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Critical Consensus: GoldenEye 007

How does Eurocom's remake of the N64 classic fare at the hands of reviewers?

When it was released originally for the N64 in 1997, GoldenEye changed the face of FPS gaming forever. In many senses it laid the foundations for much of the structure of today's modern multiplayer shooters - giving a generation of gamers their first taste of frantic deathmatch action.

With revisiting, rebooting and reimagining old successes becoming as much a standard of gaming as it has in film, it was almost inevitable that one of a genre's greatest triumphs would be remade - but has Activision and Eurocom captured the soul and innovation of the original in the new Wii version, or should GoldenEye have been left to rest?

As is so often the case, it depends on who you listen to. Rare's original GoldenEye achieved an incredible 96 per cent in its Metacritic ranking, a feat which the remake falls short of with its total of 81, but Activision has gained some fans with its treatment of the old veteran. Read on for a collected synopsis of what some of the best sites on the web are saying about Eurocom's latest.

Starting at the top of the score table with The Escapist's five out of five star review, we open with a sentence sure to make Nintendo cringe a little.

"GoldenEye 007 is the first Wii game I've played that doesn't feel like a Wii game," writes Greg Tito. "Even though you could call it a remake of the shooter from 1997 that merely updates James Bond and brings the story into the 21st century, it is much more than that. The mission design and characters of the campaign are highly entertaining but the multiplayer is what everyone will be judging this game on, and it doesn't disappoint. The fast-paced, yet strategic, combat works great in local split screen and online in probably some of the best multiplayer the Wii has to offer. Combined with the fantastically written and designed campaign and GoldenEye works on nearly every level."

Some old characters return, but others are axed.

Tito is almost unmitigated in his praise for 007, believing that Eurocom has struck almost exactly the correct balance between replication and innovation with its work - giving veterans the option for nostalgia whilst leaving the door open for new players, too.

"Taking place in 2010, Daniel Craig has replaced Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond, and the animators did a great job of approximating Craig's more athletic physicality and gruffness. Extraneous characters are gone, but I think the plot benefits from streamlining. The romance with rescued computer programmer Natalya Simonova is a little stretched, but, hey, this is James Bond. The main antagonist's motives have completely changed to reflect the economic collapse of this decade, but it makes so much more sense to me than the character's ties to World War II and the Russian Cossacks of the original film. The ending sequence, which alternates firefights with the surprisingly effective quick time events, builds to such a great climax that I don't even miss Sean Bean. Much."

Despite his effusive recommendations, Tito admits that GoldenEye simply doesn't innovate or lead in the way that its digital sire did 13 years ago. When a remake is implemented this successfully, he says, why should it?

"GoldenEye 007 doesn't do anything especially groundbreaking or innovative, but it delivers everything that a game starring James Bond should. The fact that's it a remake or reboot or whatever it should be called makes it even more impressive. GoldenEye is the exclusive Wii game that so-called hardcore players never thought would exist. It pushes the boundaries of what everyone thought was capable on the tiny console by providing a complex and engaging multiplayer experience on top of an excellently written and fun to play campaign."

Right down at the other end of the Metacritic table, still clocking a respectable 6.5, is GameInformer's brief review, where Tim Turi seems disappointed with the technical and artistic qualities of the remake.

Stealth is as important to success as ever.

"Activision's re-imagining of Rare's GoldenEye is an attempt to scrub the tarnished franchise clean, but what we're left with is a lacklustre game that fails to hit the same high notes of the original, or keep pace with modern shooters," he writes.

"Playing updated versions of the original Dam and Facility levels in the single-player campaign is a fun experience at first, but the game as a whole suffers from generic level design, awful quick-time events, and a terrible final boss fight. Local four-player splitscreen is a blurry mess that can't even be salvaged by good friends and a high definition TV."

It seems to be something of a general judgement of the Wii and its capabilities as a FPS console, however, which colour Turi's impressions, making clear as he does that this is certainly a good option for Wii-owning fans of the genre.

"One of the better single-player FPS experiences on the Wii, but that doesn't say much," Turi offers in summary.

"Only diehard Bond or FPS fans with nothing but a Wii should bother picking this one up. Everyone else with fond memories of the N64 title should retrieve the game from their shelf, blow off the dust, smile fondly at it, and find peace in their fuzzy memories upon putting it back where it belongs."

