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GoldenEye 007

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: n-Space
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1; 2 - 6 (Wireless)
Genre: First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have little emotional attachment to GoldenEye on the N64. I respect the game for what it was and how it managed to shake up the idea of the console-based FPS, but I never really "got" the cult-like following that has grown around the game. For all I care, GoldenEye 007 could be just another handheld FPS and it would earn the same reaction.

At the same time, the name carries certain weight in some circles, placing a lot of pressure on the game's shoulders. Though it doesn't (and probably couldn't) match any expectations, it still manages to carry on at least one part of the N64 version's legacy: a half-hearted single-player game with fun multiplayer.

GoldenEye 007 is a great example that just because you can, doesn't mean you should. The DS game attempts to recreate the same visual upgrades as the Wii version and comes out worse for it. It's impressive to see how much n-Space was able to squeeze out of the DS's video card, but everything looks stilted and awkward. Characters animations are stiff, no one moves their mouth when talking and most of the texture work is a blurry mess.

Visual flaws are exacerbated by the audio. Both Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench provide full voicework, though watching their voices come out of models that only vaguely look like them hurts the presentation. This is one of those situations where artists should have considered doing something stylistically different.

At least the music is up to par and sells an experience more exciting than the one you're playing. If only weapons provided the same amount of audio power.


Gameplay:

Single-player follows the same re-imagined plotline as the Wii version. Essentially, it's the 1995 movie with a few tweaks and the current Bond line-up of stars. Gameplay attempts to mix fast-paced gunplay with stealth sections. Both are functional, but not much fun. The entire experience is very linear and leaves out a lot of decision making. You're forced to tackle situations the exact same way every time; there's not much in the way of choice. It's a rigid corridor shooter and not much else. Even gadgets - the core element of the Bond experience - have been scaled back.

Once you complete the main campaign (around 5 - 6 hours), you'll unlock time trials for each level. Goals stay the same, though you'll find yourself simply running through levels. I know that's the point of time trials, but the act of blazing through levels should provide some level of fun. Considering how bland single-player missions are the first time through, the timed versions seem almost pointless.

Multiplayer adds more replay incentive and is the only reason to even consider purchasing GoldenEye 007. Multiplayer supports up to six players and is just fun. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's the best multiplayer experience I've ever had, but the amount of playtime my friends and I spent with GoldenEye 007 is second only to Mario Kart DS. That should say something.

Map design is really good and provides a nice play space. Nearly every significant Bond multiplayer match type is around, including the famous Golden Gun. Each also features a number of modifications, allowing players to tailor matches to their own exacting specifications.


Difficulty:

Firearms feel weak, or at the very least inconsistent. Sometimes you can one-hit enemies, other times you'll need to unload an entire clip before they go down. It is so annoying and noticeable, and most of GoldenEye 007's problems can be traced to the issue. Gunplay isn't fun, bringing the rest of the experience down. Things get worse as you progress through other weapons. A full blast from a shotgun may only stun someone, while a full clip from a machine gun will only slow them down a bit.

The same gun issues don't hinder enemies. Nearly everyone is an expert marksman and every shot packs a punch. Body armor and cover is plentiful, though using duck-and-cover tactics slows gameplay even further. On the bright side, enemy A.I. is incredibly predictable.


Game Mechanics:

GoldenEye 007 is more about control than anything else. The game defaults to a D-pad/ stylus combo that's incredibly accurate and speedy, though it takes some getting used to (and some tricky hand positioning). All movement is mapped to the D-pad, while the Left Shoulder Button handles shooting duties. Everything else, from aiming to reloading to selecting weapons, uses the touch screen.

The setup is great, and a better choice than the secondary "non-stylus" option, but you'll have to give the setup some time before it feels comfortable. The DS's form factor isn't amazing to start with, so having to find a way to "claw" your left hand to be able to comfortably use the D-pad, Left Shoulder Button and balance the weight of the system adds an additional bit of awkward to the situation. Then again, it could be considered an unintentional (and unfortunate) homage to the N64's controller.

As uncomfortable as it is, the stylus setup is the way to go. The non-stylus option instead maps aiming to the face buttons. In theory the scheme works, but in practice it is about five steps away from unplayable and a great reminder as to why we don't see many FPS's on the PSP. It's slow, hard to control and forces you to sacrifice so much speed the game is nearly unplayable.

When you're not shooting at guys who just won't die, GoldenEye 007 forces you to endure a few mindless hacking mini-games. These aren't bad, they're just outright pointless and add nothing to the experience.

GoldenEye 007 is playable, but too linear and "directed" of an experience to be any fun. Of course, the same can be said about most modern FPS's, which make up some of the industry's biggest releases. The difference, however, is those games manage to make the act of shooting fun and satisfying, things GoldenEye 007 simply doesn't provide.

If you can convince a group of friends to pick up copies and plan to spend a lot of time in multiplayer matches, GoldenEye 007 will provide some enjoyment. Otherwise, there's no reason for a purchase unless you're dying for a handheld FPS.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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