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GoldenEye 007 for Wii Hands-on Impressions

Order a pizza, stock up on two-liters of Mountain Dew, and prepare to relive your childhood. Or college, as the case may be. Split-screen console gaming is about to make an unforeseen return with a sequel to the iconic game that first defined it: GoldenEye 007.

Nintendo announced the unexpected – but already hotly anticipated – Wii title on Monday during its E3 press conference, and we had a chance to see James in action behind closed doors. Our first take? Bond truly is back.

Which is to say, those with a taste for nostalgia will be very, very pleased. To call the new Goldeneye 007 “influenced” by the original GoldenEye 007, as Activision does, might not be giving proper credit to the forerunner. It’s as close to a remake as we’ve seen without being branded as such.

Oddly enough, both games will closely follow the plot of the original 1995 movie of the same name, but the new version will sub in Daniel Craig, the newest Bond, for Pierce Brosnan. Revisionist history? Perhaps, but Brosnan doesn’t seem to be missing the role much anyway. And purists will find plenty of other similarities to savor.

Reliving The Golden Years

The demo mission Activision showed off at E3 replicated the original Dam level of GoldenEye to a tee, right down to the stream crossing and guard tower at the beginning. After subduing two hapless guards in a cinematic sequence, Bond gets a choice between stealthy and forceful gameplay that producer Dawn Pinkney says has been a strong point of focus for the development team. Strategically cap a few Russkies with the silenced pistol and things stay quiet, or grab an AK-47 and watch the guards flood in.

Bond’s default weapon of choice is a Walther P99 these days – not the old PP7 – but other weapons will seem right as you left them, like the AK-47 and Klobb, now named the Klebb (seemingly after Rosa Klebb from From Russia with Love). Even the overblown muzzle blasts feel familiar and distinctively Bond. You can practically still hear Hanson and Spice Girls on the radio.

For the sake of advanced players, the new GoldenEye will also throw in some optional twists to make levels more challenging on harder difficulty levels. Bond will have to use his smartphone to complete objectives with facial recognition, hacking and even recording conversations between characters.

Four’s Company

Of course, real GoldenEye devotees will be less interested in tracking down Trevelyan and more interested in sticking explosives to their friends – the ones sitting right next to them on the couch.

As promised, GoldenEye will deliver with four-way split screen multiplayer, allowing players in the same room to play the same game simultaneously. A live demo with four journalists on the controls instantly recalled the character of early GoldenEye deathmaches: cozy maps where four players stumble upon each other easily, frantic action, clumsy gunning to whittle down generous health bars, and the characters you already love: Oddjob, Scaramonga, Trevelyan, and Jaws. Iridescent red blood runs down the screen when you die. The end of every match doles out titles like Spray and Pray, Blink of an Eye, and the always enviable Expendable.

Has the convenience of Internet multiplayer in virtually every new game eroded the appeal of split-screen mode? The fact that nearly any college dorm around the country still has an N64 with a copy of GoldenEye kicking around should be an immediate “no.” The fact that four people can share one TV, one copy of the game and one Wii in a down economy should signal a second resounding “no.” And flatscreen living room TVs that are practically twice as big as the clunky CRTs of 1997 shouldn’t make sharing a screen quite as painful, either.

That said, not everyone has a gaggle of three friends they can call over every night of the week, and Internet play will be an option. Pinkney says it will target core players, offering up to eight players in a single game and new multiplayer modes that haven’t been detailed yet.

Thirteen Years in the Making

GoldenEye 007 breaks little new ground in a genre flooded with new titles that have already passed the the first GoldenEye by. But considering the dearth of modern-day titles that fill the deliver the same ease-of-play and downright fun factor of the original, there’s still a place for a remake. As long as Activision and Eurocom can nail that all-critical fun factor as closely as they’ve nailed the look and feel, expect a whole new generation of Bond devotees to pack onto the couch when it comes out this November.

Also check out the E3 2010 Goldeneye 007 trailer.

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