Review: "I thought Christmas only comes..." As appropriate as that Christmas related Bond quote is, I can't even finish it.
The tuxedo is always firmly pressed. The car is always high class and armed to the teeth. The women on his arm are always stunning. The martini is always shaken, not stirred. The name is Bond, James Bond. And now Bond is in a new adventure for the PS2, Agent Under Fire.
Agent Under Fire started its digital life as a PS2 port of The World Is Not Enough, originally released on the PSone and N64. That all changed as we moved further and further from the release date of the movie. So EA was given permission to create an original Bond storyline and it goes a little something like this. Adrian Malprave is head of Malprave Industries and after an MI6 investigation it's discovered she is using her bioengineering labs to create human clones. With the help of CIA agent Zoe Nightshade and rogue Malprave scientist Natayla Damescu, Bond has to stop Malprave before she sends in the clones and take over the world! Would you expect anything else from a Bond villainess?
Agent Under Fire takes the standard First Person Shooter style that most previous Bond games fell into and adds a few new twists. One of those twists is the insane amount of gadgets you'll get to use. There are eight Q Branch special items that Bond can use on his mission. Q-Specs are your standard set of x-ray glasses. The Q-Camera is a mini spy camera that you'll need to take surveillance photos. The Q-Laser can cut through almost any lock. The Q-Remote allows you to take control of certain computer systems. The Q-Card will unlock any electronic lock. The Q-Jet is not surprisingly a jetpack. The Q-Decryptor cracks computer access codes and the Q-Claw takes a page right from Batman's book, as it's a grappling hook you can use to climb walls. The gadgets are all well done and work great in the game; the problem is there are too many items on your Bond belt at one time. It's a small complaint, but cycling through the items with Malprave's goons bearing down on you is a frustrating situation to be in.
As for the game itself, Agent Under Fire is rather hit and miss. The opening levels really manage to hook you with interesting level design and a truly Bond moment of having to save a Bond babe from a watery grave at the bottom of a submarine hangar. The tight first person controls. Having to negotiate to the bottom of a staircase as the enemy is coming up. It all moves so fluidly. Then after that the game segues into the first vehicle sequences. Oh the vehicle sequences. Agent Under Fire may primarily be a FPS, but the vehicle sequences are truly the highlight of this game.
There are four vehicle sequences in Agent Under Fire, and each one seems to be better than the last. The first has you escaping from Malprave with Agent Nightshade driving and you fighting off Malprave's men from the sunroof. The second requires you to chase down a van to retrieve some vials. The third asks you to find a stolen data chip by tearing through the streets of Bucharest. And finally, a tank is needed to get the data chip back to R by blasting straight through Malprave's forces. The vehicle levels may only make up four of the game's 12 missions, but they're the ones I keep going back to. They're just really fun and had me more entertained than most of the first person levels.
The brilliance of the vehicle levels is made clearer by the rest of the first person levels. They just don't have the same kick. They get the job done, but they're not great. After the first level, all the problems of the first person levels rear their ugly heads. The enemy AI is just terrible. The henchmen will just stand there waiting for you to shoot them. And even when you do hit them, the poor hit detection will make you shoot them several more times before they drop. These problems didn't leak into the vehicle portions of the game, making them that much stronger. And to top it all off, EA tradition prevails and the load times in this game take forever.
Agent Under Fire does redeem itself with some truly jaw dropping visuals. The graphics are detailed in both the first person levels and the vehicle stages. And while not resembling any of the actors from the movies, all the character designs are solid with Bond looking a little like a cross between Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore and sounding a lot like Sean Connery. I also don't know who the voice actors EA hired for M and R are, but both were able to imitate their movie counterparts perfectly. Even the henchmen get to shoot things like "get him!" and "he's over there!" and other phrases. A nice touch. The music also has that appropriate Bond feel and really there's nothing more you can say than it's perfect. The only sound that didn't quite translate well was that the machine guns don't sound so much like machine guns as they do bicycle chains. All this without the slightest bit of slowdown, ever.
EA also put a cool point system into Agent Under Fire. You can perform Bond Moves like saving hostages, shooting a helicopter out of the sky, jumping a bridge, and a lot more. The more "Bond Moves" you do and the better you are at fighting through will earn you more points. If you score enough points, you can win Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals. Winning a gold medal in a level will open up cheats. It's a very well set up cheat system.
Agent Under Fire also has a four player multiplayer mode that is OK. GoldenEye is still king of the Bond multiplayers, but Agent Under Fire has its moments. A few imaginative arenas, especially the Wine Cellar with its grape press, crush them! And the Low Gravity option is a lot of fun. Agent Under Fire also doesn't give you the option to play against bots, which would have been nice, but I can't really hold it against them. There's just something missing, Agent Under Fire just doesn't compare to GoldenEye in the multiplayer area.