Archive for November, 2012

Goldeneye 64

Friday, November 16th, 2012

 

Goldeneye 64

We took a look two week’s ago at a James Bond film that have a soft spot for, so I thought it might be a good idea to get this week’s topic out of the way on a “mini-binge”, so that we can move on to more relevant things (Ha!). Conversions of popular films into video games have a somewhat checkered history. Typically seen as a means of further cashing-in a film’s popularity, you often find that not a lot of effort is put into making them playable, enjoyable and – perish the thought – innovative & visionary experiences. A notable exception to this rule may include the Super Star Wars trilogy on the SNES, but even now as writing, I am truly racking my brains trying to think of games that buck this rather troublesome trend. Particularly nowadays, the broad plethora of detritus released in this respect is almost staggering. It is as if nothing is sacred nowadays.

My somewhat cynical outlook put to one side (for the last time, I hope), back in 1997, developers Rare put aside their finesse in creating monkey-based platformers and instead decided to enter the arena of first person shooters. This genre of video game fare had typically been the type of thing you’d see on a PC, and not a console. Controller issues was one issue, but other factors such as Nintendo’s staunch anti-violence approach to games released on the SNES had scared developers away; ID Software were reportedly so annoyed by the heavily censored version of Wolfenstein 3D, they gave the games source code to the developers of this shockingly bad clone. So when Goldeneye 64 first came along, it was somewhat of an anomaly in the Nintendo 64’s then-present library.

Goldeneye 64 puts you at the helm of James Bond himself as he attempts to thwart the machinations of the Janus crime syndicate and the insidious weapon known as Goldeneye. Players are able to experience many of key points from the film, as well as a variety of uniquely designed levels that fit seamlessly into the game’s central plot. On top of the main story, there are also two bonus missions based off the films Moonraker, Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun. There is a good variety of locales and challenges that players can expect to overcome, ranging from stealthy espionage to more explosive entanglements. Each mission is instantly unforgettable, and quality is the name of the game from start to finish.

The game has 3 difficulty levels, with scaling objectives for each. This is an extremely nice touch, as it gives the more borderline masochistic the opportunity to whet their desire for carnage further, with the bonus of new objectives to complete as well. Individual mission objectives are both well thought-out and challenging, although not without their fare share of frustration. The NPC AI, for example, has a knack for always throwing themselves right into the middle of firefight. In missions where certain NPC’s are essential for the completion of certain objectives, the results often lead to frustrating and oft parodied conclusions. Despite this, the failing of objectives is made less annoying by the fact the mission doesn’t instantly end when you fail objectives, enabling players to experience easter egg-esque moments in almost every mission.

One of the most memorable aspects of the game for me was always the cheats. You can put aside your Konami codes, however – unlike the vast majority of other games at the time, these could be unlocked by completing certain levels as quickly as possible, on different difficulties. A encyclopaedic-level of different cheats are potentially un-lockable, ranging from weapon cheats through to one of gamings best – and, if Gears of War 3is anything to go by, iconic – ever cheats – DK mode! These cheats were always a major boon for me, as they enabled me to complete the game on higher difficulties and unlock the game’s ultimate game mode – 007 difficulty, which allows the player to set their own difficulty for each individual mission, based on a number of different parameters. No game since, to the best of my knowledge, matches Goldeneye 64 in both of these regards.

Controls is probably the only area in which you could fault the game severely. This is more a problem of the N64 itself, and I have always find the controller to be one the system’s major weaknesses. I mean, how the bloody hell are you supposed to hold it?!? Usually, this wouldn’t be a problem for a game that made little or no use of the D-PAD, and Goldeneye attempts to resolve this by mirroring the functions of the D-PAD and the C-Buttons. This initial problem aside, and the main problem you find is that aiming and moving can be incredibly clunky. If the enemies were any more intelligent or agile, then this, I think, would make the game virtually unplayable. Thankfully, the AI is suitably archaic enough (by today’s standards) for this not to become a major issue.

I’ve done something rather deliberate with this review: I haven’t talked about the multiplayer at all. A major sin, you may argue, and I cannot deny that it is one of the game’s finest points. I do think, though, that Goldeneye 64’s multiplayer is often the most touted – and, sometimes, only – feature that people talk about this game. Scrapping the multiplayer entirely, and there is so much in this game for almost anyone to enjoy. It sets a fine example in how a video game tie-in should play like, and it remains the only such game to have successfully establish a legacy that many developers today actively covet and aspire towards in their work.

(Image courtesy of gamesutra.com)

Keep Calm and Look Back

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Unfortunately, due to a rather hectic week, this week’s intended blog post on a certain Nintendo 64 game (hint: have a look at last week’s post) is going to have to be delayed until next week. Apologies for that. Instead, this week, let’s take a retrospective view at the very first Retrospect Nerd post (see what I did there?) on Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. For those who haven’t read it before, great! For those that have…well…it’s a pretty awesome game, and is definitely worth another look. That sounds like a reasonably convincing reason, no?

Normal service should resume next week, all being well. Until then, peace out!

