I was pretty excited for this game and I’m not ashamed to admit that it was because of the nostalgia factor. It would be impossible to review this game outside of the context of an entire HD remake of the game. No, I dont mean one like the recent trend where games are merely upscaled to HD resolutions, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is an entirely new experience, and yet one that is oddly familiar, well unless you’ve played the Wii version, of which Reloaded is an HD remastering. If you haven’t played the N64 classic, than this game would likely rank with the top Bond games. However, if you have played the N64 title, and I suspect many of you have, it will seem like a surreal dream where everything is familiar, but nothing is the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Reloaded takes the plot of the original game/movie, and restructures it to not only actually make sense, but also to restructure the single and multiplayer. The single player is decent, but unfortunately, it doesnt really hold up to the nostalgia that allowed for its creation, and it does not hold up to other, newer first person shooters. It definitely has its moments of fun, but for the most part, it felt really linear. It also turns Daniel Craig’s bond into something of a mass murder, and not a spy. Now, in every other bond game, you kill a lot of people, however, now that they can talk, it seems like a lot of the people you end up killing to get to your objective are Russian soldiers just doing their jobs. Of course, that job is often killing you because of a misunderstanding, but it just kind of feels wrong. Of course, later in the game, you are just shooting hordes of generic Janus troops, so GoldenEye does get away from shooting Russian soldiers.
The actual combat in the game is solid, though the AI seems like it was just taken straight from the N64 game, with enemies allowing you to line up headshots and the like. The guns are all somewhat similar, but are actually fun to use. Overall the combat feels surprisngly old-school in spite of its dual sticks nature. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing though, as the combat in the single player can be pretty easy. Further, the combat sections are actually broken up rather nicely, whether it is walking around a posh club with your phone held in front of your face to find a contact or the surprisingly enjoyable (though not perfect) stealth sections, there is some surprising variety in the game. However, while Bond is supposed to be suave and cool, the game makes him seem rather clumsy and not at all subtle. While the story in the N64 version was unclear, it made the levels work, here, with a clearer story, Bond appears borderline incompetent at times. Stealing a tank and driving it through St. Petersburg while killing hundreds of Russian soldiers is not exactly the best way to clear your name when you have been framed, though it was fun.
The stealth sections really stand out, because so long as your stealthy, the game is both more fun and actually presents a challenge. When you’re discovered, the shooting sections become surprisingly easy, as the AI isn’t that bright and weapons are appropriately powerful. Overall, the gameplay comes off as if the developers, Eurocom, were unsure of just how closely they were to follow the original Rare game. This is apparent in almost every aspect of the game. Gadget use feels forced, as you use your smartphone instead of your watch; bodies still disappear but whole sequences have been replaced by cinematic moments where control is mostly taken from you; there are still secrets to be found and secondary missions to do, unfortunately they all take place along the surprisingly linear path of the game. This may be the most disappointing thing about the game, its linearity. The original had you exploring large areas, and even the enclosed levels were sizable and had multiple pathways. The remake is almost all linear paths. There is the occasional section where the game opens up, but even then it still feels constrained, because the original game had so much to explore. That said, there were some nice tributes to the N64 version of the game, particularly one at the end of the Train level.
So the singleplayer was enjoyable, if flawed, but the real meat of the game is the multiplayer, which, lets be honest, is probably the real reason you’re curious about this game. The multiplayer is actually surprisingly fun. The maps are larger and less confusing than their N64 predecessors. There are a slew of game modes, but the standard deathmatch was still the most fun of them. That said, you no longer choose a standard set of weapons that all players have access to and find on the ground, but the game takes a Call of Duty approach. Instead of finding weapons on the game, you create your own loadouts to take into the game, and you unlock more with XP.
At first this seems like a bit of a disappointment, but once you realize that the multiplayer matches feature up to 16 people, it actually balances out things nicely. This is in addition to the XP system not being quite as in your face as it is with the Call of Duty games. The starting weapons are nicely balanced, but they are not the best. I would actually say that I was surprised at the excellent amount of balance in the multiplayer. It was not as tactical as say, Call of Duty, but it was very old school in its Run-and-Gun nature, which led to some really fun moments. It feels unashamed to be what it is, and that was refreshing in this world where most shooters seem to be taking the same route of “gritty and real.” The game also features four player split screen, which is just as much fun as you remember it.
The various multiplayer modes are actually fun as well. While the standard and team deathmatch modes were enjoyable, I was surprised to find myself playing the “Golden Gun” mode the most, where the Golden Gun becomes a single powerup on the map. It was delightfully chaotic as players were all racing towards the gun, or whoever had it, combating each other along the way. It lead to some of the largest firefights I saw in the game, and the reward of actually getting the Golden Gun was a nice incentive to be as vicious as you could to get the gun. Especially because it gave extra XP for each kill you got with it.
Finally, Eurocom has added some extra missions, Spec Ops style in the form of Mi6 Ops Missions, which challenge you much like the challenge missions have in other games. These are additional, fun distractions that actually do expand the life of the game as you can play them again and again to earn a better score or get more stars.
Graphically, the game does not look amazing. There are some surprisingly cool effects, particularly the rain effects, but explosions look lifeless and the enemies and character models are a bit generic and lifeless. It’s not the worst looking game you might play this year, but it does feel like a port of a Wii game, which is ostensibly is.
The sound design is pretty good as well. The weapons all have a nice kick to them. The voice acting stands out though, as Daniel Craig and the always awesome Dame Judi Dench reprising their roles from the movies. The game even has a movie style opening credits song and sequence, which is not only a nice touch, but an excellent throwback to an old Bond movie tradition.
So while GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is quite different from its namesake, it is still a rather enjoyable alternative to the Call of Duty style of multiplayer. It plays like a much simpler version of that game in all aspects. Mind you, I do not think this is a bad thing, as Call of Duty has a tendency to get wrapped up in its own gameplay. GoldenEye’s simpler take on the genre is refreshingly old school, even if it is somewhat flawed. The AI is not perfect, the linear levels can be disappointing and the plot makes Bond seem borderline incompetent. In spite of all these flaws, the singleplayer is still fun, boosted by a fun and simple multiplayer and some awesome Mi6 Ops missions. While I can’t say it was better than some of the other shooters out this year, it is a pleasant surprise that gets better and better as the game progresses.