Last year, we got two Bond games, one from Bizarre Creations and one from Eurocom, because there was no movie on the way. This year, there is a movie on the way - it's called James Bond and the Very Sinister Ox, apparently, and it co-stars Christopher Lambert as a deranged cross-country cyclist who wants to eat the moon - but there is no Bizarre Creations anymore. Luckily, we still have Eurocom, or England would be a pretty depressing place around about now.
GoldenEye 007 is one of the best shooters on the Wii - fast-paced, well-tuned to pad or motion controls, and reasonably pretty to boot - and we're about to see if that praise is less faint than it sounds. Eurocom didn't have a lot of competition on Nintendo's machine, but now the game's coming to the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 after a bit of a tidy-up and a few new modes, we're going to find out how it really stacks up.
I suspect it will still be a lot of fun, and witnessing an early build suggests it's not going to look too out of place on HD consoles either. This isn't a case of simply taking the original game and stuffing it onto more powerful machines with the edges of the graphics made a little sharper. Eurocom's apparently constructed a new engine, that's right, ďfrom the ground upĒ for this one, and has delved into the code, replacing the textures, rebuilding the geometry, throwing in new animations, lighting, and particle effects, and even switching out the old AI. The levels are the same in basic structure - a look at the Archangelsk Dam infiltration suggests Eurocom's doing a beat-for-beat reworking of the Wii game's campaign - but they look a lot nicer now. Rocks are rockier, rain is rainier, and Daniel Craig looks a little clammier, as if he should be at home with a Beechams rather than titting around in complex breaking the necks of a series of Russian gentlemen.
It's far easier to judge the aesthetic changes than tweaks to things like the AI. The whole thing moves at 60 fps now, which is nice, while Ben Cook, Craig's own stunt double for the films, reprises his role for the motion capture which looks suitably muscular and dramatic. These are levels built in a fairly linear fashion, though, so when we're told that the AI now has a squad hierarchy, we'll have to take the developer's word for it for the moment. The theory, at least, is that they'll start to behave differently if you begin thinning the ranks this time around: they'll retreat and regroup, and come at you from a new angle.
What's obvious now, though - it was kind of obvious back on the Wii, actually - is how much the game resembles the Call of Duty series. Although I accidentally discovered Move and Sharpshooter options on a menu while trying to invert something or other, the game's clearly been built for a control pad this time, and the weapons feel pretty much identical to COD's, while the textures have the same clean glossiness to them, your footfalls bring a recognisable sense of simulated camera-sway, and even little details like the waypoints and the grenade indicators are similar. Bond's got Soap's eye for spectacle, too, each twist and turn of a mission taking you past something unspeakably dramatic, like an EMP blast shredding the air around a remote weather station, or a helicopter falling from the sky shortly afterwards. (I suspect the two events are related.)
The campaign was always like this, of course, but now the game's other modes are getting in on the act. Eurocom's dreamt up a Bond-esque refit of Modern Warfare 2's brilliant Special Ops content, for example, in the form of a suite of levels called MI6 Ops - really, that name didn't have long in the oven, did it? - which splits its challenges across four mission types. There's Elimination, in which you race the clock to take out enemies, Stealth, in which you race the clock to take out enemies quietly, Wave Defence, in which you race the clock taking out enemies while capturing control points on the map, and a fourth offering that is so incredibly secret we haven't yet been told what it is. "Racing against the clock" and "taking out enemies" seem to be something of a theme, though, so fingers crossed for now.
As with Spec Ops, it looks like entertaining stuff - particularly Wave Defence, which spawns a new round of baddies every minute, meaning you'll have to really mop up carefully each time or risk getting swamped. Seeing the game played on a map built around a Russian war memorial suggests it's smart and slick, with simple levels filled with hills and trenches, and various data points to try and hack and defend while the baddies rush in. There are leaderboards for every mode, and you can fiddle with dozens of variables, including everything from enemy HP to how often they'll lob grenades, and even share your custom settings online if you discover a brilliant combination.
Beyond that, multiplayer returns in both local - it is GoldenEye, after all - and online forms, with the player cap raised to 16, and we're promised new weapons, new characters, new ways to customise yourself, and even new modes. These will offer a break from the standard death match, apparently, and will play to the fact that you're a globetrotting super-spy. Motorboats? STDs? Probably both, I reckon.
Reloaded, rebuilt, resupplied: that's GoldenEye in 2011. Next year brings that new movie and possibly another Bond game to go with it. Until then, this should be a decent, if familiar, stop-gap.