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GoldenEye 007 Reloaded 360 makes a creditable attempt to revive a 1990s approach to multiplayer shooting, but for online players it locks too many goodies away as rewards for hours of grinding.
Reviewing the single player version of GoldenEye 007 Wii I avoided mentioning one aspect of the game that was the focus of many other reviews - that it was, if not a remake of the much-loved GoldenEye for the N64, at the very least a conscious successor to it.
GoldenEye 007 Reloaded 360 is more or less the same game, give or take the HD polish and some extra gameplay modes for its debut on more powerful consoles, and while it would still be entirely possible to discuss the singleplayer version of the game without reference to its N64 predecessor, its multiplayer modes actively invite direct comparisons.
N64 GoldenEye was a landmark in console gaming. Before GoldenEye first person shooters were inextricably tied to the PC, to not only the keyboard and mouse but also to LAN networks and internet connections for multiplayer deathmatches.
Not only did GoldenEye prove it was possible for a console first person shooter to be as good as any on the PC, which many had doubted, it also provided brilliant split-screen multiplayer, turning the genre into a communal, sofa-based experience.
It was great. Very much of its time, the deathmatch arenas - modelled not just on locations from the film GoldenEye, but those from earlier Bond films as well - were tight loops funnelling the players towards each other and between tight and open spaces, causing violent collisions and enabling ambushes. Death came quickly and frequently but also fairly.
The ability of the N64's oddly shaped controller to bounce if thrown was much appreciated.
This new version, while not being a straight remake of Rare's game (the nearest you'll get to that is the XBLA version of Perfect Dark, which includes all the multiplayer maps from GoldenEye N64), nonetheless tries to recapture the multiplayer deathmatch style of those earlier, merciless times.
In other words, I was playing for about five seconds online before I was shot dead. I respawned, and death found me quickly again.
In short, I got killed a lot. Now, I'm no FPS ninja and frequently find myself outmatched by the homicidal teens of XBox Live, but GoldenEye Reloaded is particularly harsh in an old-school fashion, simplistic level layouts and robust weaponry creating numerous opportunities for more able players to dice their opponents, often from a distance.
In this environment, the team modes are more fun than straight free-for-all deathmatch, with a loose narrative conceit based around the two teams being either MI5 agents or part of Janus' criminal network. As well as straightforward team based combat there are strong capture the flag options available, while players insistent on going solo can make the merciless nature of play a virtue by going for Golden Gun mode, where instant deaths are part of the point.
A little unforgiving by modern standards but with nostalgic, teeth-grinding pleasures for players who like that.
It's a solid multiplayer package, a little unforgiving by modern standards but with nostalgic, teeth-grinding pleasures available for players who like that sort of thing. Unfortunately one attempt to modernise this approach, by adding experience-based progression to the mix, falls flat, holding back too many options until players have ground their way up through the ranks.
Most heinous of these holdbacks is the locking away of the opportunity to play as classic Bond characters in public matches until the very highest levels. One of the highlights of the N64 game was pitting old Bond villains against each other, and then coming to the inevitable decision that no-one should be allowed to play Oddjob. Barricading these game options behind a ton of grinding is a horrible decision, and I hope Activision release a patch.
Of course, this is where splitscreen gaming comes into its own, as those restrictions only apply to public, ranked matches, but sadly I - and I suspect most people old enough to have played GoldenEye first time around - don't live in a shared house any more and don't have the opportunity to play split-screen any more. For those who have the opportunity for such old school sofa based fun (steady on back there) please feel free to chip in via the comments and tell me what I'm missing.
Memorial is a level that's not quite like any other, a graveyard for old Soviet statuary that's bleakly impressive. The one-shot kills of Golden Gun mode continue to frustrate and elate in equal measure - death is constant, but getting in that one fatal shot against an opponent is deeply satisfying.
And if you die, you at least have the consolation of the classic James Bond movie 'blood down the gunsight' effect, complete with Bond theme twang.
GoldenEye Reloaded 360 makes a fair attempt at recapturing an earlier epoch of multiplayer gaming, but the decision to lock many of the more fun multiplayer options behind a levelling-up system is perverse and inconsistent with the simpler times it intends to evoke. The result veers towards being the worst of all worlds, with gameplay that feels harsh by contemporary standards and tediously fashionable RPG levelling on top.
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