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when i reviewed the Wii version of Goldeneye 007: Reloaded last year, i couldn't help but indulge a short rant about the market-oriented cynicism that so obviously stood behind its conception. perhaps it's because i'm a little older, a little mellower, a little less (or perhaps more) tired than i was back then, but this week i found myself able to unwrap the just-landed 360 version without the ire rising too fast or far.
i guess it might be that i've just got a bit more used to (read 'dead inside about') the phenomenon of the franchise reboot, which has so infected the worlds of both gaming and, more profoundly, cinema. i still think of it as an essentially cowardly form of art and a lamentable effect of the global economic downturn, but i guess i can see that the war is lost. and i like Chris Nolan.
on the one hand, we might say that, at least, Activision has avoided both of the main reboot linguistical clichés. first, it was all about beginnings, origins or the quasi-religious language of re-birth; now, it seems, it has evolved into that of 'rising'. over the last few years, among others, The Silver Surfer, Hannibal Lecter, the Lycans, the Planet of the Apes and now The Dark Knight have all risen, or are about to rise. Goldeneye Rising (or Goldeneyesing) was sensibly dodged.
however, the problem is that, instead, they went with Reloaded - which is no less (and perhaps more) clichéd, and usually indicates a simple sequel rather than a reboot. this is perhaps part of a 'retro' themed marketing strategy, recalling The Matrix trilogy, which got going and became curiously popular not that long after the original Goldeneye had finished burning out N64s everywhere.
having said that, Sniper: Reloaded came out earlier this year to no applause and much critical derision, so perhaps they were ahead of the new curve, not behind the old one.
you no longer have to battle with the truly horrible controls that ruined the Wii version.
anyway, to the game. although at first glance the next-gen version Goldeneye 007: Reloaded doesn't seem to offer that much more than its younger Nintendo-based sibling, Activision insists that the game has been rebuilt from the ground up for the 360 and PS3's HD architecture. to be honest, regardless of how trivial or profound the technical changes, it was clear to me from the off that they constitute a significantly improved experience.
firstly (and in my opinion foremostly) you no longer have to battle with the truly horrible controls that ruined the Wii version. why Nintendo didn't use the original release as prompt to bring out a 'retro' N64 controller i'll never know (Ed: although they did suppoer the classic controller if that's any help?) - i've always thought of them as the great underrated controller, and the Wii-mote + nunchuck scheme was just really unbalanced. now we have a decent gamepad in hand, things are snappy and crisp.
then, fairly unsurprisingly, are the benefits in terms of graphics. one of the most profound weaknesses of the Wii version were the inherent 'presentational limitations'. here, the superior hardware delivers the visuals a much needed (re)boot up the arse, and crisper lines, more detailed characters and environments and better framerates are all very welcome newcomers. let's not go nuts, though, the graphics are still not top-notch - they do not push either HD console platform to its limits, but to my mind this represents a clever choice rather than a failure.
you see, while the single player mode is engaging, and the new MI6 levels offer an extra aspect to single player fun, the true heart of the this game is right where it always was - in the multiplayer arena.
i mean don't get me wrong, this isn't Battlefield 3 (where the single player is a hopeless, second thought of a tack-on): the single player campaign is smart and well paced, but perhaps having just come off the back of investing the time to reach 100% completion in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, i played through it rather less cautiously than i usually might in order to dive into the multiplayer mode.
after all my suspenseful anguish, i'm glad to report that it gets most things absolutely right.
and, after all my suspenseful anguish, i'm glad to report that it gets most things absolutely right. here, everything makes sense. what might have struck you as frustratingly understated graphics in the single player campaign, now allow you to partake in hectic online matches with up to fifteen other players without even the hint of a frame-rate stutter or slow down.
the toned-down visuals come into their own as you find yourself fair gliding around the many multiplayer maps. what is more, in addition to the sixteen strong online offering, the classic split-screen offline multiplayer so beloved of us here at GP is available, and as enjoyable as ever. for a new generation, it might just make it clear why sharing a room with someone that you're playing against is soooooo worth sharing screen real-estate, and if not, then at least it offers improved visuals when everything's squashed into one corner.
not every note is perfect, however:
the A.I. is a little wonky - often seeming to possess the ability to sense your still, silent presence - and there are the odd, frustrating glitch (an invisible wall here, a non-solid object there), but mostly these minor issues have a trivial impact.
moreover, Activision continue to stubbornly refuse to take my advise and implement a Perfect Dark style bot system to allow for more meaningful offline multiplayer co-op. likewise, i'm still not a fan of the auto-regeneration of health paradigm (especially where it has no possible basis in the narrative reality), but as with the Wii version, a shields only option is available via the highest difficulty setting.
Activision continue to stubbornly refuse to take my advise
and no, the story isn't great - frankly it unfolds like the ragtag patchwork that it is. and yes, all the Daniel Craig stuff is a bit OTT (yeah, we got it, he's not the one from the old film, but he's the man now); but again all of these are small niggles rather than grist to a large complaint mill.
all things considered, Goldeneye 007: Reloaded is a far more satisfactory stab at regenerating the original experience than last year's frustrating Wii offering (a phrase that will always bring to my mind a micturatory-based ritual, regardless of how old i get).
the single player is entertaining enough by far to make the game more than simply a multiplayer engine, and yet the on and offline multiplayer experiences are central to why you should definitely sneak this game onto your Christmas list.
"Xbox. Martini. No, don't stir it! Idiot."
[if you'd like to see more of the weird and wonderful world of reallyquitetired then the door is always open at his semi-detached house/blog]
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: