What’s GoldenEye without Sean Bean?



GoldenEye 007 (2010)

When it comes to making some fat stacks, it’s important for us little people to remember that in entertainment, there is simply no such thing as a sacred cow. Nothing is untouchable, above the remit of cynical executives bolting the latest faces in entertainment onto an old work and shipping it as a “continuity reboot” or a “spiritual sequel”.

I didn’t have my glasses on so I happily stand to be corrected, but they now apparently want to bring about a Ghostbusters 3 with an all-female cast. Obviously I’m highly sexist, but for the sake of this argument let’s assume I’m rational, tolerant and level-headed. What’s the easiest way to conceal the fact that none of the old actors wanted to touch this Ghostbusters 3 with a ten-foot barge pole? Do a complete turnabout on the cast and instead bring in actresses that won’t make viewers ask “what happened to the other guys?”

Is that so cynical? Well, how about the new (true) sequel to Dumb & Dumber which isn’t too far away? I’m certainly not alone in being a little frightened about how that’s all going to pan out. I even read today that that old British schmaltzy pastiche Dad’s Army is being made into a film starring, of all people, Catherine Zeta Jones, alongside Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon cropping up with their usual turns as obligatory old English gentlemen. Would you believe it?

Now I can take or leave Dad’s Army if I’m really being honest, but even this subdued news that the setting and characters are going to be dug up ninety years later and turned into some sort of vanity project is enough to make me do a sad. They’re going to redo The Breakfast Club as well one of these days and violate its orifices – I know it. And when it does happen, that’ll be when I finally elect to die by my own hand. You’d think it all impossible, but you mustn’t forget that they already massacred Robocop and Total Recall.

But who’d have thought that we’d see the James Bond series make a return to the 1995 Pierce Brosnan flick, GoldenEye? In actual fact, it’s not the first time we’ve seen the name of that wonderful film crop up again, as we had some six-out-of-ten effort called GoldenEye: Rogue Agent about ten years back that passed all self-respecting gamers by. Now I have to say, I’m an unashamedly big fan of those EA developed James Bond games we got around the early 2000s. Well, not so much Agent Under Fire, which we might look at in less than glowing terms another day, but Nightfire and Everything or Nothing were triffic, warts and all.

For our purposes though, this new GoldenEye was touted as a much-needed throwback to those wonderfully misty-eyed days when you and three of your fellow Milhouses huddled around a tiny CRT screen, blowing each other away in the N64 GoldenEye’s hurriedly added multiplayer mode. Only deal is, multiplayer these days is unfortunately focused on online play against geeks, nobodies, homophobes and minority haters. Worse still, we’re on a Nintendo system this time. It may have been a Wii exclusive (for perhaps a year or so), but online play and Nintendo still go together like B.A. Baracus and planes.

At the time of writing, of course, the Wi-Fi Connection on the Wii is now parti, which takes away about half the game’s appeal. I must admit that I could only actually access the online mode a handful of times, stemming from some odd boob in the game’s programming. When I did manage to get online and frolic with firearms among other avid riflers, I found myself getting chiefed by Brad, Corey and Tyler again and again and again. I’m not sure if I was even supposed to be put up against players across the Pacific, but I was, and I was dangerously unprepared.

To do well in shooting games, I can exclusively reveal, you’ve got to be sufficiently tooled up. When I came online and started running about some building site, trying to catch some scoundrels out and fry ‘em, I found my artillery woefully lacking. I had Bond’s trusty handgun, which might prove useful at dinner parties and high-stakes poker games, but hardly much use when someone’s fragging you with the Golden Gun from fifty miles away. Alongside that, I had some jelly-shooting submachine gun that spat out about 12 ineffectual bullets before needing reloading.

To get better shooters, I’d have to perform well, gain experience points and level up, which more or less meant that I’d have to pick up a whole new career with the game. Online gameplay being so time constrained, this was obviously a non-starter. I wanted Oddjob so I could throw about his insta-death hat, but I’d have to play for about seventeen years, eleven more than I have free to donate to a game. Some pity.

