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GoldenEye 007: Reloaded hands-on preview

goldeneye 007:reloaded

Eurocom did a fantastic job last year of taking the great framework from the Nintendo 64 classic GoldenEye 007 and giving it a more modern gaming feel on the Wii. The new GoldenEye 007 was dramatically different in some ways, with new level layouts and a spruced up, 21st century-set narrative, and fans of the original felt the homage dripping through in every corner of the game to which they responded enthusiastically.

But.

GoldenEye 007 was good “for a Wii game,” which is the video game world equivalent of a Major League Baseball player having an asterisk sit next to one of his record-breaking achievements. It’s legit… but there’s that stain, the feeling that it could mean something more if only things had been different somehow. Baseball players can’t erase that asterisk but Activision is giving Eurocom another crack with GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, an HD-ified version of the Wii game running on a completely new engine and boasting features like a new mode and a more robust multiplayer offering.

Earlier this week, before the hands-on session in New York City began in earnest, Activision took some time to show off how the PlayStation Move/Sharp Shooter controls work with¬†Reloaded. In short, they work. It’s early days in the motion controller’s implementation, so the aiming accuracy still needs some tightening, but the basics appear to be there though, which should please those fans who prefer to cradle a gun-like weapon as they play.

The playable portion of the demo set us loose in the snowy landscape of northern Russia, where Bond is sent to protect the world from the Next Horrible Thing, in this case an EMP weapon that could spell doomsday. The “inspired by” aspect of the game is evident throughout the level. In the original, Bond’s trip to Severnaya was marked by a wide-open level dotted with both objectives and enemies. There’s a much more linear route to follow in Reloaded, though the game is not without its more open bits.

None of this is news if you played the Wii game, of course. What you want to know about is how this game feels with a proper console gamepad–a PlayStation 3 controller in this particular case. Familiar is the word I would choose. Although there’s no going prone here, the gameplay falls fairly close to Activision’s Call of Duty series in terms of both the chunky feel of the guns and the cinematic presentation of everything from key plot development to melee takedowns.

Let’s start with Bond’s arsenal. Your weapons fire and recoil like they are actual objects in a real world environment. Enemies stagger convincingly (and satisfyingly) as your bullets strike them, and it doesn’t take much to bring down any one assailant. The weapon models are also very finely detailed, with a seemingly random assortment of attachments decorating the ones you pick up from fallen enemies: Things like ACOG scopes and reflex sights, the sort of gear that should be familiar to anyone who enjoys the top modern combat-set shooters.

Moving on, let’s consider the presentation. The original game did some fun things with the virtual camera that Reloaded mimics, such as tracking in, around, behind and, ultimately, into the eyes of James Bond at the start of a mission. Then there are other times when–and this is a positive comparison–you could swear you’re watching a scene from Call of Duty.

The hands-on level on display starts with a stealthy creep –you can go in guns blazing too, but I chose to keep silent–along a snowy mountain path that is being monitored by enemy patrols. While many of those patrols must be dealt with using bullets and/or well-timed stealth melee kills, some pop up in hard to reach locations or in too large a group for you to manage quietly. It’s pretty clear when these scenarios arise, and while gunning them down and setting off alarms is certainly an option, you can also sneak around in these sort of dynamically scripted moments.

Sometimes, of course, the game switches over to a straight-up cutscene. These unfold through Bond’s eyes, at least during the demo. At one point the MI6 agent reaches an elevated vantage point from which he spots a large observatory-like facility. The thing in question –our sought-after EMP weapon–charges up, seemingly channeling lightning out of the sky, and lets loose with a blast. Suddenly, a crashing jet soars mere feet past your face as it spirals down to the ground. A helicopter drops out of the sky like a rock soon after, knocking Bond off of his feet. All of this just played out from a first-person perspective and you wouldn’t be a bad person for immediately comparing the experience to the Infinity Ward series.

Helping matters is the new engine, which takes the solid foundation built by the Wii game and renders it in glorious HD. Looking at Reloaded, it immediately becomes clear that this is no simple re-skin. Everything from lighting effects to character models seem to pop. The visual flair, coupled with the chunky physical presence the game’s arsenal exudes, demonstrate that there’s a considerably more complex feat of processing happening under the hood than last year’s game had.

While Activision isn’t saying much about the 16-player multiplayer mode until September–though everything that was in the Wii game will return, plus more offerings in the weapons, characters and features¬†categories–I did get a look at the Reloaded-exclusive MI6 Ops missions. There’s a temptation to compare it to CoD‘s Spec Ops, and it’s a valid comparison in some ways, but this game’s mode is a single player-only affair, more focused on getting people to push for high leaderboard placement than shoot AI dudes with friends.

There are four basic types of missions in this bonus mode: elimination (kill everyone), defense (kill everyone trying to destroy a console), stealth (kill everyone quietly) and assault (kill everyone while taking an objective). The mission types are all specific to different maps (pulled from the multiplayer mode), though players can monkey around with a large number of sliders and settings to influence things like enemy count, grenade throwing frequency, player/enemy health, enemy aggressiveness and the like. These options offer a throwback to the N64 game’s unlockable cheats; there are evening options for turning on infinite ammo or giving yourself a gold P99, Bond’s favored pistol.

I got to see a defense match in action, set on the game’s Memorial map. Anyone who remembers the N64’s Bond’s nighttime firefight in a Russian cemetery will immediately recognize its influence here. Waves of enemies spawn in on defense maps, with Bond having to protect a nearby console from their attacks. It feels like this mode would have shined quite a bit brighter with the addition of a co-op element, but let’s hold off on any judgments until we see what the multiplayer mode will be bringing to the table. As it stands, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded looks to be coming together nicely for its planned Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release later this year.