Goldeneye 007 (Wii)
I just can’t stop playing.
Or I couldn’t, anyway. Lately, I’ve had to give it up for many reasons; a severe, pervasive case of WiiWrist (tendonitis resulting from excessive use of the Wiimote), a backlog of awesome games demanding my attention, and the regrettable need to have a life outside of video games. But this is not to say I didn’t give it my all. I lived, slept, and breathed Goldeneye from November 2011 through June 2011, logging over 6 days of cumulative playtime and hundreds of wins, losses, and almost all the accolades (f&*%ing ‘Improvised’ is impossible!). At the high water mark of my addiction, I was probably devoting 3 to 4 hours of every day to killing random strangers in online multiplayer matches. I haven’t been this dedicated to a FPS in years, but my long-repressed tendencies to HUNT and KILL (repeat x infinity) came back in full force with the advent of this title.
Just writing about it makes me want to go log a few kills. MUST RESIST . . .
Goldeneye is everything we wanted from other Wii FPS, and moreover, is simply one of the best titles on the Wii, period. While the early games like the original Red Steel lacked the critical online component, and later games (notably The Conduit) included the online component but never garnered a sizable online community, Goldeneye delivered everything we hoped for and more. Capitalizing on the notoriety of it’s N64 predecessor, this title launched with plenty of community attention, eventually achieving the illustrious benchmark of million-copies-sold. Enthusiasts could buy the game with a special edition dual-analog classic controller (gold, natch) which proved extremely popular with many serious players (though yours truly is an outspoken proponent of the WiiMote’s superior point&click aiming ability). Excellent sales numbers and popular pack-ins gave proof to the mantra of the hardcore Wii player: “if you build us a quality game, we will come in droves”. Developers, take note.
I am not going to mention the single-player campaign beyond this merest recognition: it’s a pretty good game. Similar to the storyline and layout you remember from N64, you play as superspy James Bond, adventuring through a wide variety of levels and scenarios, hunting shadowy villains who plan to use the Goldeneye satellite against the civilized world. With several difficulty levels and top-notch graphics, the single-player mode is worth the $50 price tag in itself. Even without multiplayer, Goldeneye would still stand as one of the slickest titles on Wii. The gameplay is intuitive without being simplistic, and the combination of stealth-gaming and explosive action is a perfect balance. But honestly—you buy this title for the multiplayer.
Looking back on Goldeneye 007 for Wii is a truly delicious experience for me. Though I’ve mostly stopped playing for reasons mentioned above, I was able to rise to a respectable level 38 (of a total 56) before (mostly) turning in my weapon. Be forewarned, the XP tiers are positively enormous; a serious player should expect to dedicate many hours to achieving the next level. Not all tiers award new weapons or useful skills, meaning that the extensive grind to glory will strike some players as an endless, frustrating deathmarch. After passing level 30 (the point at which you can truly call yourself addicted), it is not at all uncommon to spend over a week grinding out victories but receive no special bonus rewards. Nevertheless, the allure of powerful firearms to come and improved secondary attributes (such as faster running or increased resistance to damage) may prove impossible to resist. You won’t believe how easy it is to convince yourself that a fancier pistol or assault rifle is well worth “a few more hours” of playtime . . . fast forward to 4:30 AM on a worknight (“just one more game”) . . . and you suddenly find yourself stifling yawns during your 10:30 AM company meeting, third day in a row. Yeah—just a few more games. The first time you hit the field with your latest upgrade—and suckers are getting MOWED down–it will all seem worth it.