We’ve got local multiplayer of course, which at least offers provisions for up to four-players (something which more than a few modern games are seemingly reluctant to do), but still lacks AI bots. The word ‘bot’ probably wasn’t even in the old Oxford dictionary when the Nintendo 64 GoldenEye  ruled the roost, so it’s not as if it’s a stepdown. All the same, having only ten multiplayer maps and four offline multiplayer modes falls pretty short of the multiplayer madness that this game had promised, doesn’t it? Weren’t we looking for something that would build upon the original? As we’ve seen, Rareware sellotaped the multiplayer mode of GoldenEye N64  onto their game weeks before development finished, and that edition still ended up with more modes, more characters, almost the same amount of maps and a wide array of weapons.

So what, bar nicer graphics, does this newer GoldenEye offer that we can’t still do on a Nintendo 64 and GoldenEye game picked up for a song? The game really bigged up its multiplayer modes, but online was a mirthless rat-race and local was perfunctory at best. So all we have to fall back on really, after we’ve disregarded the modes that never really got going in the first place, is the single-player. Now I know that there’s many people out there who would buy an online-oriented shooter (inevitably Call of Duty) and never once deign to play through the single-player mode, never knowing whether or not the single player was a blockbuster story with killer gameplay. Compare that with GoldenEye N64, where every level had a cheat to unlock, guards to mess with and different ways to get to the end.

Well, there may be more of an incentive for these types of players to play through GoldenEye Wii’s single player as, rather obviously, it’s loosely based on the classic film. I say loosely because you must remember that none of the characters resemble anything in the original movie. Licensing issues or some such, which forbade Bond from being depicted by anyone other than the top-notch Daniel Craig. Moreover, once you get past the Dam and into the famous vent of the Facility, there’s fairly little resemblance to the locations of the film thereafter. The plot is modernised a little bit: the naff EMP plot is regurgitated, with face-turned-heel, newly-scarred 006 taking command of the GoldenEye satellites to steal himself oodles of cash and give London a jolly good rogering. The story twists and turns through exotic locales and Daniel Craig and Judi Dench Innit offer some decent vocals along the way, which is all you really need.

Ultimately, we can only really judge two-thirds of this game these days, and the local multiplayer is hardly a step-up from days of yore. So it’s all down to the single player mode, which is typical Call of Duty fare – head towards some arbitrary point on the map, every so often slowing to a stand-still and taking cover behind a conveniently waist-high obstacle so that you can occasionally lean out to shoot the dozen or so crackshot guards who’ve suddenly spawned to take you down.

Obviously, any enemy bullets that should go right through your canister can be healed very quickly by simply standing about and avoiding a further shredding by any more bullets for a time. Makes sense, right? That’s all you need to do to get through the levels, with the occasional wander out of cover to avoid thrown grenades. Cover, peek out, shoot, recuperate, repeat. It all rapidly becomes repetitive, so much so that even the wonderful soundtrack (composed by long-time Bond composer David Arnold) can’t sustain the lengthy, samey levels.

With the big names on board, the wide range of control options, the online mode such that it was and the range of weaponry on offer, this isn’t a game that suffered from lack of effort. Prior to the game’s release, a titter-causing little image done the rounds, showing an open Wii case with a GoldenEye N64 cart inside – that was the only way the anticipant players would be happy, we wags concluded.

Now, as much nostalgia as I have for the grainy, quaint little original game, and as much as I’ll never, ever admit that it’s aged horribly, I honestly wasn’t looking for an expansion pack to the original game. But I expected something that could offer a pretty significant step up to what we had 13 years previously, with only a now-defunct online mode to differentiate it. And even that went for a Burton once GoldenEye became Reloaded on the PS3 and Xbox 360. A return to the classic multiplayer of old, they promised. Well, to deftly paraphrase a quote from the film by my supremely suave compatriot, “Game companies change, the lies stay the same”. Stick to, I don’t know, GoldenEye Source. It’ll teach me to fund that Call of Duty guff.

09 October 2014

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