Last week, I chatted with creative director Ted Newman and played a bit of GoldenEye 007 on the DS. "The big mantra from the beginning is that this was going to be a thinking man's first person shooter," Newman told me in dimly-lit corner of the Activision preview space. "So it isn't just strictly run-and-gun; enter a level and just go guns a-blazing; shoot everything in the room. There are definitely moments like that, but the majority of the game, you're really supposed to think as James Bond would think -- specifically, how Daniel Craig would."
This was pretty obvious in the DS version's take on the "Surface" mission from the N64 game. Outside in the cold, snow-covered hills, I seemed to have two options: employ stealth and artfully dodge spotlights, taking care to silence wayward guards with stealth takedowns; or simply open fire and hope I could mow down the masses of enemies before they stopped me dead. I paused and thought about what "Daniel Craig Bond" would do: a bit of both.
GoldenEye has the legit shooter feel on the DS down pat, which, honestly, surprised me quite a bit.
I made my way silently and stealthily for as long as I could, taking out enemies with quick melee takedowns, but was eventually spotted. At this point, I was forced to ditch the sneaking and go primarily into shooting mode. Here the game shined: Even when I died and was forced to reload the mission a few times, I enjoyed trying out different approaches. Each yielded the same result (Bond's death), but the variety in gameplay was actually endearing.
There was just one problem: the controls. While n-Space has been quite proud of its stylus-driven control scheme -- a style first attempted in Metroid Prime: Hunters -- it's just not for me. The precision one needs in shooters is certainly there with the stylus, but constant play like this has always caused some nasty cramps in my hand. But Newman offered hope: a new button-driven scheme created just for this game that wouldn't cause pain during prolonged play sessions.
"There were some people who had trouble with the stylus, so we definitely wanted to give them that alternative," he told me. (Yup, he was talking to one of 'em!) In the new scheme, the face buttons act as the second analog stick -- nothing new to gaming, but it feels very responsive. There's a slight aiming assist, and for the most part, I was capping random henchmen with ease. I could aim down the sight; I could take cover; and I felt capable of handling enemies even as they tried to flank me. GoldenEye has the legit shooter feel on the DS down pat, which, honestly, surprised me quite a bit.
Another highlight of my brief session with the game were the interactive environments. This is another element of the "thinking man's first-person shooter" concept. You've got your standard explosive barrels, but smaller items, like combustible fire extinguishers, helped me to confuse the enemy, dividing them up and making it easier to take them down.
"What's different about this game, what sets it apart from our CoD titles, is there's a lot more environmental interaction," Newman said, as he watched me blow up one of the fire extinguishers. "In this particular level, it's all about shooting stuff and making it blow up -- distracting guys or making them blow up in the process. But in other levels, it's about, 'How do I shoot this one thing over here?' or 'How do I action this other thing?' to kinda lead the guys in that direction; and then use that as a method to sneak up behind them and get 'em in a close attack or just sneak around 'em."
Beyond the single-player take on the GoldenEye story, Newman promised an extensive multiplayer experience. It'll support up to six players over local and Wi-Fi play, across seven different game modes and eight maps -- but the most interesting aspect? A proposed mod system; "where you can buy different modifications to change the gameplay" based on in-game currency you accrue. There will also be "over 70 different multiplayer awards to encourage players to keep coming back," Newman added.
It was pretty obvious that with GoldenEye 007 n-Space is aiming to set the bar for first-person shooters on the DS, and who better than one of the most experienced developers on the platform to pull it off? I would've liked to have sampled the multiplayer, but despite that, it looks like n-Space is poised to deliver an experience that will far exceed the expectations of a handheld companion game.