There were a lot of words bandied about as we waited for the press event for GoldenEye 007: Reloaded to begin. “Surprising”, “crazy” and “ballsy” were just a few. With the game set to launch on November 1, 2011, just a week after Battlefield 3, a week before Activision’s own Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and on the same day as Uncharted 3 one thing was certain, Eurocom and Activision need to bring their game.
In the lobby we were relegated to prior to the doors opening were a variety of very cool Bond artifacts: Jaws’ teeth, two replicas of the Golden Gun (one of which we were invited to assemble on our own from its component parts) and the GoldenEye itself. As we know from the Wii release of GoldenEye 007, Eurocom knows what they are doing. That game was a treat for Nintendo fans and it was only right to see the game that became synonymous with the Nintendo 64 appear there first. Now, it’s time, though, for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 owners to get in on the fun.
As we’ve previously covered, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded will feature even more modes than the Wii release, more classic characters and retooled multiplayer that captures the joy of the original GoldenEye 64 while bringing contemporary sensibilities to bear.
The first thing I wanted to do was get my hands on the Playstation 3 version to try out the Sharpshooter and Move controls. I was impressed with the Sharpshooter interface (this was my first hands-on time with it) and, despite the learning curve, if you’ve got a Sharpshooter, it’s a great way to play the game. If you don’t like motion controls, this won’t do anything to change your mind, but those holding off on a Move and Sharpshooter might want to check out the bundle that Activision is releasing on the Playstation 3.
The Sharpshooter was on a single-player station at the Dam, at the outset of the game. GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is running on a proprietary engine that looks and feels very smooth. The facial animations, especially when you subdue an enemy with a scripted melee takedown, rival that of the recently released Crysis on consoles. The textures are very sharp and I was very impressed by the location-based damage, enemy reactions and the physics at play. Daniel Craig voices James Bond, Judi Dench reprises her role as M and Craig’s stunt double was on hand to do all of the motion capture work. Unfortunately, Sean Bean does not make an appearance in the game, but it is understandable given the recasting to align with contemporary films.
The gunplay was very solid, with each weapon feeling different. It didn’t take me long to learn which weapons I wanted to have on hand. However, one non-combat level that was shown off focused on Bond as a spy as he worked his way through a nightclub to find a target. The game asks that you use your smartphone (another update, given the original GoldenEye 64 released in 1996) to use facial recognition software. We wandered the nightclub looking through our phone’s camera. It didn’t feel very stealthy and looked a little silly. However, the dancers in the nightclub moved naturally (no Commander Shepard Shuffle here) and many of the extras in the scene exuded different personalities. Usually set dressing like that is thrown together without care. It was nice to see Eurocom casting a scene rather than taking the easy way out.
The other new mode for this release is MI-6 Ops missions, which come in four flavors. Elimination matches task you with killing everyone on the map. Stealth missions also require the death of your foes, but if you are detected, the mission is failed. Defend missions have you downloading a file while holding off waves of enemies, trying to destroy the terminals. Finally, the single Assault map has you rushing from one end of the map to the other, simply trying to survive against formidable odds. There are 11 of these missions in total, and you’ll unlock them in succession as you complete and then improve your rating (graded on 1 to 4 stars). MI-6 Ops also features leaderboards. Before each mission you can tune the modifiers, health regeneration, number of enemies, and more to increase the degree of difficulty. It will be great to see if you’ll be able to share your configurations with friends to see how you compete with the same set of tweaks. The different missions play well, and you can turn on paintball and ragdoll (which sends defeated enemies flying across the map) without impacting your difficulty rating.
We also had a lot of time to try the online multiplayer (up to 16 players) with a number of stations set up around the room. There are, of course, standard and team deathmatch options, but the creative modes are where the fun is at. I absolutely loved Escalation, which awards you with a different gun with each kill. The first to reach the top tier and execute a kill with a melee strike wins. You start with Bond’s classic PPK or another pistol and work yourself up through assault rifles, rocket launchers, sniper rifles (which is challenging when you are forced to use one with no alternative) and the Moonraker laser. If you happen to find yourself on the wrong end of a bullet twice, your weapon tier drops by one and you’ll need to climb back up again through kills.This match type can turn on a dime as someone who just had a shotgun can find themselves at close range with a sniper rifle. You need to keep moving and try to learn the weapon progression.
In addition to Escalation and the returning modes (Golden Gun, License to Kill, Team License to Kill, Conflict, Team Conflict, Black Box, Heroes, GoldenEye, Classic Conflict – featuring memorable Bond villains – and the split-screen-only You Only Live Twice), there are three additional new modes for the 360 and PS3 release: Bomb Defuse, a one-flag CTF mode; Detonator Agent, where a bomb with a 60-second fuse is passed off hot potato style to killed players; and Data Miner, a clever mode where kills increase your download rate. In Data Miner, the first person to fully download the file wins, but the download is reset if you are killed. The top downloader at any given time is highlighted on the map, creating a “screw the leader” mentality (and lots of trash talk).
Four new maps join the ten maps from the Wii version of GoldenEye 007 and the classic characters, which all have unique traits or weapons have gotten further fleshed out with even more thematic weapons and signature abilites for Classic Conflict mode. For instance, Jaws’ teeth reduce his headshot damage and Dr. No’s metal arms completely eliminate damage to those extremities. The location-based damage had to be good as it is because so many of the abilities rely on it. For those wondering, we had the classic Odd Job debate. He’s not quite as short as he was in GoldenEye 64, but he still has the dang hat that will kill you in one hit.
The most fun I had with the game was when we camped out on couches to play four-player split-screen. The first thing we did was turn on paintball mode. The fan-favorite modifiers make a return and we had a blast with “singularity” and “rubber grenades” turned on (though, that made Odd Job’s hat even more ridiculously cheap). Singularity forces you to stay at range from your enemies, because if you should touch, you’ll both die in a horrific electrical shock; it was absolutely hilarious. Now that we play on (much) larger televisions than we did in 1996, split-screen is even more viable than it has ever been. If you wondered if there was still a place for split-screen shooters in today’s gaming environment, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is answering with a resounding “yes!” The one thing I did notice in split-screen that wasn’t present in any of the other modes was a significant amount of screen tearing. The game is not gold yet, though, and that may still be fixed before release.
While we might never fully understand the decisions that led to this extremely challenging release date for GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, one thing is for sure, the game is a lot of fun, technically proficient and, so far, worthy of the 007 name.