The living room of the average games reviewer is not a tidy one. You’ve got all the major consoles. You’ve very possibly got a debug console or three. You’ve got controllers spilling out of drawers plus assorted other peripherals taking up cupboard space.
This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is if you’re married / in a long term relationship / sharing a flat. For me (option one) it means a generally tolerated bit of mayhem. It also means that all the new kit arriving meant a teary farewell to a much loved console and one legendary, much played game. The console consigned to fate? The N64. The legendary, much played – and now much missed – game? Goldeneye.
I have friends who still talk of 36 hour multiplayer sessions EVERY weekend for a year. I have another who made his housemate confiscate his N64 a week before finals when he realised playing James Bond might cost him his degree. I have yet another who’s long emigrated but still bears a (I think) joking grudge for the night I managed to blow him time after time with a missile launcher.
The news then that Goldeneye was to be revamped for the Wii was met with mixed emotions. On the one hand, the chance to relive some of those days was as exciting as exciting gets to us couch potatoes. On the other... what’s that line about the past being a different country? The announcement that it was to be a reinvention and now feature Daniel Craig’s gritty Bond was also a little worrying. Yes, there’s a need to bring it up to date but have a little heart chaps!
Now though, in one of those days that makes the intermittent pay and irregular hours all worthwhile, I’ve had a chance to have a little play on the new title (come on, who wants to touch me?). I’ve also had a bit of a chat with some of the people involved. The result is I’m quite pathetically excited about the day in November a finished copy drops through my door.
As the folk behind the game explained, they were very aware with what they were dealing with. The original Goldeneye was the first first-person shooter on a console, so they knew they had to treat it with respect. TO do that, they put together the biggest team they’ve ever had – 125 people at its peak – and assigned 40 of those to the cinematic quality and detail. They’ve linked up with the Bond film people, they’ve roped in the real Daniel Craig and Judi Dench to provide voices. They’ve put the locations together with a Hollywood set designer. They’ve got David Arnold to do the music – the first time he’s done a video game. They got Daniel Craig’s stunt double to body map movements, fighting techniques and takedowns. They’ve even brought back the classic controller. And – oh happy day – they’ve brought back the old school multiplayer game, with 50 playable characters (including eight “classic” characters like Bond and Oddjob) and all the brilliant silliness.
Of course, they also needed to bring it up to date while keeping a sense of the nostalgia. While there’s a lot of goodwill from gamers of, ahem, a certain age, if the game doesn’t hold up to 2010 standards then there’s very little point.
And while my opinion is, admittedly, only based on a decent bit of multiplayer action and a run through the opening “infiltrate the dam” scene and the revamped (and very exciting) tank chase, they appear to have achieved their goals. This is a slick, graphically impressive experience, a reimagining that’s both faithful to my memories from 12 years ago and has been rubber stamped by the Bond people.
The key changes are the look of the game – it’s not just a rehash of the original settings – and the “Craiging” up of the Bond character. There are no silly gadgets (that blooming laser watch), just a gun (and any guns he picks up of course) plus a smart phone that can do all sorts of useful things. There are also clever little additions such as the ability to choose, at certain points, whether you go stealthy or gung ho: whichever you choose will, somewhat cutely, be reflected in the “dynamic music system” so it’s funky score if you’re going for action or quieter and suspenseful if you’re creeping up on the bad guys.
Quite frankly, the game itself is pretty academic. If it’s good – and it appears to be very good – that’s a massive bonus. If it’s not but they’ve got the multiplayer right – and they appear to have got it spot on – then I and a lot of people will forgive them anything. There is one extra thing however. This time round the multiplayer has online capability. Let the record show: you might have moved 4000 miles away, mate, but I’m coming to get you sunshine. Again.