Wins The Gold
Movie-game tie-ins are crap. This is not a fact, but is often treated as such by the majority of the gaming community. Who can blame them when the market gets filled with seemingly no end of rushed products pushed out the door just to cash-in on the latest big thing. Rareware turned this whole concept on its head when it developed a certain game that would become the standard many FPS games to follow would be measured against. It was one of those rare gems; a movie tie-in that was good. Nay, scratch that, a movie tie-in that was and still is amazing.
The ability to step into the shoes of that famous OO agent is an experience like no other, and it has not been done as well as it is here. The underlying plotline to the game is amazing as you start off taking out an enemy facility and then progress to travelling across the globe to stop a weapon satellite from blasting key targets on Earth. Of course, the basic plot is straight from the movie, but the way Rare have managed to stretch this across 18 full missions is the real genius work. Granted some of the ideas feel somewhat silly (yeah, let's send a scientist into the middle of the jungle with a gun she's barely ever used) but overall the sequences flow very well and give you a reason for your actions.
The visuals are fairly decent but with the odd flaw around. Character models have some nice detail and there is noticeable variation in the generic enemy faces, although the bodies look a little too blocky. There's a lot of detail in the textures and the effects, like bullet holes or the muzzle flash of a gun firing, have been done well.
The onscreen display is interesting. The ammo counter is displayed at the bottom to keep track of your supplies for the current weapon, but it's the health gauge that is interesting. It's not permanently visible onscreen but rather flashes up for a moment when you get hit or grab some body armour (although it can be seen on the pause screen as well). The layout also looks good, as it forms two curved lines with health (red) on one side and body armour (blue) on the other.
The music is exceptionally strong, although being based on a Bond movie this shouldn't be too surprising. It's the kind of tunes that help to boost the setting, whether you're creeping through the bunker or storming the enemy base. The weapon effects are quite good too as are the other sound clips like glass shattering and the alarms blaring out.
As a first person shooter, it's obvious that taking guns and shooting people is generally a big part of the gameplay, so it's comforting that this element works so perfectly. Typically the control interface is going to be familiar to anyone who has played other console FPS games. A switches weapons, B reloads or makes an action (like opening a door). The Z trigger fires. All pretty basic stuff.
Oddly enough, Goldeneye offers a more unconventional dual control method, where Bond's actions are input from two controllers. The game becomes a lot more tricky to play like this, but the sheer novelty value of it makes it worth trying out at least once.
Aiming is done in one of two ways. The C buttons are the most common ones used for this, where you can look up and down while moving. Digital input is always going to be a little imprecise but it works surprisingly well. There's enough leeway given to compensate without making things too easy and the sensitivity seems just right. Players wanting more accuracy can hold the R shoulder button to switch to aiming mode. You can't move while doing this but it allows you to aim with the analogue stick. This works well for taking precise shots.
There is a wide selection of guns on offer, although this is dependant on the level you are on (weapons do not carry over between levels). Usually you start off with the basic PP7 handgun, but can gain more weapons in the level both by taking the weapons from the enemy or by finding them stored around the place. In addition to handguns you can get blades, machine guns, rifles and even explosives. The choice is very diverse.
Each weapon has a specific ammo type they use and it is also necessary to reload a weapon after so long, preventing players from developing a 'rush in and kill them all' mentality. Which is good, because anyone who charged in thinking they are invincible will soon learn how wrong they are when the wall gets decorated with their vital fluids. The enemies in this game can be quite tough, especially if you charge in unprepared. They often outnumber you and possess some nasty weapons. Their intelligence can be a little flawed at times, like they will just stand there and shoot at you, but often they will take cover and fire or even come around from behind you.
The game's 'boss' fights are generally more disappointing. These supposed bosses are barely any harder than taking out generic enemies and don't possess any enhanced level of intelligence than their underlings. Heck, one boss can be killed before she even reaches you. Even the final battle lacks the challenge it should have.
Playing the game is not just about shooting people though, which is where the objectives come in. You are given a number of mission objectives to complete depending on the difficulty chosen, which are necessary to clear the level. These objectives can range from activating computers, destroying targets, collecting items or meeting with certain characters. The objectives also tend to be fairly straightforward in most cases to figure out, if difficult to accomplish, so nobody's brain is going to turn to mush trying to figure out perplexing puzzles. This is an action game after all.
