GoldenEye 007 is one of those games where almost every person that ever played it not only remembers it fondly, but is absolutely convinced that they were the best player to ever touch a Nintendo 64 controller. They were godlike in their rose tinted remembrances, with each game that was played simply being a step up on the Ziggurat of their awesomeness. Of course, if even a tenth of the people who thought they were golden(eye) gods were even decent, every game would have ended in a near tie.
But regardless of how your memory compares to your true skills at the game, GoldenEye 007 tends to be one of the most beloved games of all time, a notion that is further strengthened by the odd paradox that despite the fact that it was a massive best-seller, it managed to somehow retain a bit of underground cult cred. It wasn’t Mario, Donkey Kong was nowhere to be found, and yet GoldenEye 007 became the game that defined the Nintendo 64.
So it makes sense for Nintendo to attempt to bring it back, especially now. The Wii is the clear king of the current generation of consoles, with over 75 million units sold. Compare that to the Xbox 360’s nearly 45 million units sold, and the PS3’s 40.5 million, and there is no question that the Wii is the console to beat. But even with the market share to back it up, the Wii’s sales have begun to take a significant drop. The Xbox and PS3 continue to release new innovations like the Kinect and the Move (despite the fact that you that both were influenced by the Wii) as well as the upgraded Xbox Live and PSN, so Nintendo needed to remain relevant — an odd fact in the face of near total console domination, but a true one. So what better way to generate some buzz for the Wii than to reboot a beloved classic. But is it a worthy successor?
It is always a dangerous thing to play with people’s memories, especially when you are attempting to augment them by building something that is original, but creating it off the back of something great; just look at the Star Wars prequels. GoldenEye 007 will live or die based on more than just how the game is, but in how it fits into the memories of the people that loved the original. Developer Eurocom approaches the title in the same way that a movie might approach the reboot of a franchise, and the new GoldenEye 007 offers a strong single-player campaign as well as a multiplayer that harkens back to the original with split-screen, but also updates the title with online multiplayer. While it may not generate the same intense loyalty that the original game did, the new GoldenEye 007 is a solid FPS for the Wii.
Odds are you know the story of GoldenEye by now. While the new game offers a few significant changes — notably the swapping in Daniel Craig for Pierce Brosnan — the plot roughly follows the original game and movie, but with a few updates and a modern twist to fit more with the sensibilities of the new Bond films..
If you managed to miss the original, GoldenEye is about a guy named Bond, James to his friends. Old Jimmy Bond is a smooth talker and has a way with the ladies when’s he’s not busy jet setting around the globe and foiling the odd terrorist plot. You may have heard of him.
The game begins with Bond and his BFF, Alec Trevelyan, aka 006, on a mission in Russia to destroy a weapons supply stockpile that has been linked to several terrorist attacks of British Embassies around the world. The mission goes sideways, and Trevelyan is apparently caught and executed by General Ourumov, the man in charge of the facility. Bond escapes in typically amazing fashion, and returns to England thinking his buddy dead.
Bond refuses to give it up and attempts to track down Ourumov. This leads him to the awesomely named villain, Xenia Onatopp, who helped Ourumov steal the GoldenEye weapons system, a device that can send an EMP and destroy all circuitry in a targeted area. Bond tracks them to Siberia, where he meets Natalya Simonova, a strikingly beautiful woman that does something vaguely related to computer programming. Naturally, she soon falls for Bond.
Bond continues the hunt and discovers his former friend Trevelyan is not only alive, but also behind the shenanigans. His motives soon become clear, and he plans to attack London with the GoldenEye.
The story of GoldenEye 007 remains faithful to the feel original if not the exact plot, while adding enough to make it feel new — or at least fresh. In keeping with the new look of Bond, the heavy reliance on gadgets is gone for the most part, but 007 does still have a smartphone. A very smart phone. In fact, his smartphone does just about everything you could possibly imagine an electronic device could do, and then a whole lot more.
Dame Judi Dench also makes the digital transition as M, further solidifying the modern-Bond look. Simply adding a different set of actors to the game may not seem like a major change, but their inclusion helps to break the strings of the past and reinvent the title. As for the story itself, it is typical Bond-stuff, and if you liked it the first time, the new look and changes should appeal to you.
Looking good, Mr. Bond
When it comes to graphics, you sort of have to grade Wii games on a curve. Nintendo’s console is not about the technical specs, or how much power it can muster. It is designed for fun, and sometimes graphics are the casualty of that. So with that in mind, for a Wii game, GoldenEye 007 looks great, and it pushes the console as far as it will go. It can’t compare to some of the other FPS titles recently released, like Halo: Reach or Medal of Honor, but then again, it isn’t really trying to. There are a few instances where the framerate is an issue, especially when the action heats up, but those are never a major problem.