In Simon Parkin's 7/10 review at Eurogamer, we learn that although there are family resemblances between this game and Rare's original, gamers expecting a carbon copy will be frustrated.

"It's an opening sequence lovingly inserted for fans of the original to ease them in, to let them know that, despite the recasting of Brosnan's Bond as Daniel Craig; despite the recasting of Sean Bean's 006 as who-knows-who, the wholesale removal of Robbie Coltrane, the new names of the guns and the achingly stylish menu screens that have preceded, losing all of the dated charm of the original, developer Eurocom isn't going to stray too far from Rare's hymn sheet.

An all new arsenal awaits Wii players.

"It's a feeling that lasts for exactly three minutes. As veteran GoldenEye 007 players duck behind the truck, ready to creep behind it into the compound, Bond's companion barks an order to climb into the passenger seat. For the next five minutes a Modern Warfare-esque interactive cut-scene plays out, as you roar through the Arkhangelsk base, blowing up petrol tankers before crashing into a barrier and crawling from the wreckage of any illusion this was to be a step-for-step remake."

That lack of faithfulness to the original doesn't grate, however. Parkin is not sentimental about the changes.

"And who can blame Eurocom? The original GoldenEye's triumphs innovated in significant ways, but we're several steps further on in the evolution of the genre all these years later. You only need elect to play a level on Classic 007 difficulty, where Halo's regenerating health bars are swapped out for the original's when-it's-gone-it's-gone approach, to see exactly how a straight remake would have felt harsh and anachronistic to newcomers and veterans alike. All this beside whatever tortuous narrative and presentational restrictions the developer was subject to in order to avoid stepping on litigious toes."

Overall, it's judged a valiant attempt at reproducing past glories, although it was always going to be tough trying to replicate innovation in a remake.

"Throughout, Eurocom's ambition rarely outstrips its ability, although, with a dropped frame-rate in the game's busier moments, the same can't be said of the Wii hardware itself, which at times struggles to keep up with the developer's vision. Nevertheless, this is a robust FPS, comfortably the strongest on its platform and, while derivative of its strongest rivals, it's still able to compete in key areas. As to whether it's a worthy reimagining of the original? Certainly the game successfully repaints Rare's game in the current trends. But as its forebear was known for transcending fashion to redefine its genre, it would seem that all that glitters is not gold."

These sentiments about technical restrictions are shared in IGN's review, although Craig Harris finds little else to fault in his 9/10 assessment.

Call of Duty's influence is undeniable in places.

"The only real issue and my only real criticism is the game's framerate. With the attention to detail, like the character animation, elaborate level structures, lighting and weather effects and destructible objects, there's no denying this is one of the better looking games on Wii," writes Harris.

"But it's clear that Eurocom might've bit off just a little more than it could chew, as the harder missions tend to get a little on the framey side when the screen fills with enemies, gunfire, smoke, explosions - the works. It's a fully playable game, but there will be times when you'll find yourself fighting through a bit more chop than you might be willing to accept. Don't expect HD Call of Duty smooth - it's never that slick."

Harris is perhaps the reviewer who sees the most creative dissonance between this effort and its predecessor, however, seeing a very different ethos behind each title.

"Once again, the GoldenEye experience has been changed, this time with the upgrade in action - other than being a first-person shooter, this game bears little resemblance to the Nintendo 64 design. It's pretty clear that Eurocom looked at the current generation for inspiration, namely the Call of Duty and Halo franchises, so GoldenEye has been updated to appeal to today's gamer than those latched onto dated decade-and-a-half gameplay."

What's clear is that Harris is assessing GoldenEye as its own game, rather than a remake struggling to carry the weight of expectation placed upon it. On this basis, he finds that there's much more to praise than regret.

"I can understand there's a bit of resistance to the idea that GoldenEye 007 on Wii is anything but a cash-in for Activision, but believe it when I say that this game is one of the best Wii games of the year. Things might have changed in the last 15 years, but at the very least Activision and Eurocom have done wonders to capture the essence that the original Nintendo 64 game grabbed a decade and a half ago. I don't think the Wii game will change the FPS genre in the same way the Rare design did, but as a standalone, original experience, it's hard to deny this game's greatness."

Further reviews of GoldenEye 007 are available from Gamespot, 1 Up, JoyStiq and GamesTM.

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Dan Pearson

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