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James Bond: Agent Under Fire

Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts

First Person Shooter



A once great series on the N64 has recently been in a serious tailspin, find out if there is any chance of redemption in our detailed review of James Bond: Agent Under Fire.

The James Bond series has always had the makings for an excellent game. Cool gadgets, awesome weapons, and an awesome soundtrack that everyone and their dog knows by heart. But why hasn't a development team been able to bring James Bond back to greatness since the days of the Nintendo 64? Perhaps the answer lies in the development team behind the current games. Sure EA is an awesome sports company but can they really make an acceptable first person shooter? Their track record points to the negative but James Bond: Agent Under Fire has a very promising look and feel to it that could vault the game to greatness. Does it make the grade? Read on to find out.

Agent Under Fire features James Bond (duh) as he ventures around the world performing all sorts of amazing tasks in an effort to topple a secret terrorist conspiracy. The story is a completely original development that strays completely away from the movies starring Pierce Brosnan that we've all come to love as our British hero. The game features the same plethora of beautiful but educated ladies that will pair with James and work alongside with him throughout the game. I won't spoil too much about the story for you, but it has got plenty of twists and turns to keep the Bond faithful pleased. The story is well thought out and plays just like you'd expect if you enjoyed GoldenEye (who didn't?) and The World is Not Enough.

Gameplay centers around three stylish modes. The game alternates properly from level to level and gives you a taste of the three game modes. Of course all three modes feature plenty of Q gadgets to toy around with and unlike other games you'll be forced to use at least three gadgets in each and every level.

The first game mode is the more prominent of the three, first person shooter resides in roughly 80 percent of the levels. The gadgets featured in this mode feature Q-Claw, Q-Laser, Q-Remote, and Q-Jetpack. The Q-Claw is an excellent addition to the already plentiful stockpile of Q gadgets. The Q-Claw allows you to grapple between special perforated surfaces. The Q-Laser is the standard laser used to bust plenty of locks during the course of the game. The Q-Remote is used to program special actions into a small remote such as "Harrier Program" which allows you to light the jets on a harrier jet. The Q-Jetpack gives you a serious addition to your jumping ability so you can reach high surfaces within the game.

The FPS game plays out like you'd expect, largely featuring a hefty dose of action and bullets flying. Speaking of bullets flying, the way in which the bullets move throughout the game is one of the more hampering aspects of the title. Bullets move unrealistically slow through the air which makes gameplay extremely difficult and extremely frustrating. Enemies have no problem moving out of the way of your slow moving bullets. While the game speed is adjustable, the game hasn't been tuned enough for it to make much of a difference.

The second game mode is the driving mode. As always Bond is outfitted with his debonair BMW featuring all the weaponry and defense systems of a low level military vehicle. You'll race through the streets of different environments in search of an object that your radar handily points out to you with a nice little arrow. Weaponry includes rockets, missiles, slicks, and machine guns. The driving mode is a lot of fun to play through and features its own set of gadgets and its own type of fun. Driving offers some excellent change of pace with nicely developed physics and speed thanks to EA's development experience.

The third game mode is rail mode. James is basically along for the ride in the rail mode as he's perched on the top of a vehicle, whether it is a rail car, a standard car, or a Soviet tank. You'll have full 360-degree rotational ability as you tout one or two weapons with a virtual unlimited supply of ammunition. It's basically one big shooting gallery with plenty of characters to occupy your attention. Of the three game modes the rail mode is probably the least challenging as you don't have to worry about maneuvering around a level instead it's just you killing off baddies. And who doesn't love killing off baddies?

Overall the gameplay of the game isn't perfect featuring odd pacing and interesting game modes; sadly the FPS mode is quite possibly the weakest mode of the game. Among other problems with the gameplay you'll find yourself using your Q-Remote a bit too much in the later levels rather than merely progressing as you would in a typical FPS. Another gripe with the gameplay lies within James' profession. Isn't he supposed to be a spy? Last time I checked spies were supposed to stealthy and move in shadows and dark places avoiding discovery and of course trying to avoid a confrontation with the enemy. Agent Under Fire is essentially rushing the enemy, guns blazing without a single element of stealth to be found throughout the game.

The graphics of the game are very acceptable at some places and very unacceptable in others. The environments are nicely detailed as are the player models but sadly the majority of the players and the environments are horribly rapped with textures. The textures are bland and very unrealistic. If the game had the texture work of Halo it would be a surefire winner in the visual department, although that goes for most games as well. The framerate is essentially locked in at a constant 60 frames per second, a feature that a small percentage of developers have been able to use. Obviously the lack of detail in the textures of the game allots more power to buffer the framerate. Regardless of the reason the fact remains that the action is quick and, as long as you don't study the textures, looks very acceptable.

The controls of the game are a bit of a stifling point for the game. Sadly in the first person shooter mode of the game the directional pad is used to switch weapons and gadgets. What this amounts to is a lot time spent fumbling around with the controls finding the right weapon or gadget, all the while being pummeled by the onslaught of enemies that populate the game. The rest of the actions are adequately placed around the controller. James has the ability to jump, duck, use a gadget, and reload his weapon and/or open a door or press a button. Looking, moving, and strafing are performed by the let and right analog stick as you'd expect. The only problem area that is apparent while playing the game is still the switching of weapons and gadgets, it just doesn't work in the heat of battle.

Sound in the game is yet another debilitating detail. The first complaint is the complete and utter overuse of the famous theme. Every time you perform a progressive task in a mission a little "007" sign flashes in the upper left hand corner and that damn theme music plays. It plays in the menu and it even plays constantly in the background of some games. The character voices are acceptable although it appears that the actor lending his voice to James was trying to go back to the Sean Connery era of Bond, a feat that is not easily done. The rest of the voice acting is well done and the gun sound effects sound exactly like their real life counterparts.

If there's one aspect of a first person shooter that can make or break the overall of the title it would clearly be the artificial intelligence of the various enemies that populate the multitude of levels. Agent Under Fire's AI is acceptable although it's not great. A lot of the time you'll be able to run head on and pummel opponents as they just stand there and take it until their ultimate demise. Enemy snipers have the AI of a toad, apparently they can only see what's in their laser sight and nothing else. You can walk two inches away from their targeting laser and they will still be oblivious to your presence.

And last but certainly not least is the multiplayer portion of the game. You and three buddies can play on one Xbox (sorry no LAN play) in any of the standard modes. There's a standard CTF mode, a top agent mode which makes one of the players a more potent killer and stacks the rest of the players against he/she, and of course the usual plethora of deathmatch and deathmatch variations. Multiplayer is fast and furious and unlike its PS2 brethren, features bots (eat that you PS2 fanboys). The multiplayer mode definitely adds some depth to the title which is a much needed feature thanks to the relative shortness of the single player experience.

Overall the game is actually one of the more enjoyable Bond offerings in recent memory. Some overuse of the license and a few inadequate features keep it from making the jump from "good" to "very good" on the scale. I'll be looking forward to future Bond efforts from EA. Better luck next time.

Nate "GamerX" Ahearn
Wonders how Bond hasn't contracted any STD's yet.

James Bond: Agent Under Fire: The Scores













The Final Word:  While Bond may not have the proper formula to vault it into video game greatness, it comes respectively close to being a good game. Some things need tweaking (if they don't take off some of the theme music I'm going to go on a rampage) and some others needs some slight refining but the foundation has been set for what could be a great series for next generation consoles.

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