One thing really needs to be said right off the bat, to avoid disappointment: GoldenEye 007 is not the Nintendo 64 GoldenEye. It isn't even a simple HD update of the old game. Other than sharing a name and a very basic plot, they could be entirely different games. If you're going into this expecting a Wii port of your favorite Nintendo 64 game, you're destined for disappointment. While GoldenEye 007 has the potential to be a solid shooter for Wii fans, it's not a port of a classic title, and it's going to be tough to overcome that.
The thing that stands out most about GoldenEye 007 is that it doesn't seem like a "GoldenEye" game. It features updated mechanics and new levels, and it's no longer based on the original movie. Pierce Brosnan has been replaced by Daniel Craig, but this isn't a straight-up swap of faces. The entire plot and structure of GoldenEye has been redesigned to match the style of "Casino Royale," instead of the more lighthearted action romps that Brosnan's films had become. You can just see that it is grittier and more realistic. Part of this is due to the graphics, but everything in the game has been redesigned to the point where it is more modern and serious. It's still technically following the story of "GoldenEye," but a parallel film that was made in 2010 instead of 1995. It even features the voices of Daniel Craig and Judy Dench, as well as motion capture from Craig's stunt double and music from the composer of "Casino Royale." The original scriptwriter for "GoldenEye" is helping to adapt the script, so it isn't completely unconnected, but it's still a strange beast.
The brief demo we saw of the game's first level opened up with Bond meeting with fellow 00 agent Alec Trevelyan near the entrance to an illicit Soviet weapons plant. It's obvious from the very beginning that things are different. Bond and Trevelyan sneak down a mountain slope to a pair of guards who are having a chat, and with a single button press, Bond quickly, and quietly, subdues them. After a few moments, they're in roughly the same starting area as the N64 GoldenEye, but it's changed so much that only a few buildings and the slight layout of the area are recognizable. Bond stealthily makes his way through the area, taking out guards with his silenced PP7 pistol. It becomes pretty obvious that all the N64 mechanics have been modernized in some fashion. You can now vault over small obstacles with a button press, and the basic gunplay is more akin to modern shooters, including small things like looking through the laser sights of Bond's PP7. The demo used the Wii Classic Controller instead of the Wiimote and Nunchuk configuration, and it worked as well as can be expected.
After a misfired shot, Bond ends up in his first firefight, where we noticed that Bond's health bar has been replaced by a modern-style regenerating system. Take damage, and the screen goes red; avoid damage, and it fades. The enemy AI has specific time periods between being alerted and sounding an alarm, and even more time passes before reinforcements arrive. Killing all enemies before they can call for help allows you to return to stealth mode, as opposed to continuing to fight your way through the level. It's an interesting idea, and it has the potential to keep levels from turning into repetitive firefights.
After clearing the area, Bond and Trevelyan take over a supply truck. This led to a lengthy in-game cut scene, where they have a discussion while driving incognito through a Russian checkpoint. The game certain looks more cinematic than its N64 counterpart, and this point is driven home when a pair of Russian guards figures out that the agents are not the expected delivery drivers. After brutally executing both guards, Trevelyan takes the wheel and Bond grabs one of the guard's guns, beginning a lengthy on-rails action sequence. Bond has to shoot guards and blow up the gas tanks of trucks in order to get by, while Trevelyan swerves all over the place. There is also a brief one-button Quick Time Event sequence where Bond has to smash an attacking Soviet soldier off the truck and into a wall. After escaping the truck, Trevelyan and Bond enter the facility through an elevator shaft.
At the bottom, they find themselves forced to confront a group of guards head-on. This shows off another interesting new mechanic, where Bond has the ability to "breach" the door with a button press. This seems to slow down time and give him a few moments to shoot the stunned guards in the head before they can sound the alarm. Failing to do so would trigger yet another firefight. This seems pretty context-sensitive, so it's difficult to tell how useful it will be in the long run, but it's yet another example of how different the gameplay is. Shortly afterward, Bond and Trevelyan split up. Bond whips out some kind of hacking device to scan data from a computer and then heads further into the level, where our demo unfortunately ended.
After that, we got a chance to try hands-on multiplayer. This is probably what is going to be the most controversial aspect of the game because it's similar to GoldenEye's multiplayer, but also notably different. You can pick from one of over 40 different characters, including Bond favorites like Jaws and Oddjob. The gameplay retains a lot of the same basic changes from the main game, including regenerating health, but the levels and basic layout felt more akin to the N64 game than the single-player portion's more modern style. It's still difficult to say that it played much like GoldenEye. It had a lot more in common with a modern FPS, although with a few fun quirks, like a dedicated grenade button. Oddjob doesn't get grenades, but he can throw his hat as a deadly weapon. Online play can be done in a nostalgic four-player, split-screen mode, or in a new eight-player online mode.
We were told that some, but not all, of the GoldenEye modes would be making a return. Paintball mode and special game types like You Only Live Twice and Melee were confirmed, although we didn't get a chance to see them in action. Not all of GoldenEye's sillier game types will be in the Wii remake, as we were specifically told that the popular Big Head mode (and presumably similar modes, like DK) won't be in the game. In addition, there are going to be new gameplay features like a Modern Warfare-style XP system and perks. Other than Oddjob's hat-throwing ability, there was no confirmation that other characters would have unique abilities or special powers, although it seems likely enough, considering the wide cast of characters.
In the end, GoldenEye 007 is not the Nintendo 64 GoldenEye. It's so different that it's difficult to even reconcile the two, and it's going to have to fight a lot of nostalgia to prove itself. Despite this, GoldenEye 007 has the potential to be a fairly solid Wii-based shooter. The combat looks reasonably well done, and the ability to use a Classic Controller seems like a real boon. The multiplayer has the potential to be fun, especially if the developers include some of the more unusual gameplay modes from the original title. There's no set release date yet, so perhaps more interesting twists and turns will be unveiled in the upcoming months.
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