I mean, I love this game. How can I say it–I was hungry for this. I’ve been completely out of the loop on the major innovations in FPS for the last few years (hell, who can blame me–I’m a Nintendo gamer, after all!), but the various modes included in Goldeneye strike this player as extremely innovative, well balanced, and enduringly entertaining. There are, of course, your basic matches (Conflict and Classic Conflict) where it’s you against the world, every agent for himself. Team Conflict is 4-on-4 fighting, and of course there are more advanced modes with increased damage ratios and no radar. The classic N64 ‘Golden Gun’ mode makes a return as well. But the new innovations are my definite favorites: these include Black Box (one team hunts and destroys the titular box, while the other attempts to carry it to safety), Goldeneye (a base capture mode where teams vie for control), and most popular of all, HEROES. Heroes is 4×4 team conflict that includes the ability for one member of either team to play as a major hero or villain of the Bond franchise. Heroes have strong weapons and advantageous supplementary items, but have the achillies heel of awarding a LOT of points to the opposing team when killed. Therefore, Heroes contains the most strategic subtleties of all the co-op modes: Do you spawn the hero and use him as bait? Do you resist the temptation to spawn heroes and fight out the match as foot soldiers? When your team is down, will spawning a high-power hero give you the advantage you need to get back in the game, or just sink the ship more quickly? Heroes is also overwhelmingly popular because the length and structure of the matches allows for maximum XP harvest, so new players should beware–this is the mode where the most serious agents hang out. A note of advice to the new inductee: it is bad form to spawn heroes if you can’t walk the walk. Violate this custom, and you’ll find other players abandoning the match. Just sayin’……
Take a look at what you’re missing
Because Goldeneye does not support WiiSpeak or provide any way to chat with teammates, veterans of PC gaming or other consoles might find the silent team-play to be limiting, especially when facing off against your frienemies or rival clans. My team and I circumvented the communication issue by using voice chat on our personal computers, and I went another step further by wearing earbuds (connected to my Mac) AND stereo headphones (connected to my stereo receiver). This allowed me a sigificant advantage over other players–I could discuss strategy with my teammates while still picking up the in-game audio. Even if you don’t play on teams, I can’t emphasize it enough: wearing stereo headphones will give you a major leg-up–you’ll hear players trying to sneak up on you, and be able to triangulate on gunfire/explosions without relying solely on the map. Though wearing two sets of earphones might not be for all players, I found that my workarounds greatly increased both my skills and investment in the game. Rather than whining about the deficiency, I solved it. And won a ton of matches.
Unfortunately, one of the major flaws of Goldeneye has been the numerous hackers who’ve invaded the community. The leaderboards and game room are polluted with immature trolls who’ve awarded themselves the highest rankings and insane loadouts (but never learned the basic skills). An advanced player can rely on their superior skill to (hopefully) turn the tables on the cheaters, although some of the high-level weapons and supplementary skills make this an uphill climb that feels disruptive and unfair. Meanwhile, the cheaters discourage newer agents from playing the game at all, as neophytes will find it nearly impossible to fight back against turdburglars who spread proximity mines all over the map, wield silencers on pistols that shouldn’t even be able to be silenced, or camp near spawn-points for a mindless XP harvest. The problem of hack-cheating comes and goes (I’ll play for days without encountering an obvious cheater, then encounter several in the same afternoon), but is an undeniable problem for this largely excellent title. If someone of my mid-level ranking can be so annoyed by the issue, I can only imagine what Prince Luigi, Daisy Fan, and the other truly epic Goldeneye players think about this problem (Actually, in the attached thread, PL mentions the problem in passing–and predictably, hates on the cheaters.)
Possibly even worse than the hacking issue is the omnipresent Host-Quit problem. Goldeneye on Wii includes no statistical penalties for players who quit matches early, so a widespread tactic for stat-obsessed players is to abandon the game when losing. Since XP and statistical achievements are only registered after the final buzzer (players receive no benefit from canceled games), this effectively means that jerkoff players can host a match, fish for easy pickings, and then kibosh the entire game if they begin to lose. Legitimate players are bounced back to the lobby, oftentimes ready to throw their Wii in the trash—you were having an awesome match, but thanks to the host-quit, you’ve just wasted several minutes and achieved nothing. These host-quits can really add up in terms of time and devotion, ultimately taking a toll one’s decision to stick with the grind, or give it up due to the flawed scoring system. The best and most obvious solution is to host your own matches, though this can be problematic if you prefer one of the less popular game-modes or do your gaming during the wee hours when less players are online.
INSERT RANT: Both of these items are so pervasive and frustrating that I’ve written to the developer (Eurocom) several times, yet received no feedback or response. The host-quit problem could be easily repaired by simply changing the system to penalize the stats of an offending player, and I wonder if the hackers issue isn’t just a basic security hole that simply needs plugged? I encourage fans of my blog to send a quick note yourself; this would not be the first time that player commentary has had an impact on present or future game development. After all, we’re not asking for some obscure franchise to be rebooted, or for costly downloadable content–we’re just asking them to do a simple online repair job for a game which has made them untold sums.
Just writing this piece made me itchy enough that I had to jump back online for a few more matches. As I’ve mentioned, I get a lot of pain in my wrist from aiming the WiiMote at the screen, so I’m making a half-hearted attempt to use the dual-analog controller. This is not an easy switch for me (frankly, I absolutely suck), and I sort of doubt I’ll be sticking with it for very long (that pile of unplayed DS and Wii games is getting taller by the minute), but I need to make the effort, if only to prepare for future FPS titles. In any case, my handle on the game is Widdle Nubby (yep–the lamest, most unimpressive moniker I could dream up) and my friend code is 541 132 701 114. If you’d like to game with me, post a message here or send me an email, and perhaps we could meet up. Maybe I’ll even go easy on you and stick with the classic controller.
Or maybe not.