Review: Goldeneye (Nintendo Wii)

Goldeneye
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Eurocom
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: 11/02/2010

While people’s enjoyment of the original Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 can vary, it would be hard to deny its status as a game changer. First of all, it was one of the first enjoyable first-person shooter on a console. Thanks to the N64’s analog joystick, it permitted freedom of movement that Super NES ports of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D couldn’t really afford. The game was also among the first to introduce objectives-based missions in a time where most shooters were simply about killing everybody, finding the right key and moving on to the next level. Finally, the multiplayer component extended Goldeneye‘s life so much that it is still being played today by gamers all around the world.

With such a pedigree, it should be no surprise that many publishers have been trying to cash-in on the game’s enduring popularity. There was a rumour for a while that all the parties involved with the original game as well as the Bond licence were close to a deal that would have brought the original to the Xbox 360 as well as the Wii’s Virtual Console, but that plan was abandoned last year.

Enter Activision, holders of the James Bond licence, who saw an opportunity to simply redo the entire game from scratch. Calling their version a reimagining instead of a remake, the new Goldeneye brings the story into the 21st century, out of the cold war and plants Daniel Craig in the middle of it all instead of Pierce Brosnan. A game like this obviously comes with lofty expectations, so let’s see if it succeeds at meeting them or if it fails at living up to the original’s legacy.

STORY/MODES
Those who are familiar with the movie’s story will find many similarities, even though the setting has been updated. Instead of the vengeance theme that drove the original’s plot, we are now given a story about weapon dealers and thieves using the satellite’s power to cover up their latest heist. However, the story still takes us through the death of agent 006, while also dealing with a corrupted Russian general and the theft of the satellite itself. The game still treats us to a tank chase through crowded streets, a level set in a jungle and a hostage rescue mission on a boat. Basically, if it was in the original, it is still there in terms of story. Only minor details such as location have changed, such as going from Cuba to Nigeria in one case. For a James Bond story, it is still very competent, and would even fit with the new Bond established in the last two films.

As for the modes, there is the single-player component, which takes you through the story and then allows you to choose each mission individually once it has been done at least once. This allows you to try each mission at different difficulties, since harder settings add more objectives and thus changes the strategy necessary to go through a level. The multiplayer mode can be played online or offline, with the latter allowing the same type of splitscreen mayhem that made the original so famous. The online mode is incredibly fun, and for once on the Wii, it is very easy to set up. The game uses the Wii’s friend code instead of providing its own like so many games do, and it makes it easy to invite your friends into the same game as you. If you prefer to play against strangers, you just have to select “Find Game” and you are immediately thrown into the action. The service is fast and efficient, two things that could only Mario Kart Wii on the system previously.

The multiplayer mode has many variants, such as takes on the standard “Team Deathmatch” and “Capture The Flag” modes. There’s also exclusives, such as “The Man With The Golden Gun”, where everybody competes for control of said gun, and “Goldeneye”, where both teams try to control the satellite long enough to aim it at their opponents’ base.

My biggest complaint with the game modes is the fact that the game forces you to level up before allowing you to play some of them. For example, three of the modes are initially locked, one of them asking you to be Level 50 before you can participate. I am all for unlockable content when it comes to extra guns or even perks. But when it comes to locking the game’s mode, I find it to be particularly weak, especially when I have been playing for over a week and I am still below Level 20. This is frustrating when all you want to do is just jump in and have fun. Many gamers don’t have this level of dedication when it comes to playing online, and level grinding in a FPS is a major turn off for me.

Story/Modes Rating: Above Average

GRAPHICS
Without being spectacular, the visuals of Goldeneye are still serviceable. There are no weird textures, no clipping and no glitches that I can recall. However, the characters are very bland, and even sometimes weirdly shaped. The animations are also very basic, but not enough to take you out of the game. One point where they are very noticeable though is in the nightclub level, where men and women use the same two dance moves ad nauseam. I also guess that the club’s dress code was very specific, because all the girls wear the same dress and even look the same. The same goes for the many enemies you will have to fight, who all seem to come out of the same clone factory.

The different settings at least avoid a trap that a lot of first-person shooters seem to fall into these days. Indeed, instead of simply making everything brown and/or grey, Goldeneye at least explores the entire spectrum of colors, which gives some variety to levels that would be otherwise very similar. The environments are also highly destructible, and you can wreck most of what you see on screen without any noticeable lag. The graphics engine handles it all pretty well, and makes the carnage look as natural as possible.