– Retrospect Nerd

Goldeneye

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

 

Goldeneye

I like James Bond, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan. Sure, I’ll watch the films, but I’ve never sat down and either read all the books or watch them all à la Alan Partridge style. It might be a generational issue, but I don’t find them in any way engaging. I wouldn’t say that the older James Bond films are bad, it’s just I find the older films rather boring. I always end up turning over, or half-heartedly watching them, whenever I see them on the television (something which, thankfully, is becoming more and more a rare occurrence. Further continuing my potentially heretical views, the only James Bond films I have watched and have enjoyed have been the recent ones with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. The action, adventure and acting talent (most notably Judi Dench, who is perfect as M) have always acted as the major draws for me, with the very first Pierce Brosnan film – Goldeneye – establishing a winning formula for James Bond in the 21st century.

One of the reasons why I think I hold Goldeneye in such high esteem is probably because of the hype generated by Goldeneye 64. I had played the game through to completion, but had not ever seen the film. When we finally bought it on DVD when I was younger and sat down to watch it, the accumulated hype and excitement automatically transferred across from my experiences whilst playing the game. Digging beneath the surface of the film poster, and the history of Goldeneye’s trouble development makes for interesting reading. TImothy Dalton was initially set to reprise the role for a third time, but legal battles over the franchise meant that development was stalled for 5 years, leading Dalton to withdraw from the role completely. Pierce Brosnan (who, as our Fun Friday Fact, was originally set to succeed Roger Moore in the pivotal role) was eventually cast as Bond, with the film eventually being released in 1995. Such a long gap between the last Bond film might have helped in the process of recasting the character within a post-Cold War context, as well as being long enough for people to forget Licence to Kill’s dismal box office takings.

The film opens at the height of the Cold War, with 007 (Pierce Brosnan) infiltrating a secret Soviet facility with fellow agent and friend 006 (Sean Bean). The mission goes awry, leading to 006’s death at the hands of the ambitious Russian colonel, Ourumov (Gottfried John), with Bond escaping in reality-busting style: jumping off a ramp, on a bike, through the sky, into a falling plane and then stopping the plane from crashing into the rocks. More fantasy than thriller perhaps? As the film starts proper, we see 007 attempting to thwart the plans of the illusive Janus crime syndicate. After following one of the groups agents, Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) to Monoco, Bond is unable to stop her from carrying out a heist of a new, prototype helicopter, capable of withstanding an electro-magnetic pulse. When MI6 tracks the helicopter to a secret Russian weapon facility, the groups motives in stealing the helicopter become apparent; with the assistance of Ourumov, now General and Head of Weapons Division in Russia, Onatopp succeeds in destroying the facility with a powerful, Cold War, weapon known as “Goldeneye”. This weapon – surprise, surprise – is capable of causing a wide-spread electro-magnetic pulse that cripples and destroys anything with an electric pulse. 007 is tasked with travelling to Russia, settling an old score with Ourumov and unmasking the identity of the Janus syndicates mysterious leader. Oh, and to have a few salacious encounters with members of opposite sex in the process. Nearly forgot that one. Phew.

The Bond theme for Goldeneye is probably the best one out all of the Brosnan films. Written by Bono and The Edge (remember them?) and sung by Tina Turner, it certainly tops the list out of all the Brosnan Bond films combined (a pyrrhic victory perhaps, considering that in this list is the god-awful Madonna Bond theme). The video is laden with some overt political messages, chief among them being the destruction of symbols and statues from the Soviet Union ‘girls’ in the video. This may sound somewhat off-putting, but, as previously mentioned, this helps to recast the character of 007 within a new – and potentially exciting – context. Turner’s vocals are also reminiscent of earlier Bond themes, signalling at once to the audience a return to the “golden age” of Bond films. All in all, it’s one of the finest Bond modern themes; just don’t Adele!

Goldeneye has everything that Bond fan or, indeed, any thriller fan, could ask for: an intriguing plot with surprises, an array of classic 007 hallmarks such as gadgets, girls and suaveness and a healthy abundance of Sean Bean. The film succeeds in showing that James Bond is not a character defined by, and situated fixatedly within, a Cold War context. Did I also mention the film stars Sean Bean? Had the film not doing as well as it did, it is entirely possible that the character may have retired. So, even if Goldeneye and vaguely-Irish sounding James Bond’s aren’t exactly your cup of tea, we can at least thank the film for allowing the character to survive for another generation and in producing what some critics are calling the best James Bond yet. I’ll be hopefully seeing Skyfall myself in the next few days, and am eagerly hoping that it matches high expectations. I’ve already mentioned Sean Bean I believe, and I believe Sean Bean really helps Goldeneye become Sean Bean’s finest Sean Bean. Ahem. Hopefully you get the message; Sean Bean helps to make Goldeneye just that little bit better. Because, as we all know, Sean Bean is awesome, and anything starring him by association fits this definition. My borderline-obsessive feelings for Sean Bean aside, I would recommend that anyone averse to James Bond start with Goldeneye, as it’s a great way to get a feel for the traditional Bond experience in a digestible and modern form.

(Image courtesy of wikipedia.org)