Long before Halo. Long before Call of Duty. Long before that shooter that inspired Call of Duty (what was its name? Medal of something?), there was a console game that changed the way players looked at first-person shooters. It made us realize that you don't need a mouse and keyboard to be an expert sniper. It made us understand that over-priced, ultra-powerful PCs are not guaranteed to deliver the best gaming experiences possible. It made everyone developers and publishers included believe that consoles would continue to be the future of gaming.
The game that accomplished all of that was as I'm sure anyone alive in 1997 can tell you GoldenEye 007. Built exclusively for Nintendo 64, GoldenEye 007 was Rare's first serious venture into action game development. It was the first N64 release that practically required its players to purchase three extra controllers. Designed with split-screen multiplayer in mind, GoldenEye revolutionized the way we game. Even without a high-speed Internet connection, this shooter became a multiplayer sensation.
Thirteen years later, Rare's masterpiece is still on our minds. Thus, when Activision announced that it would be using the Bond license which it currently controls to whip up a remake/reimagining of the hit shooter, gamers were both thrilled and terrified. Thrilled because of the prospects of playing another Golden shooter; horrified because the resulting game could be as awful as getting sprayed by a skunk.
Regardless, I was determined to push ahead. With fear and anxiety surrounding my mind, I took the disc out of the case, popped it into my Nintendo Wii, and waited impatiently as the fate of the world well, the fate of my entertainment loaded onto the screen.
Without question, the first thing you'll notice when playing the Wii-exclusive GoldenEye is that its visuals are not that much better than the original. Whether this was intentional (an homage to the 64-bit classic, perhaps?) or merely the byproduct of a weak console, only the developers know. However, one thing is clear: after a few minutes with this game, the graphics will no longer matter. Sure, they're old and dated. They might even be laughable if you're used to playing shooters on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. But we all know what our mothers meant when they told us that beauty is only skin deep. In this case, the beauty is tucked underneath the hood.
Mechanically, GoldenEye is different from the N64 iteration in that you're now able to use the Wii remote to aim. The standard (and instantly familiar) controls have also been implemented with support for the GameCube and Wii Classic controllers. It is with the latter two options that the game feels spot-on. While GoldenEye is not quite a flawless remake of the original, it is instantly apparent that the controls have been lovingly polished to induce nostalgia. For me, they induced it quite well, taking me back to a time and place so much simpler than the motion-controlled monotony we've been deadened with today.
However, the mechanics and control setups cannot compare to what GoldenEye accomplishes as a first-person shooter. This is, without question, one of the most addictive and unrelenting action games of the year. The single-player campaign is an absolute blast. There are familiar scenarios, to be certain, but make no mistake: this is a very fresh game. Players will be engrossed by the action, which is intense and almost non-stop. They'll be enveloped by the missions, which were designed to keep you running and gunning.
Ultimately though, the campaign won't be an enormous challenge for expert Call of Duty players who spend their nights picking off newbies and veterans alike. But if you don't fall into the crowd of gamers that log 30+ hours with every hit shooter-of-the-moment, GoldenEye will provide a level of difficulty that's just enough to make the game exciting, but not enough to turn off the mainstream consumer that publishers are so determined to satisfy.
Of course, all this talk about single-player content would be for nothing if the multiplayer gameplay was garbage. But I'm guessing that by the tone of this review, you can tell that GoldenEye delivers in that department as well. Right? Well, if not, then allow me to clarify: while the Wii iteration cannot surpass the N64 original (and how could it? We've had 13 years to anticipate this game), it is very much the top-tier shooter fans have been waiting for. It lives up to the GoldenEye name, adding online capabilities that were not possible on N64 or GameCube, and includes the split-screen gameplay that everyone has been craving.
Like its predecessor, GoldenEye isn't a flawless game. It isn't as fast as Call of Duty: Black Ops, or as attractive as Medal of Honor (wow! I remembered its name!). But in the area of world-class, friend-gathering, multiplayer gaming, this is not a game that Wii owners will want to miss. In fact, those who don't have a Wii might want to consider getting one, as this is one shooter you are unlikely to see a port of on the other consoles.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.