Comic-Con 2011: Point/Counterpoint With Goldeneye 007 Reloaded
Goldeneye 007 for Wii was, at best, a mediocre game (see our review for why). Certainly, you could argue that you and me and everyone we know were overjoyed to the extreme about a remastered and improved take on the classic N64 first person shooter, which inevitably set us up for disappointment. I disagree: first because lowering one’s standards is no way to live, and second becaue the original game was so perfect for its time, so much fun, so infinitely playable that it should have been impossible to f-up. Hell, the next game its creators made – 2000′s Perfect Dark – was essentially a reskinned, expanded version. And yet, somehow Activision managed to get it wrong. With Goldeneye 007 for Wii, they took a beloved classic and turned it into a clunky, tedious mess that is redeemed only by the smart story update, and by the presence of Daniel Craig and Judi Dench.
That’s a big error, which is probably why, less than a year after boring the spy world to death with their tepid remake, they’ve announced take-two, Goldeneye 007 Reloaded. Reloaded is a few months away from its fall release, but what is known already makes it clear that, quite frankly, it’s an obvious attempt to make up for the better-off-forgotten Wiimake. The updated story and cast remain the same, but the game itself has been tweaked graphically and functionally. So, did they succeed in correcting the Wiimake mistake? Yes and no! At their opening night party for Comic Con 2011, Activision provided a lengthy hands-on with Reloaded, and Ross Lincoln and Dave Moss were on hand to find out for themselves.
Alas, they came to precise opposite conclusions.
It should be noted first that the hands-on was limited solely to a single level clearly set somewhere in the middle of the story’s first act. Though the new Goldeneye has an updated story that reflects the modern financial crisis and the war on terror rather than the original film’s depiction of tensions related to the end of the cold war, it still follows, roughly, that film’s structure. The scene in question is the moment when the Goldeneye satellite is first used to destroy the Russian base assigned to monitor the weapon. Much like in the infiltration scene in the N64 version, here James Bond must sneak into the wreckage of the observation base.
The scene itself is very cinematic, much more so than the Wii version. We begin with Bond sneaking into the Base’s perimeter only to be caught off guard by the Goldeneye’s blast. He is blinded by the light and then knocked unconscious by a crashing helicopter brought down by EMP. When he comes to, he’s dizzy and disoriented and has to cope with the added difficulty of navigating an unfolding battle between rival factions of the Russian military. Eventually, Bond manages to make it into the ruins of the base itself, at which point the playable demo ends.
What you notice is just how much better the game handles now compared to the Wii version. Gone is the muddy resolution, wonky controls, inaccurate weapons. Gone are the chunky environments and frustrating, unbalanced combat. In their place, a numble, fast paced experience that is immediately easy to grasp. The control scheme is standard Activision shooter with the usual customization options. And the aiming! They’ve tweaked the aiming system so that it works more consistently. This is especially true on lesser difficulty, where Bond will much more quickly redirect focus to new enemies as they present themselves. Simply move to face them and your weapon will go in the right direction too. No more firing blind even when you’re in precision-mode!
The game retains and appears to expand on the previous versions optional mission-complete system. Instead of having only one way to pass a level, players may now choose from a stealth, avoid everyone focus, to a direct combat approach, to something in between. Bond can choose to sneak past the soldiers and avoid killing them, or to go in guns blazing and kill every last person who crosses his path. It ensures that each playthrough will feel unique, but also encourages players to enjoy the extraneous happenings a bit more. For instance, seeing your enemies fighting against each other, only to react with confusion when you begin picking them off. Or experiencing Bond physically reacting to the events he encounters – particularly when he’s blinded and as his sight gradually returns. All good stuff, particularly as it reveals a lot about the tone of the game to people who haven’t played the Wii version.
It’s true this is only one scene out of dozens that will be in the final version. We won’t know how the game works overall for many more months. If you’re not familiar with the basic plot, despite the improved graphics and VASTLY improved gameplay, it might seem like a retread of more recent FPS games like Call Of Duty. But you’d be wrong to jump to that conclusion. The scene I played was well-chosen, and gives me hope that the final product will be, if not a replacement for the classic N64 game, a limited return to glory that should have happened last year, but didn’t. I can’t wait to see more.
I definitely agree that Goldeneye Reloaded plays better on the X-Box 360 than it’s Wii counterpart, Goldeneye 007. But let’s face it, any FPS on the Xbox 360 is probably going to be superior to a Wii version. Have you ever tried playing Call of Duty on the Wii? It is an unpleasant experience to say the least.
However, if a game is going to invoke the sacred title of Goldeneye it had better be able to stand up to the original king of first person shooters, Goldeneye 007 for the N64. Before Halo and Call of Duty, one game took the FPS genre to a new level and if you have the audacity to try and follow my favorite childhood frag fest, you had better be just as innovative or at least provide me with a generous dose of nostalgia.
Sadly, this latest Goldeneye incarnation did neither. Look, I’m not saying this game has to be an exact remake of the N64 version. But it would have been nice to see the old health bars on the side of the screen, maybe hear the familiar zipping of body armor. I remember the days where hiding behind a tree for 30 seconds didn’t fix the three bullet holes in your abdomen. But alas, in Bond’s newest game, he appears to have developed the Wolverine-like healing capabilities that have become so ubiquitous in modern day shooters.
Why? Why are you doing this to us? This game could have been a thing of beauty. Why not just keep the original weapons and characters that everyone loved and just add the updated graphics and online multiplayer mode? Would that have been so hard? But Eurocom (the game developer) has decided that Bond needed a modern makeover. Instead of my beloved PP7, I have a P99. Instead of my laser watch, I have a smart phone. Instead of Pierce Brosnan, I have Daniel Craig. Come on! We all know who the superior Bond was, and it sure as hell wasn’t Daniel Craig. He wasn’t even in the Goldeneye movie!
I guess I was hoping for a remake of the game that I loved in High School and instead I got Call of Duty: Bond Ops. Now my esteemed colleague might say that comparing the new Bond to Call of Duty is unfair, but I would disagree. If the control scheme, health system, and weapons of two games are nearly identical, then I think it’s more than fair to make a comparison. And I don’t even feel the gameplay is as good as Black Ops. In the demo, half the time I was about to sneak up on someone, they’d get blown up by some other faction before I could even kill them. Also, I can’t do that cool dive thing that I can do in Black Ops.
My criticisms aside, I think it’s also important to note that this was just a first impression and there was a lot of this game that I didn’t get to experience. I didn’t hear any of the voice acting, I didn’t get to play the multiplayer, and I only got to play a part of the first level. If you give me a case of remote mines and and the ability to play as Oddjob in the multiplayer, I might reverse my opinion completely.
Old games are harder than you remember — join our walkthrough to learn Goldeneye 007: Reloaded’s tricks for the second time.