I've remained fairly sceptical about Eurocom's reimagining of Goldeneye for some time. Rare's cult classic is a truly important milestone that deserves nothing less than reverential treatment- and cloistered away in Activision's trade booth, I was able to get some hands on time with an unfinished preview build of the upcoming shooter so that it could make some important first impressions. The Bond pedigree is undeniably top-notch, with Goldeneye's original writer Bruce Feirstein recalled to update the script to a 2010 setting. Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench provide the voice acting... so in theory, this ought to be a dead cert.
Goldeneye's singleplayer campaign will apparently last around 8-12 hours, and has four difficulty settings that include the original arcuate life bars rather than regenerating health. Eurocom have been tasked to build the maps around the “temple of player choice.” The level on show is simply titled 'Jungle,' and was fittingly set in the dense forests of Nigeria (updated from Cuba, which provided the backdrop in Rare's 1997 version). Players can choose a mix of action and/or stealth to complete each mission, with Bond able to shoot his way out of dangerous situations once his cover is blown. As the rep proudly stated, “Bond doesn't instafail missions.”
Stealth worked fairly well thanks to Bond's trusty silenced pistol, which delivered painless headshots that were accompanied by an bassy audio 'stinger' for effect. Along the linear forest path, the rep occasionally pointed out that there was a choice between two routes... but when one path ends in a massive guard post and the other in a nice safe walk through the woods, there's only really one option regardless of play style. Several of these sections were guarded by automatic turrets that could be hacked with Bond's smartphone by pressing a single button- or deactivated by shooting their control computer. Whilst this binary choice was a nice touch, it still boils down to an extremely facile decision that doesn't really stack up with today's more complex shooters. What's more, the gameplay doesn't really offer anything unique to the James Bond franchise- and unfortunately feels like 'just another' FPS that just happens to feature Daniel Craig on the boxart. As I've said, this level is taken out of context from a work in progress... so it's possible that later levels provide a more authentic 007 experience. I hope that they do.
Even though Goldeneye is a work in progress, there's just no getting past the fact that its visuals are being hampered by their platform of choice. Eurocom were eager to assure me that the graphics had significantly improved since the E3 announcement trailer- and it's still a work in progress- but the jungle level still looks absolutely shocking on a fairly big LCD screen compared to the Dam and Facility demo. This is a mainly a indictment of the Wii's graphical capabilities, but Goldeneye isn't anywhere near as capable as the top-tier titles on Nintendo's console. Looks certainly aren't everything for Wii games; but without a distinctive art style, the limp texturing and cardboard cutout scenery becomes a lot more noticeable.
As you're probably aware, Goldeneye will support 4 player splitscreen and 8-player online multiplayer. A slew of modifiers can be activated to change the including a melee mode where characters grow gratuitously big hands and the classic paintball gametype. In a refreshing change of pace for a Wii title, the online mode will allow players to earn experience points, gain ranks and unlock a selection of perks and weapons over time. A team-based objective mode will also be making an appearance upon release.
The selection of characters is enormous- and is ironically where Goldeneye actually starts to show some genuine character of its own. Fan favourites such as Oddjob and Jaws will make a new appearance, but 38 others (including the menacing voodoo henchman Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die) will also be available for selection. Eurocom has worked closely with MGM to secure genuine soundbites from each of the films- and each feels fairly unique to use. Oddjob has his hat. Jaws is tall. You know the drill.
After throwing down in a 10-kill deathmatch, I happy to say that it's showing some serious promise. Movement speed feels clunky and slow, however, and I can honestly say that it doesn't really bring anything new to the table since 1997. Everything's almost exactly the same... except that now we've had 13 years for other games to take the spotlight. Listen, fanboys, I love the original- but in my opinion a full priced reimagining can't afford to sit back and ride on its predecessor's coat tails. This will be either fantastic news or an annoyance depending on your love for the original- so if you're looking for a nostalgia trip, you'll almost certainly be satisfied.
From what I've seen, Goldeneye 007 is shaping up to be a solid FPS... but not by today's standards. I'd have lapped up everything about my hands on time if this was slated for the Gamecube several years ago, but from what I've seen, it needs to be seriously brought into line with more modern game experiences. There's plenty of time for Eurocom to polish up their product- and I'm sure that they will- but it's currently producing creeping anxiety rather than warm nostalgia. I genuinely hope that my fears are unfounded.