GoldenEye 007: Reloaded Review
When Daniel Craig took the reigns as James Bond in the recent 007 films, the character took on a new attitude. He ditched gadgets for a fast and brutal attitude, not unlike the seat-of-your-pants tactics employed by Jason Bourne. It's not too strange then, that when Activision took to reimagining the Goldeneye game with Daniel Craig as the star, the gameplay changed as well. What is strange is what they changed it to.
Considering Goldeneye 007: Reloaded is more or less an HD spruce-up job of the Wii game, one could assume this review would mostly focus on how well the game has been ported to more powerful consoles. The problem is that, one, I didn't play the Wii game, and two, I don't know what anyone was smoking when they gave the original largely positive reviews. Goldeneye 007: Reloaded would be an average game if it came out five years ago, but now, sandwiched among this year's best first-person shooter releases, it is seriously flawed.
Perhaps it was the charm of a fully-featured shooter on the Wii that won people over. After all, Goldeneye has all of the trappings of a best-in-class shooter release--an action-packed single-player campaign, 16-player multiplayer, and dozens of unlockable perks and weapons across several gametypes. This new version even tosses in an additional single-player mode with heavily modifiable missions and leaderboard support.
The problem is that the execution of all of this content isn't just poor across the board, it's archaic, with mistakes most games have outgrown. Let's start with the single-player...
In a lot of ways, the Goldeneye campaign could be seen as a Call of Duty-izing of the original N64 game. It has quick time events, scripted action moments, and linear progression--even the gun report sounds the same, and it tends to run at quite a smooth framerate. That all seems like fluff when you get into the core gameplay, though, which has more in common with Doom. That would be kind of cool if this were a game about Daniel Craig fighting off demon hordes, but as a spy, mowing down dozens of enemies with my shotgun just seems weird.
The game does have its spy moments. Before you enter a new area, you can typically choke out or snipe a handful of enemies before the alarms sound and all hell breaks loose. These were my favorite moments of the game, because whenever you alert a guard, the game drops into slow motion and gives you a split second to stifle the situation. This works best when a couple guards are patrolling together, and you quickly pop them in the head with a silenced pistol. You also have a spy phone that you can use to hack turrets and snap photos of mission objectives, but like the stealth sections, these moments are few and far between.
What you'll spend most of the shockingly brief 4 hour campaign doing is blowing away tons of goons in one corridor after another. At one level above the game's default (and easiest) difficulty level, Bond can soak up massive amounts of damage. Aiming down the sights gives you super-human accuracy, even across a room with a shotgun. Combine that with enemies that constantly shoot you through cover, and the obvious solution is to run and gun. To top it off, the game's way of challenging you is to just toss massive amounts of enemies your way, evoking feelings of rooms packed with Imps and Cacodemons. It's nonsensical, out of character, and repetitive.
The MI6 Ops mode offers up simple missions like defending objectives, clearing out all of the enemies, or staying stealthy. The best part of this mode is the wealth of options at your disposal, from adjustments to health and enemy awareness, to buffs like infinite rocket launcher ammo, and gimmicks like paintball mode. The problem is that you're still more or less playing the same game with stricter fail states. The stealth mode, for example, isn't fun at all because it's so trivial to get caught and fail the whole mission.
Rounding out this disappointing package is the multiplayer. You can complain about overpowered shotguns in Gears of War 3, server stability in Battlefield 3, and lag issues in Halo Reach or Black Ops, but you don't know how good you have it until you play a game with all of those problems packaged into one game. You can say we aren't making enough advances in the shooter genre, but Goldeneye's multiplayer seems to be a relic of a time when we were surprised online games were working at all.
The biggest problem with the game is lag. Lag is the foundation upon which this game's issues are built. That's because it affects everything. It cripples the hit detection, control responsiveness, and even the framerate. If the host quits out, the game ends abruptly, booting you to the menu with all your earned XP lost. That's if you get into games at all, as the game makes no attempt to search for servers with free slots, instead constantly failing to fit you into a game and making you retry over and over.
When you get into a playable match, Goldeneye offers some pretty simplistic deathmatch and team deathmatch gameplay (all the objective modes were barren wastelands with no players). You have a choice of four loadouts until you reach level 8, when you can create your own loadouts. Until then, you have a choice of submachine gun, assault rifle, shotgun, and sniper rifle, and each loadout sports a pistol in the secondary slot. That's not really much of a choice when you realize how overpowered the shotguns are compared to automatic weapons. I was consistently killing enemies faster with the pistols than the rifles, and shotguns are one hit kills at close-to-mid range. Sniper rifles didn't seem relevant on most maps, since they generally consist of tight hallways.
Even when I had an ideal loadout and consistently topped the leaderboards, I wasn't having much fun. The game is simply a chore to play. Everything from weapon swapping to vaulting over railings feels slow and cumbersome. Sprinting doesn't even work most of the time, forcing you to click the sprint button every few strides or suffer the painfully slow walking speed.
I'm at a loss for good things to say about Goldeneye 007: Reloaded. As a Goldeneye game, it feels like a bland and lazy effort that strips away most of the charm of both the movie and the original N64 game. As a port, the game still sort of looks like a Wii game running at a higher resolution. As a game released within a month of Battlefield 3, Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3, and Halo Anniversary, it feels like a relic of a previous generation. In some silly way it has its fun moments, but they're almost always the result of awkward game design decisions, and that's about the best thing I can say about it.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]