Genre: First-Person Shooter / Gallery Shooter
Reviewer: Philip Smith
Overall: 8.5 = Excellent
Rare’s 1997 first-person shooter GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 was a turning point for both the genre and console gaming. Save for a few earlier efforts, the first-person shooter was clearly in the domain of the PC, and very few titles could challenge that position. That all changed with GoldenEye, which brought not only smooth controls, thanks to the N64 controller’s newfangled analog stick, but an heretofore unseen cinematic single-player adventure whose quality was matched by an incredible – and arguably more important – multiplayer component. Console gamers got a chance to experience what PC gamers had been raving about for years, and they got to do so with what was destined to be a classic.
Time marches on, though. Rare left Nintendo’s camp for Microsoft, Pierce Brosnan has been replaced by Daniel Craig, and the genre has become one of the key pillars in console gaming. But with a new Bond revitalizing the franchise and shooters lighting up the charts, it seems only fitting that the title that helped to start it all find itself back in the spotlight on a Nintendo system. While Rare isn’t around for this outing, developer Eurocom has done them proud by updating and enhancing their hit for a new generation with the Wii’s own GoldenEye 007.
This isn’t the exact same GoldenEye as N64 fans remember. Instead, it’s an updated and reimagined take on the original, with Craig replacing Brosnan. I suppose the best way to think of it is to imagine it as a sort of parallel universe where Craig has always been Bond and this his version of the events dealing with the GoldenEye satellite. What that means is fans will certainly recognize characters, areas, and the spirit of the original, but also a more modern sensibility that includes a revamped storyline, focusing on banking rather than the Cold War, as well as numerous large (destructible environments) and small (Bond uses a smart phone instead of a watch) changes. This is really more Craig’s Bond, with him firing and bashing his way out of situations that Brosnan would have tried to avoid. Stealth fans need not worry, though, because the game also does a great job of accommodating those who would rather knock a guard out rather than spray the room with an AK. It’s this accommodation that really sets GoldenEye apart, and not just from its predecessor.
With support for the Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro, GameCube Wavebird, and remote-and-nunchuk combo, GoldenEye manages to be a combination action game, first-person shooter, and gallery shooter. It’s almost surprising how much the game changes depending on the chosen settings and control scheme. By using Aiming Down Sights (ADS), a snap-to targeting feature, the game becomes something of a first-person action title, with the aim button focusing on the closest enemy as it automatically pops you up from behind cover. It doesn’t work while moving and enemies can easily break the lock, so it’s not a cure-all, but it does allow for some give for those who want a brisk shooter or are attempting to adjust to one of the various control methods. While the game has a higher tempo with the feature on, turning it off allows for the more traditional first-person shooter approach of careful aim and more measured movement.
The remote-and-nunchuk combo turn the game into more of an open gallery shooter, as the remote controls the targeting reticule – more like an extension of Bond’s arms – and the nunchuk handles movement. I did encounter some problems when attempting to move the reticule too quickly to the edge, which would result in either a red circle with a diagonal line through it or the controls erratically trying re-center itself. This can be a bit of a hassle, making for some difficult encounters when things heat up, though the assisted targeting feature does help.
The numerous options, in addition to several set button layouts, offer something for everyone. In the end, I stuck with the Classic Controller as my action-oriented approach proved too much for the remote-and-nunchuk combo – and old habits die hard. But with the limited use of quick-time events, exaggerated movements (the view shifts with Bond’s body as he leaps over objects, knocks open doors, and rips off grates), and slow-motion breaches/hostage rescues, there are some great dramatic action-hero touches across all control schemes.
The six stages are broken up into anywhere from one to four levels, with each taking anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to complete. Completion time really depends on difficulty because the harder the mission, the more objectives there are to complete. The game is serious about its objectives, too: if you’re on Agent and fail to complete all assigned tasks, you either restart the mission or proceed playing on a lower difficulty level (Operative, in this case). Even if you proceed and complete the game on Operative, you must then go back and replay on Agent to unlock subsequent missions on Agent as well as the higher difficulty levels. That can be tricky due to some doors locking after you enter a room, making it impossible to backtrack in order to complete a missed assignment, which means climbing the ranks requires increased vigilance. Going up a level also opens the game up with small routes popping up here and there that all add up to offer a fairly different experience from previous runs. A Time Trial mode is also unlocked for each mission, which make for some tense sessions.
