It's not a remake, it's a re-imagining. Dangerous words, as Tim Burton discovered before curling one out all over the memory of The Planet of The Apes. However, while the original version of that film remains eminently watchable, videogames are a different beast. In gaming terms, 13 years is an epoch. GoldenEye may have (yawn) pioneered the first-person shooter genre on console, but anyone digging Ye Olde Nintendo 64 out of the loft for a quick blast would find a bewilderingly ugly game. It might have looked the business when Princess Diana was still warm and Oasis were a fresh-faced Slade tribute act, but time moves on apace.
That said, given the deification of GoldenEye, it's hard to see what Activision has to gain from this nineties reboot (apart from the obligatory wheelbarrow full of cash). Fans of the original will be predisposed to criticise it, and younger gamers will neither know nor care about a game based on one of the more torpid Bond excursions, despite what the game's executive producer says about it being "one of the most loved films of all time".
Clearly, there are a lot of toes to tread on, and one of the original Rare dev team has already dismissively thrown his two penn'orth in. If he's pissed off, how do you think poor old Pierce Brosnan is feeling? Airbrushed from history and replaced by a dead-eyed Chester goon in a pair of powder-blue budgie-smugglers. Of course the argument is that Daniel Craig is currently James Bond, and as such he should be the face and voice of any current Bond project. It's closer to the truth to say he's on the books, along with Judi Dench, Rory Kinnear and David Arnold - who composed the last five Bond themes - one of the set designers, and even Craig's body double, who provides the motion capture.
It all adds up to that crucial essence of James Bond, as the game kicks off with Dench barking the orders in a revised story (knocked out in a week by Bond scribe Bruce Feirstein) about a high-ranking Russian general, Arkady Ouromov, stealing military equipment and selling it on the black market. Dench has reason to believe he's about to ship a cache of hi-tech weapons to a terrorist organisation and your mission is to infiltrate his base, destroy the weapons and optionally take out Ouromov. The upshot is that a cargo plane is arriving in 45 minutes, and your good self (Bond, James Bond) and 006 (Alex Trevylan) need to make sure those weapons aren't on it.
This opening Dam level was covered here previously by my close personal friend Christian Donlan, but this time round we're allowed to play it. Intriguingly, "innovative control schemes for casual gamers" are promised, but we're given a so-called classic controller, which of course wilfully has the a and b and x and y buttons the wrong way round - cue a roomful of seasoned hacks staring at their hands every time they try to open a door.
That aside, it's fairly instinctive, and we start by punching a man square in the face and picking off a few of his mates with a silenced pistol before things inevitably hit the fan, accompanied by a shift in the dynamic soundtrack and a hail of bullets in our direction. Conveniently, a stash of machineguns is near to hand, and you can comfortably end the lives of a dozen strangers via a rudimentary cover and shoot mechanic, with the left trigger bringing up the gun's sights.
The mildly exciting on-rails truck section then has you blasting enemies from the passenger seat before you breach a room and have to take out three soldiers in bullet-time before they trigger the alarm. This is apparently an example of variety, as if they do get to the alarm you'll have to shoot some of their colleagues. As you make your way through the dam, it's a mixed bag of strafing, sniping, and at one point taking photos of a helicopter using your 'unified smartphone device', one of the rare concessions to the gadgetry of the Brosnan era.
Finally, having heroically fought your way to the top of the dam - thanks in part to a perennial white dot telling you exactly where to go - you're about to recreate the iconic bungee jump when a hairy developer puts his arm across your face and snatches the controller from your clammy paws. Presumably it's at this point that the theme tune kicks in, and the adventure is afoot.
It's a decent enough opening salvo, but the fun doesn't end there as we're also given a bash at a midpoint level, accurately described as Tank Chase. Taking control of a sturdy tank in St Petersburg, again you're chasing a white dot, hampered somewhat by a cavalcade of RPGs, kamikaze trucks and hostile helicopters. Thankfully you're packing some considerable heat yourself, and pick them off with a combination of infinite machinegun fire, missiles, and - for those pesky helicopters - uncannily accurate homing missiles. A ridiculously over-the-top affair, it's presumably chosen to demonstrate the destructible environments, and the fact that the game is about more than skulking around with a silenced Walter PPK.
More on GoldenEye 007
Review: GoldenEye 007
You know the name. You know the number.
Preview: GoldenEye 007
"A sad end to 25 years of development."
Dam fine action.
Arguably nobody's really here for the single player levels anyway, and GoldenEye's seminal four-player split-screen mode is present and correct in all its knee-touching glory. Squeezed onto a seat with three other hacks, the proximity to a massive flatscreen TV does the Wii graphics no favours. (Neither does a bank of TVs showing Activision's other Bond title, Blood Stone, on 360.)
Using a version of developer Eurocom's Dead Space: Extraction engine, GoldenEye looks passable in single-player, but up close and personal it's a fitting tribute to the nineties. While eight classic characters are still there - including Jaws, Oddjob, Rosa Klebb and Scaramanga - GoldenEye 2010-style features all-new levels with a different core mechanic and control setup, such as the ability to vault cover.
In comparison to the frantic multiplayer action we're now used to, it's something of a change of pace as you casually wander around, sluggishly switch between your two weapons, and embark on extended gunfights with anyone you happen to run into. You eventually work out which of the men sat next to you is controlling which character, and proceed to gently berate them for their despicable tactics. In the real world such social occasions are increasingly rare, and GoldenEye will feature a fully-fledged eight-player online mode with all the perks, buffs and XP nonsense you might expect.
Due for release within days of some other Activision game this November, GoldenEye 007 could be a tough sell, but as executive producer Julian Widdows says, "We're not creating a nostalgia piece." It's clearly the full James Bond experience, and could be in danger of receiving the coveted Hen's Teeth award for decent first-person shooters on the Wii. Look out for the review soon, where we'll decide if they got Bond wrong...
GoldenEye 007 is due out for Wii in November.