|Genre||Touch-Controlled Classic Update|
|MtAMinutes to Action||2|
|Buy from Amazon|
If you pay attention to the development timeline, there are some clues you can pick out that may hint at a flawed final product. If the game changes platforms mid-way through development, that should send up a warning signal. If it does so more than once, that's probably an impending disappointment. If some lead developer leaves the team shortly before it's finished, that's another. And the developing company goes under before the game hits the shelves, that's something worth considering as well.
But the easiest way to spot a troubled game is by the dearth of information preceding its release. Goldeneye 007 for the Wii was heralded as the second coming of the N64 classic at this year's E3. On the other hand, its Nintendo DS counterpart was quietly announced alongside it at E3 and unceremoniously released on the same day last week. I made an extra effort to look for details of and screenshots from the Nintendo DS game, but had a very tough time finding anything of substance.
Curious, but with low expectations, I rented the spy-sized DS game card from GameFly. I mean, it's still Goldeneye, right? And the Wii version seems to have plenty of polish, so why shouldn't its DS counterpart? I've spent thirty minutes with the game. Is it an undercover success or a dirty little secret?
(minutes are in bold)
00 - New game, Agent (medium) difficulty. M greets Bond in a briefing. Apparently General Ourumov has been stealing Russian military equipment and selling it on the black market. 007 and 006 are being sent in to destroy a weapons cache that is believed to be shipping to a terrorist organization.
01 - These 3D graphics aren't too bad for DS. 006 and 007 are crouched in a corner of the Dam, behind some crates. Alec instructs me to blow up a gas tank on a truck, by pressing L or R. I do so, and the soldiers nearby are blown away.
02 - Now I'm in full control. D-Pad moves, touchscreen aims, and L or R shoot. Tanner informs me that the base is on alert, and I'll have to fight through the swarms of incoming Russian soldiers. So much for stealth...
03 - I've found some body armor, and my health shows up on-screen in two arcs, just like in the N64 classic. The framerate is pretty low when I'm moving around and shooting enemies...
04 - I can pick up weapons dropped by enemies by hitting a Use button on the touchscreen. I can also aim down the sights of my weapon by pressing a Scope button. Switching weapons is also done through the touchscreen.
05 - I lost all my body armor already, but I've taken out all the enemies here. A cutscene shows a Russian soldier toss a grenade my way. It takes out a few crates that were blocking my path.
06 - Enemy AI is very basic. They mostly just run into the open and fire while standing still. It makes them easy targets, though their aim is quite good, chipping away at my health as I take them down.
07 - Tanner informs me that the dam is under heavy construction, so the path ahead is blocked. He suggests finding a different path, and a set of remote charges are highlighted on a bunker ledge.
08 - I'm a little bothered by how slowly Bond moves. And there are a few invisible walls keeping me from going places that seem like they should be accessible.
09 - I found a suitcase. Apparently it is "intel" that I can spend in the intel menu. Cheats, perhaps? Found some remote charges after clearing out the area. A few more soldiers spawn from a doorway and are quickly taken out.
10 - Enemies seem to continuously spawn if I stay in this area between the guard towers. I'm not sure where to go...a door I saw earlier opened as I backtracked to it, so I guess that's the path onward.
11 - "Objects that glow can be shot or used in an action." This is a wall to place charges on. I do so, explode them with my phone, and a hole in the wall is revealed that leads to a red bunker-like area.
12 - I've picked up a loud AK-47 to complement my silenced P99. Killing isn't much easier with it. Or more fun. I can shoot fire extinguishers on the walls to KO a nearby enemy.
13 - Checkpoint reached. The door ahead is locked by a keypad. Need to check nearby bunkers for a keycard. I don't think I've been left alone this whole time, there are bad guys everywhere. I guess there's strength in numbers, even when each one is so willing to stand out in the open and be shot.
14 - Picked up the keycard, and used it on the key panel. I have to swipe it on the touchscreen and enter the passcode during a time limit in a short minigame.
15 - The framerate is really low in this interior area. And there's not much going on, either.
