First Look: GoldenEye 007 - Nintendo Wii
I'm sure I'm not the only one to have met the announcement of GoldenEye 007 at Nintendo's E3 conference with a mixture of fanboy enthusiasm, scepticism and confusion. On the one hand, it's a new version of the game that - before Halo - proved that first-person shooters could work on a console, and work damn well to boot.
On the other hand, the GoldenEye brand has been appropriated before, and used to flog a second-rate shooter that really had no business with the name. Plus, on a mysterious third hand I've suddenly developed, it's not immediately obvious what this GoldenEye wants to be. Is it a remake? A reworking? A totally new game? Why does it star Daniel Craig and not Pierce Brosnan? Why not just kick-off with a brand new Bond game.
A few hours later, at an Activision briefing, it all becomes clear. Activision, working with UK devs Eurocom, wants to create a GoldenEye that builds on our nostalgia for the N64 classic, but also works as a contemporary FPS for Wii. The environments have been re-imagined, the story has been reworked, and the game now reflects the persona of Craig's bond, but Activision is trying to do all this the classy way, working with writers from the original film, set-designers associated with the Bond franchise, and featuring an all-new score from David Arnold, who has worked on the Bond films since Tomorrow Never Dies.
Locations have been added and expanded; Zukovsky's club, for example, will now be a playable level. However, effort has been made to keep it all in the spirit of the original game and the movies. When it comes down to it, Activision wants to make you feel like James Bond.
Part of this is giving you choices. At all times in the new GoldenEye you can choose to play it straight, blasting guards left and right with sniper rifle and AK-47, or take the covert approach, picking enemies off one-by-one, sneaking up and using hand-to-hand moves to silence them, and thinking your way through the locations. Blast away and there will be repercussions - you'll only have a limited period in which to blast away at your foes before they call in reinforcements - but it's perfectly possible to play the game either way.
Our quick look at the game took us through the first part of the initial Arkangelsk Dam mission, and right from the start you can see how the game appeals to the nostalgia of older gamers. The basic geography at the opening level is much the same, and after a brief cinematic you're out in the complex, shooting guards with a silenced pistol, grabbing the sniper rifle from the tower and letting loose. However, we also get a chance to see some new moves, with Bond throttling unwary Ruskies from behind, and some new mission elements that spring up additional objectives as you play.
The more you go on, the more the action deviates from the original, and the clearer it becomes that this is - in the end - its own game. Purists may react badly to some of the more Call of Duty-esque, all-out action elements, but the action looks compelling, and the visuals are amongst the most striking we've seen from a shooter on the Wii.
With the demo over, it's time to get hands-on with the bit that everyone is curious about: multiplayer. Here's the good news: it feels like GoldenEye used to. You can play as eight characters, including Bond, Jaws, Odd-Job and Scaramanga, and - played on the Classic Controller Pro - the action is fast, frenetic and ever so slightly silly, with Odd-Job chucking razor-sharp hats around the place, and Jaws placed at an unfair disadvantage because of his sheer, impossible to miss size. It's a lot of fun, but I can't help wondering if the GoldenEye feel could also be a negative.
A range of competitive modes is promised, but after years of Halo, Call of Duty and Battlefield, do we really want to go back to playing GoldenEye? On the plus side, it's not as if Wii owners are spoilt for decent alternatives.
Some doubts remain about the style and direction the new GoldenEye has taken, but at worst it looks like a decent Wii shooter, and at best it could be the best Bond game for some time. The graphics are decent by Wii standards, and Activision promises that we've far from seen the best that the game has to offer. What's more, the team has obviously thought long and hard about how to bring the game and the story up to date, and it's good to see a remake that isn't just a nostalgia exercise. For these reasons, we're feeling reasonably positive about this one. We'll see how it all works out when the game launches in November.