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GoldenEye 007: Reloaded

Skyfail?

The metamorphosis from one Bond to the next has always seemed clunky. Like some crafty parent swapping a dead pet hamster for a new one, we find movie studios shooing arthritic stars out the door for younger models.

Activision take the tradition to a ludicrous extreme in GoldenEye; not just dumping crusty old Brosnan for man of the moment Craig, but doing it in a film Craig had nothing to do with. Alarm bells sound the second we see Craig squatting atop the Arkhangelsk dam, his dead waxy eyes surveying a landscape he doesn't belong in.

Our inner Bond-nerd hates the idea. Craig's Bond wouldn't be seen dead in a story as fanciful and silly as GoldenEye's. His Bond deals with shady business cabals and has lots of emotions and stuff. And you can sense that influence in the game.

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There are loads of barely interactive on-rails segments in which Craig gets to walk through parties or mess around with his new smartphone gadget. Taking mobile phone snaps of enemy secrets might be the dullest Bond moment ever. Brosnan wouldn't have stood for it. He'd have been too busy killing scientists with a laser watch.

Don't get us started on the scientist issue. 'Redding' up origami-headed nerds was the best part of the N64 original. We murdered more scientists than henchmen. But that was a different time, an era when FPS devs left players to find their own fun.

These days we're tethered with a cinematic leash to levels choreographed into joyless routines. In GoldenEye 2011, scientists are hidden behind safety glass. Trevelyan punches one out in a scripted sequence, but heaven forbid we should get to bash a boffin. It's a sad sign of the times.

Call of Duty is the Blofelt-like mastermind behind it all. More specifically, Eurocom's fawning admiration of Modern Warfare. They stir in so much COD DNA it leaves us quite shaken. There are on-rails vehicle bits, stealth sections with an AI buddy, quick time events - even slow-mo breaches put in an appearance. And because of the game's Wii roots, it's technically unambitious. Ambitious by Wii's modest standards, perhaps, but nowhere near the level of blockbuster bombast soon to be rattling TV sets in Modern Warfare 3.

Sad fact is, what was fun on Wii - great, even - doesn't cut it in the 360/PS3's oversaturated FPS market. Wii didn't have the heft to conjure huge gunfights, so action rarely throws more than three or four goons at you. To inflate these minor encounters into modest challenges, the weapons seem deliberately slow in the hand. Squeeze the trigger and guns parp out lead. Coming from the aggressive snarl of COD's life-takers it's a flimsy shooting experience.

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Visually, the game struggles to hide its Wii roots. Sharpened textures and a rock solid frame rate are betrayed by mysteriously bare level dressing.

Every room has a few bits of furniture pushed against the wall, creating large open spaces in which big gunfights refuse to manifest. Doesn't help that Eurocom extract all the character from Rare's original settings (they are alike in theme alone) to reinterpret them as a variety of grey/brown corridors. Wait until you see what they've done with the St Petersburg tank level - it's like steering a Shreddie through a sea of marmite.

Single player isn't a complete loss. There's a morbid fascination in watching Eurocom fiddle with the corpse of the beloved original. This time round, snowy Severnaya becomes a frantic war zone after an EMP hits and the grand satellite finale is relocated to Nigeria. Alas, Alec Trevelyan is still a rotten bullet sponge. Some things are sacred. And, as before, levels unlock objectives on higher difficulties, a brilliant way of encouraging replays sadly ignored since Perfect Dark.

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