• James Bond 007: Agent Under Fire Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    Bond, James Bond, has been represented in novels and films for over four decades and several computer games have been made from the films. Electronic Arts are creating a new Bond specifically for the console market, neither based on a film or a book, using the heritage built up over the last 40 years. Previous Bond games have been hit and miss, GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64 is considered an all-time classic whereas Tomorrow Never Dies on the PlayStation was mediocre. EA also used the license to produce 007 Racing, a racing game featuring all the Bond cars.

    The third attempt by EA is a little more focused, a multi-genre game once again, but better executed than Tomorrow Never Dies.
    James Bond films have several key components; girls, gadgets, guns, cars, locations and action. Agent Under Fire actually covers these aspects quite well with its multiple game types. The first genre is the FPS, using a Quake 3 engine you have all your normal abilities; jumping, shooting, ducking, aiming, and it feels very tight and tidy.

    With the usual array of guns with secondary fire, Bond is supplied with a multitude of gadgets, all neatly packed away in a mobile phone. Bond can now email, fax, text message and surf the web whilst on a mission, along with these normal features, at the press of a button, he can hack door codes, winch up balconies, laser a padlock, take photos, activate programs remotely whilst using his jet pack and x-ray glasses to impress the ladies. All these gadgets are not available at the same time, but are issued selectively on a mission to mission basis, so you don't necessarily get to use your jet pack, on the same mission as looking through walls. Gunning the bodies down is very entertaining, there is an element of auto-aim, but this can be quite helpful when you are confronted with a mob, intricate aiming is also possible but can slow you down. Selecting the weapons and the gadgets is relatively painless, although sometimes it ends up in a frantic cycle through the gadgets in a sticky moment.

    One of the most commendable features of the FPS levels is the enemy artificial intelligence. They attack in packs, flush you out, hide, bark instructions at each other, or simply just run away. However, they won't be able to run that far as the levels are very small, not one level feels like you are exploring a labyrinth, and half way through a level, the game will stop and load the next half which really kills the flow. Another slightly disappointing aspect is the level design as initially its quite nice, but as the game progresses the levels become increasingly dull. Slicing through the bad guys is entertaining enough but it would be nice to see some scenery on the way and to solve some more taxing problems than finding the key.

    Peppered throughout the game are the driving levels, these levels are by far the most entertaining, there is nothing like hurtling through the streets of an eastern European city driving an Aston Martin DB5 whilst taking out shiny goon filled cars or jumping over exploding bridges. The controls are very tight and intuitive and pulling handbrake turns, destroying helicopters and the like is very natural and easy to accomplish. Unfortunately there are very few of these levels and only one starring our favourite British motor. These levels are well designed and there is a certain element of freedom, it's not Grand Theft Auto 3, but it certainly adds to the game.

    Finally there are the "on rails" levels, where all you have to do is point and shoot and the game takes you where it wants to. These levels are impressive in providing well thought out set, however you don't feel in control of the situation and clearing a level harks back to the trial and error school of gaming. Its unlikely that you will return often to these levels, simply because there is only one way of completing them..

    To bolster the Agent Under Fire's longevity there is a very commendable multiplayer game which is very reminiscent of GoldenEye. Four-player on-screen multiplayer action is available, although it is only possible to have 4 players per level, so if there are only two of you only two bots can join in. The game is very solid in multiplayer and one of the highpoints of the package.

    Graphically the game is competent, no frame-rate issues arise nor any glitches, but really it isn't very impressive, as a PS2 port it does not contain any exclusive special effects associated with the newer Game Cube hardware. Every level looks like a cardboard model rather than a real location. Equally so is the level architecture, as everything appears boxy and not very organic and natural. The most disappointing graphical feature is the flying bullet animation, as when a goon shoots at you the bullets travel through the air slowly and produce a firework type trail, very odd.

    The sound in Agent Under Fire is a mixed bag, obviously taking the soundtracks to multiple Bond films and amalgamating them into a confused mess, there is no real tune running through the game except the classic Bond theme. However this is over used to a point of irritation. All the explosions and groans are there, and are well crafted whilst the speech is excellent and carries the game nicely. Unfortunately the plot makes little sense and is badly narrated, at points you have no idea what you are doing and to whom and why which detracts from the overall sensation of the game.

    James Bond in...Agent Under Fire is a competent enough title, it doesn't try to be clever or do anything particularly ground breaking nor does it try to create a new gaming experience. What it does do is provide the gamer with an entertaining game, of which the melding of the gaming genres will work for probably the first time. The FPS sections are impressive coupled with excellent enemy intelligence whilst the driving levels are extremely well realised also. The disappointing on-rails levels are still entertaining enough to warrant inclusion in the game. Replay value is improved by the medal system and the multiplayer. Overall a reasonably entertaining, if not particularly outstanding, gaming experience.

    Review by Robert White
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