GoldenEye – a licence to kill and a licence to kill for. Despite its low profile since the genre-defining Nintendo 64 game, it’s still one of the strongest brands in the entire industry. Based on a passable yet largely forgettable film from a decade and a half ago, it’s hardly drawing from the most inspirational of source materials. It’s not like there’s an inseparable bond between player and developer either, with the talent that laid the golden N64 egg flying Rare’s coop years before Activision claimed the 007 deeds. Having been burned by the last attempt to exploit our nostalgia with 2004s Rogue Agent, anybody with a healthy degree of cynicism would steer clear of this year’s iteration. And they would be gloriously wrong.
Pitched as a re-imagining (lest Nintendo and Rare’s lawyers catch wind of it), Eurocom have somehow managed to resist following either the film or the N64 title too rigidly; instead, they’ve demonstrated the confidence to add contemporary elements from both mediums, resulting in a game that feels both reassuringly classic and satisfyingly modern. Curiously anachronistic even in the mid-nineties, the KGB-centric plot has been edged out by a far more topical “blame the bankers” motif designed to push the buttons of the modern audience, and the game is all the better for it.
Bond’s globe trotting sees him revisit the cream of iconic landmarks from Rare’s title such as the rainy Arkhangelsk dam or the snow-covered peaks of Severnaya, but earns us a few more air miles via Barcelona and Dubai. The new locales manage to introduce new gameplay elements including the use the facial recognition software on Bond’s trusty smart phone to pinpoint your contact, or hacking a roomful of experimental weapons to retire a few would-be chopper thieves.
Having proven themselves on Nintendo’s hardware with the superb-looking Dead Space Extraction, the level of wonder Eurocom have achieved with GoldenEye’s visuals demands far more than the “looks great for a Wii game” paragraph usually reserved for the finer looking specimens on the machine. GoldenEye is a graphical triumph in every way, from the scale of the destructible environments, to the variety of the textures, to the volume of the enemies, to the stability of the frame rate. The short-cuts taken in Dead Space Extraction’s on-rails ride were transparent, but GoldenEye rarely cuts corners, firing on all pistons for the duration of the campaign.
When it does take shortcuts they are creative and beautifully effective, such as the Barcelona night club where vast crowds of silhouetted revellers dance the night away under the glaring bloom of neon lights. Animation is noticeably superior to anything else attempting to replicate realism on the Wii, whether through the brutally vicious stealth kills, the dives and rolls of the pleasingly smart AI opponents or exceptionally well-realised facial animations. Even incidental characters like the Dubai arms fair guard deliver brilliantly observed performances that surpass many a high-end 360 game.
Eurocom have worked harder than Q to ensure you can control Bond with just about any gadget to ever leave Nintendo’s R&D labs, from GameCube controller to Remote and Nunchuck, and while they all perform to an acceptable level, the fact that they are bundling the game with the Classic Controller Pro tells you all you need to know about how it should be played. Sprint and hard-aim are modern staples that drastically improve GoldenEye’s handling and compliment the stealth elements that Rare’s title so expertly employed back in 1997.