GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 set a milestone for first-person shooter (FPS) gaming when it took the world by storm on its release date of August 25th 1997. In the mid-to-late 90s, console hardware was improving, 3D graphics were becoming more common and more games in the FPS genre would find their way onto the home console market. The game showed that first-person shooters could be played with a controller instead of keyboard and mouse and that spilt screen multiplayer could work like a charm when done right. Despite feeling dated a bit, GoldenEye still ranks among the best shooters ever made.
Many a gamer rejoiced when Nintendo announced it would release a new version of GoldenEye at the end of 2010. More a retelling than a remake, GoldenEye 007 on Wii combines the N64 original with the 1995 movie, dumps Pierce Brosnan to add a little Daniel Craig into the mix and takes inspiration from the Call of Duty series to create a contemporary FPS, of which there aren’t a lot around on Wii.
Story-wise, a few things were changed to better fit this game in a current timeframe. Bond now uses his smartphone for various tasks like hacking computers, detonating mines and of course communication. Some of the locations have been re-envisioned by the writers – the solar power plant near the end of the game is now located in Nigeria instead of Cuba and Bond visits a nightclub in Barcelona to meet with Zukovsky, who now looks like a Russian Tony Montana. In fact, the appearances and voices of all of the characters are altered from the movie or the previous game. The only exception is M, who is still voiced by Judi Dench. Other returning characters are Natalya, Ourumov, Mishkin and Xenia. Sadly Q and Boris did not make the cast this time around.
Unlike the story, the gameplay remains mostly unchanged. In the single player mode, each mission still involves completing objectives while taking out anyone in your way. You can do this in a stealthy way by using silenced weapons or taking out enemies with your bare hands. Or, you could just blast your way through the levels, alerting everyone in the vicinity which will just result in more guards being alerted. Nevertheless, sometimes running and gunning is the best way to go. Purists may cry foul, but this time around Bond gets regenerating health instead of his health bar and optional body armour bar. This allows you got fully recover your health after getting hurt, by just taking cover and getting out of harm’s way for a few seconds.
The 10-hour campaign expands 14 missions which can be played on various difficulty levels: Operative, Agent and 007. The 007 difficulty can be played in two different ways: 007 Classic gives you a life bar and the option to pick up body armour whereas the regular 007 mode grants you regenerating health. When you finish a mission on a particular difficulty level, the next difficulty becomes available. With each difficulty level the number of objectives increases and the objectives themselves become more challenging. Finally, there’s also an option to do a time trial of a mission.
The one major downside to the missions is that they are very linear in design. Compared to the original GoldenEye, where often exploration is needed to complete an objective, 007 on Wii takes you by the hand and guides you through the level – another sign that GoldenEye has borrowed quite a few aspects from Call of Duty and similar shooters.
The game was developed by Eurocom, who have proven they know what the Wii is capable of. In 2009 they developed Dead Space Extraction, a great on-rails shooter set in the Dead Space universe. The most striking aspect of that game was its graphical engine, capable of highly detailed environments with great texture work and impressive character and face models – for Wii standards anyway. Luckily, Eurocom was able to convert this engine for use in a free-roaming game and create more diverse environments such as snow and jungle landscapes as well as other impressive locations – the solar energy plant comes to mind. The locations are fairly dynamic as you can often destroy walls or barricades your enemies hide behind.
Occasionally during a mission there will be cut scenes or quick time events. During these events you are prompted to do a perfectly timed button press in order to continue the scene. Failing to do so will usually result in Bond’s untimely death. A downside to the cut scenes is that they can’t be skipped. Very frustrating when you’re forced to watch the same thing over and over again or when you’re trying to do a time trial as the clock keeps ticking when you’re watching a cut scene.
Like the graphics, the sound design is excellent. Weapons sound distinct while explosions sound powerful. The music is different than in the original GoldenEye – it’s not as dominantly present this time around. The arrangements you hear throughout the game are more reminiscent of pieces from a movie score. They quietly play in the background and erupt only when the action picks up. What’s particularly good is the voice acting as the voice actors add life to the digitized characters they portray.
Available control types include the familiar WiiMote + Nunchuk combination, the Classic Controller (Pro) or the good old GameCube controller. There’s even support for the Wii Zapper. Each control method has its benefits – the WiiMote / Nunchuk combo makes aiming much easier, but if you’re more used to playing Call of Duty or Halo on your PS3 or 360, a regular controller might be the option for you. Especially the Classic Controller Pro feels tailor-made for this game, but the pointer controls are fantastic as well – some of the best on Wii in fact. And even if the standard pointer controls aren’t to your liking, there are a lot of fine-tuning options.
There is a nice variety of weapons to be found throughout the game. There are fives categories of weapons: pistols, shotguns, sub-machine guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles. As a bonus, you can sometimes find a rocket launcher to play with, but you get limited ammo for it and it’s rarely a useful weapon. At the start of each mission, you’re only equipped with your standard P99 with silencer. As you progress through missions you find other weapons, mostly left behind by the enemies you just murdered. Next to the P99, you can hold 2 extra weapons and you must use those slots wisely. Most of the time you will want an assault rifle or submachine gun in your loadout, but when you find a sniper rifle, it’s often hard to resist picking it up, even when you might not need it. All of the weapons are based on real-life counterparts, but most of the names are made-up.
