Monday, May 27, 2013

GoldenEye Wii Review

Originally written on: Jan 15, 2011

Official title: GoldenEye 007
Genre: FPS
Release date: November 2, 2010
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Eurocom
Cost: $40 new on Amazon

The original GoldenEye redefined (or defined, for many people) the FPS genre on consoles, particularly on a console with an otherwise family-friendly appeal. While the original GoldenEye is surely dated by today's standards, it dropped jaws in 1997 and became one of the crowning multiplayer experiences of the generation. Not only did it help redefine console FPSs, but it also introduced a spy FPS genre and helped propel split-screen gaming to its peak.

While in my opinion GoldenEye was outdone in almost every way by Perfect Dark three years later, the original still had its charm. It had highly memorable mission locations and weapons that made it fun to shoot and exciting to reach the next level. But unlike today's FPSs that rely on linear but lengthy campaigns, the original GoldenEye and similar FPSs excel in delivering short but highly replayable single-player experiences due to multiple difficulty levels with increasing numbers of objectives and fun cheats to mix things up.

As a spy FPS, GoldenEye also differed from past and present war FPSs in the following way: instead of pitting you in a squad with primarily brain-dead allies who love to shout more than shoot, you're almost always alone without anyone to back you up. Rather than charging in with a scoped assault rifle, you normally have only a measly pistol. There is an emphasis on optional but highly recommended stealth, and rather than going from point A to point B you have to complete objectives along the way.

GoldenEye for the Wii is not a remake but a re-imagining of the movie starring Pierce Brosnan, although the game takes place in 2010 with Daniel Craig's Bond. By using the same name as the original classic, there's no hiding that its appeal is to bring back moments of the original. But there's one key difference to keep in mind between the releases of the original and of the new GoldenEye: the original came out when there was nothing else like it, which allowed it to redefine an entire genre. In contrast, there has been no shortage of quality FPSs on both consoles and PC for several years now, even though the spy FPS genre hasn't had a quality game since Nightfire last gen.

The important question to ask is whether or not GoldenEye for the Wii lives up to the original, perhaps not in redefining FPSs but at least in living up to modern standards. Is this what fans expect from a modern Bond game? Read on.


Like the original game, missions are meant to be played through multiple times on different difficulty levels. Each difficulty level has health and AI modifiers and, more importantly, added objectives to ensure that players get something new out of playing through the same missions again.

Thankfully, shooting mechanics and AI have been improved upon greatly since the original. If any enemies are alerted, players have roughly a second to completely kill them before they call in reinforcements. It works well and is fun enough to still work after the first playthrough without feeling old.

Another plus is that in missions there are objectives that increase in number with difficulty like in the original GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. It's a shame that pretty much all of them are mini fetch quests where you go up to an object and press A or take out your phone and then press A. If anything, the added objectives can be a bit tedious, especially in one mission where you have to find hidden crates that contain weapons that you can probably find from fallen enemies (why?), and if you miss even one you fail the mission.

The only gadget in the game is your phone, and all it can do is take pictures and hack. Each mission would have been more unique if it had unique gadgets like in the N64 spy FPSs; and as a side note, other pistols are useless in missions since you can't replace your default pistol with them, and there's no reason to have a pistol instead of any other weapon class.

On a technical level there are some hindrances that do affect gameplay. First of all, the framerate cannot keep up with what's going on. The game often looks choppy, especially when there are multiple enemies on-screen at once. Hit detection and bullet penetration both seem to be a bit off as well, with shots sometimes hitting a nearby object despite a clear line of sight and and some objects being penetrable while others -- including glass -- aren't; or at least enemies can shoot you through them, but you can't shoot them until you first shoot out the glass, some of which is indistinguishably bulletproof.

Looking past these issues, the missions do offer a great deal of variety. While most enemies seem to have the same AI patterns, at least enemies look different, which is more than can be said about many other modern FPSs. And since enemies usually don't always know where you are, there's the feeling that you always have a chance to make confrontations easier than they have to be if you're careful. It's just annoying when enemies are alerted because you miss an important shot while completely still and crouched.

