Almost a year to the day after the Wii release of the N64 classic, Goldeneye comes to next-gen consoles as Goldeneye 007: Reloaded. A revamped, remixed, updated take on the games based on the original FPS multiplayer extravaganza which turns 14 this year, Reloaded is an interesting attempt to recapture the magic but its odd mix of Call of Duty-style combat with the cramped level design of the original makes for an odd fit.
The return of a beloved classic
In the past few years, when you asked gamers which classic titles were in need of a remake, you'd get one of two answers from 1997: Square's Final Fantasy VII and the Rare-developed shooter, Goldeneye. Square--now Square-Enix--has been pretty upfront that the cost and the effort don't make sense for an HD remake of FFVII, so for the foreseeable future, that one's out. But over the last few years, there have been hints and flirtations with flipping and releasing an updated version of the best Bond game ever made, but licensing issues, challenges associated with the likenesses of the film's actors, and a whole host of other issues kept Goldeneye from making its return. In fact, there are still rumors of a downloadable version of the original for XBLA and the Virtual Console, but there's been no (known) movement on those fronts for years.
The campaign, reloaded
Enter last year's remake of Goldeney for the Wii. Developed by Eurocom, the studio behind the Wii title Dead Space: Extraction as well as Quantum of Solace (2008), Goldeneye 007 gave the original game's script, music, graphics, weapons, multiplayer, and modes a tweak before sending it out into shooter-starved Wii. The original movie's plot which had ties to Soviet-era crises featuring then-Bond Pierce Brosnan get revamped for a more current take on the material, making it tonally more in line with the recent Daniel Craig movies and even replacing the newest Bond as the lead in the story and game. Additionally, all of the likenesses of actors from the film have been stripped out, so sorry, no Sean Bean, no Famke, Janssen, no Robbie Coltrane, and no Alan Cumming. Even the Tina Turner-sung theme has a Turner-a-like belting out the tune over the credits sequence as there's an odd sense of not-quite-right deja vu: as though you've been here before but it's all different.
Consider it Flashpoint Bond, perhaps.
And here we are in 2011, with the same game getting an HD port to the 360 and PS3, and it's jarring considering Goldeneye 2011 against its 1997 counterpart. We're talking about two different eras of gameplay and controls, radically different styles of thought about how you would play an FPS on a console and what multiplayer means to this kind of game. Looking specifically at the campaign, you can feel influence of Modern Warfare throughout (run with the left stick, melee with the right) and it can't help feeling weird overlaid upon my memories of the more deliberate original.
The actual campaign will take you about 6-8 hours to complete and hits all of the big moments of the previous games while actually having the benefit of real-world weapons and some expanded content (the tank section, in particular is a welcome respite from the running and gunning until it becomes a chore). There's still the emphasis on getting through the level without being detected by the game's enemies, but stealth isn't always Reloaded's strong suit given the sometimes inconsistent line-of-sight of its enemy AI. Still, melee takedowns on unsuspecting enemies is pretty satisfying thanks to the quick, context-sensitive animations Bond is able to execute.
Your watch from the original game has been replaced by an all-purpose smartphone that's able to reprogram turrets and snap photos. The game gives you a nudge when you're able to use your phone, but it might have been nice if there was a little less need for hand holding when it came to using Bond's new gadget. Similarly, in the default game modes, your health is represented by the CoD-style screen bleed instead of the armor and health meters from the original (although this feature returns if you choose to play the game on the hardest difficulty setting).
And kind of weird: weapons. Yeah, this game shoots like Modern Warfare but I never got the feeling that I was being given full use of the game's arsenal. Of course, you'll always have your trust P99 and pick up a variety of sniper rifles and sub machine guns, but sometimes there are grenades being lobbed at you and rockets propelled your way and you simply want to give as good as you get. Actually, the most unusual thing is that you don't get to throw a grenade once during the campaign, although it is a feature of multiplayer.
Reloaded has Playstation Move support for that console as well as achievements/trophies for its respective system.
MI6 Ops: It's Like Spec Ops, but with the Bond theme
There can't possibly be any part of that line that's not clear: new to the Reloaded port, you get a series of missions that will see you attempting to take out a set number of enemies, avoid detection, protect and protect an objective. It's almost exactly Call of Duty mode with Bond franchise flourishes (read: the music). If you got really excited about the way the game handles in the campaign, this is the mode for you.
Hey, are you into shooters with progression and weapon unlocks exactly like CoD? Yup, Reloaded's got that, bringing over all of the multiplayer modes from the Wii version including the return of four-player splitscreen and with the addition of 16-player online support, and the new Escalation gameplay mode, where you'll have to kill enemies with a preset weapon before you can get bumped up to another one. The pvp combat here is solid enough although the levels feel a little claustrophobic and drab.
Reloaded never feels sloppy-well, okay, the final boss fight is a mess, but otherwise--however it does feel like a halfway measure. The pleasure of the original game was precisely its anachronistic mechanics and feel. But overlaying modern gameplay over the context of that game doesn't really gel as well as it should. It's a solid shooter but never really gets beyond that because it's competing against a former version of itself. And it's a little disappointing (although not fatal) that we could get neither the classic, quirky shooter that we miss or a completely revamped version of the game that Reloaded seems to want to be.