Image: Activision.

Love it or hate it, there’s no debate that 1997’s GoldenEye for the N64 changed gaming forever. The single and multiplayer components revolutionized the way console gamers played, and it’s arguable the title is more responsible than any other for the modern obsession with the FPS genre.

GoldenEye’s rebooted reappearance for Wii hasn’t set the world on fire the way the original did, and it’s pretty obvious why. The original broke new ground in ways great and small, it was a legitimately new experience for millions. GoldenEye for Wii is a nothing more than a competent shooter that plays things safely similar to contemporary titles like Call of Duty.

Story

GoldenEye’s story is a difficult one to put into the broader Bond timeline. There’s no Pierce Brosnan here, he’s been replaced by his real-life successor Daniel Craig, but Judy Dench as M is still here. Even more strangely, the setting has also been updated for the modern era. Alec Trevelyan is now a thief rather than a Lienz Cossack out for revenge.

The re-write isn’t nearly as engaging as that found in the movie, or what of it that carried over to the original game. I found myself much less intrigued by the back story of the characters presented. Trevelyan was probably the stand out for me, his ranting anti-banker statements had me ready to sign up for his side rather than the bland status quo the heroes stood for.

Image: Activision.

Controls

The Wii offers something different and certainly more precise than its twin-sticked competitors. Pointer control is here and highly customizable, but the marketers of this game have actually opted to push control settings more familiar to those who play FPSes on 360 and PS3. One nice touch is the availability of a special SKU for this game which includes a gold coloured Classic Controller Pro. It’s a neat collectible for sure, but the de-emphasis on pointer control seems to indicate a belief in the superiority of dual-stick controls, something which titles like Metroid Prime 3 have already thoroughly dismissed.

There’s also something especially touchy about the way control operates in this game that makes it feel unnecessarily uncomfortable, especially with the pointer. I had no trouble playing The Conduit with pointer control and enjoyed the game far more than it deserved in large part because of it. Here, I found myself grinding my teeth over a mysterious inability to ever shoot quite where I wanted.

My best guess is that the style of gameplay employed here, one very similar to Call of Duty, is too “bouncy” to work with that style of control. The amount of kick on guns in the game, the level to which the player is jostled around by the action of the game, and even the exaggerated animations of the running all hinder precision control. Switching to the Classic Controller helped mitigate the issue for me somewhat, but not entirely.

Gameplay

Being a fan of the original GoldenEye is by no means a prerequisite for enjoying game. Indeed, the two titles are so dissimilar in their gameplay that it is entirely possible to love one and despise the other. A better guide to determining if GoldenEye is the FPS for you is to ask yourself if you enjoy the Call of Duty franchise, as it plays much more like that series than it does any sort of theoretical evolution or adaptation of the original GoldenEye’s playstyle.

In single player, the gamer is pushed along linear paths with little chance to explore or get lost. Rather than leave gameplay open and risk players getting lost or bogged down in puzzles, Eurocom has opted to guide players with navigational arrows always pointing them where to go.

The multiplayer is similarly reminiscent of Call of Duty, with Bond themed play settings and characters thrown in for flavouring. Online multiplayer is competent for a Wii game but still lags devastatingly behind what the competition offers on other consoles. The chance for four-player split screen is probably the stand-out touch for the title’s multiplayer component, as that choice is slowly disappearing from FPSes. There’s no doubt that local multiplayer was the biggest selling point of the original GoldenEye, and it’s nice to see an homage to at least aspect of that game.

Image: Activision.

Graphics and Sound

GoldenEye’s menus and overall aesthetic are slick and smart. The opening cinematic is an eye-catching Bond-styled musical spectacular that sets up the game well. In-game graphics are competent but not stunning. The developers here were clearly aiming for that bland, “realistic” look, but that tends to only excite people when it’s done on the latest and greatest hardware.

The sound features a good mix of classic Bond tunes. Daniel Craig as the voice of James Bond is decent, but I got the impression he was phoning it in. Judy Dench as M is, well, Judy Dench, she’s so good it would make even the best look bad.

Overall

GoldenEye is decent. It’s competent. It clearly had a sizable budget. The reason for the game’s existence is obviously, in large part, an attempt to cash in on the positive connotations the name carries for the Nintendo faithful, but the developers do not appear to have openly disrespected the hardware or its audience. All of these things are refreshing to see from a third party developer working on the Wii, but none of them are especially mind blowing either.

There are plenty of reasons to play this game. Maybe you’re curious to see what they did with the story. Maybe you’ve been missing FPS gaming on your Nintendo systems and just need something with some effort behind it to sate your appetite. Having said that, if you don’t enjoy Call of Duty, you probably won’t enjoy this game. And if you’re an obsessive Call of Duty player on other systems, you’ll probably find this title lacking.

Review: GoldenEye 007 (Wii)

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