If you're going to remake one of the most cherished games of all time, you're going to want to make damn sure you do a good job of it. Gamers are a finicky bunch, and although they've been demanding a remake of GoldenEye for years, now that it's actually happening they're straight on the attack. "A Wii game!?" they cry, "but we wanted a high definition remake of GoldenEye with a real control pad! And what's Daniel Craig doing in the game? WTF!?" At a special 007 event in London last week, Activision spoke of the 'weight of responsibility' that comes with remaking GoldenEye, and these are exactly the kind of comments that form the bulk of that weight. With any luck, this preview will help lighten the load, because from what I've seen so far, GoldenEye 007 is shaping up very nicely indeed.
The first thing to take note of here is that this isn't a remake in the traditional sense; it's a spiritual re-imagining. The GoldenEye of 2010 (denoted by the '007' suffix of sorts) uses the original game as a solid foundation, but builds on that framework in fresh and interesting ways. It's set in a different time, uses different locations and is driven by different characters (well, actors). Those against the idea of the remake seem perplexed that Daniel Craig has been cast as Bond - doesn't this go against everything that defined the original? This was a question I threw to Dawn Pinkney, Executive Producer at Eurocom.
"Since the game's been announced, everybody has asked that question," she said. "Starting the project, it was never a question we had. We're re-imagining GoldenEye, we don't want to go back to 1997, we want to be 2010." With that in mind, it makes sense to bring Daniel Craig on board; he's the James Bond of 2010 after all. The look, feel and - to an extent - the story have been redesigned around Craig's take on character. Today's Bond is gritty, physical and agile, traits that are reflected in the game's motion-based takedown moves and multi-route level progressions. The story has been revamped for a 2010 audience too, with modern environments populated with updated technologies. It's the same GoldenEye story, but in a parallel universe where it's 2010, and nobody knows who the hell Pierce Brosnan is.
The other thing that defenders of the original might have a problem with is controls, which is ironic considering that the original game was released on the N64; a console with a controller that only had one analogue stick - these days it couldn't be a worse fit for a first person shooter. Given that the Wii supports multiple control methods, I asked Dawn how she envisaged people playing the new GoldenEye, and whether the game was designed with one control method in mind.
"To be honest, the game is so accessible - to a wide audience, but also a core audience. There is no right control method for the game, because we're catering for everyone. You've got the Wii-mote and the Nunchuck, which gives you your motion control. You've got your standard shooter controls with the option to move the camera. We've also developed a different configuration using the Wii-mote and Nunchuck that's specifically for a wider audience that may struggle to play FPSs on the Wii. Then we've got the Classic controller Pro, the Classic controller, the GameCube controller and the Zapper, so we're catering for everyone."
It certainly seems hard to criticise the game from a control perspective; it supports just about every control scheme imaginable. A more fundamental worry is that the re-imagining will tarnish the reputation of the original with lacklustre visuals and dated gameplay. Five minutes of the game in action put that concern to bed too. The demonstration saw Bond infiltrating a Russian military stronghold - what would have been the dam in the original game. Here, Bond meets up with Alec Trevelyan, the defecting double-oh-agent who spurs on the subsequent narrative. The level that follows plays out through Bond's eyes, as the pair silently storm through the facility.
Chances are you'll hear the phrase 'pushes the Wii to its graphical limit' thrown around a lot in GoldenEye 007 discussion, and for good reason; it looks fantastic. Mist rolls across the bottom of the facility, bits of the scenery break away in the midst of a gun fight, and an enemy's eyes widen as Bond wraps his hands around their neck. It's a level of detail we just don't expect from a Wii title, and puts the game a notch above the competition. The shooting appeared to be sensitive (remember I wasn't able to try the game firsthand), and context dependant 'subdue' moves allowed Bond to get his hands nice and dirty. Later on in the demonstration we saw a 'Breach and Clear' type scene in which Bond busts into a room and dispatches a group of enemies in slow motion. Although Pinkney refused to comment on where the dev team drew inspiration from, it's clear that Modern Warfare has infiltrated more than a few areas of the game's design.
There as an understandable amount of worry that comes bundled with a remake of this magnitude, but from what I've seen so far, that worry is unfounded. Eurocom is treating Rare's original with care and respect, retaining what made the original such a success whilst improving, invigorating and innovating where possible. It should be reiterated that this isn't trying to be the same game, the original will always be a classic, and a new game of the same name will never take that away from it. The mists of nostalgia are likely to prevent people for seeing GoldenEye 007 for what it is, which at this stage is a hugely promising first-person shooter for the Wii.
GoldenEye 007 is available exclusively for Wii this winter