GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is a mess that never lives up to its potential. The idea of updating classic games to appeal to both our sense of nostalgia and a new audience is rich with possibilities, and the notion of returning to the superbly designed levels that made the N64 classic GoldenEye the breakthrough it was is exciting. But the game, which found popularity on the Wii before being ported over and upscaled for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, is a missed opportunity, essentially a middle-of-the-road Modern Warfare skin that overlooks the elements that worked in the original.
Set in the years following Quantum of Solace, Reloaded retells the story of Brosnan Bond debut GoldenEye in a modern setting, featuring Daniel Craig as crazed serial-killing 007 fighting to stop Russian terrorists from using the GoldenEye EMP satellite to do…something…for…some reason. Across the game’s six missions, Bond is sent around the globe for MI6, completing various tenuous story-related objectives while gunning down hundreds upon hundreds of people. It plays identically to the current Call of Duty games: moving through set pieces shooting enemies and taking cover to regain health, with the occasional turret sequence to break up the proceedings. But the core mechanics aren’t as compelling as the competition; shooting doesn’t feel right, nor is the game overall as satisfying as the Wii version, whose nifty controls provided a sense of feedback that’s lacking here. The game’s difficulty is wildly unbalanced; the unnecessary regenerating health mechanic means that the only parts of the game that present issues are those without cover, which quickly become a nightmare.
The best parts of GoldenEye 007: Reloaded deviate from this stock formula: A shootout in a crowded nightclub is reminiscent of the excellent scene in Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, and a lengthy mission in African jungles involving hacking drone turrets to turn on the enemy is just as satisfying and enjoyable as the most memorable scenes of Modern Warfare. Such moments are far and few between though, and the expected familiarity with the modernized levels is severely lacking. With the exception of the opening and closing of the campaign, the reimagined locales are nothing like their original counterparts, robbing us of the joy of moving through recognizable areas with modern mechanics and graphics. Consider the exciting tank sequence from the original, here a badly controlled futuristic chase through Saint Petersburg reimagined as a derelict, oversized construction site, which may be a throwback to the superior Craig Bond outing Casino Royale, but it still doesn’t make any sense. Worse, the insanely terrible Cradle finale is a grand orgy of awful quick time events, a complete lack of cover, and being gunned down by endlessly spawning enemies who can’t possibly see you.
The graphics are inconsistent, with some scenes stunning (the aforementioned nightclub) while others look awful, such as the N64-grade flight over the African jungle. Likewise the incoherent AI, seemingly borrowing from the insanely overrated Uncharted series (apparently the best this medium has to offer is National Treasure: The Game) in which Russian soldiers—not even an enemy of the protagonist—will ignore their own safety and stop fleeing a collapsing building to shoot you with missile launchers. It’s not clever, it makes no sense, and it isn’t fun.
Like Modern Warfare, most of the story is told between missions using multimedia infographics and voiceovers, but even with familiarity with the original movie and game it makes close to no sense. The half-assed attempt to bring the story into 2011, tying everything into the financial crisis and the Iraq/Iran wars, is feeble and unnecessary; it would’ve been better just to ride on the nostalgia and love of the original property, which, it’s worth mentioning, was actually really good. This sentiment is applicable to the entire package, as the updates to this package are unnecessary and detract from the experience. Imagine, if you will, GoldenEye re-released as Perfect Dark was on Xbox Live Arcade. Fortunately, this update does offer a strong multiplayer component: the competitive multiplayer which can be played locally or online, complete with excellent maps, characters, and XP progression; and a 007 take on Modern Warfare’s Spec Ops, Mi6 OPS Missions. These are fun, varied, and arguably more impressive than the main campaign. Unfortunately, these can’t make up for what is yet another 2011 disappointment; what should have been something special is merely average. GoldenEye 007: Reloaded will not satisfy veteran fans nor newcomers.