GoldenEye is no pushover on hard mode but lets you ramp up the difficulty incrementally and each challenge level is well balanced. In addition to three standard difficulties, GoldenEye includes a fourth called 007 Classic. This one is a real challenge because it takes the hardest difficulty mode and removes recharging health; you get the good old fashioned curved health bar from the N64 game, and just like the old days there are no health packs, forcing you to conserve health and hunt for precious body armor.
At times it gets just as hard as “00 Agent” mode on N64, but feels slightly imbalanced because it’s much easier to get hit in the new game. Like in CoD, copious enemy fire will literally be raining in from all directions so getting hit happens a lot, as opposed to only when you weren’t fast enough or made a mistake in the N64 game. I just wish the health and armor bars were an option I could turn on any time, so I could play classic style on any difficulty mode. It would also be nice if you could switch them on in multiplayer, at least for split-screen play.
As to the story, Feiristein’s rewrite has some interesting results. This time there are no silo or water caverns levels, and the frigate and train are worked into other levels instead of given their own standalone ones. These changes are closer to the film—the train and frigate sequences only lasted a couple minutes in the movie, and the silo was a notoriously out of place chunk from a full mission that Rare never finished in time for the N64 game’s release. Still the omitted levels are sorely missed, mostly because I wanted to see Eurocom’s new take on these locations. Feirstein also broke significantly from the N64 game and film by putting the St. Petersburg sequences completely out of order, with statue park happening after
the archives and tank chase, but somehow it still works perfectly well.
Feirstein also dropped a cool story feature from the N64 game. That game followed the film’s plot loosely but kept the 10-year time gap between the mission at the dam and Bond’s current crisis with Janus. Instead of glossing over that period like the film, however, it constructed almost the entire first half of the game in that gap, as if Bond had been investigating the GoldenEye incident for years. The new game does away with those 10 years entirely, setting all the events in a short period of time. While the new GoldenEye is a significantly longer game than the N64 one, the story’s breakneck pace robs the plot of its era-spanning scope and omits some background details.
The faster paced plot does hit on all the right events though, and you get to see some amazingly redone moments and locations. Everything has been scaled up and the events in the film seem like a small skirmish in comparison. Just don’t go in expecting to get the same levels and events even remotely similar to how they looked before. Expect bigger and more epic and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The reworked characters are also a mixed bag, and the faster pace means you don’t see them as much. It’s certainly nice not having to baby-sit Natalya in the jungle, but you don’t see enough of Valentin and minor characters like Boris and Jack Wade are missing entirely. In the end the new GoldenEye slims up the plot and skews closer to the film’s brisk pacing, but as the credits rolled I was feeling a bit of whiplash. The N64 game’s “filling in the empty spaces” approach left me with a broader sense of the long-standing friendship between Bond and Trevelyan and just how much 006’s betrayal affected Bond. That said Eurocom and Feirstein have produced a long, meaty campaign with plenty of story, superbly built levels and better, more balanced gameplay than any of the recent CoD games.
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