GoldenEye 007 for Nintendo Wii: hands-on and interview

GoldenEye 007 may be regarded as a much-loved classic on N64, but how will it fare on the Wii? We sent Michael along to find out...

When I spoke to Bruce Feirstein back in August, I was a little confused as to exactly why Activision were rebooting the N64 shooter GoldenEye 007 on the Wii. It seemed like a cash-in, translating console-based FPS nostalgia into mountains of profit for all concerned. Like 2010’s cinema remakes of The A-Team, The Karate Kid and Nightmare On Elm Street, there seemed to be little impetus behind the game other than brand recognition.

Indeed, it wouldn’t even be GoldenEye, as Feirstein explained that they were ‘refreshing’ the story for 15 years on, changing plot points to better reflect the 21st Century as opposed to the back end of the 20th. And besides, the shift from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig as Bond has made it all the more necessary.

However, I was surprised, as I went along to the preview event in London recently, and was treated to a short presentation session by the developers from Eurocom and hands-on with both the single and multi-player aspects of the game. This new GoldenEye isn’t half-arsed.

The presentation stressed that it had assembled a 125-person team – reportedly a large number for a Wii title – and set its sights firm on the console’s under-nourished shooter genre. In the process, it’s updating the title to include gameplay innovations and stylistic quirks from the last 13 years, creating something contemporary despite the retro appeal. On offer for preview was the opening level, the dam at Arkhangelsk, and it was chock-full of the sort of cinematic flourishes that flesh out an entry in the Call Of Duty franchise.

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While the level design tickles the distant memory of the N64 iteration, it has been expanded to include new set-pieces. You start, guided by the Alec Trevelyan (not Sean Bean in this version, and appearing earlier than in the film), poised behind cover, waiting for your mark to grab and punch the lights out of a passing guard. No slappers here.

Another guard meets a sticky end as Bond, riding shotgun to Trevelyan in a hijacked truck, kicks him in the face, and straight into a concrete wall. The two spies later breach an enemy operations room, with time slowing down as 007 puts bullets between eyes with efficiency that would please Soap McTavish.

The Call Of Duty comparisons continue as you venture into online multiplayer, where players rank up by collecting experience points and engaging in objective-based gameplay, unlocking perks as they go along. Locally, however, GoldenEye looks back, offering a split-screen set-up that aims to revive living room-based social gaming – with characters from throughout the Bond franchise, and various custom game modes. I suited up as Dmitri Mishkin, assault rifle in hand, and joyfully blew away my three adversaries – which included Jaws and Baron Samedi. It may be a little slower than its big-boy counterparts, not requiring the lightning-fast reaction speeds, but it’s still mightily chaotic.

This GoldenEye reboot is certainly something to keep an eye on, and it just might fill that gap for an accessible Wii shooter that is polished and deep. It certainly looks the part, packing in all those thrills and spills while keeping the graphical bar rather high, if rough around the edges. For further insight into the game’s concept and execution, we chatted with producer Dawn Pinkney.

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What were the main aspects of GoldenEye that you wanted to maintain, and what were the aspects you wanted to update for 2010?

I guess, if you go back and play the game now, it’s still a really great experience. And a lot of what fed into that was feeling of being like a secret agent, and that comes about from the different routes you can take through the environment, the different tactics, the covert or fire-fight, and also the additional objectives you get on harder difficulties.

So that’s something that we wanted to maintain, but obviously expand on. The different routes through the environment, they’re not necessarily big paths now, but what we’ve taken is Daniel Craig’s agility, and the fact that he can vault over object and jump down from great heights.

So we’ve actually got so many different intricate routes through each area as well. But then, also, if you go back and play at the original, if you look at some of the key moments from the film, back then, cinematics weren’t such a big thing, there wasn’t really any cutscenes. So obviously, this is 2010, so we really wanted to make it much more cinematic, to capture some of those stunt moments, and explain the story more. And the visuals, and setting the quality bar on the Wii. Taking what was magic, and then, what do you need for a game in 2010? And going for it.

