GoldenEye 007: Reloaded preview: Bringing back Bond

Here we go again. It was almost a certainty last year that we'd see the version of GoldenEye 007 released for the Wii eventually brought out to the HD consoles, but it's fair to say that Activision surprised everyone with the reveal of GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, being released this fall as a full retail title.

So yes, the odds are that we'll all be playing through GoldenEye (first created by Rare for the Nintendo 64 fourteen years ago, and reimagined by Eurocom for the Wii release last year) yet again. This new version has the modern story tweaks, the addition of Daniel Craig, and all of the other reimaginings from the Wii, but Eurocom is aiming for even more, adding in a new set of modes called MI-6 Ops, as well as co-op and full competitive multiplayer. If Call of Duty had a baby with Rare's classic, this is what would crawl out.
%Gallery-128860% Activision producer James Steer says that development on Reloaded began even before the Wii version was released. "When we were looking to make a GoldenEye game, the Wii platform seemed like the right platform to launch the franchise because of the N64 heritage," he says. "But while we were making that game, we were taking it on the road and showing people, it became clear that there was a wider hunger for a current-gen game on a high-def platform." The first question from journalists looking at early versions of the Wii title was always asking about an HD release. "So we had Eurocom's technology team start working on an engine."

That engine looks pretty good -- we're not exactly talking about Crysis-level fidelity, but it does hit all the checkmarks, including 60 frames per second, and all of the shaders and lighting you'd expect in an HD title. In the snowy Russian woods of the Severnaya level, Bond has a Russian helicopter land on his head, and it's definitely more visceral and clear than the Wii version.

At the same time, it's confusing why some things have stayed and some retro touches have been left out. Bond's watch memorably served as the menu in the first GoldenEye, but here those functions are replaced by a phone and a full HUD menu system based on the modern movies. "We use the 'smartwall' graphics for our menu system, which is more akin to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace," says Steer. Bond's karate slap melee attack is out, replaced with a more modern gun butt (and some context-sensitive takedown moves motion-capped by Daniel Craig's real-life stunt double).

But despite those modern updates, enemies still just disappear into the ground when killed. That same goofy stealth is there, with guards who sometimes can't see you sneaking right in front of them. And there are a few other moments where you'll notice a remnant of the old game, and then wonder just why Eurocom left that in. Part of the reason might be the fact that while Activision has worked with Nintendo to take control of the N64 game's rights, the actual code is still held by Rare, now owned by Microsoft. That weird ownership void is probably why this game is so confusing: It's meant to make you think of the old GoldenEye game, but not resemble it so much it attracts a lawsuit.

I only played the one single-player mission, but Activision also showed off one of the MI-6 mission modes. There are four kinds of these extra mission experiences -- Assault, Elimination (where you need to take out one certain target), Stealth, and Wave Defense -- and Steer only showed off a wave defense level, featuring the player defending their choice of a few different points on a map.

Just like in the original GoldenEye, players will be able to activate modifiers like Paintball or Golden Gun, and even do new things like tweak enemy health or their weapon types. And scores from the MI-6 missions will go out to online leaderboards, where players will be able to both see friends' scores, as well as compete against them on the same map with the same modifiers in place.

Steer promised more news to come on the game: Eurocom "wanted to make sure we still supported" things like four-player split screen multiplayer, though the system itself will eventually support up to 16 versus 16 players. The PS3 version will also support the Move and Sharpshooter, since "obviously we learned a lot from developing the Wii game last year, so it was a natural fit to move that forward," says Steer. Kinect support hasn't been considered, he tells me. "We're just focusing on Move at this time."

Activision's walking a weird line here, trying to sell old school fans on an updated product, and convince the Call of Duty types that a 14-year-old property (yes, a game that's probably older than some of the players themselves) is worth their time. We'll find out how that balance holds later on this fall.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.