Making this slightly more frustrating are the controls. For whatever reason I couldn't find a setup that worked just right for me. I have plenty of experience with various types of FPSs across many platforms including the N64. I was able to play Perfect Dark with no auto-aim, head roll, and no crosshair with the N64 controller. I also had no problem controlling Metroid Prime 3 although it was a first-person adventure.

But in GoldenEye, aiming down the sights is limited because you can only move so quickly with the Wii remote and nunchuk even with the sensitivity turned all the way up. In contrast, the default settings for a GameCube remote work perfectly when ADS, although the C-stick is horrendous on it and not ideal for aiming. Furthermore, the same button is used to run and to pick up weapons, although if you only briefly hold the sprint button you'll rarely pick up a weapon when you don't want to. A bigger but still minor annoyance is automatically standing a bit if you ADS while crouched; this might be useful for players new to FPSs as they can crouch behind cover, aim to shoot, and let go to get back into cover, but there's no option to disable this for people who want to stay crouched while aiming.

In the end, all of these technical issues are not enough to truly detriment the enjoyment of the game. For anyone who misses the feel of spy FPSs or wants something different instead of the stale war FPS genre, GoldenEye will probably be a breath of fresh air. The objectives aren't as fun as in the original game, but they're better than nothing.

Score: 8.6

Visuals and Sound

GoldenEye is one beautiful Wii game. The attention to detail is excellent, and the color variety rivals even some shooters on HD consoles. Briefings and cutscenes are all attractive, and gun models aren't bad either.

The menu is admittedly boring, but at first it's easily ignored thanks to music that helps set the mood -- that is, until you've heard it for the 20th time in a row on the same day. The same music plays when you pause the game and even when you select the game in the Wii menu. On the plus side, it does pick up during missions and changes to a more energetic tune when you're spotted.

As for sound effects, they're pretty sub-par overall by any standards. Shooting a gun in this game sounds like hitting a piece of paper with varying pitches. Maybe I'm just used to FPSs on other consoles, but it's something that I couldn't completely ignore while playing. Voice acting is decent. It's good -- and I hate to use this phrase, but it's inevitable -- for a Wii game, especially when compared with the rest of the Wii's library.

Perhaps the aforementioned framerate issues should be expected given how good the visuals are, but the fact that it's choppy will lower the score a bit.

Score: 9.1

Replay Value

Missions can be played through multiple times with somewhat different experiences each time thanks to multiple difficulty levels and a time trial option. However, it came as a huge disappointment that nothing whatsoever is unlocked by completing all of this. Yeah, completing one level on a given difficulty allows for the next one to be played on it, but the original GoldenEye and Perfect Dark both had tons of cheats that added replay value. Other spy FPSs rewarded players with upgrades and multiplayer characters.

Another annoyance when replaying missions is that cutscenes cannot be skipped and even count toward time trails. This feels unfair since players have no control over what happens during the cutscenes. Plus it gets old watching the same one over and over after dying from retrying a 007 classic run for the tenth time in a row.

There is a multiplayer mode, but it sorely lacks in options. While there are modifiers such as whether grenades are normal, sticky, or bouncy, there's nothing really deep here. Online it's almost but not quite unplayable for anyone who is used to shooters on other platforms. One thing that will keep players coming back is an unlock system that seems standard now in online FPSs, although a lack of any kind of communication and ability to add friends makes the whole experience very impersonal. Oh, and good luck getting into objective modes, since people mostly play conflict (aka deathmatch). Regardless of which mode you play, animations are choppy and sometimes skippy when players move quickly online, which makes it difficult to shoot other players unless they're standing still or moving slowly.

One thing I noticed post-review is that if the host quits, the game closes and players get no credit for anything they did. Hosts rarely quit mid-game, but when they do it can be frustrating. In one day I was doing extremely will with a k/d spread above 10 or so, only for the host to quit right near the end. I didn't get experience points, credit for kills, or anything. Thankfully people rarely quit during games.

