Remaking a beloved classic like the N64 shooter GoldenEye 007 just sounds like a bad idea in principle. Think of the absurdly narrow line a development team would have to toe in order to actually please all of the required audiences involved--specifically, the die-hard nostalgists with their rose-colored glasses and perhaps overly squishy memories of multiplayer games gone by, plus the modern gaming audience, accustomed to the many, many advances in first-person shooting over the last, like dozen years since GoldenEye's initial release. How do you make a game that evokes pleasingly nostalgic feelings yet feels up to snuff with modern entries in the genre? Go ask Eurocom, because by and large, this updated version of GoldenEye is surprisingly adept at having its cake and shooting it, too.
Granted, the original game was pretty light on story to begin with, so this really only applies to people who were big fans of the movie. As far as the progression of the game itself goes, the differences you'll notice tie more largely into the mechanics and layouts of the game's various levels. You'll find familiar scenery, such as the massive dam at the outset of the game, plus the tank chase through Russian streets, but you'll also find that these aren't just rehashes of levels you've already played. Everything's bigger, more elaborate, comes with the requisite visual upgrades (which are quite nice as Wii shooters go), and lean a bit heavier on the action. Some of that comes from the improved enemy AI, which is certainly several steps above the dunderheads that occupied the original--these guys will actually detect you if you're not careful with your attempts at stealth, call in reinforcements, and use cover just like you will.
There are other changes. Bond now has an all-important smart phone, which he can use to hack various electronic things around each level (such as door locks and controls for sentry guns). Also, quick time events! You love those, right? Now they're here, albeit in limited and mostly unobtrusive fashion. You'll also periodically find yourself in a bit of an on-rails sequence, shooting down bad guys as you roll along on a motorcycle or sit shotgun in a stolen Russian supply truck. Most of these additions are pretty light in the grand scheme of things, though, and the vast bulk of the time you'll be running around, shooting Russians and Janus Group thugs in their stupid faces.
It is in the action that GoldenEye retains that ever nebulous but all-important "feel" of the original title. It's hard to nail down exactly what it is that the game does, but everything from the feel of the guns, to the pace and design of the levels, just feels...correct. That's not to say there aren't caveats. Stealth is not an overly effective mechanic in this game, as headshots don't always seem like they work correctly, often relegating you to melee attacks, and sometimes you'll get spotted creeping around for no discernible reason. At the same time, the run-and-gun gameplay is simply a wonderfully enjoyable mix of old school mechanics mixed with updated technology. I felt like I was playing a classic game, not an old game, if that makes any sense at all.
The single-player campaign is a largely enjoyable one. It's got a decent length to it, and multiple difficulties to play through, with additional (and, unfortunately, largely hidden) objectives tossed into the higher levels. A few levels go on for a bit too long and throw a few too many waves of bad guys at you, but the overall pace of the game is a good one. For the most part, the game handles well no matter what control scheme you choose--it supports the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo, both types of classic controllers, as well as the GameCube controller--though personally, I found that accuracy got a little more scattershot when I was playing around with the Wii Remote. Fortunately, there are myriad controller setting options to play around with and tweak, so you're bound to find some setting you're comfy with.
While the single-player game is all fine and dandy, GoldenEye ain't GoldenEye without multiplayer. Eurocom was good enough to include both the classic four-player, split-screen brand of play, as well as online play for up to eight players. The split-screen action is pretty much the brand of GoldenEye multiplayer you'll remember. You can choose from a variety of character skins (yes, including that jerk Oddjob), as well as several game modifiers, including such gems as Hotshot (all headshots, all the time) and paintball (so stupid, but so weirdly enjoyable). The maps are smaller to accommodate the smaller player roster, and the action itself is nearly every bit the hoot it was back in the N64 era. Is it quite the dorm-room classic it was back in the late '90s? Not quite, but if you have any nostalgia for this mode, you're bound to have some fun with it.
Online play goes in a decidedly more modern direction. The mode's ten maps are markedly larger, and a variety of different game modes are available. You've got your typical single and team deathmatch options, as well as such modes as Golden Gun (the holder of the golden gun gets more points for kills, can kill with one shot), GoldenEye (teams try to capture specific satellite stations in order to move the GoldenEye weapon over the opposing base) and Black Box (MI6 team members attempt to destroy a black box full of classified data, while the opposing team tries to keep it alive so they can download data from it). All of these modes are fun in their own right, and the game's leveling system is a good incentive to keep coming back to play again and again. Taking a Call of Duty cue, you earn XP with every match you play, and as you level up, you can earn new guns, as well as gadgets, which are essentially the game's answer to perks. They'll boost your accuracy, your speed, give you more grenades, and so on and so forth. Leveling up can be a time-consuming process, but the progression of the rewards system is such that you're never too far away from some new thing to add to your repertoire.
If GoldenEye 007 wasn't called GoldenEye 007, people would likely not know entirely what to make of it, perhaps viewing it as an interesting, entertaining curiosity. People would find a game that felt decidedly like a shooter from a bygone era, yet with a number of more modern elements tossed in to counteract a bit of that antiquated feel. In that regard, I think this game being a GoldenEye remake actually helps contextualize the experience. You understand from that title why this game feels the way it does, and if you're the sort with any fond memories of the original, this remake seems tailor-made to put a smile on your face. At the same time, thanks to the rock-solid gameplay contained within, specific knowledge of the original game is not required to enjoy it. It's got its imperfections, but considering that this is a remake of one of the most revered console-based FPS games of all time, I think we should simply be pleased with how well-put-together this game is in its own right.