(Xbox 360 Review) GoldenEye 007: Reloaded

Developer: Eurocom
Publisher: Activision
Genre: First-Person Shooter / Stealth
Players: 1-4 (Local) / 2-16 (Online)
ESRB: Teen
Reviewer: Philip Smith

Overall: 7 = Good

Almost a year after reviewing the updated re-release of GoldenEye 007 for the Wii, I am back to review the re-release of the re-release for the Xbox 360. Rare’s decade-plus-old shooter sure has come a long way. The review of the Wii version can be found here, and unsurprisingly (and in some respects, unfortunately), much of what I said then still applies. Aside from a new engine providing a visual upgrade, there’s been some tweaking done to the difficulty as well as a major addition and a major excision. Still, while Reloaded has a lot to offer action fans, the core game is starting to show its age in a genre represented by some of the finest titles the system has to offer.

Given the Wii’s strong numbers and its dearth of solid third-party titles, I’d say it’s a safe bet that there’s a significant overlap between those who’ve already played the remake and current 360 owners. But assuming that you haven’t tried it or are simply curious about the changes, let’s dive in.

As before, this is an updated retelling of the 1997 original N64 shooter that sees Pierce Brosnan replaced by Daniel Craig and a Cold War adventure exchanged for a contemporary tale revolving around corrupt banking practices. Characters, locations, and levels will be familiar to fans of Rare’s original, but there have been enough concessions to modern conventions and alterations to level design to make it a different beast altogether.

Thanks in part to the design and mechanic updates, Reloaded doesn’t always fit into the mold of a traditional first-person shooter. Similar to the Wii version, there is a snap-to targeting aim assist feature when “aiming down sights,” which auto-targets nearby enemies whenever you are looking down the iron sights. This continues to be an excellent tool to ease newcomers into the genre while also accommodating those wanting a more action-adventure feel. The feature is disabled for multiplayer, so those wanting to eventually take on others can play through a few single-player missions with it on in order to acclimate to the pacing, weapons, and mechanics without fear of being overwhelmed. Or it can be left on, which is also nice for those who want the excitement of firefights without the precision required of modern shooters. There is also a peek feature that allows Bond to over an object and look down iron sights whenever he is ducking behind cover, a handy move that I wouldn’t mind seeing adopted by other shooters. A lean ability would have been nice as well, and it would have fit in perfectly given the game’s emphasis on stealth and sabotage.

Actually, it’s that focus on stealth that makes Reloaded stand out amongst its peers. Levels are littered with side paths that allow Bond to escape or bypass danger, which is crucial given the enemy’s ability to call in heavy reinforcements whenever they go on alert. For those who just want to blast away, it’s simple enough to pop a few rounds in a patrol’s direction and await the onslaught; the waves of soldiers will eventually cease, allowing you to progress as normal. The straightforward method is enjoyable enough, thanks to the wide array of guns and destructible environments, but sneaking around reveals some surprisingly varied level layouts, even within relatively confined spaces. Using the silenced P99 to score a headshot is just as satisfying, if not more so, than mowing down a squad with an assault rifle. Quick-time takedown moves also encourage closing with enemies, as those are the surest way to avoid drawing attention—and a lot of pain. Going the sneaky route means using everything at Bond’s disposal to complete the objectives, from silenced headshots to takedowns to hacking turrets to clear out nearby patrols. Even after going through the Wii release several times, I still found myself surprised at the myriad of clever scenarios on offer in Reloaded.

There is a bit of a change in difficulty this time around, however. Many of the requirements to advance the campaign in the Wii release have been removed. Previously, the difficulty level chosen dictated what secondary objectives had to be tackled. If any secondary objective wasn’t completed, then you could either replay the mission at the current difficulty or continue but on an easier setting. Now, the difficulty level only affects enemy behavior and Bond’s health, with the secondary objectives entirely optional, even on the hardest setting. Manually restricting yourself wouldn’t do much good, either, because Eurocom has curiously removed the Time Trials. Previously, an option was given to replay an area under various time limits, which offered an incentive to continue improving.

It’s not all bad news for solo players. The new MI6 Ops missions do a great job in filling out the single-player experience. A series of Assault, Defense, Elimination, and Stealth challenges await the experienced agent. Each trial’s outcome is graded on a star system, with progression depending on accumulating a set amount of stars. Areas from throughout the story are opened up and used across all challenge types, offering new nooks and paths to explore. The Ops missions are no joke, and even if you can survive the encounter, the harsh grading system means that it might be some time before you can complete all of the trials. These are by far the best addition to Reloaded, and they should provide would-be Bonds several hours of additional play.