Offline, players can freely choose any character and one of various setups that consist of a primary weapon, a pistol, and three perks (called gadgets in this game) that range from health and damage modifiers to special grenades and mines. The primary weapon may or may not have an attachment. My only complaint with this is that it's very tedious to tell what's included, since you have to wait for each piece of info to appear rather than it being displayed all at once like in CoD games. You also can't customize anything, nor can you play without perks. There are no bots, either.

There are only three modes in split-screen unless you get the game new with a code, although entering the code is a tedious process (you even have to input the dashes), and for some reason I still didn't get the extra mode after using my code unless it unlocks characters rather than a mode. The modes are conflict, golden gun (1 point per kill or 5 points per golden gun kill), and you only live twice (deathmatch where everyone has a customizable number of lives). This is being picky, but you also can't see maps while you select them, so you have to learn them by name.

That's all the game offers: a single-player experience with absolutely no unlocks for completing it and a somewhat barebones multiplayer offering that's at its best when playing split-screen or with people you know from outside the game. It's a plus that the missions are actually fun and memorable; that makes them worth replaying, but it almost feels like a waste of time for anyone expecting to be rewarded for it.

Score: 7.8


A choppy framerate mixed with occasional poor hit detection definitely do not mix. Sometimes the game feels like a mix of awkward shooting, aiming your phone at white squares while paralyzed (due to the slow turning speed when holding it), and quick-time events that get old after the first time. Add in restrictive controls at times and unskippable cutscenes and it becomes apparent that this game may not be for everyone, particularly those that are used to more polished games on HD consoles that have solid online components and a smooth framerate.

For everyone else, this is a decent game and possibly the best FPS on the Wii to date. The original GoldenEye ventured into new territory, but this re-imagining came at an unfortunate time when there are already several high-quality titles in the market. But I do recommend this game for anyone who owns only a Wii and/or who craves a spy FPS rather than a brown and gray war FPS.

Final score: 8.7

How to Improve

This is a bonus section that I added after writing the review. I decided to make a list of things that could be done to make this game a perfect 10 or close to it.

1. A steady framerate

Nothing takes you out of the experience more than a choppy framerate, especially when it gets so bad that you can see an individual frame until the game catches up.

2. More meaningful objectives with unique gadgets

It should be fun to have more objectives. GoldenEye and Perfect Dark both succeeded in this area by giving you gadgets to use, and each mission's objectives matched the levels they were based on and made sense. Furthermore, there were detailed briefings that explained each objective and made them feel necessary. Failing a mission because I failed to shoot the lock off of one out of five useless weapon creates and having to restart the whole thing isn't fun.

3. More MP options

There should be more modes such as CTF, king of the hill, and maybe a game that cycles through each weapon similar to Black Ops's gun game. The ability to play without perks would be nice, as would the ability to see an entire class at once instead of having to wait for it to cycle through. A custom class modifier would've also been sweet.

4. Unlockables including cheats

GE and PD on the N64 were so replayable because not only did each difficulty add meaningful objectives, but there were also cheats that made for even more unique experiences. Perfect Dark was flooded with unlockables from MP characters and maps to cheats and secret missions (which GE also had). In this GoldenEye, you get absolutely nothing for beating missions except the ability to play the next mission on the difficulty you completed.

5. Host migration

Of course I'd prefer dedicated servers, but I know that's pretty much impossible on consoles. Instead, host migration that actually works would help prevent stat losses. Even better, stats should be saved regardless of whether or not the match finishes.

6. WiiSpeak

Animal Crossing has voice chat but not GoldenEye. Really, Nintendo?

7. Better weapon balance

In MP, the first weapon in most classes is completely useless. There are no advantages whatsoever to choosing the Sigmus or AK-47 as far as I know. Competitive MP games should be balanced, although this surprisingly isn't too much of an issue; people just ignore them.

8. The ability to backtrack in missions

So often you drop down in a mission and can't climb back up. Unfortunately, a required objective was back there, and now the only way to get it is to restart the mission, which you might as well do because you'll fail anyway. A simple fix for this would be to allow players to simply go back and find what they missed before finishing a mission.

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