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007: Nightfire

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Eurocom
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

While not based on any current or past Bond film or book, James Bond 007: Nightfire carries with it all the accoutrements you'd expect in a Bond adventure: exotic locations, evil masterminds with plans of world domination, more gadgets than a Sharper Image catalog and of course, beautiful Bond babes. The overall graphical and audio atmosphere of Nightfire is stunning. Each of the game's locales is breathtaking and moves without a hitch or stutter in frame rate. I was especially impressed with the amount of detail the designers threw in. Of course, the more noticeable of the details is that Bond's in-game model looks exactly like Pierce Brosnan, but other things like the V-12 Vanquish look just as good. However, if there are any flaws - it's with the lack of variety in character models. Every henchman looks exactly the same, and when walking through a few missions (such as infiltrating the mansion) every one of the guests looks exactly the same. Also, it's heartbreaking to see that enemies don't react to being shot. Sure, they'll raise their hands if you sneak up behind them, but when you shoot them in the arm or leg, there's no reaction. Although picky, it's the little things like these that impede the overall immersiveness the designers are trying to get across.

The music is good, if not typical of past Bond games. The music is exactly what you would expect, however there is a tendency to over do the 'Da-da-dada' musical cue. The voice work is great, right down to the innuendo-laced remarks of James Bond ('Anything can be penetrated with the proper tool').


Gameplay:

James Bond 007: Nightfire's plot is Bond all the way through. The story is very strong and does an excellent job of getting each of the character's personalities across. This is especially impressive considering how hard it is for some movies to do the same thing. This adventure centers on a maniacal businessman named Rafael Drake who is attempting to steal a satellite guidance system. I'm sure you have an idea of what Drake is planning on doing with the satellite. As Bond, it's your job to stop Drake and retrieve the satellite.

Each level begins by listing out your objectives for the mission. These could include something as simple as finding a package or someone at a party, or as complicated as taking down a criminal mastermind. As the missions progress, M and Q will give you pointers on how to complete these goals and will also give you updated parameters. One of the more refreshing things about Nightfire is that it makes you think more like a spy than other games. While the game has more than its fair share of gunplay, the game still has a few stealth missions thrown in to keep things interesting. These different modes do a great job of setting up a nice, fluid pace for the game, which is very reminiscent of the Bond films. For example, one mission may have you carefully leisurely walking through the halls of Drake's mansion (and making out with his woman), while the next will have you shooting down helicopters from behind the wheel of your car or trying to stop assassins from killing your key witness, Alexander Mayhew.

As much as I liked the movie-style progression of the game, I did find that there were a few too many cut scenes at times that really drag down the action. There were times were I would get really fired up during a mission, but had that feeling extinguished during a cut scene. I also felt that the game took itself a little too seriously at times. There are a few jokes thrown in at times, but the levity found in some Bond films isn't present in Nightfire's overall feel.

When the single-player aspects become boring, there's always the requisite Bond multi-player mode. While it fails to capture everything that made Goldeneye or TimeSplitters 2 great, it's still fun to play. Nightfire offers a nearly limitless choice of options in multi-player and allows you to customize nearly every aspect of the games.


Difficulty:

James Bond 007: Nightfire's difficulty curve tends to drift between easy and hard. Some of the mission parameters come off very hard. Most of this is due to the overwhelming odds you must face. While some players may go nuts over all the different targets running around, the less-than-adequate targeting system doesn't lend itself to dealing with these odds. I found it especially frustrating when I would unload at least a clip of bullets into a guy or throw a grenade into a small room and have him emerge unscathed. It's the little things like these that make Nightfire frustrating.

Much like in Agent Under Fire, I felt that Nightfire had a tendency to hold the player's hand too much during missions. Although it's not as obvious as in the last game, the game limits both the use of gadgets and ways to complete your goals. It's especially frustrating since the game opens up some interesting opportunities to do this, but fails to capitalize on them.


Game Mechanics:

Controlling Bond should be simple for just about any player. The options menu allows players to choose from over a dozen different control styles (all named after classic Bond films), so if you can't find something that suits you - you have no business playing the game in the first place. My only complaints, which occur regardless of the control-style you choose, are the sluggishness present when trying to cycle between weapons/gadgets and the targeting system. These obviously take away from some of the more fast-paced segments of the game, and leaves you open for a few cheap shots from enemies.

Another welcome addition to the game is the few moments when the game switches from a first to a third person view. These jumps really help to make the stealth modes that much better. For example, there are areas where you'll have to carefully creep along a ledge and make sure you're not seen by guards passing the windows. Adding to the suspense, instead of requiring you to restart the level if you're seen, the mission continues only with a group of three or four guards shooting at you as you rush to get off the ledge. This adds a bit of consequence to trying to rush through parts of the missions and I only wish more had been done with it. As it is in the game, once you get past a certain part of a mission, things continue as if nothing happened. It would have been a great boon to the entire game if a branching path were created because of you blundering a part of the mission.

Controls for the chase parts of the game are top-notch, which shouldn't come as any surprise when you consider that it was handled by the same group that did the excellent Need for Speed series. Driving through crowded streets and blasting away enemies with weapons has never been easier.

Overall, Nightfire is an enjoyable game. It manages to weave a strong story line and capture many of the aspects that make the Bond franchise so enjoyable. Those in the market for an enjoyable single-player game should give Bond's latest a try. However, those looking for a rewarding, addictive multi-player experience may want to stick to TimeSplitters 2.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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