Ahh, nostalgia. It was the year the Foo Fighters released The Colour and the Shape; Tamagotchi pets were all the rage; Princess Diana was killed in a car crash and an unknown author, J.K. Rowling, sold her first Harry Potter book. But more importantly, 1997 also marked the launch of the Nintendo 64 here in New Zealand. Shortly followed by the cult-classic shooter, GoldenEye 007.
GoldenEye on the N64 is a thing of legend. It was a pioneering first-person shooter for console gaming and introduced a whole new audience to the genre. Furthermore, it included several innovations to later first-person shooters, including a ‘zoom-able’ sniper rifle and stealth elements, albeit rather primitive ones. And who could forget the classic 007 graphics glitch where you can make every character on screen get down with their bad selves?
They key to GoldenEye’s success though was in the split-screen deathmatch that allowed up to four players to hunt down and kill one another, complete with the iconic ‘flowing wall of blood’ death screen. It has since gone on to be the most successful James Bond videogame of all time, despite numerous attempts to best it since.
Last year, more than a decade after the N64 classic, GoldenEye 007 was reincarnated for the Wii console by developers Eurocom. The original leading man from the movie, Pierce Brosnan, was unceremoniously replaced by current Bond actor Daniel Craig to bring it in line with the new franchise.
Meanwhile those malnourished polygon-esque blocks were re-imagined with the best graphics that the Wii could provide. The game sat at the top of the sales charts and once again, GoldenEye 007 was a huge hit for the Nintendo platform. Even if it was towards the end of days for the already fading Wii console.
Due to its success, Eurocom have now ported their 2010 version of GoldenEye 007 to the PS3 and XBox 360, slapping on the sub-title of “Reloaded”. Although last year’s effort did the best it could with the hardware at its disposal, a completely new game engine produces HD graphics this time around.
On top of the dramatically improved visuals, Eurocom have also added in extra campaign missions and multiplayer maps, as well as Move support for PS3 users. Locales like the night streets of Barcelona, the snowy mountains of Russia, and sun-scorched Nigeria are all highly detailed and inviting. All of the character models and animations have been given a well-deserved facelift as well, to suit the higher polygon count that the PS3 and 360 can deliver.
The single player campaign of GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is almost identical to the Wii edition. As Bond himself, you’ll be tracking down a Soviet terrorist cell in an effort to secure weapons of mass destruction, using a careful blend of fancy gadgets and brute force on behalf of the Queen’s country.
However, despite the missions being packed full of action, after playing Modern Warfare 3 (also an Activision title), the game always feels like it is running on half-speed. The pace and sense of scale of GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is steady, but it lacks the intensity of recent first-person shooters.
This is hardly a gripe, though. In fact considering you’re James Bond, it’s highly appropriate. Even Daniel Craig’s hardened, brutish modern take on Mr. Bond doesn’t have him carving up armies like Rambo.
Instead you’ll need to find cover and pick off enemies conservatively with an eye toward health, ammo, and alerting other guards. It would be fair to say that with the modern film adaptions, many people have forgetten that James Bond is actually meant to be a spy. To remind us of this, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded has some stealth elements thrown in at various points throughout the game. Sneakily infiltrating enemy hide-outs and incapacitating unaware guards with close-quarter take-downs is good fun, but most of the time it’s just easier to shoot them the face with a silencer. That’s how the new 007 rolls.
In order to bring the storyline up to today’s setting, several changes have been made to GoldenEye’s storyline, replacing the Cold War with the post 9/11 world of terrorism. But despite that, the general plot remains unchanged.
It opens up with MI6 investigating a chemical weapons plant before the situation escalates into a global meltdown between the Russians and the rest of the world. Fans will be happy to hear that Bruce Feirstein, the original screenwriter for the 1995 movie of GoldenEye, is still involved with this Daniel Craig adaptation too.
Set pieces are brought to life in spectacular fashion thanks to the rebooted visuals and a peppering of well-placed quick-time events actually add to the gameplay, rather than detract from it. Daniel Craig lends his own take on James Bond through-out as well, giving the dialogue a much-welcomed update from Brosnan’s admirable, but ultimately swarmy one-liners.
In an homage to the original N64 game, players can even turn off the health-regeneration (a core-staple in today’s FPS titles) and switch to the original static health bar where you have to snag pick-ups to heal. However the highly tuned AI, limited pick-ups, and long-winded missions make playing it this way a sadistic experience. Only Sean Connery himself would be man enough to try it.
The real talking point here though, is the multiplayer. I have a lot of respect for FPS games that include split-screen action. In this age of online play, it’s an art that has been long forgotten by most developers. Fragging someone in Sweden is good fun, but nothing can beat lobbing a grenade at your mate as he sits next to you on the sofa.
GoldenEye 007: Reloaded delivers an almost identical four-way split screen experience to the original N64 version, complete with fun modifiers like paintball ammo, infinite ammo, and Melee Only modes. Unfortunately, even this next-gen port tends to lag slightly over the four-player split-screen during moments of intense action, but it is a rare occurrence and unnoticable across two player split-screen.
Naturally the game also has your stock-standard online multiplayer modes as well. In a similar vein to the Call of Duty titles, there are nine multiplayer modes across fourteen well laid out maps, often featuring wide open spaces and narrow corridors to vary the action.
Although most of the modes are familiar to any FPS player, the Golden Gun mode obviously lends itself perfectly to the 007 vibe. But it’s the cast of playable characters that gives this game a unique feel. Notably Oddjob with his ‘throwable insta-kill’ bowler hat and small, ‘hard to hit’ physique. Meanwhile the Frankenstein-like Jaws who has a face only a blind mother could love is enough to make you drop your weapon and run away screaming like Timothy Dalton.
As you would expect in today’s market, Reloaded includes a multiplayer ranking system so players can level up to unlock new weapons, gadgets, and even advanced modifiers. But considering Activision’s other shooter, Modern Warfare 3, is doing the rounds, finding full 16 player matches can be a difficult task. That being said though, the calmer online modes found here do make a pleasant change from the manic, often insanely lop-sided matches from rival online shooters.
Overall, Reloaded is a warm, sweet slice of nostalgia pie. It’s reminiscent of everything we loved in the original N64 version, while updating the visuals to make it sit comfortably in the next-gen tier of video games.
Although the game isn’t ground-breaking, it’s well worth that trip down memory lane - especially to anyone who didn’t play the Wii version.