16 - Still just heading through these concrete hallways, shooting Russian dudes who all speak English...and I'm dead somehow! I just had full health, though...whatever, I restart right where I died anyway.
17 - Going up some steps inside the dam. There are mines to grab in here, but I've got a full stock. Now where do I go...? There seems to only be one path forward, but it ends here.
18 - An arrow on the wall points to a small lane toward the next objective. I make it to a computer terminal, and I'm instructed to put a USB drive into the computer to hack in. It's a touch-screen minigame...that isn't really even a game. I just move the USB drive to the computer and it's over.
19 - Bond's from-the-hip aim must be very bad...I'm aiming right at the chest of an enemy a few feet in front of me, and missed with every shot.
20 - I've found Alec again, and he heads out to the edge of the dam. After taking out some enemies, the two of us are at the jump point.
21 - Alec goes first, then a swipe on the touchscreen sends Bond soaring through the air. The opening credits show up on the bottom screen while Bond drifts downward and the 007 theme plays.
22 - We've landed on a helipad below. Alec gives me a call and says he'll meet me up ahead. Apparently I can sprint forward by double-tapping up on the D-pad. Bond will automatically vault over small barriers when approaching them.
23 - I've met up with Alec. He and James talk about Ourumov a bit while I crawl through tight spaces and climb a few ladders.
24 - Apparently I can manually crouch by hitting down on the D-pad twice. We're in the Facility now, and Alec instructs me to place C4 on a few mainframe panels through the facility.
25 - I plant the first one, and Alec says we'll meet up at the fuel tanks later. His animations are crude and frequently re-used during dialogue. His face does not move when he talks.
26 - Tanner says crouching makes me less visible and quieter. I crouch down and approach an unaware guard in front of a bathroom sink. I pressed the touchscreen button to take him out silently. Tanner reminds me to be stealthy when proceeding through the facility, if possible.
27 - Tanner calls again, this time telling me that the guards ahead are out of range. I have to lure them closer by calling a phone in the middle of the room from a phone nearby. The guards walk up to the phone and...do nothing. One goes back to patrolling. Whatever, now they're in prime position for me to sneak up on them and choke them out.
28 - Apparently there's a computer panel in this room that I need to place C4 on. There it is on the wall.
29 - I need to shoot the lock on the next door and slide the stylus up to kick it in. A guard inside the door sees me and runs to hit an alarm. I take him out long before he makes it down the hall. Found another "intel."
30 - Enemy patrols ahead. Tanner says I should watch where they walk, then shoot what looks to be a fax machine on the wall to attract their attention. I try sneaking into the room, but the alarm goes off anyway. And that's how 007 was killed: by inept guards while trying to send a fax.
Minutes to Action: 2
What I liked: I guess nothing in the game was technically broken...
What I didn't like: There was absolutely nothing about the game that felt unique, polished, or even fun.
Video: The 3D effects aren't too bad for the DS, but the framerate is choppy and the low resolution makes things hard to pick out.
Audio: The audio samples used in the game seem to be ripped from the Wii version and then heavily compressed. I can tell what 007 and 006 are saying, but I'd rather they didn't talk with their mouths full of dry Crispix.
Story: Not much to speak of, yet. The skeleton is faithful to the N64 game and its movie counterpart, but the meat is new without necessarily being any better thus far.
Gameplay: Thus far the game is about as on-rails as you can get without taking movement controls completely out of the equation. It feels like driving through a license-exam course with a P99 in your right hand. The only real mechanics so far are walk and shoot.
Challenge: Enemy AI is limited to standing and shooting. You'll only be in real danger if you get surrounded, which actually happens quite often with all the enemy spawn points and seemingly-endless waves of Russian soldiers.
Pacing: I tend to like all action, all the time. But when the action is as unfulfilling as it is here, that's not really a positive.
Fun Factor: It felt pretty good putting that DS thumb-strap to use for the first time in almost five years. Glad I kept that when I upgraded to the DS Lite.
Would I keep playing? No. I won't deny that this portable Goldeneye 007 might become a fun game after the first thirty minutes, but I really have no desire to find out. I can't remember the last time I felt so relieved to turn off my DS.