Often you will find a weapon with an attachment on it: a silencer, a laser sight, a scope or even a combination of these. These attachments influence the characteristics of your weapon – a silencer adds to your stealth as enemies won’t be alerted when you fire your gun, a laser adds to your weapon’s accurary and the various scopes add to the zoom level and accuary. Unfortunately, the option of dual-wielding guns is missing in this new version. A shame really, because it was so much fun to hold an assault rifle in each hand and cleaning out the enemies this way in the original GoldenEye. One of the nicer additions is the grenade launcher, which you can equip on some of the assault rifles. Blasting a bunch of enemies with a grenade can be very fulfilling. If your weapons run out of ammo or you want to remain stealthy in your actions, you can be prompted to subdue if you’re close enough.
Part of what makes the original GoldenEye so legendary is its local multiplayer and the Wii version follows through nicely in that regard. Just like the old days, you can take on three of your buddies in a classic living room multiplayer fest – providing you can supply a controller for each of them. Setting up a match is pretty easy as it only involves selecting your character, a weapon loadout, any modifiers you want to use (like paintball mode) before finally selecting the map. The available modes in local multiplayer are Conflict, Golden Gun and You Only Live Twice. While these are enough to enjoy a classic night of gaming with friends, where it’s really at is the online multiplayer.
Online play supports up to 8 players and there are 8 different modes to choose from. There are modes you play on your own, but most modes are team-based. If you play a team game, you either play as a member of MI6 or one of the other factions (Russians, Janus or Zukovsky).
Conflct is your standard deathmatch type affair. First person to reach 30 eliminations wins the match. Team Conflict is pretty much the same, except the players are split into two teams and it takes 40 eliminations to take the win. The Golden Gun mode is all about getting that shiny one-shot-kill weapon that is the golden gun, which is spawned somewhere on the map at the start of the match. First player to 40 points wins, but golden gun eliminations are worth 5 points.
Some of the less traditional modes are Black Box, GoldenEye and Heroes, which are all team modes. In Black Box, an orange box (yes, really) appears somewhere on the map. Depending on which side you are on, you and your team are required to either destroy the box or download data from it by picking it up and carrying it around. When you’re carrying the box, you move slowly and can only use your pistol. In GoldenEye mode, 5 consoles are placed on the map. Each team needs to hack these consoles with their smartphones to gain control of them. If you hold the most consoles for the longest time, you will win. Heroes mode is very similar to Team Conflict, except for one cool twist. During the game one of the members of your team will be prompted to play as your faction’s hero (Bond, Trevelyan, Ourumov or Zukovsky). Playing as a Hero has a lot of benefits: better weapons and more health to name a few. The catch is that a Hero kill is worth 10 points, so if you’ve become a Hero, expect to be the number one target on your team – and it doesn’t help that the Hero’s location is always visible on the radar. First team to score 120 points wins.
There are three modes that are not available from the start as you need to be at a certain level before you can play them: License to Kill (level 25), Team License to Kill (level 30) and Classic Conflict (level 35). The first two are similar to regular Conflict and Team Conflict, with the exception that there’s no radar and weapons deal more damage. In Team License To Kill, friendly fire is on, so watch your targets before you shoot them. In Classic Conflict you randomly play as a classic Bond character, but in the end it’s just a regular Conflict match.
Before you can start your online massacring, you need weapons. The game has a small selection of standard loadouts to choose from, but it’s more fun to fill the 5 slots that are available for your custom loadouts. You choose a sniper rifle, an assault rifle, a shotgun or a sub-machine gun as your primary weapon, add a pistol as your secondary and finally select a number of perks, which are called gadgets in this game. Some examples of these gadgets are extra health, extra resistance to bullets and explosions, extra damage from your weapons, faster movement or the ability to add a timed mine, remote trigger mine or proximity mine to the two grenades you’re already equipped with.
Every now and then, a game is released as a cool special edition filled to the brim with awesome extras. Along with the regular retail version, GoldenEye 007 was released as a limited edition package which not only contains the game, but also a promotional code to unlock Classic Conflict from the start and a shiny golden Classic Controller Pro – the weapon of choice for any spy with class. Not exactly a ton of goodies, but the controller makes this a cool package to pick up.
To get all those fancy weapons and gadgets you need to gain experience points and level up. You start off as a level 1 recruit and become a 00 Agent when you reach level 56. Luckily you get XP for pretty much everything you do right: eliminations, head shots, wins, elimination streaks and more. Another nice addition is the ability to gain accolades if you achieve feats such as "most deaths", "most kills", "most rounds fired". There are dozens of accolades to gain, but unfortunately, you get no XP for any you collect.
If you’re fed up with getting badmouthed by 12-year olds in Call of Duty, you’re in luck: no voice chat is supported in this game. Unfortunately this also means there’s no way of communicating in team games, making it hard to discuss strategy.
GoldenEye does a lot of things right in the multiplayer department. The maps are designed well, the ability to level up adds a sense of purpose and achievement to the experience and the different modes are varied. But there are a few bumps in the road. Matches are hosted by one of the players, but when this player decides to quit, the match is over and all players have to quit the match. The game will try to find a new host for your session, but the only result will be that you’re joined by the same players in the next round. In all cases, the current round will be over and you will lose every elimination, experience point, accolade and statistic you’ve acquired in the round.
Furthermore, matches and leaderboards are plagued by hackers. During matches you will notice people spawning with weapons or gadgets they’re not supposed to have until they’ve earned them at a certain level and the top players on the leaderboards have hacked themselves there which is frustrating for the players who actually work hard to get to the top of the boards. It’s a shame that Eurocom haven’t sent out any kind of update to address these issues, despite many a plea from the GoldenEye 007 Wii community.