That said, the game also offers mission briefing reports before each level that can provide some useful advice and information about the mission you're about to plough into. Reading that bunch of text might seem a little boring, and you're not losing a great deal by diving in, but it can be handy for those wanting to take the time to read it.
The level design is also very strong on a whole. Most of the stages have fairly complex designs with various routes, and each stage presents its own set of challenges and methods to win. One stage may promote a stealthy approach to avoid taking on armies in firefights, while another may limit your movement and force you to use doorways and crevices to overcome waves of soldiers.
Some stages even come with some rather neat touches that help complete the experience. Alarm buttons sit on walls at certain points in a few levels that will attract some unwanted attention if they sound, or you have unarmed characters that you're not allowed to kill.
That said, it's not all perfect, as there are a few stages that are simply terrible. Runway is over far too quickly and much of it is simply one huge open area. Streets is the game's version of the tank chase, but it's so slow, clumsy and lacking in actual action that it feels far more boring than it should be. This is only a fraction of the total levels though so it's not so bad. Complete them and then never look back.
The replay value of the game is also very high, thanks to many different things. Levels can be replayed at any time providing you've reached them and there are three difficulty settings to play through, which affects enemies and objectives. There is also a 'cheat' menu, where the different items are unlocked by completing certain levels on certain difficulties with certain time limits. Some cheats are the more common ones like invincibility or all guns, but there are also some more interesting ones like paintball mode or turbo Bond. These cheats can't be used to unlock later levels though. Also, completing the game's single player fully opens up 007 mode, which allows you to affect the combat parameters, such as changing the damage done by enemies and the damage done to them.
If you want a break from the single player then you can head on over to the multiplayer, which is probably what the game is most well known for. Single player is good, but can anything really compete with gunning down your mates in splitscreen mayhem?
Although perhaps more limiting than current generation titles, Goldeneye allowed you to fiddle with some options for your multiplayer games. Setting handicaps and weapon sets was a common practice. Taking to the field with automatic weapons, blowing everything to pieces with explosives or even going the tough guy route by removing all weapons and essentially having a slapping contest.
The controls here are as responsive as they are in single player, and while the screen sizes have been significantly shrunk to increase the number there is no problems with seeing the action unfold. The combat flows very fluidly and the action tends to be intense when skilled players are dashing around the arenas ready to pump lead into the next unfortunate head to come into view.
To compliment the action there are a few game modes on offer, which most were cleverly named after Bond movies. Aside from the standard and team variants of deathmatch you have You Only Live Twice (a two life survival game), License to Kill (an instant kill mode), The Living Daylights (a flag is put in the level and the winner is whoever holds onto it for the longest) and The Man With The Golden Gun (a mode where permanent death is only inflicted by shooting someone with the only golden gun).
There are quite a few characters on offer to play as, many of which must be unlocked through the single player campaign, but really there isn't much difference in performance with any of them except two, who differ only in their height. Still, it's nice to have such choice, especially since we get a bunch of classic Bond characters from older films.
So what makes the multiplayer so engaging? Aside from the general pace of it all, I think the level design contributes a lot to it. While the selection of arenas isn't massive they all make ideal killing zones. Will you take up a sniping spot and aim to take down opponents with precise shooting? Will you creep around levels and plan ambushes? Will you take advantage of enclosed areas to trap opponents in a hailstorm of bullets? There is so much choice and the levels lend themselves well to this.
That said, level choice isn't perfect. One of the levels is basically a combination of two others, which seems rather pointless. Also, there are some stages that cannot be played on at all with 3 or 4 players, reducing the number of levels from what was already a fairly low number.
Goldeneye is held up to much high praise, and why not? The game does everything it sets out to do and then some, delivering a FPS experience that excels in all areas. It's challenging, lengthy and fun, no matter whether you're tackling the single player campaign or charging through the multiplayer modes. Unless you have some innate hatred of anything resembling a FPS then you need to experience this game.
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