Review: GoldenEye 007 (Wii)

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Before Halo came along and claimed the “best console FPS ever” title, Rare’s GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64 was the first console FPS to really hit it big with critics and everyday gamers alike. I grew up right in the thick of the GoldenEye hype, and I have to be honest; I was never able to figure out what was that special about it. My friends at the time couldn’t get enough of the game. They’d play the multiplayer for hours and spend just as much time replaying the story missions at higher difficulty settings – and I’d always want them to turn it off and play something else!

But like many games I fluffed off when I was younger, I have since developed respect for GoldenEye as a defining release in the history of gaming. It is a game that truly revolutionized FPS play on consoles and put forth a genre template for other developers to build upon moving forward. Looking back, GoldenEye for the N64 really was ahead of its time in many ways.

Over a decade later, Activision has resurrected the GoldenEye name in an attempt to rekindle fond memories of the N64 classic with a modernized quasi-remake for the Wii (there’s a DS version as well). I say quasi-remake because GoldenEye 007 for the Wii is really only GoldenEye in name. The two share broad similarities, but by and large this is a completely new game, with new actors and a new story, from a different developer. So if you’re expecting this to be some type of nostalgic love letter to old school Bond fans, you may be somewhat disappointed…but only for a short while, because it doesn’t take long for GoldenEye Wii to establish its own identity as a top-tier FPS.

Eurocom, the game’s developer, has past experience developing within the Bond franchise with games like The World is Not Enough and Nightfire (both solid games), and has even established a solid grasp of the Wii by helping Visceral Games in the creation of the underappreciated rail shooter, Dead Space: Extraction. So, save for a miracle that would have allowed Rare to take the job, GoldenEye’s Wii re-imagining couldn’t have been placed in better hands…and it shows.

As with any new Wii shooter, the question that needs to be answered first is simple: do the motion controls work? The answer is also very simple: Yes. Yes they do. They work bloody marvelously, as a matter of fact. From bang to bullets, GoldenEye has the tightest point-and-shoot shooting model of any Wii FPS I’ve played (and I’ve played the vast majority of them), and while you can play with a GameCube or Classic controller if you so desire, to me it seems silly to play a Wii FPS any other way than with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk – especially when they function as well as they do here.

Pointing and shooting with the Wii Remote is as razor sharp and buttery smooth as one could possibly ask for, and the game provides a multitude of control options to cater to gamers of all experience levels, including five pre-sets for Accessible, Intermediate and Experienced play styles, along with an option to set up a customized control configuration by tuning turn speeds and targeting sensitivity, adjusting the size of the dead zone, toggling aim assist and snapping auto-aim mechanics, and so on and so forth.

Controls aside, GoldenEye is a blast to play, literally. Every aspect of the gunplay, from the placement of the gun on the screen to the incredibly detailed gun models and their flashy firing and reload animations to the fleshy “thwack” sound of bullets shredding through terrorist A-holes, is dead on target, ensuring that you have fun shooting the many weapons Bond has at his disposal. Environmental destructibility enhances the fun further by allowing you to destroy enemy cover points and experiment with ways to use your surroundings to kill. Yes, the obligatory exploding red barrels and wall-mounted fire extinguishers are in abundance, but things like ceiling fans and hanging rafters can be turned into instruments of death with an accurate shot as well. Windows shatter, pillars crumble, crates crack apart, vehicles explode…and it all works together to create a frenzied action-movie experience.

The developers also did an amazing job with stage building and the balancing of play styles. A few levels do force you into a particular method, but for the most part it is up to you whether you want to charge through guns blazing with all sorts of high-tech machine guns and heavy firepower or play it with patience and stealth as a “thinking man’s FPS,” shooting out cameras, sneaking through vents, and eliminating threats with sneaky takedowns and silenced pistol headshots like a real spy operative.

And the level designs support this multi-faceted gameplay approach, too. While the stages are fairly scripted and linear, they aren’t rigidly so. Many of the environments branch off, giving you at least some choice of how to proceed. Do you want to open the door going off to the left or to the right? Or maybe take the nearby vent to access the next room quietly? Or hell, why not vault through the window like a true action hero?

When you first go through the game, you may not notice these subtle branches. Upon return visits, however, you will discover new and different ways to proceed compared to the path you took on your first go-round. Like GoldenEye classic, this game is built around the idea of replaying missions. Contrary to the majority of games which use multiple difficulty settings simply as a means to make enemies smarter/dumber and harder/easier to kill, the tiered difficulties in this game also introduce additional secondary mission objectives that must be completed (most requiring some form of intel gathering or sabotage), in turn making each mission more involved and challenging outside of the action.

It’s great fun to be able to start on Operative difficulty and just go through the game focusing on the main objectives, and then go back on the Agent or 007 difficulty to challenge yourself further by having to search the levels with a keener eye and be more mindful of your approach to each situation. There’s even a 007 Classic setting which replaces the recharging health system with the old-school health bar and body armor system, and each stage can be played in Time Trial mode for gamers into the speed run scene.

