maanantai 17. joulukuuta 2012

REVIEW - GoldenEye 007 | N64 | 1997

RELEASED: August 23, 1997
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo

Rare was founded by Tim and Chris Stamper in 1985. They developed several successful games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, but also several licensed fiascos - which were published by LJN - some of the worst seen on the system. Having such disasters as Beetlejuice, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Who Framed Roger Rabbit under their belts, Rare saw their popularity soar in 1994 with the releases of their first major collaborations with Nintendo; Donkey Kong Country for the SNES and the arcade classic Killer Instinct. By the time the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996, Rare had become Nintendo's first choice for a second-party developer. In early 1997, Rare announced their first licensed game in six years, one based on a movie that had already been out for a couple of years. Although the last few years had been kind to Rare, there were some critics who still had doubts of their capability of breaking the stereotype of a movie-to-game adaptation, especially since they had been involved with a whole host of terrible and non-sensical 8-bit games based on the most unadaptable, aged movies. GoldenEye 007 turned out probably the most successful and well-received movie license in history, and the new - well, pretty much the first - standard for a great Bond game. Go figure. Anyway, we're in my world, and my resentment for the FPS genre is well known. So is my exceptionally rough prejudice towards licensed games. I have a feeling this is going to get very interesting.

Straight through the eye

MI6 assigns 007 to investigate and neutralize a crime syndicate attempting to get their hands on GoldenEye, an electromagnetic weapon designed by Soviet scientists during the Cold War. Making things even more difficult than they already are, is that it seems the leader of the syndicate is an old friend of 007's, with the exact same training and experience as him.

U mad, bro.
Though I'm definitely not a Pierce Brosnan fan, GoldenEye is a good and well balanced Bond movie. (I'd better get used to Brosnan, since a lot of the games from here on out use his likeness.) GoldenEye managed not to get too close to the old movies and their stale formula, but it wasn't nearly as dark and stylistically different as Timothy Dalton's outings, especially Licence to Kill, either - you could say it's the most balanced movie out of them all, and it had a good plot that served as great influence for Skyfall, with the main villain being a former 00-agent. Not to mention, he was played by Sean friggin' Bean. One does not simply fuck with Sean friggin' Bean! GoldenEye remains a memorable part of Bond history, but they don't really call it a classic. The game GoldenEye 007, on the other hand, is regarded one of the finest games of its generation. Even a couple of remakes later, critics still unanimously call this game the one and only GoldenEye, and the best Bond game there ever was. The only memory I have of the game is a multiplayer session from a few years back in which I got my ass kicked from here to Russia (with love). Now I'm out to find out what's so special about this game's single-player campaign. What makes GoldenEye 007 one of the most critically acclaimed first-person shooters there ever was? The fact that you're playing as James Bond - or more specifically his Walther PPK - in a half-decent game? Because it lacked true competition on consoles at the time? Or, was it a truly fun, innovative, great game that somehow managed to break through the limitations that plague the FPS genre even today?

One thing's for certain: there is a lot to like about GoldenEye 007. Even if you're not half of an FPS fanatic.

The graphics... well, one thing you'll be silently thanking right off the bat is that you'll only actually be seeing your character in cutscenes. The character modelling looks as horrid as you can expect from a relatively early Nintendo 64 game that went for realistic humanoid characters. The levels look quite good, actually. There's lots of detail and as long as there's no one there with you, the game looks even magnificent from time to time. The level design is pretty confusing, definitely not for those with bad navigational instincts, but that's literally more of a design thing. If you don't count grunts for voiceover work, there's none to be had here. Every bit of dialogue and mission briefing comes in text-only format. The music... the music deserves its own paragraph.

Maybe to capitalize on the clean, cold fact that the Bond theme hadn't been heard in many Bond games, GoldenEye 007 is full of it - dozens of the best remixes you've ever heard, in different styles of music, starting with a magnificent rock/metal version that kicks the game off with a blast that at the very least knocked me over on my chair. It sounds fucking awesome, and it's accompanied by a faithful recreation of the classic gun barrel intro first seen in the very first 007 movie, Dr. No; those in search of an authentic Bond game, they've got one.

