Over fourteen years ago we were graced with what, possibly, will go down in history as one of the most memorable single and multiplayer experiences ever: GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64. Its influences can be seen in many of the triple-A titles we’ve praised over the years, and it proved that licensed movie games don’t have to be failures. It’s a staple of most gamers’ stable of releases and a timeless classic that we often revisit when in need of some good, old-fashioned split-screen havoc. But rumors of a remake have never ceased. Like Final Fantasy VII and some of those childhood greats that practically beg to be brought into the modern age, GoldenEye has suffered serious impositions that have kept it from being ported over to a modern console.
However, with the Wii release of last year and its positive reception, the channels were kept open for a brand new HD remake. One year later and it’s finally here as GoldenEye 007: Reloaded for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and while in many ways it improves upon the hallowed classic, it also fails at rekindling any sense of nostalgia you may have had for the original release.
GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is much more like Call of Duty: James Bond edition, from the updated HUD and regenerated health all the way to its story tweaks and multiplayer modes. It practically reeks of Activision’s cash cow rather than the fantastic original game. Right off the bat you’ll notice that, likely due to licensing issues, Pierce Brosnan is not James Bond. The capable Daniel Craig takes his place, and though he does fit the bill perfectly as seen in Quantum of Solace and more recently Blood Stone, things feel just a little off for GoldenEye. Coupled with the fact that dialogue and some of the more recognizable elements of the original game have been altered, this remake feels much more like a follow-up than a faithful port. The Wii edition suffered from many of the same pitfalls, but for some reason I was feeling it much less in this high-definition ‘upgrade’.
Other than the addition of quicktime events (for the love of all that’s holy, why are these continually sprinkled in?) the campaign remains largely unchanged except for a few alterations – the regenerating health, for one, which you can avoid if you choose to play with “classic” difficulty, Bond’s gadgets being conspicuously missing, and the introduction of a smartphone rather than Brosnan’s iconic watch. While I can completely understand the need for modernization, the items from the original game lent a feel of the times and was relatable because back then, that’s how things were. Personally, I’m not interested in playing a newer, hipper GoldenEye – I just want to play a cleaner version without having to resort to GoldenEye Source.
Hit or miss AI can be a pain as well. How are guards seeing me behind a layer of steel? Not sure. Other times I could be standing right behind one of the goofs, take him out, and that would be the end of it. Despite some wacky instances like that, the game’s actually quite simple. Just don’t expect to rack up the achievements you might be planning to pilfer — if you’re looking to do that you’re going to need to be a bit of a completist and go after every single objective in every mission. While some of the level layouts have been changed from the original game, this becomes a bit more frustrating. Luckily if you have issues Activision and Eurocom’s unique brand of handholding is present here, with markers denoting your next location and task.
The game looks great and feels good, but as I previously stated it feels much more like a James Bond skin tossed over a generic Call of Duty campaign. I felt as though I could interchange the story and environments with a faceless soldier and it would have still had the same outcome. The same lackluster cut-scenes as seen in the previous Daniel Craig outings rear their ugly heads again, and Nicole Scherzinger’s rendition of GoldenEye is nothing short of irritating. It feels much more like a cheap imitator than an acceptable remake of a spectacular original. There’s also new PlayStation Move support if you’re playing the PlayStation 3 version, which I suppose makes this high-definition reissue even more like the Wii original, but I wasn’t able to test this feature for myself.
Multiplayer modes also bring the feel of Call of Duty, especially amongst its perks and XP – you can rank up, if you can find enough players to game with. When the game was first released I had no trouble finding vanilla deathmatch opponents; however, now that the two biggest war games of the year are out the lobbies are terribly sparse. It was bad timing on their part, I suppose, though multiplayer is full of different gametypes to dabble in and plenty of special spices that make it stand out as GoldenEye and less Call of Duty.
GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is an interesting beast. On one hand, it plays well and looks great, though it’s a little plodding and simple. On the other, even familiar multiplayer maps shy away from mimicking their original counterparts completely and the entire offering feels somewhat disingenuous, as if the aim here was to create something as close to Call of Duty as possible that could be marketed under a different name, at least to tide fans over until Activision’s biggest release. For all its charms, I just couldn’t get into this squeaky-clean port of last year’s successful Wii re-imagining of the N64 original, and I think it’s just about time to retire the idea of useless spiritual sequels (Rogue Agent, anyone) and start from scratch. Let’s stop messing around with the classics, guys.