Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/13/01 | Genre: Action
Agent Under Fire is the second Nintendo Bond game from EA. However, the first one (The World Is Not Enough) was developed by Eurocom. The best information that can be found says that Agent Under Fire was developed by Electronics Arts. So we do not know if the specific development team that made this game has a name. So let's see what Bond had to offer.
This is a PS2 port, so the graphics aren't mind blowing. However, the textures look pretty sharp and crisp. They are also fairly detailed. Being a PS2 port, the particle effects are nothing to write home about either. That said, it's not bad at all, and it won't figure much into the final score of the game. Characters sport some pretty nice facial animations and textures during cutscenes. However, other animations look somewhat stiff. There is just something about the character movements that make them look a little odd and unrealistic. The nicest feature of the graphics is that the game always keeps up a high, steady framerate, unlike the PS2 version.
The sound is a mixed bag. The quality is good, but the way in which sounds are used can be annoying. Unlike TWINE, Agent Under Fire features the classic Bond theme song, which is great for getting you in the mood. The original compositions are well done also. Most sound effects are acceptable. A few sound a little unconvincing, but nothing that really detracts from the game. Though, there is one very annoying use of sound. Whenever you complete an objective or do something special, a very annoying musical flare blares over all other sounds. This happens quite often. It sounds silly, breaks any tense feeling you might have, and it's just plain annoying. For the most part, the voice acting is good. Of course the dialogue is full of cheesy sexual innuendos and classic Bond and villain lines, but this is all acceptable given that it's a James Bond game.
The story is nothing great, but again, it's not really an issue given that it's based on James Bond and it is an original story. In fact, the story really doesn't affect the gameplay because one could create any number of stories that would find Bond in the situations that he's in in Agent Under Fire. It is something like this: Villain has some plan to take over the world. Bond/MI6 slowly uncover details about this plan. Bond keeps moving closer to villain by going through various henchmen and organizations. Bond eventually reaches the head villain and must kill him or her. The story is told through cutscenes and radio transmissions. For a video game, especially a Bond video game, the dialogue is pretty good.
There are three types of gameplay: First Person Shooting, Rail FPS, and Driving missions. The FPS missions have several problems. First of all, this game walks you through it like a baby. Cutscenes very frequently point out objects you need to interact with or places you need to go. They leave you with very, very little to figure out on your own. Bright red or green pulsating circles are super-imposed on your screen letting you know about critical objects that you should interact with. Switching gadgets is slow and delayed, which becomes frustrating. The ability to use a pause menu to view your inventory and select weapons or gadgets would have been very useful. As it is, you must cycle through your inventory one-by-one to find the weapon or gadget you want. So, you may need to go hide in the corner like a coward if you want to switch weapons when enemies are coming after you.
The controls are nice. For those of you used to GoldenEye or Perfect Dark, the controls will take some getting used to, but in the end, they work very well. They are better because the C-stick replaces the C-buttons. Instead of just strafing left or right, you can strafe slowly or quickly, depending on how far you push the C-stick. Pushing the stick up or down makes you look up or down. When you get used to using the analog C-stick in the way that you used to use the digital C-buttons, you will find that you can be very precise in your movements and aim. There are four different control set-ups, but all of them have a couple things in common. 'R' is used to fire, the Control Stick moves forwards, backwards, and turns, and the C-stick is used to look up or down and strafe. The remaining buttons can be configured to cycle your weapons or gadgets, manually aim, jump, crouch, use a gadget, perform an action, and activate an alternate mode for your weapon.
The AI is stupid. It fires before it can see you. Sometimes it runs away with it's back turned to you even when you are right next to them. Sometimes it doesn't see you when it should. Sometimes the AI thinks it is hiding and you can shoot the enemy and they will not react at all. The enemies are easy to defeat in all difficulties.
There is really no reason to use your fist or a pistol in this game. You are given the option of stealth, but truthfully it adds nothing to the game. The level is just as easy to beat if a guard has raised the alarm or if you are undetected. This is due to the stupid AI.
Also, most of the FPS levels are extremely linear. There is no exploring a building looking for keys, or solving puzzles to open up the next area. It's mostly 'kills guys, move on' type gameplay. There is simply not enough exploration or figuring things out on your own.
The bullets are strange. When you shoot your gun, the effects happen instantly. That is, if you point and shoot at a wall, the bullet hole will appear instantly. The strange thing is, is that the visual indication of the bullet moves much slower. When you shoot, you will see what looks like a yellow pellet shoot out of your gun. It moves much too slowly. So if you shoot a wall, a bullet hole will instantly appear and then you will see the image of the bullet traveling towards the bullet hole. Some have suggested that this is a tracer bullet, but I was not aware that all of the guns in the whole world use tracer bullets as they do in this game. Even if they are supposed to be tracers, that doesn't take away from the fact that it looks somewhat confusing.
