Goldeneye 007 Hands-On Preview

Activision’s upcoming Goldeneye re-imagining seems like an endeavour borne of outright madness. Despite the fact that demand for it has only heightened since the original was released in 1997, it was always a project that needed to be developed on a tightrope. If developer Eurocom (still utterly beloved by many N64 owners for their excellent unofficial Goldeneye sequel The World Is Not Enough) stick to the blueprint too closely, they’ll accentuate all of the things that ineffably date the original game. Conversely, if they deviate too far the fans will scream bloody murder, and many of them will end up feeling personally slighted by everyone involved in the remake’s production.

So Eurocom have definitely got their work cut out, but after some reasonably lengthy time with the current preview build of the game, it appears that the developer may be on-track to deliver something that’ll prove to be extremely special. The single player mode, which we tackled using the Wii’s Classic Controller, felt like a very slick, robust and instantly engaging first person shooter. It didn’t feel like an aged throwback in the slightest, and it looked to be pushing the Wii’s graphical capabilities to their very limits. And yet, it all still felt like classic Goldeneye.

The demo’s single playable level (which, if the film’s plot isn’t deviated from too much, should be the finished game’s first) took place in that now-iconic Russian Dam, though the structure and content of the gameplay, aside from that memorable outdoor architecture, has been entirely altered. One of the first tasks that you’re asked to perform is to scan an abandoned helicopter for information about the on-board weaponry, using what looked like a contemporary camera phone. Moments like these cleverly helped to streamline the action set-pieces, but they are well-placed and never overbearing.

If you aren’t quiet and careful when undertaking this particular mini-mission (and to put it mildly, we were not) alarms will sound, and the Dam’s guards will make a swift appearance. The AI of these enemies – who, when under fire, tended to vault into any available cover in a very effective fashion –  is resoundingly contemporary, and once that initial burst of action and unwanted attention had subsided, we were able to equip our trusty sniper rifle, and went on to play through the rest of the sequence in a much stealthier fashion.

The Cold War themes of the original film’s plot – which were rather dated even when the film was released back in 1995 – have been scrapped altogether, Daniel Craig now replaces Pierce Brosnan in the game’s brief cutscenes, and satisfyingly crunchy stealth melee moves are worked into the gameplay fabric very successfully – much as they were in Treyarch’s reasonably solid Quantum Of Solace game from 2008. Bruce Feirstein, who wrote the original Goldeneye film, is back on board and has re-tooled everything so that it falls inline with the darker perspective that Craig’s films have brought to the Bond franchise.

Our hands-on time also extended to a couple of bouts of multiplayer, and to put it mildly, the experience was encouraging in the extreme. Within a few seconds of play, laughter, adrenaline and amplified smack-talk was the order of the day. Whether this was largely down to the excitement of playing a competitive shooter with every opponent occupying the same breathing space – an almost obsolete pleasure these days – or merely the head-rush of nostalgia that swept over everyone present, isn’t clear. What was clear was that playing it was an absolute blast.

The multiplayer demo looked to be restricted to one level – an imposing series of dank corridors that didn’t appear to be inspired by any of the original maps – but the anticipation of a return to Facility, Temple or Complex is tantalising. Those levels once set a design standard that remained untouched for the best part of a decade, and their inclusion in the likes of Rare’s recent Perfect Dark remake on the Xbox 360, were practically mandatory as far as the fans were concerned. Some of the original’s excellent multiplayer modes also return, including You Only Live Twice, and the hilarious slap-fest of Licence To Kill.

A restoration of the original’s cheat menu is also promised, offering up the evergreen appeal of turning each match into a game of paintball, or ballooning everyone’s heads to five times their natural size. A series of classic Bond characters are here too, including the infamous Oddjob, who we couldn’t resist selecting for use in our matches – much to our opposition’s chagrin. Each classic character will have one character-specific special move apiece, although details about how they’ll factor into the gameplay were a little scarce. As expected, our Oddjob was able to use his bowler hat as a projectile, but whether it was down to our slack aim or the dynamic’s unfinished nature, it didn’t seem to deal a whole lot of damage.

This may not be the Goldeneye of old, but everyone should really be thrilled by that fact. Eurocom have taken one of the best videogames of all time – one that is entwined with a great many rich memories of a bygone gaming era – and completely re-tooled it from the ground upwards. It’ll never be the shocking work of game-changing genius that Rare’s Goldeneye was back in the N64 days – it’s still being ripped off today, after all – but this 2010 redux has been expertly shined, shuffled and groomed, and it’s currently looking like it’ll be (at least) the best first person shooter on the Nintendo Wii. And with the masterful likes Metroid Prime 3 and Red Steel 2 to contend with, those are emphatically not small potatoes.

Watch the Goldeneye 007 Trailer here…

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