GoldenEye. It means so much to so many of us. Hours spent squinting at split screens, stressing over speed runs and standing outside toilets waiting to shoot soldiers in the skull. It means so much to so many of us that this Wii-exclusive "reimagining" cannot possibly meet our expectations.
But then, now that I've seen and played it, I've come to the conclusion that GoldenEye 007 need not concern itself with such unrealistic targets. All it needs to do is stand up on its own two feet as a quality FPS on a console starved of quality FPSs, ride the wave of nostalgia publisher Activision is banking on, and it'll be all right.
The crux is this: GoldenEye 007 is not a remake of the 1997 seminal console shooter; it is a brand new shooter based on the film. It doffs its cap to the Rare classic, but looks to the likes of Call of Duty for inspiration.
So, while the first level is indeed a "Dam" level that begins with a sly shot of a sniper tower and features Arkady Ourumov, the suitcase-carrying Russian arms dealer who spent a lot of the original running away from you, this GoldenEye contains entirely new level design and plays more like the set piece-driven Modern Warfare.
Bond - Daniel Craig and not Pierce Brosnan - cuts a gritty, physical figure, complete with brutal melee takedowns. With agent 006 at Bond's side, producer Dawn Pinkney, from little-known UK developer Eurocom, stealthily approaches a couple of guards. Then bang - the soldiers are dispatched, strangled into submission. I don't remember this lark on the N64.
The modern touches come thick and fast. There's a lean out of cover system. There's destructible cover. There's slow motion when you break down doors. There are multiple routes to objectives. There are multiple objectives, detected via Bond's smartphone. If you're using the Classic Controller as opposed to the Wii Remote/Nunchuck combo, the controls are typical of today's shooters: left trigger to zoom in, right trigger to fire; left bumper to melee, right bumper to throw grenades, B to sprint and A to crouch. There's even an on rails, interactive cinematic bit, where you're in the passenger seat of a truck and shooting guards as 006 drives the double hard pair towards the centre of Arkady's base.
The differences continue: this GoldenEye visits all of the film's locations. N64 fans will remember that Rare's title avoided them. Eurocom's effort is set in 2010. The original was set in 1995, as was the film. As mentioned, Bond is Daniel Craig, who, along with Judi Dench as M, lends his likeness and voice to proceedings. 1997's GoldenEye features Irish sex symbol Pierce Brosnan's Bond. David Arnold, the composer who worked on Craig flicks Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale, has provided the score. Ben Cook, Craig's stunt double, lent his body for motion capturing. Bruce Feirstein, who wrote the script for the film, has written the script for the game.
But, despite the modern touches, there is much about GoldenEye that is GoldenEye. Do you remember how in the original, if you didn't stop a guard from reaching an alarm, he would call in loads of endlessly spawning guards? The mechanic was designed to encourage smart play - you know, James Bond style play. You'd play smart, using the silenced pistol to take out cameras, alarms on walls and guards before they even knew you were there. Well, in Eurocom's effort, this core mechanic remains.
In Arkady's base, I see this firsthand. Up to this point Dawn's played covertly, creeping up to guards and dispatching them with melee takedowns. There is a brief window of opportunity to kill guards in the time between them being alerted to your presence and raising the alarm, so it's not particularly hardcore stealth gameplay. But at one point Dawn fails and all hell breaks loose. The alarm is raised and enemies spawn, which, of course, requires the kind of run and gun tactics suitable for such enemy-heavy encounters.
Eurocom suggests this dynamic adds replayability to the eight hours of campaign on offer. I'm not sure about this: I reckon there's more mileage in replaying the game to try to get a better score for each stage, a bit like trying to get the 00-Agent rank in the original. Here, your score will be based on the number of objectives you complete, and the number of objectives available for completion is governed by the difficulty played. Whether speed runs factor in is unconfirmed at this point.
We don't know much about GoldenEye's online multiplayer, but what we do know suggests it's going to be right up a CoD fan's street. Eight players, experience gain, ranking, unlockable perks and weapons - they're all there. The only trouble is, the game's on the Wii, which means the online is rubbish - so says perceived wisdom.
Where GoldenEye 007 feels most like the original is in local multiplayer. Here, two, three and four-player split-screen, and a whole host of modifiers, game maps and game modes, allow for up to 200 combinations. Yes, I know the only ones you care about are slapsies, paintball, or, at a push, Golden Gun - all of which are supported - but the point is that playing GoldenEye with mates IN THE SAME ROOM will be a right laugh, as it was in 1997. Oh, and Odd Job is a playable character. But this time, banning him isn't an option, because doing so would mean missing out on his bowler hat throw - a fantastic one hit kill that the little one does instead of lobbing grenades.
While GoldenEye certainly looks good for a Wii game, and you can play it with traditional shooter controls if you've got a Classic Controller, some will question the wisdom of the decision to release the game exclusively on Nintendo consoles. Many will say it would have been a better game on the Xbox 360 and PS3, where online gaming is a better experience and visuals are better. My head subscribes to this school of thought, but my heart loves that GoldenEye is on the Wii. GoldenEye just feels right on Nintendo consoles. And so does slapsies. All we need now is confirmation that RCP-90s are in the game. And that we can dual wield them. Then the four-player party can truly begin.
GoldenEye 007 is due out on the Wii and DS in November.