The technical aspects of the graphics are good. It’s the artistic side of it all that is lacking a little bit.

Graphics Rating: Decent

SOUND
There’s a lot of voice acting in this game, and it is well executed, never sounding cheesy. This was to be expected with actors like Judi Dench making an apparition as M, narrating the objectives before the beginning of each mission. There’s also a brand new version of the Goldeneye theme by Nicole Scherzinger, so you know they put some budget in the sound department. In fact, the entire soundtrack feels like it is straight out of a James Bond movie, and each piece fits each scene perfectly. There are even some subtle changes in tempo when the action gets more intense, so it never feels out of place.

The sound effects are also very fitting, and it’s easy to pin-point the location of enemies just by the ear when sneaking around. If you decide to make things crazier, then the gun shots, the glass breaking and the bodies falling all sound like they should and really contributes to the feeling of urgency you get when you’re in the middle of a firefight.

Sound Rating: Classic

CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY
Let’s start with the controls: if you decide to use the remote and nunchuk configuration, you’re in for a lot of troubles. Yes, it is possible to configure the remote’s dead zone as well as the sensitivity, but even after playing with these settings for a while, the aiming was still imprecise and erratic. Dare I say, it was a worse experience than I had with the original Red Steel. However, if you decide to switch to the classic controller, then it’s nothing but sunshine and rainbows. The controller configuration is pretty much what you would expect from any other shooter on any console on the market. The A button makes you crouch, B is the action button, Y reloads your guns, the d-pad switches them and the triggers are used to shoot. It’s intuitive to anybody who’s ever played a first-person shooter on a console before, and even for newcomers, the game does a great job of explaining everything in a short but effective tutorial at the start of the game. It all becomes second nature very quickly, and after about fifteen minutes, you’ll be killing bad guys as if it was your day job.

As for the gameplay, the game is filled with action, even though the cut scenes take a little bit too much space in my opinion. What happened to letting the player explore a level to his heart’s content? As soon as there’s a fork in the road, Goldeneye switches to a cut scenes which shows Bond making the correct choice. The gameplay then resumes when you need to start shooting at people again. A little bit more exploration would have been nice. This is a game that focuses on a spy after all, so it would have been fun if it allowed more sneaking around. As it is, the path you need to take is pretty straightforward, and while you can shoot enemies from behind as you progress, there’s always inevitably a point in the mission where you need to duck and cover as you take on an entire army of pissed off soldiers at once. I always thought that being a spy would be more about stabbing people in the back, but I am not one, so what do I know?

This version of Goldeneye also introduces something which, in my opinion, is the bane of modern gaming: quick-time events. That’s right. The game throws cut scenes at you in the middle of a mission, where you need to put down the controller and watch as characters talk about “important” issues for a while. However, at the end of some missions, which is exactly when I would expect to put down the controller and just watch a little scene showing Bond getting away, that is when the game expects me to start pressing the correct buttons in order for Bond to reach a plane falling down a cliff.

Goldeneye only allows you to hold three guns at a time, forcing you to drop guns in favour of newer weapons as you progress. This is very different from the original version, where you could collect guns as if they were Pok√©mon, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. I will admit that it does make things a little bit more realistic, and each weapon slot serves a purpose, so you’re never stuck with three hand guns or three shotguns. You will always have the necessary tools at your disposal when the time is right.

One feature that is less realistic though is the regenerating health meter. No matter how much you get shot, you just need to hide behind a crate and wait a couple of seconds, and you’ll be good as new. I am aware that this has been a staple of shooters for a while now, but dropping some fun features in favour of realism and then deciding to go with this regenerating health format makes no sense. At least, the game does include the option to go back to the old depleting health and body armors, although they label it as the game’s hardest mode. Kids these days have it too easy, but I cannot really penalize the game for that since the feature is at least present. After complaining about these issues, I will praise the game for the fact that the missions are at least exciting and well-planned. The level design, while a bit linear, is varied enough to keep you interested for the duration of the game, and you will rarely visit the same location twice.

