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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (351)

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EnHanced 3.5/5
Blossom Tales: The Slee... 3.5/5
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 2.5/5
Far Cry 5 4/5
Jotun 2/5
Armada 4/5
RiME 2.5/5
Song of the Deep 4.5/5
Shadowrun: Hong Kong 4/5
Destiny 2 4/5
Shadowrun: Dragonfall 4/5
Shadowrun Returns 3/5
Kirby Star Allies 3.5/5
Dark Quest 2 3.5/5
Never Alone 3/5
Octopath Traveler 3/5
Guacamelee! 2 4/5
The Incredible Adventur... 4/5
Fallout 4 3/5
Tomba! 5/5
Odallus: The Dark Call 4/5
Dragon Quest Builders 4/5
Call of Juarez: Bound i... 3/5
Drakkhen 3.5/5
Unravel 3.5/5

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GoldenEye 007   Nintendo 64 

The First FPS to Achieve Mediocrity    2.5/5 stars

Prior to “GoldenEye 007,” the first-person shooter (FPS) was largely the domain of PC gaming. I gave the genre what I consider to be a fair shake, as I played “Doom,” “Quake II,” “Heretic,” “Hexen,” and “Witchaven” on PC way back when they were new. I tried to like the genre, but just couldn’t see what was so great about it.

When the 5th Generation of consoles began, it became apparent that console hardware was approaching something vaguely resembling parity to PCs (of course, consoles still remained static for 5+ years while PCs required annual or bi-annual upgrades to stay up-to-date). Thus every developer in the Western world jumped at the chance to start dumping their trash on consoles as well as Windows.

Thus “GoldenEye 007” was born. As a tie-in game for the movie of the same name, it stood little chance of success. Yet, thanks to the dearth of tolerable titles on Nintendo’s catastrophic follow-up to the SNES, “GoldenEye 007” ended up receiving a disproportionate amount of attention and praise.

Presentation
5th Generation hardware (by anyone, not just Nintendo) was not ‘ready for prime time’ when it came to 3D polygonal graphics. “GoldenEye 007” is no different than every other early 3D game in that it looks absolutely atrocious. The game’s environments are sculpted from large, simple polygons that might have looked pretty good, had the developers not been forced to over-compress the textures that were mapped onto those polygons (thanks to the N64’s tiny and expensive cartridge media). Every surface is, therefore, covered in a distorted, blurry bitmap. Character models actually fare even worse than the environments, as each character is ‘sculpted’ from approximately 15 polygons with low-resolution digital pictures of the movie cast stretched over them. In addition to the hideous polygons, thanks to low draw-distances in early hardware, the game’s levels are filled with a fair amount of ‘fog’ to keep the player from seeing distant object pop-into existence. Regardless of how poor the game looks, FPSes are one of the few genres that actually benefit from being in full, polygonal 3D instead of sprite-based pseudo-3D. Unfortunately, “GoldenEye 007” falls victim to graphics so poor they actually hinder gameplay, which is unacceptable.

The graphical situation isn’t entirely irredeemable, however, as the weapon models all look pretty good, and small details like smoke and bullet holes are nice added touches. In addition, enemies have some detailed and well-done animations that look just as realistic as modern motion-capture (provided that modern motion-capture is used to animate origami).

The audio likewise suffers from the small capacity of N64 cartidges. Every tune in the soundtrack and every gunshot and other sound effect is incredibly tinny, scratchy, and muffled. Also, despite the movie license, there is no voiceacting from Pierce Brosnan or Judy Dench.

Story
The ‘GoldenEye’ movie was actually my first real Bond experience, largely due to the fact that, prior to this movie, the only Bond I’d heard of was the crap-tastic ‘James Bond Jr.’ cartoon. I also played “GoldenEye 007” before seeing the movie. Despite this fact, I found the game’s interpretation of the story to pale in comparison to the film.

The main story mode in “GoldenEye 007” follows the movie quite closely with regard to locations and mission objectives. However, without the ability to include decent cutscenes, the narrative quality of the story falls flat. Instead of ‘show don’t tell,’ “GoldenEye 007” features text mission briefs against a manila background with the occasional blurry photo.

Where “GoldenEye 007” really shines in story, however, is with the inclusion of some bits of great Bond fanservice spanning the history of the movie franchise. There are a couple of bonus stages that have nothing to do with the ‘GoldenEye’ movie, but instead feature classic Bond villains in one-off scenarios. This fanservice spills over into the multi-player mode where a large roster of classic characters such as Jaws and the infamous OddJob are available for use, as are iconic weapons such as Scaramanga’s Golden Gun and the Moonraker lasers.

