Goldeneye was the N64 game for the time, and still the shining example of good licensed games. By completely changing the FPS to objective-based instead of just running through the level looking for the exit, it had a huge impact on the genre that wouldn’t be matched until Halo. When Nintendo announced that the Wii would have N64 games to buy on the Virtual Console, it became one of the most requested, but thanks to the many licensing problems involved, it never came about…until Activision announced they were completely remaking the game for Wii.
Replacing Pierce Brosnan with Daniel Craig, the plot remains much the same, involving the Janus syndicate, an EMP-resistant helicopter, and the Goldeneye satellite. I’ve never seen the movie, so I can’t really say how much had to be changed for this game. It does seem to feel just plain weird to still be fighting Russians. I’m sure it had a better effect back when it was closer to the end of the Cold War, but now it just feels like they chose a standard villain. The plot also seems very incidental, which I suppose is similar to the original game’s almost entirely skippable plot.
What’s not a good change to the game is the constant effects of the current FPS genre on it. Regenerating health I can deal with in most cases, but too often the game has enemies attacking from all sides. You can’t really get to cover so much as run around like a maniac trying to find the magic spot where nobody can shoot you. Enemies can also throw grenades at you to make you run screaming, even though you can’t throw grenades (strangely, you can throw them in multiplayer, making their exclusion from single player even worse). All of the more open-ended levels of the original game, that either felt spacious or maze-like, have been reduced down to what might as well be a straight line. You simply follow the objective, occasionally stopping to do side-objectives. Honestly, it seems like they borrowed more from Call of Duty than they did Goldeneye.
And yet they didn’t borrow the setpieces, or even the Bond moments. While constantly changing up gameplay doesn’t exactly hit with some people, I feel it’s my favorite part of Bond, that you have an excuse to switch up between action and driving and stealth. Everything or Nothing, one of the PS2-era Bond games, hit it so perfectly with Bond moments, where you get rewarded for doing special things like Bond would do. There’s just none of that here. You shoot enemies, you move on, you shoot some enemies next to explosives, you move on, you shoot some more enemies. You can be stealthy, but it’s difficult and unrewarding. The second a guy sees you, the alarms go off and more guards come in. You can’t go back into hiding like in Metal Gear Solid, you just get a bigger fight. There’s a few moments where it seems like the game developers really hit it, like a quick scene on a motorcycle as you ride up toward a plane. Instead of controlling it, you have to shoot other baddies on motorcycles along the way. It’s a nice touch, and yet it only lasts for about a minute. Where was this in the rest of the game?
I tried a little bit of online multiplayer, and it was decent. The deathmatch gametype seemed to throw everything you had learned about cover out, since the whole thing was just everybody running around shooting each other. I also tried a mode called Goldeneye, which involves trying to take over control hubs. It was better, but it also made me wish for a killcam. On one stage, I kept spawning, running towards a hub, and immediately getting shot. There was no indication where the shot had come from, no way to see the enemy after my death, like Call of Duty or Team Fortress 2 have, and considering that I kept getting taken out with one shot, there was really nothing I could do.
Goldeneye isn’t necessarily a bad game. It’s certainly a solid FPS. It’s just…a solid FPS. There’s nothing that makes it really stand out and say “Wow”. Not to mention that it’s living in the shadow of one of the classics. If they had renamed this something else, maybe I wouldn’t be so hard on it. As it is, it just made me want to play the original again.