A lot has changed for console first-person shooters since the release of the original Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64 in 1997. There was the tactical gamplay of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon in 2001, the stardom of Halo multiplayer, and now the hyper-realism of the Call of Duty series that has dominated the console landscape since 2007. Needless to say, the original Goldeneye 007 has aged worse than just about any other tried and true classic.
Part of that can be chalked up to the graphical upgrade that has come with next-gen systems. But the same complaint can be levied against all games of Goldeneye 007’s generation, while some of it can be attributed to the game’s archaic control system. Goldeneye 007 is so old that it used a one-joystick control scheme and forced players to use the left trigger to fire, something that’s unthinkable to anyone who’s played a modern shooter. Perhaps most importantly though, the thing that made Goldeneye 007 so legendary—it’s innovative split screen multiplayer and ease of playability—has been redone and perfected so many times since its inception that what used to set it apart has become a glaringly imperfect and poorly controllable game mode that has been made further obsolete by online gaming. A reboot of the series based on this outdated model then was bound to fail.
With the technological advancements of next-gen systems, games designers have a choice to make: aim for real life depictions of people, violence, and action or take a more of an arcade approach in which the laws of physics and human interaction are skewed. Neither is inherently better than the other so long as game designers commit to one. But the Goldeneye 007 remake fails precisely because it refuses to choose a side—not unlike the original—but in this case, gamers have actually seen the difference (as opposed to the original, which pioneered the “realistic” FPS). Integrated into the traditional Goldeneye 007 model is a functional cover system, realistic graphics (or at least insofar as they can be so on the Wii), and cutscenes intended to make you feel decidedly “in the action”. But at the same time, when you shoot an enemy directly in the head, he rarely dies. Instead, he crouches down like he had been punched in the arm before you fill him with three or four more bullets.
Suspending your disbelief while playing Goldeneye 007 is difficult, which is problematic for a game that goes a long way to make you believe that you’re actually a secret agent. And it’s not just because of the indecisive gaming model. The game’s graphics are about as limiting as you’ve come to expect from the Wii. In the face of an influx of realistic shooters, Goldeneye 007’s hackneyed visual presentation is limiting at best, which is to say nothing of the constant in-game prompts that modern FPS have relied on so heavily. Rather than allowing you to investigate environments and interact with them naturally, you’re often given “A to Open” prompts and button combinations to engage in melee with nearby enemies.
The game’s multiplayer suffers a similar fate as the not-quite-real, not-quite-arcade single player game. The various levels that you can choose from were all designed to be real-world environments, as opposed to the linear, simplistic maps that dominated the original. But players are completely unable to interact with them. What appear to be explosive barrels are simply cylindrical objects that get in your way. However, probably the biggest issue with multiplayer is that the designers decided to follow the current FPS trend of selecting a “class” before the match, which automatically equips you with that class’s weapons. While the fact that you never have to use a PP7 or Klobb to try and kill your friends again is nice, part of the fun of the original Goldeneye 007 was the mad scramble to get and protect the best weapon in every map. If you can look past these issues, the multiplayer is a fairly faithful recreation of the original, right down to favorites like the Golden Gun and paintball modes.
Unfortunately, in 2010 the archetype that saw Goldeneye 007 rise to fame in 1997 is a wildly outdated model that without a significant revamp pales in comparison to its contemporaries. But modeling the game directly after the current next-gen FPS completely destroys the game’s remake nostalgia. The Wii’s limited graphical capabilities combined with the game’s own existential uncertainty combine for a game that’s woefully undermatched against its contemporaries and is disjointed in its own right.