Review: GoldenEye 007 (Wii)

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Rare’s GoldenEye was a sharp reply to PCs of how exciting the FPS genre could be on a console – especially the N64 – in 1997. It also stands out as what is probably the only movie-based game to actually expand on its own material while being good at what it set out to do.

With those two things in mind, it’s easy to see how GoldenEye became such a influential legend, one that fans would even go so far as to bring the experience back to where the FPS began on PCs with mods recreating its famous levels with Half Life 2′s engine, Source.

Those same fans had also clamored for Nintendo to release the classic game on the Wii’s Virtual Console as a downloadable game only for the idea to die a slow and license litigated death.

And then developer, Eurocom, stunned everyone when they announced their own GoldenEye game built from the ground up as a re-imagined reboot. But far from being sacrilege, Eurocom’s remake is both an unmistakable homage and a fantastic FPS in its own right.

Laughed at by “hardcore” gamers for the deluge of shovelware that threaten to bury its truly fun titles, playing GoldenEye felt as if it were the vindication the Wii needed to show the world that the console is still good for something other than punch lines calling it a dust magnet in between Super Mario and Zelda releases. That, and its wireless multiplayer has joined its 1080p cousins on a level that doesn’t require the Wii’s byzantine friend codes.

Eurocom stripped GoldenEye’s story down – even going so far with the bizarre choice in getting a Tina Turner soundalike to sing the title song – to fit in with today’s headlines as a timely overhaul. Daniel Craig’s face has also been transplanted on Bond, replacing Pierce Brosnan’s mug from the original game. In fact, all of the characters have been changed in one way or another with one particular hacker simply vanishing into thin air.

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It’s also not all about Cold War revenge anymore, but one man’s fight against – bankers. The changes weren’t entirely unexpected, but the motivation for the main villain in this light seems to be something more geared for an angry accountant than for someone willing to destroy an entire nation. It’s lost some degree of weighty importance to it by making the villain appear as if he were taking a shotgun to their foot in order to remove a splinter.

This tends to trickle down into other scenes where you can no longer depend on your memory of the film or the previous game to prop them up. Although it can be argued that no one plays a shooter for its story, there are examples that counter that with enough material to suspend players’ disbelief adding to the atmospheric excitement of battling against incredible odds. The new GoldenEye doesn’t quite have that anymore which forces you to turn towards its action which thankfully makes up for its shakier story.

It also looks good which, for a Wii game, is something of a welcome surprise. Levels have been expanded and updated from the original game with new places to shoot up added in. From the bowels of a high-tech bunker, trudging through an African rain forest, and the wide expanse of a base suitable for a supervillain, Eurocom’s designers have pushed the Wii’s visuals to make it as fun to blast in and out of cover as it does in sneaking through it. And like its predecessor, there are also opportunities to be as covert as a secret agent in order to get the quiet drop on foes with melee attacks or a silenced pistol.

The stealthy aspects don’t work as well as the action does and it can be weird seeing enemies think about calling for help when you’ve just taken out their buddy standing next to them. Unlike other sneakers, there is no real margin for error with GoldenEye making stealth feel more like a bonus than as something that you can repeatedly rely on. Still, seeing lonely airducts and optional side routes to the occasional objective keep it a tempting option.

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When spotted, a small army of growl-voiced veterans show up to spray the air with bullets. Psychic grenades also tend to be able to land on top of you from behind cover over vast distances thanks to former quarterbacks moonlighting as bad guys with annoying regularity. These baddies will also roll into cover, hide behind nearby obstacles, and react to where you shoot them thanks to some convincing effects. They’re still cannon fodder to your 00 status, but at least they’ll make an effort to keep you from being bored on the job.

Bond can also make use of cover and fire from behind it, though he’s not glued to the back end of a barrier in case a little maneuverability is needed. There’s also no jumping, though Bond can mantle over nearly everything in his way. Additional extracurricular spy activities also give the game a strong Bond feel whether it’s in smashing servers to cover your tracks, hacking gun drones, taking photos of secret plans, or rescuing the occasional hostage. Although he has a super-smartphone that allows him to hack computers and locks, there’s enough outside of using it to give the player a chance to be Bondish.

The game is also compatible with a Gamecube controller which gave it more of a familiar feel in relation to its FPS cousins on the Xbox 360 or the PS3. A number of options are available for customizing controls, whether you want to use the Wiimote or a more conventional pad with analog sticks. Unfortunately, the Wavebird I had didn’t work with the game.

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Multiplayer via the Wii’s wireless connection was the biggest surprise for how smoothly it ran and for how fun it is especially when you don’t have to worry about friend codes. Objective-based and team variants including classic modes from the original N64 game are stuffed into its online offering along with one or two unique modes, such as “Hero” in which a random player is picked to be a key character who has more damage and passively heals everyone around them. Experience is earned, leveling up the player in order to unlock other bonuses such as additional weapons or new game modes – much like in Activision’s Modern Warfare.

Instead of perks to give players a slight edge such as doing a little bit more damage with their weapons, they’re called “gadgets”. Weapons and additional attachments such as scopes are also unlocked at later levels but GoldenEye also carries over an annoying habit from Modern Warfare in keeping certain modes out of players’ hands until they grind up far enough to get to them.

Fortunately, players still start off with a large number of gametypes from the beginning leaving them with a ton of options to play with. Split-screen local play is also available if going online isn’t your thing, or if you just don’t have wireless internet. As an additional bonus, split-screen players can pick from a number of classic Bond villains to play as.

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I thrilled to GoldenEye on the N64 and as a Bond fan, Eurocom’s updated narrative might not be as convincing, but what they had done with everything else still makes it as dapper. With the variety of sneak and surprise opportunities peppered throughout the intense action, smart enemies, and plenty of updated throwbacks to the original, GoldenEye is a convincing slice of Bond’s wild side and a worthy successor to the genius of Rare’s effort on the N64. It may not revolutionize the idea of a shooter on a console as its namesake had, but it’s still a brilliant and action packed adventure on the Wii in as many ways.

GoldenEye 007
Activision / Eurocom / n-Space
Nintendo Wii / Nintendo DS (reviewed on the Nintendo Wii)
Rated: T for Teens