Review: GoldenEye 007: Reloaded Strays From Original in More Ways Than One
At a Glance
GoldenEye 007: Reloaded
Though not as ground-breaking as the original or as well-tuned as many modern shooters, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded proves that some shooters always look good in a tuxedo.
If you're going to make a remake of one of the most beloved video games of all time, stripping out the original story, characters, health system, soundtrack, weapons, and iconic multiplayer maps may seem like a bad first step. But as familiar and fun as those elements are, developer Eurocom understood that in order for GoldenEye: Reloaded to compete with the trappings of modern shooters -- like cover, secondary weapons, and iron sight -- it would have to modernize. The resulting FPS is both dripping in nostalgia and feels tethered to the original's spy-saves-the-world premise. While never achieving the ground-breaking highs of its predecessor, GoldenEye: Reloaded has enough geeky moments of familiarity to make it something (slightly) more than just another generic shooter.
GoldenEye 007 initially hit the Wii in 2010 to mostly positive reviews, and this PS3/Xbox 360 version is pretty much the same game with a few modes added and a better engine. Visually, the game is exceptionally uneven -- there are some great fire and rain effects and the characters look good, if completely different than the original. The weapons look fantastic, but Bond seems to not have hands so much as paws. There are also some major clipping issues that mar the game while environmental destruction (even during cut-scenes) looks forced and dated. The overall experience doesn't measure up to modern shooters, and frankly, the upscaled Wii visuals measure up to something I could've played five years ago.
My own personal dislike of Daniel Craig's depiction of meat-headed Bond-ism aside, players who are familiar with the 1995 movie and 1997 game might find it jarring that not only is Craig now depicting Bond, but other characters are similarly reimagined or removed entirely. Bloated and jovial Russian mobster Valentin Zukovsky is now a thin, scarred night club owner while Xenia Onatopp gets a haircut and removes her whole kinky side (as a side note: I wonder if Xenia's reimagining was due to GoldenEye 007 originally being a Nintendo franchise and, with modern graphics, her outfits and catlike mannerisms would be considered inappropriate for Nintendo). Boris is nowhere to be found.
The story has been "reimagined" as well to fit with modern conventions -- which is to say it's been removed of its original, history-based elements and instead stripped down to a generic "let's get revenge on the banks by robbing them" premise. The campaign is shorter, putting Bond in less hallways (good) but numerous identical waist-high cover situations (bad). The paths are also exceptionally linear: you always have a mini-map in the corner and even with secondary objectives to undertake, the missions are fairly straight-forward
But Eurocom did throw in a new wrinkle to the GoldenEye formula: a stealth system. Bond can crouch and sneak up on foes, subduing them with a button tap or quickly gunning them down with his silenced pistol. The system isn't perfect -- your enemies will either be oblivious to the person next to them dying or clairvoyant enough to see you from across the stage -- but it provides some needed strategy to the usual run-and-gun gameplay. The dam mission especially becomes a more personal and high-intensity endeavor when you know that the best way to go through an area is to watch a guard's patrol route and sneak up on them.
Unfortunately, these components are sorely lacking in the multiplayer. Eurocom had the unenviable task of finding a worthy successor to arguably the most beloved console multiplayer FPS of all time. Good. F**cking. Luck. So the developers had to either satisfy the game's millions of fans by A) lovingly recreating every stage, weapon, and gameplay mechanic, or B) reinventing FPS multiplayer just as Rare did some 15 years ago.
Eurocom tried to do a bit of both, which unfortunately isn't enough to elevate the multiplayer component of Goldeneye: Reloaded into the upper echelon of modern multiplayer FPS franchises like Modern Warfare and Battlefield.
Sure, GoldenEye: Reloaded is fun for a few hours. You can run around the reimaginings of the Complex and the old statue park, and the gameplay is as frenetic-oh-god-I-can't-believe-I-have-to-reload-again as ever. Playing with up to 16 people online can lead to some epic sequences, especially when you're playing modes like Bomb Defuse or Black Box.
GoldenEye: Reloaded features many trappings of modern shooters; now, for example, you're able to program your payload before you enter the game, letting you tailor your style to your weapon selection and bonuses. You can unlock and earn new bonuses and modes (like License to Kill) by playing online and gaining experience. Escalation, the new mode that's available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 version, is a bit of an exception: you start off with a pistol and then get a better weapon for every kill you earn. The problem is the obvious balance issues it presents: the better players get the better guns, so within a minute you have the less talented players also outgunned and serving as prey for the rest of the match.
Other design choices cause equally befuddling moments. The shotguns are ridiculously overpowered in multiplayer to the extent that one shot pretty much equals a kill if you're in range. The aforementioned melee and stealth systems, despite being big components of the single-player, are muted in multiplayer -- sneaking up on a foe from behind won't necessarily lead to a one hit "execution" kill and the only sniff of stealth is that if you don't shoot, you're not on radar.
While the single-player campaign and multiplayer will get the most ink, overall I thought the new Mi6 OPS missions provided some of the best moments in the game. Recalling the brutally-hard Perfect Dark Combat Simulator missions that Rare made ten years ago, the OPS missions are a worthy challenge that will keep the die-hard crowd playing for a few more hours.
Overall, I was actually pleasantly surprised by GoldenEye: Reloaded. I could have seen it being the George Lazenby to GoldenEye's Sean Connery ala GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. But instead, GoldenEye: Reloaded is more of a Timothy Dalton -- not quite the same, maybe a bit forgettable, but you enjoy the ride for the most part. There are enough nods to the source material to keep the game from being a complete derailment of the franchise, and while the multiplayer will never measure up to the original, it still has its English charms.