from the original title. Much of the gameplay is new and exciting, but there are a bunch of throwback moments that will make fans of the original title squeal like schoolgirls. For instance, the first level of the game is "Dam," just like the original title. The first building that you see, the first enemy placement, and the first camera pan into the eyes of Bond are completely identical to the original. Then suddenly, you find yourself sneaking into the base with 006 at your side rather than meeting up with him later. The game does this often, reminding you that while much of the gameplay is new, the developers are fully aware of and respect the title that they are updating.
As a gameplay update to the original, GoldenEye 007 delivers and then some. The health bars have been swapped out for regenerating health, but the gameplay feels familiar and fresh at the same time. You'll still wade through hordes of faceless enemies and have typically Bond moments — hitting a missile pad to take down a helicopter that's chasing you or hacking a turret to turn on the enemies it's supposed to be protecting — but the new elements and levels are strong enough to carry the game quite well. On the normal difficulty setting, Bond has to get from point A to point B without dying, and then he might plant something at point B or take a photo. While wandering, you'll come across several side paths that don't seem to serve any purpose, but on higher difficulty levels, they lead to new objectives that must be accomplished to finish the level. Doing this adds a very solid amount of replay value to the title, as the more comfortable you get with the game, the more content becomes available.
The shooting is extremely solid, but the mediocre AI is content to sit in a corner and merely pop up and shoot on a regular basis. It's possible that the AI is mediocre to compensate for the Wii Remote not being the most precise control method for controlling a first-person shooter. Thankfully, Eurocom has created extremely sharp controls for essentially every known controller for the Wii, so even the motion controls are reasonably sharp. If the motion controls frustrate gamers, they can choose from several different versions of each control scheme for easier controls or more precision. Admittedly, I got frustrated with the motion controls as the game wore on — I'd often swing wildly past the person I was aiming for, and the snap aiming often failed to work with the motion controls — but I was able to get halfway through before I switched to a GameCube controller, where the game takes on controls that are essentially identical to and as sharp as the Call of Duty games.
Regardless of which control scheme and difficulty level you choose, GoldenEye 007's single-player experience is fantastic. While Bond is fully capable of being a one-man army who kills everything in his path, you often have a stealth option. Simply crouching and using a silenced weapon puts you in a stealth situation, where you can sneak up on enemies, take them out and keep moving, or you can try to get through an area completely undetected. Based on my time with the game, it's more fun to use the Wiimote as the controller during the stealth sections and better to use the GameCube controller during gunfights. As the game wore on, I used stealth significantly less in favor of the gunfights.
While Bond has always used all kinds of crazy gadgets, he's limited to a single gadget in GoldenEye 007, and that's a smart phone that is apparently capable of doing everything. Bond relies on his phone for door hacking, person identification, photos, turret hacking, and pretty much anything and everything that requires technology. It may be a little ridiculous that Bond can do so much with his phone, but it ends up being pretty fun in practice.
The only gameplay element added to GoldenEye 007 is several Quick Time Events (QTEs). These are commonplace in modern games, and some of the year's best titles are even centered around them (Heavy Rain), but they just don't work in GoldenEye 007. It's not due to a lack of interest. The game doesn't leave the first-person perspective during the QTEs, and that's a very nice touch, but there's absolutely no difficulty involved. You can press the wrong button, and the game will give you a second chance to press the correct button. I never failed a QTE, despite screwing them up several times.
The graphics are pretty great for the Wii. While they are nowhere near the level of graphics that can be achieved on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, it's an impressive showing for the Wii console, and there's a nice level of detail. Several of the levels are overly dark and require the brightness on the TV to be dramatically boosted in order to see what's going on and when the action gets intense. During multiplayer, the game's frame rate starts to stutter and falter. It's never as smooth as Call of Duty's 60 frames per second, but as a result, slowdown is extremely noticeable.
While the campaign is great, what everybody remembers about GoldenEye is the multiplayer. I can't even begin to count how many hours were spent playing GoldenEye with my friends, so the multiplayer has a giant legacy to follow. While the multiplayer isn't as revolutionary as it was back in the '90s, it's a ton of fun to play with your friends. All of the old characters are back, with Oddjob and Jaws as two examples of older characters who've been brought back for GoldenEye 007. All of the old game modes are back, and the ridiculous cheat codes have also returned, so you can enable things like paintball mode and giant heads. It's everything that was great about the original, with a Call of Duty-style leveling system thrown in to add some depth. You'll gain experience for every kill, every win, etc. As you level up, you unlock more weapons and custom class slots to take into the multiplayer arena.
Split-screen is just as fun as ever with up to four people (although the frame rate suffers with four players), and you can go online to play in matches that support up to eight players. As always, the Wii's online capabilities suffer from the game-specific friend codes that serve as an overly complex friend list. There's also no voice support in the online arena, but the various game modes are still an absolute blast to play.
GoldenEye 007 is a remake that broke gamers' expectations. Bond hasn't had a decent game since 2003, with James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing. Bond has been out of the spotlight since then, and all attempts to make a good game have failed miserably. GoldenEye 007 is the game that Bond fans have been awaiting. It's everything that was great about GoldenEye but successfully updated for a modern Bond and modern gaming. It falters in a few areas due to the technical limitations of the Wii hardware, and there are a few other minor problems. Bond is back. GoldenEye 007 is the best Bond game in years, and Wii owners should not hesitate to pick it up.
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