There is also a very low level of environmental interaction. You can open doors, but you can't close them behind you; you have to wait for a ghost to come close the door after a certain amount of time. You can't interact with anything that doesn't affect your mission. That means that you can't flush toilets, turn on faucets, etc. That isn't so bad as this is a very action-oriented game, but the developers left out the most basic environment interaction of all. That would be the interaction between your weapons and inanimate objects. You can put bullet holes in wooden crates and on the walls and floors, and you can also blow up certain barrels, but most other objects show no damage when you shoot them! Try shooting tables, pots, books, lamps and many other things. You will not see bullet holes or anything to indicate that a bullet has hit them. It looks like the bullet just magically passed through the object. This just seems sloppy. Then, on some objects, you will see damage. This inconsistency is strange. Some of the plants shatter like glass when you shoot them. I wonder whose idea that was. I was amazed by one thing though. I was amazed at how far away you can be from something and still be able to punch it. That's just a silly side note. Another thing worth mentioning is that most of the FPS levels have short, but annoying mid-level loads when you enter a new section of a building.
The second type of mission is the rail FPS. These are more enjoyable. Rail shooting means that you cannot freely move, but you are on a set path moving in a predetermined way. They are fast-paced, and you don't have time to notice any inadequacies such as the ones above. The rail shooting levels have you riding in a vehicle of some sort, and usually someone is chasing you. There are people in other vehicles that you must shoot, people standing and walking that you must shoot, and there are also obstacles to destroy. The control is set up quite well for these missions, allowing you to quickly aim and change your view. These missions feel more exciting since you must really be on your toes to come through it well.
The third type of mission is driving. EA used some developers from their Need For Speed series to program this part of the game. The result is a good one. There are only two driving missions, but they feel more like Bond than the FPS levels. You will get to drive a cool Bond car complete with missiles, machine guns, and several neat gadgets. You must try to avoid damaging civilian cars while driving as fast as possible in order to pursue your enemies. Of course, you must avoid totaling your own car as well. While driving you will have to kill enemies on foot, enemies riding in cars and vans, and you can destroy vehicles themselves. The first driving mission has you chasing a specific vehicle with orders not to destroy it, but to disable with a special gadget. Enemies on foot and in other cars will try to stop you from accomplishing this. Too many civilian cars destroyed, your own car destroyed, or the special enemy vehicle being destroyed will result in a mission failure. The controls and physics for the driving missions are spot-on.
A very excellent part of this game is the multiplayer. There are a dozen well-designed multiplayer maps. You can have up to four people playing in a match, including bots. The Agent Under Fire multiplayer brings its own uniqueness to FPS multiplayer games, namely, the two gadgets you can use. You can use the Q-Claw, which is like a grappling hook. It attaches to almost every surface in the multiplayer maps. Using this you can move around very quickly and even hang from ceilings. You can shoot while you are being pulled by your Q-Claw. It is a strange, yet funny and unique addition to a multiplayer FPS. It certainly adds some depth to the gameplay. The other gadget is the Q-Jet, which allows you to get a quick upward thrust. It's perfect for avoiding a rocket or losing a pursuer buy jumping to the next floor. The weapons are also unique and make this game have its own flavor among the many FPS multiplayer games. You have the standard pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, grenades, and mines, but what makes it more interesting is that most weapons have a secondary function much like Perfect Dark. This secondary function can be anything from a homing rocket, to a cluster bomb, to a charge up plasma blast. The multiplayer definitely makes this game worth it.
This game is definitely worth a rental. However, if you do not think you will be using the multiplayer very much, than keep in mind that the single-player game is pretty short. Multiplayer is really what gives this game a lasting value. If there were no multiplayer, then I could not recommend anything more than a rental.
In my mind I kept comparing this to GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. You can decide for yourself whether you think that's fair or not, but I think it is. I think it is because they are two examples of great console FPS's, and they are a generation past. In the end, being the first FPS for GameCube, it will definitely satisfy your FPS fix. It's no GoldenEye, but the single-player is worth at least one play through. Hopefully, you have friends, and in that case, the multiplayer will be what brings you back. I can whole-heartedly recommend a purchase for those who think that they will make good use of the multiplayer. If you're unsure about this game, renting it won't be a waste of money. It's worth the $5 for the one-time experience. If all you want is the single-player game, then I strongly urge you to rent this first. Otherwise you will probably end up with a $50 game that lasts you a week.