Sometimes, James Bond sneaks into a hostile situation without being detected, noiselessly disposing foes wherever he goes. And other times, the secret agent feels like tearing down an entire city in his wake. I saw both of these sides of 007 at an Activision press event for GoldenEye 007 on Wii on Wednesday in San Francisco.
Graham Hagmaier, a producer at Activision, explained that giving the player options in the way Bond tackles a level was one of the main goals for the project.
“One of the big keys [for developer Eurocom] in regard to game design is player choice,” said Hagmaier. “[The game] has multiple routes through areas, so you can take the stealthier route and kind of use close-quarter combat — such as takedowns. Or you can go in guns-a-blazing — American style, as I like to call it — and just firefight and take out enemies.”
I experienced two levels at the event (one hands-on, the other hands-off) that showcased the “American style” and the stealthier style.
ST. PETERSBURG TANK
The level starts with Bond, in a tank, chasing an automobile. You can hear Daniel Craig as Bond in a voice over, detailing the events happening. Craig’s performance sounds top-notch, equivalent to something straight from a movie. But before you hear too much from 007, a helicopter blows a bridge sky high, leaving you without a tank and a lot of ground to catch up.
The pursuit that follows displays the impressive visuals for the game. The tank smashes everything in sight, like cars and enemy trucks. Even better, the armored vehicle blasts through cement pillars underneath buildings throughout the level. But that’s not all. Huge skyscrapers and buildings tumble down, blanketing the ground with dust and rubble. The effects are pretty stunning, and the frame rate seems to hold steady.
The cause of this destruction rests with an army of trucks and helicopters attempting to stop Bond in his tracks. The whirlybirds flutter above in the sky, launching missiles at the secret agent. The missiles display realistic smoke trails, and then boom, spectacular fire explosions. Once again, the graphics are definitely something to talk about.
As for destroying these enemies, you have the tank at your disposal. You primarily keep your foot on the gas moving forward with the control stick, with the right analog stick navigating your reticule (with missiles and a submachine gun). Obviously, the game was demoed, once again, with the Classic Controller Pro.
Everything felt pretty good, though, I was curious about how the heavy vehicle would feel with Wii Remote and Nunchuk in hand. As such, I pressed Hagmaier about the decision not to showcase the game with other control options.
“[Activision] thinks that Classic Controller Pro is a great new controller, and [Activision] is doing a Collector’s Edition with the gold controller,” said Hagmaier. “As such, the Classic Controller Pro is just one of those things it has been pushing to get people comfortable with that control scheme.”
The controller was removed from my hands for a small taste of the single player Jungle level. The lush, green setting takes place in Nigeria for this re-imagining (instead of the Cuban setting in the original Nintendo 64 version), and this forested area serves as the polar opposite to the citywide destruction of the tank area.
The Jungle, like St. Petersburg, exhibits stunning visuals. There’s plenty of geometry in the environment, with downed tree branches and vegetation twisting throughout. The greenery blocks the sunlight, though rays will break through the canopy with realistic light sourcing. Bond starts his mission here after crashing a small prop plane, with embers from the plane drifting through the sky, thanks to some amazing particle effects.
But the crash also draws in soldiers to investigate the wreckage. Bond attempts to keep quieter than in St. Petersburg, focusing more on stealth. (However, an Activision representative let me know that players could sprint through the locale dropping lead, but that amps up the difficulty.) Thus, the secret agent uses a silencer and slowly sneaks up behind foes, using close-quarter combat to defeat them.
Bond finds one of the first unfortunate souls to cross his path standing next to a huge boulder. This leads to an awesome scene where Bond tosses the guy against the gray rock, smashing his skull in the process. It was refreshing to see 007 cleverly using the environment to his advantage instead of just strangling the adversary.
The next couple of bad guys awaiting Bond are standing next to each other near the plane wreckage, wondering aloud whether anyone has survived. This gives the secret agent the perfect angle and opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: Bond fires a bullet that explodes through one foe’s head, and then into the other guy’s dome. The person playing through the level lets me know that is not the only trick up Bond’s sleeve.
Agent 007 also has a smartphone, which enables him to override enemy turrets. Thus, players can use the stationary guns to kill baddies, as long as they practice patience in capturing data with the communication device. Hagmaier told me that the phone works other ways as well.
“The smartphone can do multiple functions: it can hack computers, hack locks, and it also can do facial scanning,” said Hagmaier. “So you can use it in a crowd to find an objective… It also can be a communication device, obviously a phone, and you can hold the Wii Remote up to your ear to answer it.”
GoldenEye 007’s single player campaign looks to be a pretty spectacular experience. Both levels showcase some memorable and stunning scenes, as well as capture the Bond feel and look. My only reservation: Activison has still not shown the game with Wii Remote and Nunchuk controls. This layout is available, but nailing the pointing mechanic is crucial. Other than that, developer Eurocom seems to be on the right track with James Bond’s adventure for Wii.
GoldenEye 007 hits store shelves Nov. 2 as a standard package at a MSRP of $49.99 or as a Gold Controller Bundle at a MSRP of $69.99.