Thursday, October 19, 2000

GoldenEye 007 Wii review | 8.5

Goleneye for the Wii has some high expectations to live up to. The original N64 game was a classic, revolutionizing the FPS genre on consoles. Could this Wii game of the same name be just as important?

I think your enjoyment depends on just how into modern FPS you are. Personally, I absolutely loved Goldeneye Wii. But that's because I love the Call of Duty games...

Finishing the single-player campaign and logging in dozens of hours into the multi-player game is an ENORMOUS amount of time for me to invest in a game, in fact the last time I can think of spending that much time gaming was when Modern Warfare 2 came out. Which makes sense, since the game is so similar to that series.

Goldeneye isn't at all a remake of the Rare game. Everyone throws out "re-imagining", but that doesn't really explain it. The game is completely new, relying only on elements of the movie script to move along the gameplay. Eurocom uses a few familiar locations to invoke memories of playing through the N64 title, and then promplty throw you off with completely new level designs. The game is definitely its own beast.

The single player game is very fun. There's four difficulty levels, and it follows the mission structure Rare made famous. On the lower two difficulty settings only one or two missions are required per level, and they are usually simplistic (like "follow the bad guy" or "get out alive"). The higher two difficulty settings, including classic mode, involve more missions, and while you can finish levels without completing everything, you'll be unable to move on with that specific difficulty. I've been playing it on 007 difficulty (the equivalent of Secret Agent in the original) and have had to redo missions when missing something.

Goldeneye apes a lot from the Call of Duty series. The single player is very cinematic, the gameplay is almost exactly the same (from the constant location icon, to the look down the sight of your gun, to the icon indicating you're crouching), and the multiplayer might as well be called Call of Duty: James Bond. But is that such a bad thing?

Yes, the game is much more cinematic than the original, but it's VERY well-done. The voice acting is superb, the animation is excellent, and the pre-scripted events in the game just make it feel so much more alive than the original. And while you may or may not like the pop-up targeting, replenishing health, and down the sights view, you don't have to play that way. Eurocom had the great sense to make Goldeneye extremely flexible, and that's very much appreciated. Classic mode might be for you, and there's a wealth of more traditional control options available.

That said, I'm a big fan of the COD games, and I enjoyed playing Bond in that style. What separates Goldeneye from, say, Modern Warfare 2 is its reliance on stealth gameplay. I always thought the original's focus on stealth gameplay was a bit artificial, I never felt overwhelmed when setting off alarms or having enemies call for backup. In this game, it's practically required at the higher difficulty settings. This game does great job of allowing for different play styles. There's usually more than a couple paths to get around enemies (including a large number of vents) and you'll really have to take advantage of silencers on your pistol and sniper guns. The game also allows for melee stealth kills, which work great. Sneak up behind an enemy (by crouch-walking), and then snap your nunchuck forward and Bond will pull off a cinematic, and silent, kill. It works VERY well and gives the game its own feel.

The enemy AI is certainly better than the original, which is to say it isn't brain-dead, but not the best in the world. That's partially because there's a focus on stealth; because the game encourages you to sneak up and silently take out enemies, sometimes a fellow adversary a couple feet away might not even take notice. Again, it's not that big of a deal. It always feels like the AI smartens up once a large firefight ensues. Backups are called in and they become aggressive about taking you out. They'll flank you, throw well placed grenades to smoke you out, use cover, etc...

While not as deliberate as in something like Gears of War, Goldeneye has a pretty well implemented cover system. There's barriers around everywhere, and it's always smart to crouch behind them and pop up for a couple of shots. The best part, of course, is that most cover options are destructible, forcing you to constantly search for a better cover option. It's nothing super new, but it's really obvious that more attention was given to this game than most other third-party Wii games.

I've tried using three separate control schemes: Wiimote + Nunchuck, Classic Controller Pro, and the GC controller. And while the CCPro was instantly familiar and well-done, the Wiimote + nunchuck ultimately won out. There's a number of preset sensitivity preferences, of which I used "Experienced 3" - the highest sensitivity. On top of those presets, you can customize the sensitivity further. I upped the sensitivity of movement while looking down the sight of the gun, as well as the turning axis (which helps making a 180 turn while in multiplayer matches).

Pointer controls take a little getting used to, especially getting your pointer hand to sit still, but once you've figured out that sweet spot (like I did above), the controls can't be topped on a console. Whether looking down the sights of my gun or mowing down enemies on the fly, the shooting feels silky smooth. As long as the frame-rate is running just as well, which it is 90% of the time.

Unfortunately, there is that 10% in which the game stutters. This usually happens when there's not only a ton of enemies on screen but also when some fancy particle effects are being used. In one way you'll appreciate the effort to make this game look good, in another you'll just wish the game had been created with optimized gameplay in mind. Again, drops in frame-rate are fairly rare, and if you were a fan of the original...

The multiplayer may be the best FPS experience on the Wii. Like Call of Duty, the game features an XP system that rewards players for kills, wins, and a whole bunch of conditions met. First time playing the complex? Here's +25XP for ya. Assisted in a kill by finishing it with a grenade? Here's an extra +20XP. It always feels like the game is constantly rewarding you in the beginning, probably because of how unbalanced you'll be against more experienced players.

Obviously the more XP you earn, the more you'll level up. Leveling up leads to unlocking better weapons, stat boosts, and "gadgets" - Goldeneye's version of perks. These include gun modifiers like silencers (that will keep you off enemy radars), different sights, etc... The highest levels yield the best extras, like fan-favorite proximity mines. You can even customize you character with multiple "loadouts". Nothing I've said will be new to you if you've played a COD game since Modern Warfare.

None of these features would matter if the levels weren't well-designed and the matches ran smoothly, and so far so good. While I can't yet say if the maps are as memorable as the original's (that will warrant dozens more hours in gameplay) my suspicions tell me they aren't. They're a bit generic, and the levels that aren't meant to resemble the original's slightly resemble the original Modern Warfare's least popular maps. Not a big surprise there. With a max of eight players online at once, the maps typically run a bit small, which may be fine for fans of the original, but will disappoint anyone who became a FPS fan following the original Halo.

Luckily though they are small, the maps are fairly well designed with numerous access points, decent camping spots, and recognizable features that help in familiarizing yourself with the maps. Again, you might be disappointed if you're expecting maps from the original. Nothing is as good as the Temple,Facility, Complex, or Archives, though some replacements (Facility and Archives) are still pretty well done.

The multiplayer modes are also worth mentioning. While Conflict and Team Conflict are your standard deathmatch modes, there's also Golden Gun mode, Heroes mode, Goldeneye mode, etc... all fun and unique modes that really do separate Goldeneye from Halo and COD. You'll also be able to unlock a few hardcore modes that lower health and lose the radar. There's a lot of game here.

Of the dozens of hours I've put into the game so far, the majority have been dedicated to the multiplayer. Matches typically run smooth, which is somewhat rare for Wii games not made by Nintendo. I use a WiFi connection rather than the USB ethernet dongle, which is what I've always been told is a contributor to choppy online play, yet Goldeneye runs smooth almost all the time. I've only had a couple of matches run choppy, both of which took place in the nightclub level (which may be a factor, as the lighting is a bit hectic), but the game was still playable, there weren't any delay in input and on-screen action, simply a slower pace. I've also yet to have a dropped match, though when the host does leave the game after a match you might as well back out. The game will attempt to reassign a host, but it takes a bit, and usually fails since everyone else drops out.

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