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Eurocom's likeable GoldenEye remake rolls around for another pass on HD consoles...
Eurocom's Goldeneye 007 really stood out (for a Wii shooter). It had a solid single-player campaign (for a Wii shooter), compelling multiplayer action (for a Wii shooter), and top-drawer graphics (for a Wii shooter). Crucially, there was a sense that Eurocom had genuine respect for the N64 classic: they understood the importance of stealth in the single player level design, and knew that four-player split-screen was a multiplayer must-have. Naturally, it was never going to eclipse the lustre of its Rareware forbear, but (for a Wii Shooter) it was very good indeed.
It even fared far better (critically at least), than Activision's other high profile Bond game, Blood Stone. In fact, the failure of Blood Stone, and relative success of Goldeneye 007, proved if nothing else that releasing a Bond game without a strong license tie-in is a risky proposition, particularly if the gameplay isn't exceptionally solid.
And so we come to Goldeneye 007: Reloaded, a PS360 remake of Eurocom's 'Wii-imagining' of the N64 classic, remastered in 60fps HD. But can a game that was 'good for a Wii shooter' possibly hope to survive in the brutally competitive HD FPS market? And with Blood Stone apparently crashing the Bond market last year, does anyone even really want to play as 007 anymore, anyway?
Eurocom's entire single-player campaign has survived the port intact and without alteration - to the extent that, despite assurances from the team that all assets have been rebuilt for the HD remake ("from the ground up"), it's hard to initially discern much disparity with the Wii version. This is likely more a testament to the confident cinematic direction of the Wii original than an indication of any critical deficiency in the new HD textures and geometry, however. Camera sweeps and level layouts have been faithfully preserved, and the port seems to capture the essence of Eurocom's work - this is, after all, a remake rather than another 're-imagining'. A cursory play-through of the snowy Severnaya level reveals that the visceral melee take-downs of the Wii original are still intact, with the choice of carnage or subtle stealth largely left to player preference (on lower difficulty levels at least).
Nods to the N64 original abound; the camera still pans round into Bond's head at the start of each level, the sniper rifle is still in that first tower of the Dam section, and 007 even rolls off a few asides which reference dialogue from the original game and movie.
"Just like old times," he whispers to 006 as the pair silently subdue a pair of guards at the start of the Dam map (a line originally from the end of Facility in the N64 original - but we won't nitpick when a developer is tapping on the fourth wall).
It's not just like old times, of course. Pierce Brosnan is replaced by Daniel Craig, and Eurocom's Goldeneye has entirely new, Wii-made levels - with Bond writer Bruce Feirstein updating the story to focus on the banking crisis rather than Cold War fallout. Feirstein wasn't the only Bond talent to be drawn to the game; 007 composer Dave Arnold and Craig stunt double Ben Cooke were drafted in to supply music and motion-capture footage as well (for Goldeneye: Reloaded, Eurocom has apparently summoned Cooke back to their on-site motion-capture facility to record additional animations specifically for the port). Naturally Eurocom's gameplay reflects the advances in FPS mechanics that have occurred over the last decade, with grenade indicators, instant-kill melee attacks, regenerating health, and even the ability to aim and move concurrently all making it through to the port.
New to Goldeneye 007: Reloaded are a set of single-player challenges based on reworked sections of the campaign and multiplayer maps (with a few entirely new ones thrown in too). There are ten challenges in total, ranging from Assault and Elimination missions to more exotic Stealth and Wave Defense maps (which charge you with sneaking undetected through a level, or defending an array of computer terminals from waves of AI opponents). An editor is also planned to facilitate custom mission creation, with players selecting from a range of maps, victory conditions and A.I. to set their own challenges. Activision claims that these modes will add an additional 10 hours of play to the single-player experience.
But single-player action is only one half of any successful Goldeneye game. The port team are completely rebuilding the multiplayer portion of Reloaded to accommodate 16-player online matches (up from the Wii version's 8), with re-jigged maps, additional characters and a brand new selection of 'spy-based modes'.
"We just wanted to do some things that are not straight up deathmatch or team deathmatch," Activision Producer, James Steer, told us.
"We're using the fact that we are a 007 game to try and do some things that are maybe slightly different to what you might expect of a first-person shooter." Exactly what those things are is currently a mystery, but the prospect of spy-based multiplayer Bondage is an intriguing one. 4-player offline split-screen has been confirmed, and survives the transition to the HD consoles.
With only a few months until Reloaded's autumn release window, it's clear that substantial polishing remains to be done. Load times, draw-in and the occasional incongruous animation still need addressing, and the stick response on the Xbox 360 build we played felt curiously sluggish. However, such anomalies aren't unusual for pre-Alpha code, and the team are confident that all issues will be resolved in time for launch. No word yet on whether Reloaded will support motion controls ("stay tuned", hinted Steer), but given that the Wii version was built around the option it's not entirely inconceivable.
With upscaled visuals, revamped multiplayer, and improved online support, Goldeneye 007: Reloaded could prove to be the definitive version of Eurocom's likeable Bond FPS. The game will be up against stiff competition in the latter half of the year, and it remains to be seen whether the promised 'spy-based' multiplayer modes and new single-player challenges will prove to be substantive additions to the core offering. Nevertheless, if Activision invest enough in the remake, it might just turn out to be the second best Bond game of all time - not bad for a Wii shooter.
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