After downing the GoldenEye satellite and tackling a few Ops, you might be tired of downing AI opponents and crave some human opposition. Reloaded supports four-player local and sixteen-player online multiplayer and comes packing an abundance of modes and modifiers. Six of the thirteen modes are available for local split-screen play: Conflict, Detonator Agent, Escalation, Golden Gun, Team Conflict, and You Only Live Twice. Most of these are pretty standard, with two deathmatch modes (a standard and another based on limited lives) and team deathmatch. Golden Gun is the old fan favorite from the N64 days, where players fight for the powerful single-shot pistol. Detonator Agent has players holding bombs for as long as possible before passing them off onto someone else before they explode, while Escalation rewards kills with better weapons. This isn’t a bad lot, and the nineteen modifiers will help to keep things interesting. Everything from the amount of lives participants have to radar, health, explosion damage, sprint duration, friendly fire, and weapon damage can be adjusted. Some of the more interesting tweaks include the ability to cause players to explode when they come into contact with each other (Singularity), shrink to half the regular height (Nick Nack Mode), and die if they don’t move for more than three seconds (Move Your Feet).

While local matches run fairly smoothly, online play doesn’t fare nearly as well. In addition to five of the local modes (sans You Only Live Twice), there are five additional standard modes (Black Box, Bomb Defuse, Data Miner, GoldenEye, and Heroes) and three unlockable modes (Classic Conflict, License to Kill, and Team License to Kill). This by itself leads to several problems. While so many modes should be a good thing, the count actually fragments a player base that is already flushed with options, including a new Battlefield and Call of Duty. Many times there won’t be anyone in a majority of the modes, with most players preferring Conflict, Escalation, and Team Conflict. It also doesn’t help that the entire component is in serious need of some polish, much like the Wii version. For example, while the ability to level up and unlock new weapons, weapon mods, and skills is nice, the shotgun is so overpowered that little else is needed, negating the usefulness of many of the interesting weapons and gadgets. Even the starter shotgun is devastating. Then there is the problem of terrible spawn points. There will be times when you spawn right next to an enemy, or in plain sight of a sniper’s line of sight. And going from Reloaded to nearly any other first-person shooter highlights just how clunky the entire component is: animations are jerky, melee feedback lacks oomph, and there seems to be a persistent delay when firing. On the upside, the community is very friendly and sufficiently active enough to support the more popular modes.

Multiplayer technical glitches shouldn’t be too surprising, though, given the cracks that begin to show during the story mode. As nice as the game looks, graphical anomalies pop up all over the place. The most frequent of which being the floating pockmarks. Bullets leave impact marks whenever they hit a surface, and it isn’t uncommon to see these simply floating in the air. They can appear too far to the side on a doorframe, leaving half to seemingly impact thin air, or be separated from a wall by a good six inches. The AI also has its dimwitted moments. I don’t mind bodies disappearing as soon as they fall, since that serves to keep the pace fast, but an enemy not noticing that the guy he was just talking to a few seconds earlier has vanished is just odd. I’m not talking about enemies sounding the alarm every single time something is amiss, since that would bog the game down, but to just to show a bit of curiosity to add more excitement to the takedowns. Speaking of takedowns, as with online play, the physical reaction to non-quick-time melee attacks is limp; enemies seem to react as if they were hit with a strong gust of wind and not the end of a rifle. And oddly enough, one glitch actually helped me: during the tedious final boss battle, a cap to a sadly mediocre final act, I was able to make my way into a small room which I later realized was supposed to be off-limits. Given the additional time between releases, it’s a shame more time wasn’t spent polishing up the mechanics along with adding the new coat of paint.

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded‘s problems aren’t uncommon for the genre, but they do occur with a disappointing frequency throughout both the story mode and multiplayer. The MI6 Ops missions remain the bright spot amongst the new additions, while the enhanced graphics have had the unfortunate side effect of highlighting many of the flaws that were masked by the Wii’s low-fi visuals. While the engine provides a nice sheen to the original re-release, online multiplayer needs some serious attention and the visual anomalies betray a sense of sloppiness. The core game undoubtedly remains sound, with some solid gunplay, clever level design, and nicely integrated stealth elements, but the lack of polish stands out amidst its glossy contemporaries.

(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)

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