Publisher: Activision / Developer: Eurocom / Price: $59.99 / Played on: Xbox 360 / ESRB: Teen [Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence]
Before we start, let me put all my cards on the table. I played the original N64 version of GoldenEye back in high school with a buddy of mine, but I never owned the game. While I had a good time playing deathmatches, I never got into first-person shooters, and it’s still a bit of a tough sell for me. That said, I was eager to sink my teeth into this revamped classic that defined the genre for consoles. Would Reloaded instill the love of first-person shooters that so many of my peers learned from the original? Or would James Bond fail in his mission to recruit me to MI6, leaving me cold to this genre for good?
Even if you’ve never played the original game on which Reloaded is based, you know what’s in store if you’ve played any console-based first-person shooter. In a nutshell, as James Bond, Agent 007 of the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6, it’s your duty to shoot your way through various levels set around the world and stop the villains’ plans for world domination. Along the way, Bond picks up various kinds of weapons ranging from pistols to machine guns to sniper rifles, with plenty of varieties in between. Though there are a number of guns in the game, Bond can only carry a maximum of three at a time—and one must always be Bond’s standard-issue P99 pistol, forcing players to make snap judgments about what guns are right for each mission.
During most missions, players usually have opportunities to perform stealth-kills on the bad guys, sometimes sneaking up and taking them out by hand, or by shooting them at range with a silenced pistol or sniper rifle. These are some of the most enjoyable parts of the single-player experience, as avoiding detection offers more tension and skill than simply running and gunning.
Overall, the game offers “classic” GoldenEye gameplay with modern, dual-stick controls. Of course, some modern flourishes of action-gaming were conspicuous by their absence: there was no way to hug the wall and fire around cover, an addition that would really have helped during shootouts. Enemies disappear Jedi-style after being killed, a throwback to a more innocent brand of FPS before enemies learned to notice dead bodies. And though some portions require you to hack enemy turrets or door-mechanisms with your smartphone, overall these sequences felt oversimplified and shoehorned onto the game to make it seem more “secret agenty.” As a whole, the game feels a bit dated—which is understandable, considering it’s a remake of a 14 year old game.
In short, I rarely felt like a secret agent at all, let alone James Bond himself. Mostly I felt like “anonymous guy with a gun.” While a generic first-person shooter may have been a great vehicle for a Bond game back in 1997, these days the character would benefit from something more unique. Still, the game is undeniably solid and, for the most part, a fun time.
Of course, the real draw for the original GoldenEye was the multiplayer, and that’s kind of a mixed bag in this remake. It’s no secret that multiplayer FPS games have come a long way since the N64 adventure set the standard for consoles. And while the game sports the sheen of some added options and features (like specialized character weapons, more varied multiplayer maps, and tons of customization for multiplayer mods and settings), at the end of the day there isn’t much here you can’t get better elsewhere.
I kept encountering server errors when trying to find a quickmatch in regular conflict (deathmatch) mode, and the squad-based modes, which seemed error-free for some reason, simply led to me dying from one-hit kills. Repeatedly. Needless to say, this didn’t motivate me to stick around.
Local multiplayer, like the original, is where I had the most fun, since trash-talking in person with people you know will always beat getting insta-killed by some 12-year old in Texas. But this means you suffer the curse of split-screen, resulting in diminished visuals.
Even still, if you’ve got three likeminded friends (because there are no AI-controlled bots available) and you’re looking to have some retro-style FPS fun, GoldenEye’s local multiplayer delivers. But if you want a contemporary multiplayer experience, there’s an abundance of alternatives in other games that will offer way more bang for your buck.
The game follows the plot of both the GoldenEye movie and the original N64 game, with a few updates to account for the procession of history. Key elements—like the early mission with fellow MI6 agent Alec “006” Trevelyan, and the sexy-yet-deadly Xenia Onatopp, and a tank chase through the streets of St. Petersburg—are still here. A few plot points have been updated so as to erase references to Soviet Russia (as the first scenes in the movie take place in 1986), but like most of the classic Bond storylines, there isn’t a lot here to sink your teeth into. The story and dialogue is mostly window dressing, there to move you from one environment full of anonymous gun targets to another. It’s not bad—but it’s not great either.
The game’s controls are pretty tight, overall. While some GoldenEye players who haven’t revisited modern FPS controls might be put off by the dual-stick approach, it works well here. In addition, the controls rarely get in the way of enjoying what the game has to offer. Even playing the game’s tank level was smooth and seamless—of course, operating Bond himself is basically like driving a human-sized tank, so maybe that level’s quality shouldn’t be too shocking. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it works well. I wasn’t in love with the standard control set-up that maps melee attacks to pushing in the right analog stick—there were a few instances of me karate-chopping at the air while simply trying to readjust my sites onto a bad guy. Of course, there are a couple different control schemes available, so it’s not an insurmountable problem.
One of the selling points of this game is the high definition sheen that Reloaded brings to the table, and while the graphics deliver on the high definition, what you get isn’t amazing. Everything looks… fine. None of the environments will knock your socks off, but they get the job done well enough.
The game’s frame rate is smooth during single-player, and even during multiplayer split-screen, though I noticed a considerable drop-off during online multiplayer. Character animations and models are also well-done, though everyone’s skin has a bit of a waxy quality to it. I should also mention my disappointment at Sean Bean’s exclusion from the role of 006, as well as that of Famke Janssen as Onatopp—but for that, I’ll always have the movie.
Most of the voice acting in the game was pretty good, with some well-delivered dialogue by the main characters and even the cannon fodder you plow through as you play. I was pleased to note that the many nameless bad guys you shoot taunt you with different accents, bringing a little bit of variety and personality to the proceedings. Daniel Craig as Bond delivers his lines well enough most of the time, though I noticed towards the middle he sounded pretty bored. As great as it is to have Craig playing Bond in the game, I would’ve settled for a more enthusiastic sound-alike.
The sound effects are nice as well, with thick-sounding explosions, exciting bullet-firings (even while silenced!) and great death-screams all around. The music, likewise, has those great horn flares that you’ll find in every good Bond movie. They went for a cinematic type of game, and the sound really delivers.
If you’re jonesing for classic, Rare-made GoldenEye and your N64 is nowhere to be found, then the updated Reloaded is definitely a must-buy. But if you don’t already have an attachment to the old game, there isn’t much here for you. There isn’t anything really wrong with this game, but there isn’t a lot going right with it, either. After 14 years, its age is showing, even with the HD facelift and updated story. GoldenEye 007: Reloaded delivers some decent action and fun, but unlike James Bond, it’s not quite the efficient superspy I’d hoped for.