Can't a man conduct his business in peace...?
The game stays with the movie's plot faithfully - sidesteps are taken only to add more depth to the movie-to-game transition. For example, while the movie has events from 1986 for a prologue while the rest of it takes place in 1995, the game has in-depth stuff from several points of time in the between. They're like deleted scenes for those really into the movie - it's cool! Also, the flashback(s) merely served as a pre-credits sequence for the movie, in the game you're going to be playing a relatively long while before finally catching up to the actual beginning of the story.

Although GoldenEye 007 is far from a perfect game, just the knowledge that eight of the nine people working in the game's core design team had never worked on a video game before makes it one amazing sight to behold, and an amazing game to play. It's an FPS, not a very challenging game to explain at first, but considering it was made in 1997, by a group of gaming virgins, calls for lots of praises for its slightest innovations.

First of all, you have gadgets from the Q branch at your disposal, including vintage stuff used in earlier movies, which you have to use to complete certain objectives. You have lots of weapons to collect and choose from, and if everything else fails, you can use rifle butts and martial arts in acts of desperation. Even the available weaponry features items from classic Bond flicks - Golden Gun's a pretty obvious one - and you can play as classic characters such as Oddjob in the multiplayer mode. This game was like a 007-loving gamer's dream come true back in the day. Stealth is a very important element of the game. Although the enemies' A.I. is not of the Metal Gear Solid variety, they are sensitive to suspicious sights and sounds, and there are a few ways to avoid attention, as well as physical confrontations altogether, and precision-target enemies from afar with the cost of not being able to move. You don't have as much health as it might seem, the enemies are not as crappy shots as they might seem, and there's nothing you can replenish your health with - except for the body armor, which doubles your health. If you fail, you're going to have to do the whole level again. ...Hopefully you're a little wiser. See? I said nothing about having no checkpoints. Why? 'Cause the game's fun, and the levels can be over quite quick if you know what you're doing, and do not just run around shooting everything to shit, with a faint hope of completing the level. Knowing what you're doing is sometimes a bit difficult.

Tea time? Uh-uh, I do believe it's ass-kicking time.
Mission objectives are hidden deep in the menu, and you're hardly given hints of how to complete them. I think it would've served the game well to make the objectives visible with the press of a single button - or at least add SOME type of a map, preferrably with blips. The levels are really maze-like and confusing, and navigating them might get real frustrating for people with lousy navigational skills. There are dozens of doors and pathways to lock you up into an endless circle. The controls really aren't that good; while I do appreciate the use of the trigger button Z as the fire button, the analog control is stiff and using the camera buttons to strafe and look around is just a damn pain, plain and simple. Despite all the acclaim it got and how good it turns out after some trouble with getting used to the dumb half of the scheme, I think this game is a fine example of why one does not simply make a fully functional FPS game if there's not a mouse or a second analog stick readily available.

Its control work-around and user interface might be dated, but GoldenEye 007 is certainly a good game with great atmosphere stemming from the music, and the developers' obvious passion for the franchise and all its history, not just the single movie it's faithfully and credibly based on. Being the first console-exclusive FPS to be taken seriously, GoldenEye 007 is a classic in its own genre. I'd need to be a genre fan to go further than that, and that I am not.

+ Great, albeit more than a little confusing level design
+ Ultra-faithful to the 007 franchise
+ Awesome music by some of Rare's finest (except for David Wise, who was doing Diddy Kong Racing at the time)
+ The game features some of the greatest stealth elements in a 3D game of the times before Metal Gear Solid
+ The environments look great...

- ...While the characters do not
- Movement's a bit stiff, and the camera buttons are simply painful to use
- No minimap, and the objectives are sometimes hard to figure out
- With its complete lack of health items and checkpoints, the game might turn out a little unforgiving to the casual player

< 8.2 >

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