Gameplay
When discussing “GoldenEye 007’s” gameplay, it is always necessary to differentiate between the single-player experience and the multi-player experience. However, there is one thing that both modes have in common, and the one thing that disappoints me more than anything else in the game: the controls. Every N64 game has to fight an uphill battle against the idiotic controller with its three prongs, buttons that are impossible to reach unless holding it a specific way, and incredibly flaky analog stick (seriously, Sega released the Saturn analog controller BEFORE the N64, and its stick was great). The default control setup assigns movement/rotation to the analog stick, look/strafe to the C buttons, A to switch weapons, B to reload, Z to fire, and R to manually aim. This scheme simply does not work, as it requires Bond to stand stock-still while aiming, makes looking/strafing practically useless, and makes shooting (the most important gameplay element in a FPS) a function of the LEFT hand. Also lacking is any ability for Bond to jump or crouch.

However, the controls aren’t entirely irredeemable. Just recently, when revisiting the game to compare it to its modern remake, I discovered that there are three other control configurations, and that the second one is quite good. It assigns movement/strafing to the D-pad, look/rotate to the analog stick, manual aiming to L, and leaves everything else the same. If only the people with whom I played this game had told me about this superior configuration (since my cartridge didn’t come with a manual)! Another great feature of the control system is the ability for Bond to peak out from behind cover by strafing while manually aiming, then snapping back behind cover when the strafe button is released. While it doesn’t completely replace the ability to crouch, it is a solid gameplay mechanic that actually makes FPS gameplay a bit more strategic.

The single-player story mode is a series of 18 relatively short missions that can be played on three different difficulties. Each mission has a variety of objectives, with more piled-on as the difficulty increases. While there are occasional ‘monster closets’ of magically-appearing or infinitely-respawning enemies, in most cases all of the enemies are positioned in the level at the beginning, and Bond is free to sneak past or subdue them as he sees fit. Bond begins every mission with his trusty Walther PPK and can pick-up weapons from fallen enemies or find weapon caches filled with rare armaments and/or defense-boosting flak jackets. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to keep any of these additional goodies from mission to mission. The entire experience is a relatively straight-forward FPS that, instead of requiring the player to search for colored keys, simply requires the player to go from Point A to Point B while performing a few objective-based actions in the meantime. However, nobody is free to simply ignore the single-player mode, as it is necessary to complete every mission on every difficulty in order to unlock a variety of things in the game’s option menu, including multi-player options.

The multi-player aspect of “GoldenEye 007” is what makes the fanboys wet their pants, as it did something no FPS had done before: Local split-screen multi-player for up to four people. Now instead of killing computer controlled characters in the story mode, players were free to kill EACH OTHER!

And that’s pretty much all there is to it. The multi-player mode has quite a few interesting options, but it also has a few horrible options and is missing a few options entirely. I absolutely hate the ‘License to Kill’ mode, in which every hit causes death, as it greatly favors players who have memorized the maps (and the person who hosted the “GoldenEye 007” parties I attended insisted on using it), allowing them to look at other players’ screen partitions, figure out where they are by their view, and kill them before they even know a threat is present. Simply including the Golden Gun (which also causes one-hit kills) would have been more than adequate. The biggest omission in multi-player mode is the option to include computer controlled players (a.k.a., ‘Bots) among the four available slots (thus leaving out any way for players who were late to the party to practice-up). Another huge flaw is the fact that every player begins unarmed and respawns unarmed after being killed, which makes it very simple for other players to wait at the limited number of spawn points and kill players before they even have a chance to fight back.

Overall
“GoldenEye 007” is not a good game. “GoldenEye 007” is also not a bad game. By the standards of its genre, it did some revolutionary things that managed to pull FPSes up from the muck and make them accessible and tolerable, if still not particularly fun. As such, it is an important milestone in the history of gaming as a medium. By taking the ideas that “GoldenEye 007” put on the table, its multi-platform successors, “Agent Under Fire” and “Nightfire” added the needed polish and originality to make some truly great James Bond videogame experiences. However, not even those games were able to bring the FPS genre anywhere near perfection.

Presentation: 1.5/5
Story: 3/5
Gameplay: 3/5 Single Player; 2/5 Multi-Player
Overall (not an average): 2.5/5

 

 


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