I must admit to harbouring fairly low expectations for Eurocom's Goldeneye reimagining. After seeing early builds in action and trying it out at Gamescom, I was genuinely concerned that it wouldn't be fit for task. However, after extensively testing the final version, I have to hold my hands up and admit that my fears were completely unfounded. Double oh snap!
Eurocom have made no secret of the fact that this new Goldeneye is designed to stand apart from Rare's original and be judged entirely on its own merits... and they state their intent within minutes of the opening cutscene. After a nostalgia-packed sixty seconds at Arkhangelsk, Bond and Trevelyan are thrown into a high octane truck shootout through enemy territory. Make no mistake, folks, the counter-intuitive sprawls and confusing retro stylings of the original would have translated very poorly into the 21st century (as we discovered in the XBLA reskin of the original Perfect Dark), and this is a remake in name alone. Which, as it turns out, was entirely the right direction to take.
The vast majority of Goldeneye's 14 missions conform to the same basic, if entertaining, concept. Large areas with small roving patrols of guards usually stand between Bond and his objective. These sections can be completed with pure stealth; either by sneaking past enemies or using the silenced Walther P99 and close combat takedowns to neutralise foes. If you accidentally blow your cover (or just feel like bringing the rain), you'll have a few seconds to kill the offending enemy before they raise the alarm- which tends to summon a tactical response team of beastly soldiers to deal with. Once they're dispatched, the next section of guards are unaware to your presence and the whole cycle starts all over again. This core action would feel at home on on the PS2 or original Xbox... but there's no denying that it's fantastic fun. The lack of instant-fail stealth is refreshing and brilliant- and also means that the game can be played through in many different ways. Replayability much?
While we're on the subject of replayability, it's worth mentioning that Eurocom subscribe to the classic Rare school of additional objectives for each difficulty level. This alone means that the game is different each time you ramp the difficulty up- providing substantial extra value. Naturally, the higher difficulties also bring back the "when it's gone, it's gone" arcuate health bars.
Don't get me wrong. There are a fair few nods to modern FPS design- all of which work incredibly well. Crouching down and aiming allows you to pop up over cover and take your shots from safety, essentially providing a cover system without any restrictive hassle. Slow motion breaching sections, linear set pieces and a vehicle-based level also make an unsurprising appearance, but they're integrated well and actually add to the gameplay rather than feeling tacked-on and peripheral. A swanky smartphone replaces Pierce Brosnan's range of gadgets and can be used to hack turrets from range. Oh, and there's naturally a decent arsenal of real-world weaponry to play with.
My only real gripe about the campaign is that it doesn't quite nail the quintessential James Bond vibe. You'll usually feel like a generic FPS protagonist rather than the legendary super spy, though part of this may be down to using the bare-bones Daniel Craig rather than his suave predecessor. More recognisable theme music (da da daaa daaaaa!) and a greater smattering of classic moments would have sealed the deal. As would bringing back Sean Bean instead of his weak replacement.
Visually, Goldeneye 007 is solid for a Wii title. Lapses in draw distance and stuttering framerate aren't uncommon- but there are plenty of excellent little flourishes, destroyable cover and particle effects to compensate. The sound design, on the other hand, is absolutely astounding. Weapon SFX, explosions, brooding music and an satisfying headshot 'stinger' are all spot on.
Goldeneye makes no bones about being designed primarily for the Wii Classic Controller pad, which feels natural and responsive to any shooter fan. Don't worry, though: because you won't be left high and dry if you haven't got one. The tried-and-tested Wiimote/Nunchuck style works well enough (if a bit disorientating in splitscreen) and provides a decent substitute- but unfortunately the same can't be said of the Wii Zapper. You'll have to awkwardly lunge for the Wiimote's face buttons every few seconds, which is both uncomfortable and impractical in combat. Don't bother.
Multiplayer: Your Way
Split-screen multiplayer was the crux of Rare's original masterpiece- and Eurocom has treated it with due reverence. You'll throw down in small to mid-sized arenas with a slew of familiar modifiers that can tweak almost every aspect of the gameplay. Want radar? Paintballs? Golden Gun? You got it. Subway has nothing on the bespoke game sandwiches that Goldeneye will let you customise and chow down on. Gameplay itself is fast and immediate- though it does feel a little dated when compared to its Next-Gen rivals. On the Wii, however, it's practically unmatched and is fun for players of all abilities.
Online multiplayer brings a new and worthwhile dimension to the package. As you'd expect from an Activision FPS, it's packed with experience, characters, ranks and accolades that make taking part as rewarding as winning. It won't lure you away from the likes of Black Ops or Halo Reach- but it does provide Wii owners with a great MP experience that's unrivalled on the console. The netcode is a little patchy, mind- with inherent lag when playing on transatlantic servers even with a speedy connection. I'd suggest staying European as much as possible.
- Good, clean fun from start to finish
- Solid gameplay with plenty of nifty features and massive value
- Comparatively good graphics and fantastic sound design
- Doesn't really make you feel like James Bond
- Occasional lapses in frame rate and draw distance
- Where's Sean Bean?!!
The Short Version: Eurocom have done a fantastic job with Goldeneye 007. They've created a shooter that can stand on its own merits without relying on nostalgia for Rare's original- and that prioritises good honest fun over everything else. The comprehensive multiplayer suite is extremely impressive for a Wii title, making it an essential purchase for FPS fans who've still stayed loyal to Nintendo's console.