I’ll meet you in the Temple with the grenade launcher.

The most played video games of my college career would include a handful of great games: NHL 94/95, various iterations of Mario Kart, and, of course, Goldeneye for the N64. There are several notable aspects Goldeneye: It’s a video game based on a movie and it doesn’t suck. While the FPS genre was already a long-established tradition in PC gaming, it had never really picked up momentum on consoles… until Goldeneye. Before Halo and Call of Duty, there was Bond. The most popular feature of the game, at least for me, was the split screen multiplayer. I don’t know how many hours I spent playing that game with a group of friends, staring a tiny screen that was split in 4, but it was probably more that I’d care to admit.

A few years ago, some friends and I found an old N64 and played some Bond on a much bigger screen (indeed, we had a nice HD projector and a 100+ inch screen – it was awesome). Of course, it was great fun, though it quickly became clear to me that the FPS had come a long way, even on consoles. That being said, it’s still one of my favorite games of all time. Perhaps that’s more due to nostalgia than any objective evaluation of the game, but I think it holds up reasonably well.

A few months ago, I received a text: “I’ll meet you in the Temple with the grenade launcher.” It came with a picture of the recently released re-imagining of Goldeneye for the Wii. Since I hadn’t even turned my Wii on in several months, I thought it might be a good idea to check this out, and maybe play with some friends online. I eventually bought a copy, plopped it in and played the first section of the single player game. I promptly stopped playing and didn’t turn it back on until yesterday, when I met up with a group of friends from college. I’m happy to say that the multiplayer is a heck of a lot more fun than the single player, though I’m not really sure any of that is actually due to this game itself.

Nostalgia certainly plays a big role in the enjoyment of the game. I don’t think it’s quite as fun as the original was back in the day, but it’s still a good time, and a lot of the key elements of the game are nicely adapted to more modern conventions. Unfortunately, there are several things that are awful (Note: all of this is based on local, split-screen multiplayer):

  • The Wii Controller scheme is atrocious. It was a key reason I stopped playing the single player, but it was even worse on a split-screen multiplayer experience. This isn’t entirely the fault of the game – it’s a general problem with FPS on the Wii platform. The wiimote just isn’t precise or responsive enough, and it’s annoying that you have to keep it pointed directly at the screen at all times (I invariably spawned with my character spinning around and around as I had let me hand sway one direction or another). I was constantly fighting the controls, often losing the fight, as it was very difficult to look up without the wiimote leaving the acceptable pointing range (leading to a frustrating and annoying No symbol appearing on screen). There’s also the fact that we had four guys trying to crowd around a relatively small TV, and sometimes the Wii Remote Sensor was blocked by someone’s leg or something (something that wouldn’t happen with normal controllers). Everyone playing with the wiimotes had similar problems, so it wasn’t just me. Now, I could go out an buy the “Classic Controller”, which is basically a Wii controller that looks and works like the XBox 360 or PS3 controller, and I probably will at some point, but I’m really starting to get annoyed with the Wii, as it seems like every damn game I buy requires some new doodad or accessory. And that’s without even getting into the infamous keyboard/mouse vs console controller debate!
  • The game doesn’t feature any of the previous maps or weapons. It turns out that there isn’t a Temple map, nor is there a grenade launcher (though we eventually figured out how to use the grenade launcher that was attached to an M16 or something, it’s not like the original grenade launcher). No power weapons, no Klobb (not that you’d ever want to use it unless you had two of them, but still), no grenade launcher, no Cougar magnum, no lasers, and so on. There is a rocket launcher, but it sucks (and you only get two rounds). Mines are available, but only as a part of your loadout (and again, ammo is limited). Some of the maps are similar, but they’re all rather different, and a couple are absolutely terrible. None of them really bring back the feeling of the original, which is annoying because nostalgia was a key driving factor in my purchase of the game.
  • The graphics are certainly a big improvement over the original, but I also found that everything was so dark that it was sometimes difficult to see, well, anything. Combine that with imprecise controls and the heat of battle, and you get some pretty jumbled multiplayer encounters where the screens are just spinning all over the place as we try to shoot or melee each other. Of course, we were playing on a small SD television set, so that probably has something to do with it. I’m not sure how we were able to cope with the screen split 4 ways in college, but I’m guessing the lack of lighting effects back in the day actually made everything more visible. We ended up fiddling with contrast, color, and brightness settings and managed to improve things a bit, but it was still annoying. However, I suspect things would look a lot better on a bigger HDTV (then again, when playing single player on my nice 50″ TV, there was at least one point where I got totally stuck and could not find my way to the next room because it was too dark and I couldn’t see the hallway I needed to take, so it’s not just because of the TV and split screen mode).
  • The available customization options seem to be less comprehensive than the original. Part of this has to do with shifting the game away from found weapons to the more contemporary loadout strategy (where you pick what weapon you want at the beginning of the match), but that again makes the game feel less like the original, thus nullifying any of the nostalgia factors. It’s fine for what it is, but then it also reminds me of other recent FPS games like Call of Duty, etc… which are better at this stuff than Goldeneye.

Again, this is only the local multiplayer – I have not yet jumped through Nintendo’s ridiculous hoops to start playing online with my friends (including some sort of improvised voice chat, whether that be through skype or some other phone conferencing possibilities) but I will probably figure that out at some point.

I get that the developers of this game are trying something new (and given the state of IP law, they probably weren’t allowed to copy that much of the original, though that’s just blind speculation) and for what it’s worth, they have created the best FPS I’ve played on the Wii. It’s still frustrating that so much of what I loved about the original is missing from the remake though.

Of course, this didn’t stop me from playing the game for 6 hours yesterday, and I did have a really good time. At first, I was getting clobbered, as I haven’t really played this game much and the aforementioned control scheme didn’t help. But as I got a hang for the controls (inasmuch as one can actually do so) and started to take the game less seriously, I started doing better. While everyone else was playing with machine guns or sniper rifles, I picked the rocket launcher, which actually does have a really satisfying sound effect. You only get 2 rockets and you need to be more precise than the original version of the game (this is particularly annoying given the controller issues), but I managed to get the hang of it pretty quickly (I’m now a fucking surgeon with the rocket launcher). I also figured out how to get the grenade launcher working on one of the loadouts, which was nice, though again, the original game’s grenade launcher was way better. We also figured out proximity mines and smoke grenades (a welcome and well implemented addition to the game) and some other things, which made it a bit more interesting. And, as always, the ability to pick a Bond character as your avatar during the game is enjoyable and underrated (perhaps because it’s a licensed property and most such games suck).

In the end, it’s a game I’m having fun with, but it’s very flawed and it missed a lot of opportunity to really generate nostalgia. It’s a big disappointment in that respect. Again, that may be due to the fact that the developers couldn’t legally use some of the stuff from the original game, but it’s still annoying. I will probably get the classic controller and figure out the whole online component at some point as well. Perhaps the game will grow on me a bit, but having also recently finished Call of Duty: Black Ops, I can’t say as though it will rank among my top games of this generation.