Creating a unique and distinct identity is often the key to success for a first-person shooter. When you’re part of a genre so large and unwieldy, if you don’t stand out from the crowd you’ve not got a chance of success. Taking that into account, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded has the deck stacked against it.
It’s a high-def release of a Wii game that was itself based on an N64 classic from all the way back in 1997. If that’s not a confusing identity I don’t know what is. In an effort to wipe even more Vaseline on the window, you play as Daniel Craig instead of Pierce Brosnan, levels have been redesigned to make them seem more modern and all manner of contemporary FPS conveniences have been bolted on.
To say the resulting product is confused would be an understatement, it’s downright bewildering.
As a single player experience, Reloaded is dreadful in comparison to the competition. Whoever decided it would be a good idea to release the game between the launches of Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 should have already lost their job.
Anyone that played the N64 original will see a degree of familiarity when playing through certain levels, but the similarities are only skin deep. While the opening level takes place in the same dam structure as before, after the first two minutes or so they are nothing alike. In theory this is not necessarily a bad thing – a straight HD upgrade of GoldenEye would feel terribly dated and lacking any finesse. The problem is that the changes are modern enough to remind you of other games… games that are far superior to this.
There’s a regenerative health system, stealth takedowns, Call of Duty style slow-mo door breaches, a snap-to cover system and quick time events. Bar none, these are awkwardly designed and haphazardly implemented. The lack of competition means the Wii version got away with it, on 360 and PS3 that’s not the case.
Stealth sections are particularly ridiculous. There seems to be no consistency whatsoever when it comes to enemies spotting you or how they react when they’ve done so. Sometimes you can approach an enemy at a sprint from behind without them noticing you, at other time you can painstakingly crawl towards them and they’ll hear you as soon as you’re within 15 metres.
It’s possible that certain moments have been designed to play out as shootouts and stealth tactics are impossible to employ. If that’s the case then why pretend stealth is even an option? It brings the whole experience down and causes immense frustration.
The frustration is heightened thanks to the number of enemies you’re frequently asked to tackle – a number that in most other games offering stealth would require you to at least thin out the crowd a little before getting stuck in properly. It’s lucky then that the AI is as dim-witted as they come, usually just standing wide out in the open and shooting until either you or they are dead.
At times they’ll take cover behind some object not fit to protect them from a paint ball gun, let alone an automatic rifle. If you like your challenge to arrive through sheer weight of numbers then you’ll love it, otherwise… well, you get the idea.
Things are much grittier here than we’re used to from a Bond game. Again, I presume this is designed to make things come across as more modern – the developers taking cues from any number of copycat modern combat shooters topping the charts right about now. Rain, clouds and shadows feature heavily in almost every level which, rather than making things moody or intense, simply adds to the general lack of flair and sense of confusion.
Then there’s the pointlessly shallow smart phone hacks, the rough image and gruff voice of Daniel Craig in replacement of Pierce Brosnan and the visuals that look every bit the Wii HD upgrade that they. It’s dire.
It’s a bloody good thing then that the multiplayer is actually a lot of fun, at least when played in the ‘proper’ GoldenEye split screen format with four players. Like single player, some maps are reminiscent of the original but not directly ported across; the difference between how this is handled in multiplayer is that the essence of those maps has not been lost. The bulk of the multiplayer arenas are small and intense, ranging from the corridor heavy ‘re-imagining’ of Archives to the snowy mountainside of Peak.
The long-term appeal of multiplayer comes from creating your own rules and game modes by experimenting with different combinations of the in-built ‘modifiers’. As a taster, some of the more interesting modifiers include, automatic death for standing still for three seconds (i.e. anti camping mode), players explode if they touch each other, extra bouncy grenades and weapon damage increasing each time you die.
We’ve already created four or five different ‘modes’ using these modifiers, we’re sure there many more that the smarter-than-us can concoct.
So, in conclusion, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded packs one of the worst single player modes of any FPS to appear on 360, PS3 or PC in recent years, but it goes some way to making up for it with its split screen multiplayer. Its biggest accomplishment is that it demonstrates there’s still a life for such games and that multiplayer in an FPS doesn’t have to exist exclusively in the online arena.
Oddjob’s no longer short, though. Not happy about that.