When you think about it, this game is more of a Call of Duty game with a James Bond theme than a true Goldeneye game. Maybe it’s not what I was hoping for, but it is still very enjoyable despite the flaws enumerated above.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Above Average

REPLAYABILITY
The single-player mode is quite short, but the bread and butter of this game is the multiplayer component. It is very robust, and compares without any complex to what you would get in a standard first-person shooter such as Call of Duty. There are different levels with unlockable guns and perks for those who like to have some kind of like to incorporate some character building in their shooting, and it takes quite a lot of time to get to the top of the mountain. Once again though, it is a shame that they decided to make some modes part of the unlockable content instead of sticking to new hardware, but I guess that gives the most dedicated gamers a reason to stick around. The online mode is fun enough to make the game a staple of my library, and if it is your kind of thing, then you will spend countless hours on this one. The offline multiplayer is also incredibly enjoyable, and while it may not be perfect, it is enough to keep you coming back for a while.

If you are a solitary gamer and only bought Goldeneye for the single-player mission, be aware that it can easily be finished under ten hours. Of course, there are different difficulty levels, with the opportunity to add more objectives to the mission, but that too gets tiring after a while.

Replayability Rating: Good

BALANCE
The game follows a difficulty curve that does not really make the game more difficult, but which obliges you to do more before you get to the end of a level. The exception is the highest setting, which puts you in the middle of the action with a single health meter which depletes each time you are shot, and forces you to hunt down body armor if you want to survive. This is indeed harder than the usual missions, but not impossible. It is a fun little challenge if you want to go old school. Otherwise, if you are able to finish the first difficulty setting, you should be able to move on without any problem.

Balance Rating: Decent

ORIGINALITY
As a remake, or rather, “reimagining” of the original Goldeneye, this game automatically loses points in this category. There’s also the fact that the game plays like any other shooter out there, and the only thing saving this from being a total bust in originality is the James Bond theme. Even then, it is not exploited fully, and outside of snapping a few pictures here and there and hacking a computer with your smart phone every other mission, there’s not much that makes it all feel as if it was a spy game.

Originality Rating: Poor

ADDICTIVENESS
With an above average multiplayer component, this game nearly gets on a Mario Kart level of addictiveness, only for FPS fans. This is a genre that is quite lacking on the Wii, and while the last few Call of Duty titles have been decent in that aspect, Goldeneye brings the uniqueness of the James Bond gimmick to the table, and offers some modes that make it even more attractive. Aficionados of the genre will have a hard time putting this one down.

Addictiveness Rating: Very Good

APPEAL FACTOR
Just with the nostalgia, Goldeneye already reaches out to people like me, who had their gaming heydays back when the N64 was at its peak. As for people who never really enjoyed the original, the game still offers a solid if somewhat standard shooter. The James Bond licence will probably be able to pull in a few more buys as well. After all, we’re talking about a franchise which has produced over twenty movies, and which still tops the box office each time a new one is released. Somehow, I think this game will do just fine.

Appeal Factor Rating: Classic

MISCELLANEOUS
The multiplayer mode is a very satisfying experience, despite the fact that some of the variations need to be unlocked through level grinding. At least, the act of playing online is a fun one, and while some people would say that the lack of voice support is a bad thing, I am all for playing against strangers without having to actually hear what they are thinking when they just kicked my ass. If I want to engage in thrash talk, I will bring actual friends over to my house.

Speaking of which, the offline multiplayer is superb. The maps are varied and offer many chances to sneak around and kill those pesky campers. The weapons come in pre-configured packs which you need to choose before you respawn, but as you play more, you eventually get the chance to design your own weapons pack. Gone are the days of weapons lying on the ground as everybody frantically runs for the remote mines. Now everyone can their own mines, which I guess is good in a way, even though I truly enjoyed the whiny pleas of my friends as I was camping next to weapon spawns back in the days.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

THE RATINGS
Story/Modes: Above Average
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Classic
Control/Gameplay: Above Average
Replayability: Good
Balance: Decent
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal: Classic
Miscellaneous: Great
Final Score: Enjoyable Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

If you are expecting the original Goldeneye, but updated to today’s standards, then forget about it. This game is a brand new experience, taking more inspiration from Activision’s other popular shooter than from Rare’s version of the title. This is a Goldeneye game in name only, but what they did with the story is still decent enough to be worthy of the James Bond name. If you think of this game as a FPS only and let go of the legacy that comes with the name, then you are left with a competent title that might be one of the best of its kind on the Wii. It offers a nice single-player campaign, and the multiplayer mode is also one of the best on the platform. For Wii owners who desperately need some new things to shoot at, this is the perfect game. For multi-platform gamers who are looking for a good first-person shooter, it’s all a matter of how much the James Bond license interests them.