Now is probably a good time to explain the different difficulty modes ? the Nintendo 64 original was unique (perhaps even more so in this age of Halo
and Modern Warfare
shooters) in that levels were structured in terms of actual branching objectives. More tasks were added with each difficulty. The same is true for this 2010 remake.
While escaping the earlier truck chase onto the Dam, a huge stealth helicopter almost blew Bond to bits. If you play the level in the easiest mode (Operative), your goal is simply to hook back up with 006 and jump off the usual spot. I played on Agent, which meant that just after my little bullet-time moment, I had a duty to find the landed helicopter and take some photos of it for MI5. This added a whole new area of play for me to stealth and blast my way through, and involved me crossing two different Dam towers by using the twisting underground passageways.
These alternative tasks ? where you have to use some sort of gadget to accomplish your objective ? are completed by the use of a portable smartphone device. Daniel Craig's Bond doesn't roll with many gizmos, you see, so almost everything is done with this one little piece of tech. It works quite well, and means you only have to think about one thing in your itinerary that can take care of the techno-jobs.
Whenever you're close to a location where using your smartphone will come in handy, an icon will appear to the right of the screen. This brings me to another point ? that I inadvertently managed to complete an objective that I wasn't even supposed to be doing on my difficulty level. It's this freedom of gameplay ? the ability to accomplish alternative tasks if you want to ? that was the beauty of Rare's Goldeneye 007
, so it's great to see it in full effect in this stage.
The St. Petersburg tank stage was a little less interesting, but then that would always be the case given that it simply involves James Bond blowing shit up in a tank. There's no real subtlety here, but the update does make a right meal of it ? helicopters fly around all over the place trying to destroy you, and huge parking lots get demolished right before your very eyes as you drive over enemy trucks as if they were bugs.
This is where the 2010 remake gets a bit half-and-half ? you wouldn't really be able to tell, apart from the context, that you were in Russia at all. I was expecting landmarks and town destruction akin to that in the Pierce Brosnan film, but instead I got parking lots and open highways. It seemed a little generic to a degree. Consider that I hated the tank level in the N64 original though, with a passion ? I'd take 2010 genericness over 1997 clunky tank-mazes, to be quite honest.
So I don't recommend throwing all your nostalgia-fuelled hatred at the game just yet. My first impressions ? of a full stage, and perhaps one of the most iconic ? is positive. You'll probably react to it the same way as I did - in that the Daniel Craig, the not-Sean-Bean and all the changes inbetween would amount to a near-desecration of a 13-year-old classic. But the controls are solid, the detail is impressive and the change in scenery is done in a tasteful, yet interesting way.
Whereas the new Dam was something of a fascinating trip down memory lane, St. Petersburg helped drag some of the optimism I have for the game down a notch. There's nothing wrong with the tank control per se, it's just a bit brainless for me.
To that end, there's still a lot of levels that I'd need to play ? the snow-based espionage in Siberia, the jungle battle with Onatopp, the bastardly defending of Natalya towards the end ? to get a definitive idea of whether Eurocom and Activision are doing things right.
But by God, they're trying their damndest. And that cannot be disputed.