As action-packed as the movies!
Wow. That was the first thing I said when I started playing this game. Wow.
The presentation is beyond slick. The game starts immediately when you run it the first time with a pretty turbulent mission that throws you in medias res
but explains the controls at the same time. After completing this short but action-packed mission (which involves an exploding jet, blowing up tanks, and shooting a lot of guards within a few minutes), the intro movie starts - which really looks like the intro of a movie.
And the casts looks a lot like that of a movie too - Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Willem Dafoe - they all lent their voices to their digital counterparts. And after this intro, the game starts with a slower-paced tutorial mission. Once again, just like the Bond movies - after a kinetic prologue that does not have a lot to do with the actual bulk of the plot, a few quieter moments set the scene.
Many of the following missions are incredibly dynamic - you rappel down a building with thumping explosions (and the game is THX-certified, make sure your sound system has a decent sub-woofer!), you drive at incredibly fast speeds with a car through glass doors and barriers with rockets exploding all over the place - the pace of this game is fantastic. The best part is however that you never get lost in the midst of it all - even though all hell is breaking loose around you, you still have a clear view over what's going on. Kudos to the game designers - that's a masterpiece.
Let's compare this game to the previous installment, 007: Agent Under Fire
. The improvements are humongous. First of all, the perspective has changed to a true third-person perspective, making the game easier to grasp. The controls have been totally revamped, are extremely intuitive and work wonderfully. The enemy AI is frighteningly smart and looks very convincing. The graphics are much better, and this time EA had the license for the characters themselves, so all Bond and Q look and sound just like in the movies.
There are scenes in which you control vehicles (cars, motorcycles, tanks, helicopters), and the physics feel very good for each type of vehicle. Of course, you get to crash your car through countless marketplaces, tons filled with water, and there are lots of items that work as makeshift ramps and allow for cool jumps.
Another new feature is Bond Sense - when changing your weapons, you can switch to bond sense mode. This will slow the entire game down to an almost complete stop... almost
. Things are still moving a little bit, you can see bullets fly past you at very relaxed speeds, all sounds are pitched down, a slow, psychedelic version of the Bond tune plays... and as a bonus, important parts in the world (enemies, objectives, pick-ups) are highlighted.
There are very good particle effects, so the game is full of smoke, rain, dust, water, and debris. And of course plenty of other nice effects, like infra-red vision, the aforementioned bond sense, and very nicely rendered movies. It just looks very good.
To top it off, there is a very good multi-player mode with its own storyline, where players can (and have to) cooperate - some doors require two agents to open, in other missions one player has to defuse bombs while the other one has to watch that agent's back.
Finally, there's a little bonus system. If you score enough points in a mission, it will be marked Gold, and each Gold award entitles you to a bonus, like concept artists' sketches or production stills of the cast recording their lines. If you finish a mission in Platinum mode, you'll get a cheat, like one that gives you the infamous golden gun.
Sounded really good so far, huh? Well, of course there are some downers.. let's go through them...
The missions are sometimes a tad bit too long. Not that they're boring - this game barely ever is - but as with many games, failing a mission requires you to restart it from the very beginning. To make it worse, some missions include cut-scenes that sometimes can't even be aborted. Besides, some sections just require you to wait. So you see a guard approaching, you hide behind a wall, wait for the guard to turn around and then sneak up on him and kick his ass. Takes 10 seconds... that's all good, unless you already had to restart this mission 15 times in the last hour!
The aiming system is OK, but has issues. You hold L1 to lock on a target, tap L1 to change targets. Sometimes, the game makes a very uninformed guess as to whom to lock on... so you'll end up locking on some little bozo hiding behind crates while two other people are busy filling you with lead. There is no way to manually aim (other than with a sniper rifle).
The collision system has problems. Yes, I know, the collision system a very complex thing to write, but still... I ended up solving a helicopter mission by involuntarily flying outside the world boundaries and circumventing the entire level. In rare cases, I found myself stuck somewhere. It's not so bad as to mess up the gameplay, it just randomly bugs you a bit.
The multiplayer game is nice, but very hard, even the first few missions. I tried them after completing the single-player mode, and I still had a hard time. In some missions, neither player may die or the mission is over. It's really tough.
The save system also sucks. Whatever happened to auto-save? That would have been a nice feature. But even without auto-save, the code is badly written. Every time you want to save, you have to select Save -> Slot 1/2 -> Save slot -> Name -> Overwrite?! -> Now saving. Between some of these steps, the system re-checks the memory card, and some steps require you to do more than one button press. That could have been solved in a so much more elegant way.
The bonus system with the Gold and Platinum missions is kinda cool... but one thing threw me off: Usually, you play the game in the standard difficulty mode. That's ok. Now, after completing the game, you might want to get all the Platinums. Well, to be eligible for Platinum, you first have to finish a mission in the hard difficulty mode. THEN you can play it and go for Platinum. So you'll have to play that mission several times, which is totally unnecessary in my opinion. I wanted to go for Platinum, and I absolutely didn't feel like playing a mission twice to get Platinum.
The Bottom Line
I loved it. There's worlds between this game and the last 007 game. As you can see in the credits, there was a large team behind this, and you can tell: This is a huge, slick production. Yes, a few things bugged me, but they don't spoil the game at all.
If you're a 007 fan, you have to have it. If not, it's still a very good game to have.