Goldeneye 007: Reloaded Preview
In a very covert manner that seemed very apt for the name of James Bond, Activision requested our presence at the announcement of a new 007 title. Details were revealed upon a need to know basis as our rendezvous point was relayed separately – for your eyes only. After making our way to the location, we descended into the bowels of a private members club, to be greeted by the name many of us expected to see, but no-one knew any details of: Goldeneye 007: Reloaded.
We were lucky to get to some hands-on with the title, and we’re here to tell you about it!
We remained seated, nervously awaiting the Activision agent to brief us on the incoming mission. Two large marketing hoardings ahead of us bore the likenesses of evil duo Oddjob and Jaws. A door marked “Very Private” sat to the left. What could be more private than private? Soon, James Steer arrived, he is an Activision Producer who has worked on many titles, including the last two James Bond outings; 007: Bloodstone and Goldeneye 007 on the Wii. Now we could relax and look forward to finding out what a Reloaded Goldeneye would be like.
Put simply, after the release of Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo Wii, Activision were inundated with requests from gamers for the game to go multi-platform. The Wii version was generally well received, but as is often the case for Nintendo exclusives, the game will only be played by a small proportion of the gaming public – especially as serious games have never been the best sellers on the ground-breaking motion-controlled console. But, rather than simply rush a quick and sloppy port of the Wii version onto the other current generation consoles, Activision and developers Eurocom went back to the drawing board.
The team re-built a new engine from the ground up for the conversion. This would allow for the true application of high-definition visuals and sound, that were simply not possible on the Wii. With the aim in mind to create a game that could represent photo realistic graphics but also deliver high-speed action, the team managed to develop a high-def experience that will still run at a full sixty frames per second.
As the demonstration dropped into Severnaya for our first glimpse at the game in action, you could immediately see the graphical leaps forward compared to the release of Goldeneye 007 last year. Starting with a zoom-in and close up of our hero (here portrayed by current Bond Daniel Craig) the level of facial detail was very impressive and this was a true likeness of the movie actor. Because of this new high-level of visuals, we were told that all cutscenes will be put together using the in-game engine, therefore not breaking the link between the player and the game. Also on the Severnaya Bunker map, we were treated to the impressive weather effects. Howling stereo sound winds and impressive snowfall visuals give you the sense of a storm brewing, only adding to the atmosphere of the stage.
So with that, Bond begins his mission in the snow-covered wilderness, trying to make his way to the weather satellite. The game can be played stealthily or gung-ho, or a mixture of the player’s choice. A variety of melee moves have been motion-captured, with the help of Daniel Craig’s stuntman, to offer different animations when sneaking up on an enemy and dispatching them silently. The obvious benefit to a more stealthy approach is the fact that there is less chance the player will be inundated with enemies, illustrated in the demonstration by a section where a convoy of troops pass overhead on a bridge. Players could shoot and engage in a long and dangerous gun battle, or simply sneak underneath the bridge and avoid them entirely. Of course, on other occasions there will be no option such as this, but it is nice to have a choice of tactics in some areas.
Making use of the overall structure of the original film and game, but re-working the story so it is updated away from being a Cold War conflict, to deal with the Banking Crisis, the game is firmly rooted in 2011. Using an updated cast of young British actors and some of the cast of the current Bond films (but playing characters we remember from the Nintendo 64 game) and levels based in the same areas you passed through in that title, there is an odd feeling of familiarity in this very modern game. The red screen of dripping blood remains when the player dies and, of course, many of the weapons will be recognisable. But the title is more akin to the Modern Warfare games in appearance and feel, with action set pieces such as a crashing helicopter that just wouldn’t have been possible on the N64. As Bond approaches the weather station and we look forward to finding out how similar the insides look to the classic Goldeneye level in the same locale, the demo ends.
We are then treated to a quick look at the new mode that has been included for Reloaded. Called Mi6 Ops, this mode offers arcade-style standalone challenges which sit outside the main story. These will all have different objectives, such as sneaking, speed killing or defending bases. Adding an estimated ten hours onto the length of the single player campaign, these challenges get progressively harder as gamers work their way through them, and they will need to choose their tactics wisely in order to attain a good score.
We were shown a challenge set in a location based upon the Statue level from the Nintendo 64 game, set in a Russian statue graveyard, filled with icons of communism. In this mission, Bond had to activate and then protect three computer terminals whilst they downloaded top secret information. Lasting three minutes, a new wave of enemies would appear every minute until Bond either succeeded, or the computers were destroyed. Tactics will come into play such as activating the most open terminal at the start whilst the fewest enemies are on the map, or making use of explosive barrels scattered around at opportune times. Enemy AI wasn’t very clever as this was still a pre-alpha build, but we could see that this mode would get quite hectic as the timer counted down.
Online integration is provided through the use of customised leaderboards for each challenge, where scores will automatically upload and gamers can compare scores. One interesting idea was that if you see a high score on the leaderboards, but are finding it hard to achieve that score yourself, you can view that score and copy the game settings to your console. This will include modifiers such as Bond health, enemy health and enemy accuracy, that make the game easier or harder and therefore rewards players with different levels of bonus points accordingly. So you will then play using the score leader’s settings in an attempt to replicate their feat.
Speaking of online modes, multiplayer in the game will consist of the traditional and famous Goldeneye four-player split-screen mode, but also offer sixteen-player online modes for the first time. Whilst this will be similar to the multiplayer modes in the Wii release, more maps, characters and weapons have been promised, as well as some new gameplay modes which will be announced in the future, closer to release.
To close out the demonstration, we were treated to the opening minutes of the classic Arkhangelsk Dam mission. This was a very faithful recreation of the Nintendo 64 game, right down to the guard tower locations and the sniper rifle you could find and use to dispatch some of the on-rushing enemies. This did certainly spark some pangs of nostalgia and, as was the case with the Wii version, I am sure Activision will look to further exploit our rose-tinted Goldeneye glasses with their marketing of this new title.
Finally, our briefing over, we were given our first taste of combat, again at Severnaya. Whilst we can’t look at the game too critically yet, what with it being at such an early stage, the textures and details do already seem very impressive. Graphically the game is a major improvement from last year’s effort. Sounds are suitably authentic and voice acting is as superb as you would expect from a movie related game. I personally found the controls a bit over-sensitive even after trying to adjust the control sliders, but this is no doubt something that will be ironed out. It became apparent though that the in-game action found on this stage at least was solid, but the real draw is the desire to see how this title compares with the original game. I wanted to re-discover the environments and plot that I remembered, now that it has received the high-definition treatment. The question on everyone’s lips will sadly remain unanswered today however; How does the split-screen compare? For that, I regret, we must wait and see.
Goldeneye 007: Reloaded is due for release in winter 2011 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.