1998's GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64 was a watershed moment in first-person shooters, and is still held in the highest regard by thousands of gamers who hold every new Bond release up to that 64-bit benchmark. But just as the James Bond film series has moved on, so must its games, with Activision revisiting the original source material for its own take on satellites and Soviets in GoldenEye 007: Reloaded.
It's important to stress that this is a HD reworking of GoldenEye 007 on Wii, which was a new game based — sort of — on the original film. Old faces are gone: Pierce Brosnan is replaced by current Bond Daniel Craig, and there's no Famke Janssen or Alan Cumming. Familiar moments are recast too: Bond ditches his laser watch and other gadgets for a smartphone, for example.
Story mode takes you through the movie's high points — diving from the dam, destroying St. Petersburg in a tank — in a pleasingly varied campaign that mixes straight-up shooting with stealth elements, and will last a fair few hours. It also inherits the N64 version's most overlooked contribution to first-person shooters: you must complete extra objectives on higher difficulties, as well as contending with more aggressive and accurate enemies. On the easiest setting your opponents are content to peer from behind girders and let you pick them off from a distance, and some levels soon descend into a Call of Duty-style shooting gallery as you pop out from cover to aim down your sights for those crucial headshots.
Bond is at its best when you need to play slowly and carefully, working your way through a dark room with silent take downs, but should you get spotted it's just as easy — though less satisfying — to take the on-rushing opponents down in a spray of bullets. It's hardly Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid levels of stealth — bodies disappear after death, for example — but it builds tension well and marks it out against its run-and-gun army competitors.
Whenever you are called into action the Move controls respond well, with accurate aiming aided by a generous, though changeable, amount of lock-on. It's intuitive enough to blend into the background, though the controls fall down in the tank level that feels too stodgy and unresponsive: you may be driving an enormous tank, but that's no excuse for clunky controls.
So far this is the Wii game in HD, but there is exclusive content on offer, notably in the Spec Ops-style MI6 Ops missions that challenge you to fulfil certain objectives — wipe out all enemies, defend an area and so on — to earn stars based on your performance. Yes, it's shamelessly lifted from Activision's own Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 but has its own twist: you can change the rules to make things more or less difficult. Want to swap your pistol for an RPG with infinite ammo, or give the enemies twice as much health and increased accuracy? You can, with the difficulty-based score bonus changing accordingly. You can also swap these rules with other players and then attempt to beat their best score, a neat way of putting you in charge of longevity. It's a shame this mode is single player only, though: online or local co-op would have sealed the deal.
There's a full online multiplayer mode that also apes Call of Duty, with the player count upped from eight to 16 for the PS3 release, stacks of unlockables to work towards, plus the addition of new maps, weapons and the exclusive Escalation game type. It's a nicely brushed up and plumped out mode, and rounds things out nicely.
The main problem lies in where Activision is pitching GoldenEye: on Wii it was marketed on a blend of Nintendo fan nostalgia and console-leading online play, but on PS3 and 360 it's up against the big boys. Releasing it the week before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 at a premium price shows Activision's not concerned about cannibalising its own market share, but it's still a puzzling decision.
Like Bond himself, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is sharp and smart; a modern Bond game, as much about stealth and muscular take downs as gadgets and getting the girl. It doesn't always get it right: fire-fights could have been lifted from any other FPS, and level design can be on the linear side, but it's a strong outing for 007 and by far the best Bond on PS3.