Interview

James Steer on GoldenEye 007: Reloaded

You only live thrice...

Was it inevitable? As soon as we heard there would be a GoldenEye remake for Wii we wondered if it would be succeeded by an HD version, and lo and behold, here we are watching the Severnaya level and the improvement is significantly noticeable in the texture upgrades, details, definition, animation, and sheer density of what's around the player. This business is a little humiliating for the unfortunate Wii version, it has to be said, but at least it got first dibs.

Still, even though last year's version was hindered by its console's limitations we found it to be a very enjoyable experience in terms of the creativity of its single-player campaign and the sheer fun of its multiplayer. A shiny new HD version this may be, but what can Activision and Eurocom bring to GoldenEye Reloaded to make it more than just that? We spoke with lead Producer James Steer to find out more about Bond's latest re-adventure.

We here at play.tm enjoyed the Wii version of GoldenEye. Was it always the intention of Eurocom and Activision to take that game and translate it onto the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, or was it something that, on the back of success, particularly the critical success, came about later?

When we first started thinking about making a GoldenEye game it made sense to develop that game for the Wii because of the N64 heritage. When we were developing the game, starting to talk about it, started to take it on the road, we get feedback from gamers that wanted to play it on Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, and wanted to see a high definition version. So through 2010 it became clear that was going to be the opinion, but we wanted the game team at Eurocom to concentrate on making sure that GoldenEye Wii was [going to be] the best game, because it's a risky thing to update GoldenEye. We needed them to knock it out of the park, which they did which is amazing for us, but in the background we also had the technology team working on a new engine that would be able to deliver 60 frames per second and 16-player multiplayer and the beautiful realistic graphics. There was never really a key moment; it was more of an organic process.

One of our major criticisms of the game was the multiplayer in split screen because of the relative lack of definition on the Wii it made it difficult to discern elements effectively. You say it was an organic process but was this one of the key things that pushed you towards Reloaded?

No. I've read a fair few reviews and I've not seen that so much, but yes, it comes naturally by just updating the textures and being able to have more lighting in the levels and make it seem more realistic. We certainly looked at reviews. One of the things we've done in the game, when people were trying to play in a covert manner they weren't realizing that they were alerting the AI, so what we've done is try to give you more information on the HUD that to say that you've alerted someone and that you should dispatch them quickly before they alert someone else. So we do read the reviews and react to things that maybe we didn't notice would be a problem but were. It's always important to read the comments, to read the message boards, to see what people are saying because you learn every time you make a game no matter what the game is.

Looking at the game today, minus the technical and visual improvements it looks very similar to the Wii version, almost frame-for-frame similar. For people who've played the game already, are there going to be subtle differences or have you some major changes in mind?

The differences will be reasonably subtle in the single-player story mode. It is the same story, you're going through the same locations, but all those locations have been updated: higher detail, more geometry, more props, hi-res textures, effects, sound effects. The AI's been totally rewritten along with the engine, so there are more squad-based elements in there. It will play differently because there is a different version of the AI and their behaviour will be more sophisticated on this version. You are playing the same story so there won't be any surprises from the story point-of-view, but obviously there will be surprises when you start playing MI6 Ops and you've got ten hours of single-player content there, the ability to compete with people from around the world at certain elements. Could you tell us a bit more about the MI6 Ops content - we understand there are four different modes in it, is that right?

That's right, there's something for everyone there with all the styles of gameplay. You have Elimination which is very fast-paced, take X amount of AI in a certain amount of time to get the best score. Assault is about attacking a location in a certain kind of way. Stealth: exactly what it says, take everybody out in a covert manner. Finally, Wave Defence is for those guys who like to dig in and protect. You're downloading information from a computer terminal while the AI are attacking you and trying to blow it up, so it's very tactical in terms of where you set yourself and what weapons are nearby, and so on. We've added a Challenge Designer to the MI6 feature as well means people can tweak the settings to play the way they want to, meaning they can do things like ramp the AI difficulty way up and try to post one of the best scores in the world.

How flexible is the Challenge Designer? How deep can you go in designing your own challenges?

It's a tweaking of the parameters of the missions. Some are based on difficulty and AI behaviour: you can tweak the amount of times the AI uses grenades - obviously grenades can be quite disruptive, especially in a defence mission. If you get in a nice position you can sit there and probably take people out for a while but if they start throwing grenades at you, it's going to be really tough. If you tweak that parameter you'll get a score modifier to show that you did that. Other elements are really for fun, things like Big Feet and Paintball Mode.

We weren't quite as taken with the other Bond game of last year, Blood Stone, but with returning to GoldenEye were there thoughts about bringing some of the strong elements in from that game?

Like with the competition, we're always looking at what other games are doing and you can learn things from them. I was lucky enough to be involved with Blood Stone so I have a lot of knowledge of the game. Because they're both Bond games we use some of the same elements, for example we use Ben Cook to do the takedowns; not necessarily the same takedowns but the same guy...

Actually that's what came to mind, because Blood Stone had great contextual takedowns. It's a different perspective obviously, but will we see new takedowns in the new GoldenEye?

There are takedowns but they're still from the first-person perspective. They are very cool. Can you imagine having to be the guy in the mo-cap studios taking all of those all day? Not a nice job.

Obviously the other big thing is the online side. The Wii had certain limitations you guys couldn't do anything about. You mentioned there's going to be 16-player online, is there anything else you can tell us about with the online side?

There'll be more maps, more modes. We'll be looking at pushing some of the more 007-related, spy-like activities in the modes as opposed to just supporting deathmatch and team deathmatch. We're definitely looking at differentiating more in the area. We'll be adding more classic characters, which is obviously something that was key in the N64 and the Wii version. People love playing as Jaws and OddJob, and now we're going to introduce more which we're not telling anyone about now but rest assured there are going to be some very cool characters. Yeah, multiplayer's definitely important, it couldn't be a GoldenEye game without it. 16-player online and 4-player split screen is just as important as the cinematic single-player.

Great. Thank you very much for your time.

Thank you.

Goldeneye: Reloaded is out later this year on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3

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