Nostalgia Has Been Shrink Wrapped
When it comes to the films, I wouldn’t call myself much of a James Bond enthusiast. However, when GoldenEye hit the N64 back in 1997, it not only kidnapped roughly 12 months of my life, but also effectively changed the entire gaming industry.
For those of you who might not remember, there was a time when first-person shooters only existed on the PC. Many gamers thought that shooters would be cumbersome and frustrating on a control pad (an opinion which still persists among a pretty large chunk of PC gamers), but GoldenEye changed all of that. The critical response was overwhelmingly positive. Players loved the zoomable sniper rifles, split-screen deathmatch, and Oddjob, of course. Console gamers finally had an outlet for all of their multiplayer deathmatch needs.
But a lot has changed since 1997, and people are no longer impressed by zoomable sniper rifles and split-screen deathmatch. Actually, it almost seems risky on Activision’s part to revive one of the most beloved games in history if the revision is going to be merely adequate. And even though the single-player campaign is extremely entertaining, the game often delivers heavy doses of adequacy.
Before I plugged GoldenEye 007: Reloaded into my Xbox 360, I fired up a copy of the original N64 title, just to get my bearings. The controls were clunky, the textures looked ridiculous, and the NPCs barely resembled human beings. But if it sounds like I’m being negative, I’m not. Obviously, all of these things were technological marvels on release but, going back in time is impossible for a reason; it’s never quite as great as you remember. However, the nostalgia was palpable, and I couldn’t help but realize something: Activision wouldn’t be releasing a game based on a 16-year-old movie unless the title had some type of nostalgic draw. And it definitely does. But is nostalgia enough of a foundation for a truly great game to be built on? After a couple of evil Russians finally killed me, I powered down the antique console and fired up my Xbox 360 to answer that question.
Anyone who’s familiar with the original will definitely notice the similarities. Obviously, the graphical updates are staggering, but it does manage to find its roots firmly planted in the original. (Remember shooting that guard on the toilet?). The dam sequence, which opens the game, should feel especially familiar, even though it has been updated with a swanky new car chase and a few well-placed explosions. The whole thing is more Quantum of Solace than Dr. No , which is probably a good thing.
However, don’t expect to ride the nostalgia train all the way through the single-player campaign. In fact, be prepared to get off fairly quickly. Even though Reloaded tips its hat to the source material quite frequently, the entire campaign has been completely reworked (unless you played last year’s Wii release. In which case, it’s exactly the same).
For instance, Pierce Brosnan has now been upgraded to a high definition rendition of Daniel Craig. In order to effectively pilot Craig through the maze of vents, Russians, and bullets, players must choose the appropriate mixture of stealthiness and brute force.
Actually, this is one of the things that sets GoldenEye 007: Reloaded apart from many of the other games in its genre: the ability to play the game how you’d like. If you’re type of player who prefers Splinter Cell to Modern Warfare, Reloaded encourages you to slyly sneak your tuxedoed ass around almost every single level. But if you’re the type of player who has those preferences reversed, feel free to grab an automatic rifle and start running at the nearest group of enemy soldiers. Either way, you’ll probably be fine.
The reason that you’ll be fine has a lot to do with Reloaded’s unfortunate A.I. The NPCs are remarkably stupid, which actually adds a bit of nostalgic authenticity but doesn’t do much for the gameplay. Before you enter a room, soldiers walk in a predictable loop; when they find you, they run directly at you only to stop firing when they finally reach you; and the ones who actually hide do so in a way that exposes the majority of their bodies. It often feels like an antique run-and-gun shooter.
But even with all of the hiccups, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded’s campaign is incredibly entertaining. It deviates enough from the original (and the movie) to make for an interactive and compelling experience, while staying true to the subject matter in a way that’s both modern and classical. In short, it’s the perfect renovation for hardcore fans of the original single-player campaign, and the multiplayer offers a similar experience.
I’m actually not sure how they did it, but they managed to capture the look and feel of the original multiplayer experience in a way that seems entirely authentic. Reloaded includes many of the same maps and classic gameplay modes (like Golden Gun and Escalation), but the throw-back experience really hits its climax when you switch on classic mode. In this mode, the Modern Warfare-style health regeneration is removed in favor of health packs. Your dad will love it.
However, some would say that this nostalgia comes at a pretty significant cost. Reloaded often feels dated right out of the box. Even though all of the models, maps, and movement have been reworked, it all feels familiar in a way that’s slightly disheartening. Yes, Activision has managed to shrink wrap nostalgia in a way that’s almost picture perfect, but it feels like spending time with a hot girlfriend who moved away years ago. Sure, she’s still hot, but you’ve learned to live without her. Plus, you know about an even hotter girl named Modern Warfare 3 who’s moving in next week.
Overall, I must admit that even with all of the overly nostalgic conciliations, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is a genuinely fun game in and of itself. Activision has made some incredibly intelligent decisions in their revision strategy (Daniel Craig is the first Bond actor who can believably kill a Russian since Sean Connery), but in the end, nostalgia just isn’t a strong enough foundation to build a truly great game on.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
High quality graphics. Daniel Craig is a pretty man. 4.3 Control
Good, though often jittery in multiplayer. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Quality, authentic soundtrack, but in-game effects had problematic placement in the stereo field. 4.0 Play Value
Fun in short bursts, but probably won’t kidnap 12 months of your life. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|