The AI is decent, though obviously a bit dim on lower levels, with guards patrolling, hanging about, and chatting with one another. For those who would like to avoid a world of pain, that being the better-armed SWAT-like reinforcements called in by alert guards, your best bet is to use the silenced P99 to go for a headshot or in for a melee attack. While the guards show some questionable firearm skills, they are incredibly astute, which can make sneaking around pretty difficult as they have very sensitive hearing. The game has some wonderful audio cues to let you know when someone’s alert and when danger has passed, but the enemy rarely forgets or lets something go. I always operated under the assumption that, if an alert is sounded, I’m in for a heavy firefight. Cameras can also call in the big guns, but fortunately, they can be shot without worry with a silenced weapon. Bond’s smartphone can be used to avert some troubling situations as well, such as by hacking sentry guns to turn on their former owners.
When you’ve had your fill of battling the AI, there awaits a healthy, if slightly buggy, multiplayer component to eat away even more hours. Taking a more modern approach, multiplayer utilizes a leveling system where experience earned from kills, completing objectives, and accomplishing certain goals (getting a kill streak, stopping a kill streak, etc.) unlocks new ranks. Post-game stats also display Accolades, awards for both bad (most deaths) and good (eliminating the entire opposing team) achievements. As ranks are attained, new weapons and equipment are unlocked. In addition to some pre-set loadouts, such as Shotgun and Assault, there are a handful of Custom slots where you can pick your primary and secondary weapon, attachments, gadgets, and so on. There are also many, many modes, including the return of Golden Gun; Hero, where a random player buffs nearby allies and gives up massive points when killed; as well as a few unlockables, such as License to Kill and Classic Conflict. Five of the modes – Conflict, Team Conflict, Golden Gun, and You Only Live Twice – are available for play in four-player split-screen local multiplayer, which also includes selectable classic Bond characters and 18 modifiers (two of which require codes to unlock) to allow for sticky grenades, paintballs instead of bullets, the death of stationary characters, and only head shots.
As addictive as multiplayer is, it does come across as fairly unpolished. While I appreciated the old-style run-and-gun approach, I did not appreciate the lag bursts and, more noticeably, jittery animations. It can be quite difficult to kill enemies whenever either flares up as there will be moments when your opponents seem to teleport around the area. There is also a serious issue with hosts quitting during the matches, which not only boots you out of the game but also erases all accumulated experience. Spawn points can also be troublesome, with characters sometimes spawning right by an enemy – who promptly puts them down. And sadly, there is no bot support. Despite all of the modes and modifiers, solo gamers will have to make do with the main campaign.
Even with its hang-ups, multiplayer is still good for several hours of fun. Climbing the ranks takes a while, but it’s worth it as the unlocked gear and guns open up extra tactical possibilities. The guns in general have a great feel, which carries over nicely to multiplayer. They can also be picked up off the ground whenever their owners are killed, so the odds rarely feel stacked against you when starting out. The ADS system is also available, which is irksome for those who opt not to use it but a necessity when using the remote and nunchuk. In fact, whenever it was time to get series with upping the kill-to-death ratio, I had to toss the nunchuk aside and plug in the Classic Controller. While multiplayer might not be the slickest experience ala Call of Duty, it’s got enough going for it to give the game some legs.
GoldenEye 007 is surprisingly good. Purists might wince at the licenses taken, but as a new take on an old tale with a new Bond, Eurocom did the original right. While the single-player component came off nicely, save for a control and AI mishaps, the multiplayer, as enjoyable as it is, will need a patch to really hit its mark. So some hitches aside, GoldenEye 007 is a solid first-person shooter that manages to not only be a roaming gallery shooter but so much more. It occupies a unique space in the Wii library, and it deserves your attention.
(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)