Anyone who was a gaming adolescent in the 90s will likely have fond memories of Rare’s original game-changing N64 shooter, and many of them will likely also recall the first attempt to cash in on that legacy, EA’s fairly lamentable Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. You could therefore be forgiven for expecting that this latest game to bear the Goldeneye name would be another cynical attempt to shift units off the back of a fondly-remembered (though now rather decrepit) classic, thudding onto shop shelves to fatal sounds of broken dreams.
Thankfully, this one is really very good.
Eurocom have taken the eminently sensible approach of completely remaking Goldeneye 007 with a modern sensibility, attempting only to recreate the spirit of the 1997 game rather than hewing too closely to its specific details. As a result, the new title features a number of mechanics and locations that feel familiar and yet also fresh at the same time. The most immediately obvious deviation is in the gunplay, which takes a more Call Of Duty-inspired approach, with a small dash of Killzone’s cover-shooting mechanic thrown in for good measure.
As in those games, aiming down the sights is the most accurate and effective way of dropping enemies, and doing so while in cover will cause Bond to pop up over the top of it. The controls are robust and accurate, with the motion controls providing an especially pleasant sense of tactility. The game can be played with absolutely any controller available for the Wii, and there is an embarrassment of customisation options available, allowing you to adjust sensitivity, turning speed and auto-aim to suit your play style.
The narrative has received a spit-and-polish to bring it more into line with the Bond universe of Daniel Craig and to remove the World War II-based motivation for the villain. This is generally quite successful – the script is tight and the narrative flows clearly and logically from one location to the next, with voice-acting of a generally high standard. There is, inevitably, something of a disconnect between the older style of Bond narrative, with its supervillains and giant satellites and mercenary armies with attack helicopters, and the more restrained, brutal world of the franchise since Casino Royale, but Goldeneye 007 generally does a better job of straddling that line than the next-gen James Bond title Bloodstone.
Aside from some vaguely familiar locations, the main elements that have survived the re-imagining from the N64 days are the adaptive stealth gameplay and the scaling of objectives relative to the difficulty level. Large chunks of every level can be completed stealthily by using only silenced weapons or the new brutal melee takedowns, and sneaking around the periphery of rooms headshotting guards or battering their faces in against the edge of a desk before darting back into cover soon becomes an obsession. Exploration of larger areas usually reveals a convenient crawl space or a concealed silenced sniper-rifle you can use to pick off stragglers while crouched on a rooftop somewhere, and this richness of level design combined with the scaling difficulty system provides considerable replayability.
As the difficulty increases, so do the number and variety of mission objectives that must be completed. This often means that playing the game on its highest difficulty setting will yield up whole areas of the level that it is unnecessary to visit on the lowest, providing a genuine incentive to attempt the hardest setting and offering a more extensive experience than simply making the enemies tougher to kill.
Of course, perhaps the main reason that the original game is so fondly remembered today is its splitscreen multiplayer, which was a tense, riotously enjoyable experience that still has yet to be surpassed in many ways. Eurocom have made a game attempt to bottle some of that magic here, but it was always going to be an impossible mission. Commendable effort has gone into the level design and weapons sets, never simply aping the Rare game, and there are modes piled upon modes, as many customisation options as you could wish for. Played with a couple of friends, it is fast-paced and enjoyable. Online, it provides a sweet distraction for an hour or two. You’ll smile for a moment, but it’s never magic.
GRAPHICS – 3/5 – Not a beautiful game, as such, but an impressive achievement considering the hardware. Some striking use of colour and lighting effects helps to make up for any technical deficiencies. Characters’ faces are a little inert, but the movement animations are very good, particularly in differentiating a character who has been killed from one who is merely injured.
SOUND – 3/5 – The soundtrack is pretty much what you would expect from a Bond title, save for one extremely ethereal ballad played during a shootout in a Spanish nightclub. Nicole Scherzinger provides a convincing cover of the theme song. Daniel Craig stays true to videogame form and delivers a performance that suggests he was probably trying to read a newspaper during the recording.
GAMEPLAY – 4/5 – Intelligently modernised without losing the essential charm of the original, the game provides variety and flexibility, with a campaign that generally paces its objectives and battles extremely well. The last couple of levels run out of steam somewhat, but the only egregious irritation is an extremely poorly-judged boss battle very near to the end.
LONGEVITY – 4/5 – Robust and highly adjustable multiplayer modes provide a solid complement to a campaign which is deep and encouraging of experimentation. There’s plenty to see here, and more than one way to see it.
OVERALL – 4/5
Eurocom have achieved that rare thing: a remake which understands and respects the core of the original experience, but which never makes the mistake of simply trying to repeat it. Rare’s original N64 version has clearly been the subject of careful consideration here, and all the right lessons have been drawn from it to create a shooter which echoes many of the things that were well-loved about the older title while wisely modernising the elements that don’t stand up so well in the cold harsh light of today, 13 years after its release. Those fearing a callous exercise in corporate-driven graverobbing can breath a sigh of relief. This is a game made with love. Nothing more, nothing less. Only love.