Goldeneye 007 review: For England, James

Justin McElroy
J. McElroy|11.02.10

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Justin McElroy
November 2, 2010 4:00 PM
Goldeneye 007 review: For England, James
Activision had an interesting balancing act on its hands with Goldeneye. It knew that this was a nostalgia title for the Nintendo 64 crowd, yet it had to be wary of "copying" anything from the Rare-developed 1997 title of the same name for legal reasons. So the company goes back to the source material (the film, that is), replaces Pierce Brosnan with Daniel Craig, and builds an entirely new game -- yet all the while hoping it rides its name recognition right off the shelves. "Somebody's remaking Goldeneye! Remember Goldeneye? Goldeneye!"

This isn't a remake. It's a new Bond game based on an older film. Remember when EA made a video game version of From Russia With Love in 2005? It's like that, but if they replaced Sean Connery with Daniel Craig. And gave him a smartphone.
As the world's most famous secret agent, you've been betrayed by your fellow spy and old colleague Agent 006, Alec Trevelyan (spoiler, I guess, if you've somehow missed every game trailer, the N64 game, and the movie). It follows the structure of the film with a keen eye to detail. In fact, pro tip: If you want to avoid being killed again and again when Trevelyan traps you in the helicopter that's about to explode, watch the scene from the movie and do what Pierce Brosnan does.

Even though many of the locations are the same, there was never a moment where I thought to myself, "Oh yeah, I remember this!" thanks to the entirely original level designs. And the addition of stealth as a tactic lets players decide to be trigger happy or a real secret agent, which feels truer to the character in a sense. As in the N64 classic, you're encouraged to use the silencer on your PP9 to pick off security cameras and isolated guards (though newly-added stealth takedowns work on the latter just as well). Of course, I tend to sprint in the middle of the room with a shotgun, shoot a round in the air, and get ready for the army to rain down on me. To each his own.

You can pick any control scheme you want -- the Wiimote/Nunchuk combo, the Wii Zapper, the Classic Controller, or the GameCube Controller. With the traditional Wiimote/Nunchuk set-up, you point the remote to look and use the Nunchuk to move. It's a mostly fluid system, but poor James was killed far too often because I couldn't face a threat behind me -- a move that requires steadily pointing to the left until you eventually are facing the opposite direction. The GameCube controller is intuitive for anyone familiar with typical first person shooters, but ultimately, aiming and moving is a bit jerkier than with the Wiimote.

The "50 dudes vs. James Bond" shoot-outs are the meat of the game, and unfortunately, that's where things get inconsistent. Occasionally, I'd be forced to shoot at the floor under an enemy or the just to the right of him for a kill. There are a few factors you can play with to try for a better result, like switching control schemes, finding a weapon with a reflexive sight or changing the placement of your Wii sensor. When things work smoothly, the feeling is quintessential Bond. When the controls start bugging out, it's infuriating -- I mean, you were pointing the gun right there.

Activision's also taken the time to update the game aesthetically. Bond and Trevelyan's clothes are pointedly more "2010" (sweet hat, Alec!), there's an as-of-now-not-that-dated club scene and there's an entire level that takes place during an arms trade in Dubai. Of course, you've still got the old Bond standbys, like Judi Dench's always superb voice work and the always-awesome tank chase sequence.

While story mode is brand new, the split-screen multiplayer is unabashedly taking a page out of Rare's 1997 playbook. It makes sense, considering the high regard in which many gamers still hold the N64 cart's multiplayer mode.

I tend to sprint in the middle of the room with a shotgun, shoot a round in the air, and get ready for the army to rain down on me. To each his own.

Aside from the exclusion of "remote control mines as an on-hand weapon," it feels like every other aspect of the split-screen multiplayer game is back. You can play as a variety of classic Bond villains (but really, stop kidding yourself and pick Oddjob -- he's tiny and throws hats), secondary in-game characters and, of course, Bond himself. Remember zany-but-useless paintball mode? It's here. The one-hit kill Golden Gun mode is back. It's pretty much exactly how you remember it, just with different levels, updated graphics, and a different control scheme.

Sometimes, "exactly how you remember it" can be underwhelming, but multiplayer Goldeneye hits all the right notes. Activision smartly avoids poaching game modes from Modern Warfare or Halo in an attempt to keep with the times. No, this is classic Goldeneye: Getting killed in the secret hiding spot after your friend looked at your screen, ridiculous no-gun punch fights and laughing until you can't breathe when your first-timer friend runs around in a circle with his face to the ground in an effort to avoid being killed. Activision didn't add too many extras and came away with an excellent party game.

So 2010 Goldeneye gets to have it both ways -- it has a solid new story mode while really milking the nostalgia factor with its local multiplayer. Plus, the addition of an online multiplayer mode (and yes, smartphones) brings it into the 21st century. The biggest pitfall with the game is in the occasionally cumbersome control system, but with so many options, players are bound to find one that suits them.

So invite your friends over, buy some Cheetos and Tab, and get ready to call out your friend for "screen-looking" and killing you in a secret corner. And seriously, just pick Oddjob. Did I mention that he throws hats?

This review is based on the Wii retail version of Goldeneye 007 provided by Activision.

Evan Minsker is a freelance journalist living in Ann Arbor, Mich. Find him on Twitter.
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