Multiplayer is a huge value booster as well. Back in the N64 days, GoldenEye was the pinnacle of console FPS multiplayer, and so it is once again…on the Wii at least. Supporting up to eight players online (no Friend Codes required!) and four players in local split-screen, GoldenEye’s multiplayer is a combination of Call of Duty and GoldenEye ‘classic.’ Online, the game’s multiplayer is formatted just like the current Call of Duty titles, complete with nine total match types and an XP progression system which rewards you with accolades and unlocks (weapons, gadgets, mods, modes, etc.) as you compile kills and wins. In my experience, the performance has been rock solid too. Lag has been minimal to non-existent, the Wii-mote controls are just as precise against live opponents as they are against less-reactionary AI enemies, the maps seem balanced and interesting, and early on there appears to be a healthy community of players to match up against.

Offline, the game hearkens back to the original game with a multiplayer setup that doesn’t take itself quite so seriously. Matches are limited to four types and the XP system is nixed entirely, but instead you have the option to apply crazy modifiers that give multiplayer matches almost more of a party game vibe. There are basic settings like friendly fire, number of lives and time limits, but if you’re feeling a bit wacky, you can turn on things like rubber or sticky grenades, paintball mode, and Singularity, a setting which causes players to explode on contact.

Multiplayer isn’t all that it could be, though. Online operatives looking to voice chat will be disappointed by the lack of Wii Speak support, and the lack of a basic option such as the ability to host customized matches definitely hurts. Supposedly you can create parties with friends you’ve exchanged Friend Codes with, but from what I’ve read this process is more trouble than it’s worth (which is usually the case whenever Friend Codes are involved). Not being able to create matches with specific settings means there is potential for imbalance depending on the types of controls people are using. Some players may prefer a standard controller over the point-and-shoot method, or some players may choose to play without aim helpers, and these players may find themselves at a disadvantage. Some type of matchmaking option to filter matches by control configuration would have really helped to ensure an even playing field.

Offline, it’s a shame that there is no support for AI bots. As predominantly a solo gamer myself, it would have been great to be able to play around with the local multiplayer modes against bots, or at least be able to fill in matches for when you only have one friend around.

Digging beyond the multiplayer, GoldenEye falters in a few other areas as well. The story, for example, is a complete throwaway. Original GoldenEye-era James Bond actor, Pierce Brosnan, has been replaced by the current Bond, Daniel Craig, and his likeness and voice acting do bring a cinematic Hollywood flair to the plot. However, the story itself seems like such an afterthought, as it is riddled with the worst kind of spy-thriller clichés, predictable plot twists, and far too many “I’m caught, but the villain is too stupid to kill me” moments that leave you shaking your head and rolling your eyes. The campaign is great fun regardless, but a more involved storyline is really the only ingredient missing from this otherwise tasty dish of Bond FPS action.

One other small element this game lacks is visual polish. Overall, GoldenEye is a graphical showcase for a Wii game. The environments are detailed and lively thanks to rich lighting and weather effects, and also diverse in setting – missions take you on a journey around the world to dams, factories, nightclubs and jungles in places like Russia, Barcelona, Dubai and Nigeria. The characters are incredibly expressive and true to their real-life actor/actress counterparts as well, and as I mentioned earlier, the gun model designs and animations are spectacular. The problem is that the textures are noticeably washed out and blurry, and on the whole the game is bereft of a strong color palette to really make the otherwise impressive graphics pop. Unfortunately, the frame rate dips a wee bit during the more hectic firefights, too.

While I played GoldenEye, I couldn’t help but think of three different shooters from three different eras as apparent sources of inspiration. Its diverse mission design, in-depth multiplayer and pitch-perfect pacing are clearly derived from Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare playbook. The emphasis on environmental destruction and the “guns as toys” mentality remind me an awful lot of Criterion’s previous-gen FPS, Black. And yet at its heart the game still maintains that distinct James Bond personality, carrying over bits and pieces from the classic GoldenEye that returning fans will be able to immediately identify with.

With GoldenEye, Eurocom has accomplished the goal High Voltage attempted to achieve with The Conduit, that goal being to create a modern FPS on the Wii comparable to those available on the higher-end platforms. Obviously the graphical fidelity lags far behind, and there are a few other minor omissions. But in terms of gameplay, multiplayer depth, replayability, fun factor and core functionality – you know, the important stuff – GoldenEye can hold its own against any Call of Duty, Halo, Killzone or other prominent FPS franchise.

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Pros:
+ Precise point-and-shoot controls with tons of customization options
+ Thrilling gunplay with cool weapons and destructive environments
+ Diverse level designs balance stealth and action nicely
+ Evolving difficulty system brings back the fun of replaying the campaign multiple times
+ Robust multiplayer offering
+ Technically impressive graphics overall

Cons:
– Dull, toss-away storyline
– Multiplayer doesn’t support Wii Speak, match hosting or bots
– Pale, washed-out textures make the game look kind of bland and generic

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Wii, also available for DS
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Eurocom
Release Date: 11/2/2010
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-8 (2-8 online; 2-4 split-screen)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!