GoldenEye 007 is the first Wii game I’ve played that doesn’t feel like a Wii game. Even though you could call it a remake of the shooter from 1997 that merely updates James Bond and brings the story into the 21st century, it is much more than that. The mission design and characters of the campaign are highly entertaining but the multiplayer is what everyone will be judging this game on, and it doesn’t disappoint. The fast-paced, yet strategic, combat works great in local split screen and online in probably some of the best multiplayer the Wii has to offer. Combined with the fantastically written and designed campaign and GoldenEye works on nearly every level.

You have a lot of options in how to control GoldenEye. The best one is to use Nintendo’s Classic Controller Pro, which is basically a Gamecube controller. You can also use the standard Classic Controller or the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, but these are inelegant at best. The only good thing about using the motion control is that the melee punch is mapped to the accelerometer of the Nunchuk, so punching equals punching, but I found aiming and turning with the Wii Remote difficult to master. Nintendo was smart enough to bundle a gold Classic Controller Pro with GoldenEye, and I think that’s how the developers expected most people to play the game.

It’s easy to forget that you are playing a Wii game in the campaign of GoldenEye. Yes, the graphics aren’t as high definition as the rest of this generation, but I stopped noticing after a while because the rest of the game plays so well. Eurocom was able to squeeze as much of a framerate as they could out of the little Wii to deliver some really great action sequences and animations. I even found the blurriness of the image onscreen to enhance the action, especially during the surprisingly fun quick time events that punctuate the hand-to-hand combat for which the Bond series is known. It is somehow more Bond-like to play scripted fight sequences; I felt more like 007 blocking Xenia Onatopp’s kicks and punches by pressing the appropriate buttons than I would if I shot her in the back from 50 feet away.

Although GoldenEye is definitely a shooter, you’re not just blasting away the whole time. The designers made the excellent choice of allowing you to sneak up on enemies and sometimes even past them. By crouching, you are undetectable and can move up behind guards to subdue them with a melee attack that doesn’t alert his comrades. There are also cameras that you must take out, or the alarm will sound bringing heavy guards down on your position. You can go through the whole game shooting at everybody at a distance, especially on the easier difficulties, but I liked that I had the option of stealth if I wanted to feel more like a spy than a soldier. It’s not quite Deus Ex, but the option is nice. And if you want to complete the game on the harder difficulties where health doesn’t recharge, stealth is almost necessary.

The story of the campaign is based on that of the 1995 film but it’s gotten an update. Bond starts off at a dam in the Soviet Union and teams up with agent 006, Alec Trevelyan, to investigate a weapons cache but ends up stumbling onto a much bigger plot. The mission ends with Bond jumping off the dam, which spurs an authentic opening credit sequence complete with silhouetted women and slow motion guns firing. The rest of the level design is similar to the linear story-driven play of the first game, but with many different objectives to be completed. I especially liked using Bond’s smartphone in some missions, either to take photographs of an EMP-hardened helicopter or to hack into wireless computer networks.

Having a top-notch screenwriter like Bruce Feirstein from the original film makes GoldenEye sing. There is not a huge amount of dialogue, the mission briefings by Judi Dench as M are sparse (there are more with her secretary Tanner speaking), but what has changed from the film is definitely for the better. Taking place in 2010, Daniel Craig has replaced Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond, and the animators did a great job of approximating Craig’s more athletic physicality and gruffness. Extraneous characters are gone, but I think the plot benefits from streamlining. The romance with rescued computer programmer Natalya Simonova is a little stretched, but, hey, this is James Bond. The main antagonist’s motives have completely changed to reflect the economic collapse of this decade, but it makes so much more sense to me than the character’s ties to World War II and the Russian Cossacks of the original film. The ending sequence, which alternates firefights with the surprisingly effective quick time events, builds to such a great climax that I don’t even miss Sean Bean. Much.

My favorite moments of the campaign were likely added by screenwriter Feirstein. Listening to the banter between two friends at a nightclub, or the dreams a guard has of owning a hotel “after all this is over” allow this GoldenEye to stand on its own, perhaps even above its predecessor.

Add to that the excellent multiplayer, and GoldenEye is a knockout. Split screen local multiplayer is back, and you can set up any kind of match that you could in 1997, plus some additional modes. And even though the maps are not the same as you might remember, each of them is well-designed enough to encourage players to keep moving through the environment instead of holing up and taking pot-shots with the sniper rifle. You can totally do that in the towers on the Outpost map if you want, cheater, but you’ll eventually get someone taking you out by sneaking up the back.

Choosing loadouts is where the multiplayer differs greatly from the old game. Instead of the old convention of spawning with no gun and weapons being placed in specific locations on the map, you can pick your starting payload from a number of options, including sniper rifles and missile launchers. Each loadout usually has a main weapon and a sidearm, as well as a number of grenades. This frees up matches to be more strategic as soon as you spawn, without the awkward search for a weapon. When I played in college, we had a house rule where you couldn’t shoot your buddy if he called, “No gun.” By adding loadouts, I’m no longer tempted to shoot the innocent and unarmed. Although, I probably still would…

Accolades return from the first game, but there are way more of them now. Earning Steeple Chase for vaulting over the most obstacles or Butter Hook for the most melee kills during a match are fun to get, but I loved the more dubious honors. Having the least kills in a match does indeed only offer a Quantum of Solace.

But perhaps the greatest multiplayer development in the new GoldenEye is its online component. You can exchange Nintendo Friend Codes and set up private matches online just like in local split screen, but I found leveling up in ranked matches when you connect to Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection a lot of fun. It’s easy to drop into a match (no Friend Code required!) and you earn experience points for kills and special situations, such as headshots or taking out a player on a kill streak. There are preset loadouts, but, as you level up, you can add more powerful weapons and Bond gadgets like sticky mines to your custom loadout. I thought the metagame of online multiplayer in GoldenEye added the modern expectation of reward-for-time-invested to the proven shootouts of the combat itself.

GoldenEye 007 doesn’t do anything especially groundbreaking or innovative, but it delivers everything that a game starring James Bond should. The fact that’s it a remake or reboot or whatever it should be called makes it even more impressive. GoldenEye is the exclusive Wii game that so-called hardcore players never thought would exist. It pushes the boundaries of what everyone thought was capable on the tiny console by providing a complex and engaging multiplayer experience on top of an excellently written and fun to play campaign.

Bottom Line: More than just a remake, GoldenEye 007 lives up to its predecessor and then some by not only modernizing the story but the multiplayer as well.

Recommendation: Everyone who owns a Wii should probably pick up this game, and even Bond fans who don’t have one might consider buying a Wii just to experience the fun of the stealthy campaign and the multiplayer.

[rating=5]

What our review scores mean.

Game: GoldenEye 007
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Eurocom
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: November 2nd, 2010
Platform: Wii
Available from: Wii

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