Once upon a time, when I was knee high to a grasshopper, Nintendo brought out a Rare developed shooter that took the console world by storm. Sure, first person shooters were nothing new in a world that already featured the likes of Doom and Duke Nukem, but GoldenEye 007 brought solid control and addictive multiplayer the likes of which consoles had never seen. Since the game has aged rather poorly in the intervening 13 years, the time is ripe for a remake of sorts. Fortunately, Activision and Eurocom have taken everything that was great in the original game, while allowing it to retain an identity all of its own. All they've done is create the quintessential Wii shooter experience, one that will finally have 360 and PS3 owners looking on with envy.
In tackling the remake, the developers have gone the extra mile by updating the GoldenEye story to feature current Hollywood Bond Daniel Craig. The story is told with more grit than even the original GoldenEye film, and I'll take Craig's Bond over Pierce Brosnan's any day. The story and action beats remain largely the same with similar action set pieces and standard James Bond plotline.
Gameplay actually takes more cues from Call of Duty than the original game, which is to be expected considering Activision owns the rights to both series. The game is played entirely through a first person view, and features loads of thrilling scripted action sequences and the patented Call of Duty shooting galleries. Generally you'll spend about 70 per cent of your time shooting enemies, and another 30 being sneaky and exploring the levels for objectives. In a nice touch, the harder difficulties have you completing more objectives. The objectives are generally easy to find with a little exploration, and usually involve you hacking computers with your smartphone or finding intelligence. These sections do a good job of reinforcing the fact that Bond is a spy, and not just some Rambo wannabe mowing down his enemies. The smartphone is generally the only gadget you'll use, but its ease of use and flexibility means more time spent in action than fiddling with pointless minigames. During the game you'll be able to carry two guns of your choice, plus Bond's trusty Walther P99 silenced pistol. The game features the standard array of machine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles.
The gunplay is intense and satisfying, and the game gives you a slew of options for controlling the game, including the Wiimote and nunchuk combo, classic controller, or even a Gamecube controller. With so many options, it makes setting up a split screen game easy out of the box, but we'll get back to that later. With just a little practice, it's obvious that the game was meant to be played with the Wii-mote pointer. The analog sticks on the controllers simply can't match the accuracy and quick aiming of the pointer, and playing the game this way provides a fresh control scheme that never gets old. In a nice touch, Eurocom included a ton of OCD type control options for sensitivity and pointer dead zones which allow you to configure the controls just to your liking.
A very well implemented cover system completes the satisfying shooting package. When you aim down your sights, Bond will instantly poke his head over cover, and with a turn of the nunchuk, Bond can also peek around corners for a better shot or to scan his surroundings.
The stealth portions are also nicely implemented. Generally, most rooms in the game allow you to stealthily find your way through without relying on gunplay. Being stealthy requires a fair bit of patience and skill, but is essential for getting through the harder difficulty levels. A variety of takedown animations ensure that the stealth remains just as fresh as a well placed headshot. The fantastic AI may seem a little too aware of their surroundings at times, but rarely does failure feel like poor design over a mistake you've made yourself.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the action set pieces that pepper the experience, including an awesome tank level that has you shooting down helicopters and causing massive property damage. All your favourite scenes and set pieces from both the movie and the N64 game are well accounted for here, and its fun to see them from a redone perspective. A smattering of quick time events punctuate some of the action scenes, but their inclusion is not over done like in other shooters. For the sadistic nostalgics amongst you, there is a 007 Classic mode that does away with regenerating health, and has you picking up armour pick ups. There are also time trials to run through, but the unskippable cutscenes cut into the enjoyment of timed runs, and in retrying difficult sections for that matter.
Once you're done with eight or so hour campaign, there's a full suite of multiplayer options that put every other Wii shooter to shame. GoldenEye's roots are in split screen multiplayer, and Wii version plays those roots with the utmost respect. Nearly all of the modifiers and options from the N64 version make an appearance, such as paintball mode and licence to kill (one shot kills). The variety will keep you and your friends trying new options all night. Just don't forget to punch anyone who picks Oddjob, the cheating bastard.
The only caveat to the split screen is that the frame suffers quite a bit during the more hectic moments, but it's not even close to a deal breaker. The levels from the N64 version don't make an appearance, but in their place are some very well designed levels that feature equal parts open space and narrow corridors.
The online multiplayer is a revelation on the Wii. True, control scheme aside, there's nothing here that PS3 and Xbox 360 owners haven't been enjoying for a few years now, but GoldenEye brings these features to the Wii with flair. Much like Call of Duty, GoldenEye uses a perks system that grants you experience as you play the game. Killing players ranked higher than you, getting several kills in a row, or good old fashioned headshots will grant you extra experience, which can then be used to unlock new guns, gadgets, and even new gameplay modes.
Best of all, the online play is buttery smooth, and I never encountered game breaking lag in any of four separate online sessions. There's no support for voice chat in the game, which means planning strategies with other players is impossible, but also means that you don't have to listen to prepubescent jerkwads spewing racial slurs in your ear. Win some, lose some I guess. This is easily the best online multiplayer experience on the Wii. A well designed friends system also makes setting up games and matches a snap, and only requires a one time entry of those infernal Nintendo Friend Codes.
One thing I'm tiring of as a reviewer is saying that a game looks good "for a Wii game," but the old standby applies here. By Wii standards, GoldenEye is a stunner. Fantastic weather effects, destructible cover, expessive faces, fluid animation, and well detailed textures and environments make this as good as a standard definition game on the big screen can look. On the negative side, jagged edges are everywhere; the frame rate stutters during some of the larger set pieces, and bodies will fade out of existence two seconds after their death. The graphical presentation is as good as we could ask out of the meagre Wii hardware, but it's hard to go back after all the gorgeous HD shooters out there.
Acoustically, GoldenEye is also a winner. Daniel Craig is here as Bond, and Judi Dench makes an appearance as M. In general, the voice acting is very good, although a few secondary performances are phoned in. The familiar Bond theme and accompanying orchestral score are also fantastic. Finally, the guns sound great, and bullets make a satisfying sound as they make contact with flesh. It'd be great to have the game in true 5.1 surround sound, but I'm done lamenting the limitations of the Wii hardware at this point.
If you're like me, and your Wii has been collecting dust for a while, there's never been a better time to dust it off for some fantastic shooter action. GoldenEye 007 proves that excellent game design and superb action can overcome limitations of hardware or dated graphical presentation and is the rare Wii game that is just as compelling and addictive online or off. Here is a game that rests more on fantastic game design than any nostalgic laurels, and is well worth your time and money. Highly recommended.