By Stewart Sutherland
In 1997, Rareware released Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 to rave reviews. Based on the blueprint of the film itself, it sold well over 8 million copies and set the groundwork for all console first-person shooters to come after it. It also set the bar for any subsequent Bond games incredibly high. Maybe it was the over-powered James Bond who could carry an entire arsenal and fire two weapons at the same time, or the classic multiplayer mode that guaranteed players good competition between themselves and their friends. Whatever the reason, you would be hard pressed to find a James Bond game released since that was as much fun to play. Now, thirteen years after its debut, Activision releases their own remake of Goldeneye 007 on Nintendo Wii… and it’s different enough to become a classic game all on its own.
With a few minor similarities (mission names, classic modes, health bar etc.) Activision’s Goldeneye 007 is a completely separate game. Gone are the manila folders and witty remarks from Q – the new MI6 touch-screen style format from the movies now introduces the separate locales. The cast also features a retooling. Pierce Brosnan has been replaced with his successor, Daniel Craig, and Judi Dench returns to lend her voice as M. Sean Bean’s 006 character is now a rather plain agent at first, and he acts like a typical brains-over-brawn Bond villain in the end rather than a former spy. His motives have changed too in order to bring the story up to date in 2010, but it’s a minor change at most.
The rest of the cast have had a much more drastic makeover hit them. Xenia Onatopp now sports a sexy Russian bob hairstyle and makes her first appearance in Valentin Zukovsky’s trendy nightclub in Spain. Speaking of which, Zukovsky is one of the more radical changes. Instead of a gruff, limping-but-lovable Robbie Coltrane, Valentin is now younger and well built, with more arm tattoos than a sailor and a scar down his cheek to replace the limp.
“Excuse me. There’s a one bottle minimum. Finest Russian quality, only available in Moscow.”
“Not bad for a counterfeit. Perhaps you should tell your boss, the real label is a darker shade of blue.”
Xenia Onatopp offers James Bond a bottle of Vodka. Mission 2 – Nightclub
Natalya Simonova appears on her own this time, now played by Scottish actress Kirsty Mitchell. She plays her role as a Bond girl rather well – there’s a wit about her in some situations and she hesitates to stay behind where it’s safe. She still winds up in the thick of it in the end (dressed in short shorts, naturally) and comes to the rescue with impeccable timing. Her role as a tech expert makes Alan Cumming’s comic relief character Boris defunct, and therefore absent from the story.
Goldeneye 007 follows the previous game and film in a re-imagined way: the story begins on the same dam that started the previous titles. After fighting his way through checkpoints full of Russian soldiers, Bond takes a leap off the edge towards the chemical facility below. From then on, Bond’s mission to track down and stop the Goldeneye EMP weapon is pretty unique: it takes plot points from both the original and the film and reworks it all into its own storyline.
Not surprising, Daniel Craig’s James Bond plays more like other recent Activision 007 game protagonists. Players will always hang onto their original Walther-style handgun, carrying up to two other weapons. Bond’s melee attacks – executed with a flick of the Nunchuck – are now stylized with a flowing combo of strikes, depending on your position to the enemy. The screen tracks Bond’s eyes in true first-person perspective: driving a fist into a soldier’s face before bringing an elbow across to finish will have the scene shift back and forth with the movements.
We may be missing Q’s character (rest in peace, Desmond Llewelyn) but with Bond’s Smartphone there’s really no need for the Quartermaster labs anymore. Everything hi-tech is now reduced to a portable touch screen. It can take photos, become a tracking device and even remotely detonate explosives. One mission literally prompts you to use your “Face Recognition App” to locate an undercover agent. Sadly there’s no such application on the iTunes store (yet).
Aesthetically, Goldeneye 007 has a good feel to it. Stealth plays a much larger part this time around – Bond can subdue and kill quietly and as long as they’re fast enough to avoid a line of sight, players can avoid messy gunfights as they please. If they’re spotted however, they’ll have to clear the area of witnesses to recover that stealth vibe. Graphics-wise, the game is sadly lacking. The quality is extremely low-definition and often grainy. The areas are nice and realistic (such as the newly re-imagined Statue park, now called Memorial) with some impressive weather effects, but aren’t quite up to the same standard as other games today, including Wii titles such as Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime.
The game’s soundtrack more than makes up for this however. The music is more than just various remixes of the Bond theme, fitting each area and mood like a glove. In the nightclub area, crowds of people are dancing to a trendy remix of I Remember by deadmau5 & Kaskade. This same song plays loudly at one point, in a bloody firefight as Bond makes his escape, covering the noise of gunshots and shouting and making for a surreal moment. True to Activision’s style, we get a classic Bond music video, this time a cover version of the original Tina Turner Goldeneye song that plays while 007 leaps off the dam at the start.
And of course, there’s multiplayer. One of the biggest selling-points for the ’97 title, classic game modes like Golden Gun and You Only Live Twice are back with the new maps and old characters. Bond villains from the previous films are available once again – this time all online as well. A simple, basic experience-point tally tracks your progress in multiplayer, and you can connect to Nintendo Wi-Fi right away and jump in if you’re connected to the net by your console.
“Last one out gets the first round.”
006 and 007 infiltrate a weapons facility. Mission 1 – Facility
For the new online mode, the only word I can come up with to describe it is fun. It’s a simple combat style – you find a match, get dropped down into a map and run around shooting other players. No frills there, but all it takes is a couple of shots and a person loses a life. Maybe it’s the Wii’s simple (for today’s hi-def games) graphics and basic multiplayer textures, but when you combine it all with quick-and-the-dead style gameplay, you’re in for some fun. It’s a simple formula: there are no fancy details or traps and no cheap tricks of any kind. It’s just you, your weapon, and a race to rack up the kills. For the best fun though, I recommend you gather some friends in a living room, some snack food, and play split screen like the olden days.
For players who might have put off buying a Nintendo Wii because they don’t like motion controllers, rejoice: like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Goldeneye 007 works with all available controllers. Regular Wii gamers can assemble a Zapper (if they have one) and play a 3D shooting game of their own, whereas people who are more comfortable with a controller in their hands have the option of playing with an old Gamecube pad or the Wii’s Classic controller. (Or, if they have neither, they can buy Goldeneye 007 bundled with a gold-coloured version of the Classic controller, much like the original came with).
It’s important to remember that Goldeneye 007 is a remake of Rareware’s classic shooter. Despite it being a last-last generation title, it set a standard that would take a huge effort to try and improve on its success. You really can’t copy the original, and if Activision tried it could have blown up in their faces. Instead, they took the game and made it their own. It’s familiar at a distance – there’s a resemblance to the old areas, but they’ve been completely reworked to the point that they seem entirely new.
The film belongs to Pierce Brosnan: let him keep it. The original belongs to Rareware and fans that, thirteen years ago, could sit down and play one of the best multiplayer modes available at the time. But the new version belongs to us – it gives Nintendo Wii a first-person shooter to be proud of. It’s not the original – it doesn’t try to be what it can’t. It’s just a good title that’s fun to play, and if you were around to play the original, you might get a warm nostalgic feeling while you’re at it too.
9 OUT OF 10