The past is a particularly dangerous place to linger. Removing the rose tinted glasses and exposing classics to the cold relentless glare of the modern gaming landscape (with a few exceptions) normally leads to disappointment and a ruining of fond memories. Films and music generally survive the ravages of time far more easily than games. The relentless march of technology is not kind on old games and sometimes the past is best left in the cupboard, undisturbed. Good gameplay and graphics can last a long time in your head and be crushed quickly in reality. Occasionally though you have to concede that certain games were important milestones regardless of how badly they might have aged.
Goldeneye on the N64 is a classic case in point. Compared to its modern peers it doesn’t fare particularly well in the looks department. It doesn’t handle all that great either - the analog stick on the N64 was a huge advancement but it wasn’t always the most friendly for shooting and moving all the same time. That said it did allow for an unnerving amount of accuracy in the right hands and that is one of the bullet points on a long list of things that the original Goldeneye got right. It was well paced, had realistic environments and a killer multiplayer mode. Goldeneye was probably the first time a FPS had been done right on a console. Up until that point the genre had largely been the reserve of PC players. Goldeneye though proved it was possible and opened up the genre to a wider audience.
Flash forward from 1997 and the landscape is extremely different for Goldeneye 007: Reloaded. Whilst Rare’s original had the market pretty much to itself the FPS genre on consoles is a crowded room these days. Against the likes of Modern Warfare and Battlefield it is difficult to stand out. Memories and relying on a good name will only go so far and crucially, only appeal to a certain age group who were there the first time around. Standing up against the big titles currently on offer is a difficult task. Bond though is a resourceful bugger, the character has had to reinvent himself more than a few times for the big screen over the years. Thankfully the same can be said for Goldeneye 007: Reloaded. Eurocom have made a decent fist of it, although things aren’t perfect.
The developers have made the sensible decision to re-imagine Goldeneye as much as they have remake it. While the single player campaign (which will give seasoned veterans around ten hours at the most) takes a lot of its cues from its N64 predecessor the levels are sufficiently different. The biggest initial change is that Daniel Craig’s Bond takes centre stage. For those who have played the original it may seem quite jarring but other characters have also changed as well so it feels less of an issue. Goldeneye 007: Reloaded makes sure you don’t feel as if you are treading on old ground. Despite that the levels still lean towards the retro side of things. They are a tight, constrained and linear affair for the most part. Rarely do you get the chance to stretch your legs too far. Occasionally you may get a slightly different approach to a problem but it mainly boils down to a passage hidden behind a grate. Despite that the levels are varied and there are some decent firefights to be had, albeit in a constrained environment.
The biggest criticism of the single player campaign is that it perhaps isn’t hugely spectacular. When stacked up alongside some of the bigger set-pieces in other games like Modern Warfare and Battlefield then Goldeneye 007: Reloaded feels slightly tame. Picking off enemies is slightly on the easy side as well. The Xbox 360 version of course lacks the precision of the PS3 Move controls. Regardless of any perceived lack of accuracy this may bring you will still be able to mow down a ridiculous number of enemies. Snapping into iron-sight mode allows you to take down anyone who opposes you with relative ease thanks to the generous auto aiming. The game allows you to approach most levels either all guns blazing or in a more stealthy manner. Getting discovered though isn’t a huge issue as you can quickly switch to a more aggressive style with little consequence.
If you do elect to sneak about though it does unfortunately show a few shortcomings in the AI. The enemies break for cover and occasionally try to flank you but show a stunning lack of awareness when you are creeping about. Taking out one of their mates in a room will not see them bat an eye despite the screams and corpses hitting the deck. Body detection isn’t an issue either as enemies fade away once they are dispatched. It does allow you to tackle enemy groups on a more individual basis but ultimately it does make for less of a challenge. Most of the time Bond tackles those in front of him with gun play but he can get up close and personal with a more hands on approach if needs be. The single player campaign does better in how it handles the difficulty level and cover. Hunkering down behind cover and then using iron-sights allows Bond to jump up and snap a few rounds off before ducking down again. How Goldeneye 007: Reloaded also handles its difficulty is also a pleasant surprise as well. The harder the difficulty setting the more optional objectives you get to complete.
Rounding off the single player campaign is a series of MI-6 missions. These are a collection of standalone missions each with a different objective. Some levels will see Bond charged with taking out all the enemies on a map where others will see him protecting a computer from waves of villains. Other modes include stealth where you have to creep through the level without being spotted and assault where you attack a base all guns blazing. They are a welcome distraction and extend the life of the single player content by a few more hours. The MI-6 mode adds to a decent but largely forgettable single player experience.
Goldeneye 007: Reloaded, like a lot of modern shooters, does better in the multiplayer arena. While the single player is merely competent the multiplayer mode is far better. There are a host of different modes to pick from and for added retro value you can also play in four player split screen mode. For added fun there is also a staggering amount of customisation to be had. As well as regular deathmatches you can tweak things to your heart’s content by adding things like Golden Gun mode where the weapon grants one-shot kills (albeit with a massive reload time), settings when players have access to the radar or if only head shots count. With so many options to pick from and things to mess about with getting bored of Goldeneye 007: Reloaded’s multiplayer mode will be hard. There is also a decent variety of maps to pick from which allow for different playing styles. Online is fun but finding three extra players for the split screen mode is even better and it throws even more customisable settings into the mix.
Few would have envied Eurocom’s job of taking a beloved game like Goldeneye and updating it for the modern age but they’ve done a decent job. Like many contemporary shooters Goldeneye 007: Reloaded’s multiplayer modes seem to take bigger billing than the single player campaign. Those playing on their own will find an enjoyable enough game but one that is far from stunning. Levels are largely linear and straight forward and some dodgy AI threatens to spoil the party. It lacks the explosive set-pieces that have become the hallmark of the Modern Warfare games and even manages to throw in some annoying quick-time events for good measure. Goldeneye 007: Reloaded does far better at recreating the fun multiplayer mode of the original N64 game and the amount of customisation is something that has to be applauded. Despite that however one does wonder if it make a serious impact in the online world in the same way that titles like Battlefield have. As a package Goldeneye 007: Reloaded is a solid experience and probably the best James Bond game of the last few years.
How does Reloaded stack up against the classic N64 shooter?