I was talking to Bruce Feirstein about updating the story, and I was wondering which came first: the idea to expand the game with new elements, or to update the story to fit the new Bond?

Obviously, we worked very closely with Bruce, we had him on-site at Eurocom, it was really great working with him. We’re following the original GoldenEye, so it wasn’t the case of, right, we’re just going to completely rewrite this. We need to keep it true to the original film, so that’s what we’ve done. But obviously we’ve cleaned it up a little bit for a game, so everything’s from Bond’s first-person perspective, and everything happens in real-time, which is something that didn’t necessarily happen in the film.

We’ve also resequenced the Trevelyan reveal, so it’s a bigger moment now. And that’s why we wanted to put him in the dam with Bond, to build the friendship a little bit more, so when he does betray you, it means a lot more. Bruce did a lot of work on the incidental v/o, he wrote all that. And we’ve got, in our multiplayer, we’ve got Judi Dench and all the characters from the single player, actually directing the gameplay with the voice-over audio and all the objectives. And again that’s something Bruce wrote. You know, ‘what’s the sort of thing Judi Dench would say?’ That sort of thing.

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And the story has been pushed forward as well, and it’s not so much about the fall-out of the Cold War.

It’s quite a weird concept, at first. Why would you want to put Daniel Craig into a Pierce Brosnan Bond? And you can’t, you have to update it. And, again, it’s updating the dialogue, what would Daniel Craig say as opposed to Pierce, but then it’s not just the dialogue, it’s everything. It’s the environments, which obviously we worked with Rob Cowper [art director and concept artist, who worked on Die Another Day and The World Is Not Enough] on.

It’s the costumes, just everything. Even, I guess to take a good example, the parachute jump off the dam that Pierce did – we thought, ‘well, this is Daniel Craig, how can we update it?’ So this time around, he does it without a chute, and just does a freefall. So we really just wanted to focus on ‘this is Daniel Craig in GoldenEye.’ And then centre it around that, and that’s how we chose to update it.

And the multiplayer, that’s got to be very important considering the legacy of GoldenEye as a console shooter.

For the multiplayer, we’ve got two different experiences: we’ve got the split-screen and the online. So the split-screen is something we wanted to be nostalgic, to recreate that experience that you used to have at home with your friends. But obviously we’ve expanded it, but we’ve kept really fun aspects like the paintball mode, or melee only, except this time we’ve given people really big hands. We wanted to keep all of those fun little items that it had, but we’ve expanded it with more new stuff like bouncy grenades. And ‘Move Your Feet’, where if you don’t move your feet for three seconds, you explode, so you have to keep moving. And we’ve got some classic Bond villains in there as well, and NPC characters from the main game.

But then for the online, which is obviously something new for GoldenEye, it’s more of a core experience. So you’re ranking up XP over time. We’ve got objective modes, so you don’t have all the fun modifiers that you have in split-screen, it’s totally different. You’ve got objectives, and you play as factions. This is where we’ve got all the v/o from the main cast directing you as well.

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This game will be appearing only on the Wii, which has quite an underpopulated landscape for FPSes. So you don’t have that much in the way of competition – was that another challenge, or an opportunity?

I’d say it’s an opportunity, because the original was on the N64, so we’re bringing it back to the Nintendo platform, because that’s where it belongs. But it’s an opportunity to be the best shooter on the Wii. Also, something the original did, it made shooters on the console accessible. And the way it did that, it gave you degrees of auto-aim with the controls, so that’s something we’ve done as well.

So we’ve got the Wiimote and Nunchuk controllers, and we’ve got five different control schemes for them. So we’ve got one that’s accessible to people that have never played a shooter on the Wii, and it’s got auto-aim on it, and you don’t have to use the Wiimote for camera control, you don’t even have to point the Remote at the screen. You can control the whole game with just the Nunchuk. So we’ve catered for that, and thought back to what the original did, and, hopefully, we’ll be doing that ourselves.

Ms Pinkney, thank you for your time.

GoldenEye 007 is released on November 5th.