Up until GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64, first-person shooters on a console were almost laughable. Many tried, many failed. GoldenEye succeeded and paved the way for several of gaming’s biggest games today; everything from Halo to the latest iteration of Call of Duty. Ask any 90s gamer what some of their fondest memories were and undoubtedly GoldenEye will come up. While James Bond games have had varying degrees of success since then many of them have been outright failures even though some tried to copy or tap into the GoldenEye formula or name like GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. So you’d think the idea of remaking GoldenEye, what many likely see as nothing more than a cash-in for Activision, will fall flat too right?
It doesn’t. James Bond is clearly back with GoldnenEye 007, easily one of the best James Bond games and one of best games on the Nintendo Wii.
When you adapt a fifteen year old story, a lot of the details will have to be changed to make sense in today’s world especially a movie like GoldenEye which came about just after the fall of the Soviet Union and was aimed largely at redefining James Bond from a Cold War hero to a more modern spy. Largely the story stays the same. All the characters are there with the exception of Boris and Jack Wade. The differences are in the details. Valentin Zukovsky, for instance, is no longer a former KGB agent, he’s a trendy nightclub owner, but his role is still pretty much the same. Many other details have been changed as well, from how James Bond infiltrates the Russian facility to where the cradle is located. The main story carries out over six major locations with a number of missions per location: Arkhangelsk (the dam), Barcelona (Zukovsky’s nightclub), Dubai (where the EMP hardened helicopter is stolen from), Severnaya, St. Petersburg, and finally Nigeria.
Most of the changes are welcome for a more modern take on the story, but some of the others might leave you scratching your head. The craziest one is the near destruction of St. Petersburg. It’s crazy enough (or awesome enough) to have James Bond in a chase sequence using a tank. There’s going to be destruction, but GoldenEye 007 takes it to a whole new level. Buildings fall, helicopters are blown out of the sky and a battalion of Russian soldiers are decimated. I like my video games to go big, but this might have been overkill. Fun though. There’s another change I don’t know if I approve of. I don’t wish to spoil it because it involves a character’s death. You’ll know it when you see it.
All in all, the story works with Daniel Craig’s James Bond. If GoldenEye was original, it’d make an awesome Bond 23.
GoldenEye 007 recaptures much of what made GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64 great. In all it should take you about 7 or 8 hours to complete the story’s 14 missions, but each mission is designed for maximum replayability. The higher the difficulty the more objectives there are and once you’re finished you can run the missions in a time trial.
It seems for most games you either get a great single player experience or a great multiplayer experience, but with GoldenEye, you once again get both. GoldenEye’s multiplayer features two types: an offline 4-player split screen experience much like the original and an online 8-player provided through Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection and includes XP progression, multipliers, modifiers and numerous unlockables. All of the major characters from the single player carry over into the multiplayer with additional classic characters thrown in such as Francisco Scaramanga, Dr. No, Baron Samedi, Jaws, Oddjob, Blofeld and more.
Voice acting in the game is pretty stellar as far as games go. Daniel Craig takes the place of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, Judi Dench returns as M (the only actor and character to be unchanged from the original film) and Rory Kinnear reprises his role as M’s chief of staff Bill Tanner from Quantum of Solace.
Although the soundtrack was done by David Arnold who has done all the soundtracks for the films since Tomorrow Never Dies, I don’t think it stood out or is anything to write home about. Like the film, the James Bond theme barely gets used. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in a video game you expect it more frequently. Nicole Scherzinger’s cover of the theme song originally performed for the film by Tina Turner is pretty good though. Actually, Scherzinger sounds so much like Turner that it’s a wonder they redid the song at all. I liked how the incorporated the theme and the title sequence with the pre-title sequence. That was unique even for Bond.
There aren’t too many gadgets in the original game or film and that fits perfectly with Daniel Craig’s James Bond. In fact there are even less here. Bond has one, but it’s all he needs. Instead of the watch, he has a cell phone that does just about everything. It can hack, take surveillance pictures, remote detonate explosives and obviously be used as a phone to stay in contact with MI6 (typically Tanner who sometimes in my opinion talks too much and has an amazing sense of exactly where 007 is in his mission). The downside to the phone in my opinion is that it feels like it controls differently than every other “device” Bond holds such as a gun. Bond can pivot around with a gun fairly well looking down its sights, but with the phone, it feels stiff. An indicator pops up on your HUD when it can be used, but sometimes finding whatever Bond has to interact with can be hidden fairly well or the box that you have to line up with is almost too small.
The game offers several different types of guns all of which have modified versions. Some have silencers, laser sights, thermal sights, and different looking scopes all randomly strewn about through GoldenEye’s various missions. Bond always has his trusty Walther P99 even comically when he gives one away to someone. It’s odd, he’ll give one to Natalya so she can protect herself and then immediately pulls another one out of his… vest? Interestingly, when Ourumov shows up to kill Mishkin (same as the movie) with Bond’s gun, he dumps the ammo on the ground then gives it back to Bond, yet later Bond has full ammo again. Maybe in harder difficulties that doesn’t happen. I don’t know. It’s just odd. Bond’s Walther can optionally have a silencer for when he’s feeling stealthy.
Unlike a lot of recent James Bond games, GoldenEye doesn’t have a cover system, but it does have something similar. Instead of sticking to a wall, you can get behind any object and when you look down your iron sights Bond pops up a bit to look over that object. It actually works really well and I prefer it much more than Quantum of Solace’s cover system. Enemies use it a lot too sometimes diving away from your shots to get to cover and then popping out to take a few shots at you. The best part is that a lot of the cover is destructible so the game doesn’t slow down. Crates fall apart and even concrete crumbles exposing its metal frame and the enemy behind it. A lot of the environments are destructible as well. There are plenty of gas cans lying around and almost all vehicles you happen upon can be destroyed with a few quick shots to its gas tank. Missiles can be used to take down attack helicopters and automatic sentries can be reprogrammed to shoot at Bond’s enemies instead of him.
The game also features some quick time events. These are the events when you’re required to push a button or waggle the Wii remote or nunchuck. This only happens a couple times, specifically with major characters Bond interacts with and it works moderately well. The real delight is to sneak up behind an enemy and waggle the nunchuck a bit to subdue them. Sometimes Bond just knocks them out with a quick punch, other times he puts them out of commission with a stranglehold of some sort. Not many first-person shooters do this, but it works to great effect with GoldenEye especially when Bond is once again feeling stealthy or just wants to get his hands dirty.
When it was announced, I thought for sure this game was going to fall on its face and be another cash-in like GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. Even if it wasn’t bad I thought for sure it would be difficult to shake comparisons to the original GoldenEye. Gamers seem to hold it in such high esteem that any remake would only really be met with harsh criticism, and up to the release of the game I think that was true, but not anymore. Eurocom and Activision did a great job making this game stand on its own two feet and finally getting a Bond game right. Is it going to redefine the first-person shooter console experience like the original did? No and not even on the Wii which has had great success with the Metroid Prime series, but who cares. It’s a fun game. The story is good, the gameplay is good, and the controls work as well as you’d hope. Easily, as I said, it’s one of the best Wii games of the year. What more can you ask for? Well, perhaps next time do an original story that doesn’t mooch off of GoldenEye’s name and legacy.