James Bond 007: NightFire
A game based on a movie character… now where have we heard that before? Is it original? Hmmmm, no! Is it innovative? Hmmmm, hardly! Does it sell? You betcha! But I see it as my noble task to answer but one question: is the game fun?
James Bond 007: Nightfire was more or less co-released with the movie Die Another Day, but the storyline is totally different. In Nightfire you play Bond…. James Bond. And your task is to prevent Rafael Drake, CEO of the Phoenix International Cooperation, from destroying the U.S. Space Weapons Platform. Unfortunately for the authorities, Drakes company and all of its activities seem fully ligitimate, so Drake can’t just be arrested and questioned. You, James, are sent in to investigate the theft of a state-of-the-art rocket-guidance system. A high risk operation that could get you killed… and will get you killed… several times. Thanks Allah you have a harem of Bond-Girls to sooth your earthly pains.
The intromovie of the game is the best I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t exactly give you a preview of what to expect further on in the game… but boy, it sure is pretty. It’s in the same style as every Bond intromovie… avant-garde ‘60s style with beautiful dancing girls. This game has given true meaning to the word ‘movie’ in ‘intromovie’. Damn, they should make more of those.
Now, the game itself starts out promising. The hard-core gamers amongst us will most definitely recognise the ‘feel’ of the game, and after a little research I found the reason why your characters movements feel ‘comfortable’. Nightfire is based upon the well-known Half-Life engine. Now, this engine has both advantages and drawbacks. It was the hottest thing out there… 4 years ago. But is it good enough for modern games? And by asking this, I’ve touched the nerve of this game.
James seems to slide, not even stride, his way through the world and although you hear your own footsteps, they don’t sound convincing because your screen stays ultra-stable. This will disappoint hard-core gamers, but will certainly appeal to those amongst the public that don’t play First Person Shooters that often. Frequent gamers will not forgive Bonds clumsyness either, because he gets stuck on every little hinge there is, causing you not only to lose the momentum, but bringing you your untimely death. For those of us who have been playing First Person Shooters the last couple of years, the gameplay will be disappointing: too easy, small bugs, an enormous amount of small loading times etc. But my guess is, that this game is not marketed at the hard-core gamer… but rather at the averege John Doe who has bought himself a computer and would like to shoot some (virtual) bad guys to hell.
The mission designs have an amateuristic feeling to it, I realise that Bond needs to be Bond, so please indulge in some clichés, but every new Bond-movie tries to bring spectaculair new effects and tricks… not so in the game I’m afraid. The levels are extremely linear and mostly very poorly paced. With linear I mean that you have a very limited freedom in the paths you can follow and it’s very frustrating at times that your character won’t be able to jump over a very small fence because of ‘the invisible wall’ often encountered in ‘older’ games. Another weaker point is that your character will have some very cool gadgets, probably provided by Q, but you will only be able to use most of them at predefined occasions. Your cellular phone, for example, shoots out a steel grappling hook/wire with which you can pull yourself to hard-to-reach places. But don’t try using this device anywhere else but the designated places, it simply doesn’t work, that’s a pity.
The Artificial Intelligence is as old as the game-engine. There will be an unacceptable amount of enemies that won’t react to you entering the room. Two guards will be standing next to each other, kill the one on the left with your double action shotgun… and the one on the right will still be admiring the sunset he was looking at with his … deceased buddy. In other instances from the moment you kill the ‘wrong guard’, even if you do this with the greatest of stealth, the alarm sounds or worse, the game simply says that you’ve lost the mission.
But don’t despair just yet, because Nightfire is a very enjoyable game to play. The weapon models appear very believable and they are quite fun to fire. The recoil is realistic, bullet casings jump out of the guns and this in combination with the excellent model animation makes the action fairly intense. There are plenty of fun guns at your disposal: Walter PPK with silencer, rocket launchers, normal and stungrenades, semi-automatic rifles, a high speed shotgun, a cool sniper, etc.
But how about those graphics ? I find that although all graphics (characters, furniture, backgrounds,…) look pretty dated in terms of low-poly environments, the in-game models are excellently animated and the polycount is substantial given the engine’s limitations. The characters faces and movements seem believable enough and the particle effects, along with the explosions and the pixel-shaded water look really nice. And what’s very important is that the babe models look cute, and certain levels manage to convey some of the grandeur style from the movies. It’s just a pity that there are quite some clipping problems.
A large part of Nightfire features voiceovers for the main characters, clear and loud enough, not a lot of problems there. What’s nice is that the sound development team have been able to find a female voice that sounds quite close to Judy Dench (M). The music score enhances the Bond-feeling of the game. Better yet, its one of the best features of the game, along with the intromovie.
In conclusion: 007: Nightfire is very inconsistent. You get all the things you would expect from a game that’s derived from the Bond movieseries: guns, gadgets, beautiful women, exotic locations, fast cars, an unequalled intromovie, etc… But the game engine is old and that reflects on the gameplay. This would have been a top-notch game three years or so ago. Hard-core gamers don’t need to bother with this game, but I would definitely recommend it to less demanding gamers. In my opinion, this is a perfect “stepping-stone” game… sell this to an amateur gamer … and he’ll get hooked on fast action gaming.