As far as the sound goes, the Bond theme is iconic, right up there with the Star Wars theme, and the game uses it well. The rest of the music is somewhat forgettable, but the actors do a great job, and it is cool to hear Craig drop a deadpan quip over the ricochet of bullets.
Overall, from a technical standpoint, GoldenEye 007 is a success, and it offers a solid looking-title for the Wii.
License to Kill (with a Wii controller)
The FPS genre has generally been somewhat underdeveloped for the Wii, which is interesting when you consider that the genre is almost over saturated on the other consoles. But there are interesting issues regarding the controls of a FPS on the Wii. The game itself offers a bundle that includes a Wii classic remote, because Nintendo understands that GoldenEye 007 is a title that could convince people to purchase a Wii. But if someone that is not familiar with the Wii’s unique control scheme tries to jump right in to a FPS with those controls, odds are they will find a steep and frustrating learning curve. It is better to start out on the Wii with a less aggressive type of game and ease your way into it, otherwise you will probably find the controls weird and hard to handle.
That being said, GoldenEye 007 is made to be played with standard Wii controllers. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the controls are intuitive and fun, and a lock-on feature in the game helps out. If you are a diehard FPS fan on the other consoles, you probably won’t see GoldenEye as anything more than a gimmick. It is a different way of playing a familiar genre, and one that could be an alternative to — but not an improvement on — a standard controller.
But, if you are a Wii adept, then GoldenEye’s controls are interesting and fun to use. They are responsive and once you get the hang of them and understand the logic behind them, the game moves well.
A stirred martini
While GoldenEye might be one of the best FPS for the Wii, it is not without its problems. The biggest of those is the AI, which is a fairly big problem. In fact, AI is something of a misnomer, as the word intelligence somewhat infers the idea of adaptability. It is not intelligent for one enemy to be looking at his friend getting shot, while keeping his back to you as if nothing just happened. A single box is not magical, and sticking your head out over and over and a precisely timed set of intervals is not good strategy. There is no flanking to speak of, and while the AI can overwhelm with numbers at times, it sure isn’t smart.
The somewhat stagnant enemies do, however, give you the option to complete huge sections of missions through stealth takedowns and silenced gunplay. This is as much exploiting the AI as it is a strategy, but whatever works. And you might actually want to investigate different means of getting through levels, because the game is short, and you can complete it in five or six hours if you want, but much faster if you hurry. There are multiple mission objectives you can complete, but the game is just short. Thankfully though, there is the multiplayer to help add to the value.
What kind of game would GoldenEye 007 be if it didn’t have a multiplayer? The original had a solid campaign that was fun and challenging, but odds are half the people that played the game never finished the single-player mode — the multiplayer was what made the original into the legend that it is now. It introduced scores of players to video games, because it was a fun activity to do with friends. So the new game not only needed a multiplayer, it needed a great one.
The split-screen gaming is back, and it is a solid experience that you and your friends can enjoy. The number of characters you can play is massive, the weapon options are varied, and the custom match options are huge — there are literally hundreds of options. It isn’t the same as the original, but it might introduce a whole new generation to GoldenEye. Who knows, 15 years from now a whole new generation may be checking out the next GoldenEye reboot after this one becomes legendary.
There is an online multiplayer as well, but there is one glaring contradiction in it. The game does not support voice chat. On another game, that might not be a big deal, but GoldenEye 007 is all about playing with your friends and interacting with others. The Wii’s online community has been sadly neglected, so it isn’t that surprising, but it is still odd.
GoldeneEye 007 is just fun. It isn’t going to compete graphically with the other consoles’ FPSs, but it works with what it has. The gameplay is interesting on the Wii, and once you get the hang of it, fun and original. It probably won’t win over the non-Wii fans, but it might bring a few new people into the Nintendo fold.
Despite some painfully dumb enemy AI, the campaign is worth your time, especially since it won’t take long, and the multiplayer split-screen is a blast — both in the actual gamepley and the nostalgic feelings it will illicit.
Overall, GoldenEye 007 does the name proud. It doesn’t have the innovation to elevate it to the level that the original did, but it doesn’t do it a disservice, either. If you can round up three others for a split-screen battle, you could easily lose several hours to the game. A good reboot of a classic game, and a must have for the FPS starved fans on the Wii.
Score: 8 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Wii on a copy provided by Activision)