Saturday, 5 February 2011

REVIEW: GoldenEye 007

GoldenEye 007
[Wii] [Activision/Eurocom]
When the original GoldenEye hit the Nintendo 64 back in '97 it wowed thousands of gamers. Being one of the original 3D first-person shooters, it was a highly exciting title to play and remains one of the greatest games ever to this day, treasured in the minds of many people. It was and still is a true classic. So what happens when a brand-new GoldenEye title for Wii is unveiled at 2010's E3 conference? People get excited, but also a little sceptical. For starters, the original game was developed by Rare, a games developer who are now owned by Microsoft, making the possibility of a true GoldenEye remake for a Nintendo system slim. The development for the Wii version was instead handled by Eurocom, the same guys who made the fairly rubbish Quantum of Solace game, making gamers even more sceptical. On top of all this, the game was released at more or less the same time as Call of Duty: Black Ops, a game that would undeniably sell billions for no apparent reason, giving anyone an excuse to ignore GoldenEye. Gamers had a very good reason to be so worried about the game. It's a sheer wonder then, that GoldenEye 007 is a truly brilliant title. When it was released last year it was a surprise hit amongst many gamers, and many claimed that it reached the dizzy heights of the N64 original. I picked up GoldenEye last month and after completing it several weeks later, I can safetly say that I loved every minute of it. It was so good, in fact, that I decided to review it.

When it comes to level design, the Dam stage is easily the most reminiscent of the original game.
I'll start by saying that the production values in GoldenEye 007 are truly incredible. The game boasts the sort of production team that would work on a proper Bond film. For example, Daniel Craig stars as Bond and provides full voice acting for the character, as well as Dame Judy Dench and others providing voices for their parts. The game's opening level features a proper James Bond intro, complete with some famous lady singing the GoldenEye theme over the footage. The guys at MGM who wrote the original GoldenEye have re-written the story for the GoldenEye remake, too. These sorts of things aren't really what you'd expect from what is essentially a movie tie-in (even though the GoldenEye film came out years ago). All this professionalism is a unique plus-point for GoldenEye 007, but of course, this is a game. So, does the gameplay live up to the production values? The answer to that question is a simple "it definitely does..."

The N64 release of GoldenEye was a first-person shooter, and the Wii remake is no different. Only this time, they've taken several elements from the original and cranked them up to make the new game actually feel 'new'. Despite the fact that this is a remake, Eurocom have tried their very best to make it feel like a brand-new experience, while still hinting at many of the original's themes. Like I mentioned earlier, the story has been completely re-written to suit the less cheesy Daniel Craig version of Bond. This means that you won't really expect what's going to happen next as the story feels more fresh. However, the game does feature many returning levels, even though they mostly differ in design. Some good examples of this are the Dam and Tank levels - They use the same blueprints but are recreated to be more suited to the newer game. Many annoying aspects of the original have been ditched too, such as those annoying sections where you had to protect someone who would keep yapping on for ages, or the endlessly re-spawning enemies. The exclusions seem to have worked out for the better.

The Smartphone helps mix things up a bit. You can even hack turrets to do your bidding!
The FPS gameplay of GoldenEye 007 is fairly standard. You use whatever controller you wish (there are several options, including Classic Controller and Gamecube Controller support) to aim an on-screen reticule and shoot. However, there are some differences that make the game feel unique compared to other shooters. On many levels you have the freedom to use stealth to take out your enemies silently without getting spotted, or engage in a huge gunfight with them. I found the stealth elements really fun, as there's a superb feeling of satisfaction when you sneak up to a soldier and silently knock them out with a melee take-down. Several levels also have multiple paths and secret areas, which add to the replay-value. Your second playthrough of GoldenEye could be slightly different from your first if you want it to be. Another nice addition is James' Smart Phone. This gadget can be used to hack wifi nodes, which allow you to make enemy gun turrets your own, or erase security footage in secondary objectives. It's a neat idea that is well implemented, although it could be put to more use. Each level of GoldenEye sees you playing as Bond, in an attempt to complete several primary objectives (or secondary ones too if you're playing on a higher difficulty). You could be planting charges on fuel tanks in the Facility level, or finding someone in a nightclub. Speaking of the levels, most of them are very well-designed. My favourites were one were you had to infiltrate a Siberian warzone, and another where you made your way through a nightclub turned battlefield, complete with excellent music from Deadmou5 (another aspect that proves how amazing the production values were).

GoldenEye 007 also features a great and varied multiplayer mode, featuring both online and offline play. Less and less games are featuring split-screen gameplay these days, so it's nice to have that back. Of course, how couldn't you? This is GoldenEye, after all. I've played quite a few games of split-screen with my brother, and overall it's pretty good. It's by no means the best multiplayer FPS ever (that title would go to TimeSplitters 3) but it is fairly enjoyable. There's a decent selection of maps and many characters to choose from, including classic Bond villains like Jaws and Oddjob. However, the amount of different game modes in split-screen multiplayer was weak. Essentially, there is only two game modes to choose from, even though one of them is the iconic Golden Gun mode. This is ridiculous, as I know for a fact that there are lots more in the online mode. Why didn't they let us play them in local multiplayer? Did they forget or something? Speaking of online, I unfortunately haven't had a chance to try it out yet as I rarely get wifi access. However, I have heard good things about it. It's got a proper XP system and tons of game modes and customisations for your persona to unlock. I can't wait to try it out, but for now I can only say it's looks really good from what I've seen.

On top of the excellent campaign, GoldenEye 007 offers both split-screen and online multiplayer.
This paragraph is pretty much going to be dedicated to my complaints about GoldenEye 007, so prepare for some ranty writing. I've already mentioned the split-screen multiplayer's lack of modes and bots, so I won't go any further into that. Instead, I think I should write about the game's biggest problem: The INSANE difficulty. Okay, so playing through the game on the lowest difficulty is fine, and even if you move up a few levels it's still a fair challenge. However, there's two modes that annoy me. Those would be the Time Trial and 007 Classic options. The concept of 007 Classic is pretty cool, you play it just like the original GoldenEye, with that game's health system. However, the enemy AI is boosted to impossible levels, and you have to tackle all of the secondary objectives! The Time Trials mode seems like it's just been thrown in at the last minute. You try to beat a level under a certain time limit, but the time runs through the cutscenes! Now that's lazy. They're also painfully difficult. I'd go as far as saying that these two modes are harder than Sin and Punishment 2 on the hardest difficulty!!! Now that's ridiculous in every sense of the word. Despite all this, I don't really have any other complaints with GoldenEye 007, and these issues don't really break the game at all -  You don't have to do them.

Overall, GoldenEye 007 is an excellent game. It's the best first-person shooter on the Wii, for that matter. Despite the few annoying flaws I addressed in the last few paragraphs, I still really enjoyed the story, ridiculously high production values and brilliant gameplay mechanics that GoldenEye shows off. It's not as charming as other games, but if you're a fan of FPS games then pick this title up without hesitation. The game has some competition coming up in the form of Conduit 2, but for now you really can't get better than this.


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