007: Nightfire (Windows)

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Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5472)
Written on  :  Jan 13, 2004
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  1.57 Stars1.57 Stars1.57 Stars1.57 Stars1.57 Stars

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No deal, Mr. Bond

The Good

Nightfire opens with a beautifully rendered title sequence with all the familiar Bond elements including nude silhouettes, guns, missiles, and more set against a terrific theme song. Then (after selecting one of three difficulty levels) we see the familiar iris moving in on Bond, Bond shooting at it, the dripping blood and the pull-out to the story: some missile thingy has been stolen, it’s going to be handed off from one billionaire to another at a fancy party, and Bond has to retrieve it.

So I’m a little lost as far as the story. After playing it, I’m still not sure what Nightfire refers to: the missile thingy, the mission codename, or Raphael Drake’s master plan (not terribly sure that he has one). Raphael Drake (one of the aforementioned billionaires) is head of the Phoenix Foundation, a green business that decontaminates old nuclear reactors and disarms nuclear missiles. Because no one looks into WMDs, there’s a good chance that Drake is creating his own nuclear stockpile (and intends to launch them from his orbital platform?).

Okay, so you are Bond (who looks like Pierce Brosnan and acts like Timothy Dalton) in a first-person shooter. Bond wears body armor (which serves as the life meter) and has guns and gadgets and grenades he can use to complete the missions. Bond is limited to four guns at a time, so you may have to decide if it’s more important to have a rocket launcher or a chain gun. The gadgets supplied by the Q-Branch include a cell phone with an infinitely long grappling hook, a watch laser, and sleeping dart pen. These are used to burn locks off, disable guards, and find secrets and complete Bond moves.

Secrets and Bond moves cue the Bond theme (and do little else in the PC version). An example of a Bond move is jumping on the roof of a truck to sneak into a château. This isn’t a stealthy approach though; mostly it saves Bond a walk.

M and Q, who sound like Judy Dench and no one in particular respectively, accompany Bond audibly. Zoë Nightshade and Alura McCall, French and Australian agents, accompany Bond during missions—occasionally appearing or disappearing from the story inexplicably. And as I said, Raphael Drake and his sinister bouncer are the bad guys (along with roughly 1000 of their henchmen).

Nightshade has decent graphics with some textures you can damage but no movable objects. On the whole, the maps look better than the characters and I thought the mirror effect was nice, the water was great, and it was fun to look out the windows of the skyscraper.

The music is good, even if the Bond cue is overplayed. The opening song is great. Voice acting is what it is. Weapon effects are okay, sound effects in general not being that stunning.

The levels are fine, but I think we’ve seen similar levels in better games. There’s a raid on a Japanese style estate, a stealth mission through a huge skyscraper, an assault on a desert island compound, and the mission miles above the Earth ala Moonraker.

The Bad

Acting: A wooden Bond spouts double entendres worthy of Benny Hill.

AI: Probably the most noteworthy thing here is that the enemies are either scripted to open fire every time a door opens or walk around nonchalantly (looking as natural as Chevy Chase hosting a talk show) only reacting to what they see—not what they hear. So if two baddies are in a room and aren’t facing each other, you can kill one with a shotgun blast and the other one won’t react.

Gameplay: Substandard FPS. Does Bond really need a chain gun?

Graphics: Dead Men Don’t Clip. Dead enemies fall into walls and float in the air. Weapons become embedded in crates. Ugh.

Personal Slant: This game sucks. They took a decent platform game and made it craptacular for the PC. Why rip out racing/driving levels and leave a bad FPS? Plus there’s no internal logic. After Bond shoots everyone outside the château he pulls off his body armor revealing his tuxedo and walks into the party. Really? No one heard the gunshots and the grenades? No one asks who he is? I mean, this isn’t a big party. And then Bond has to photograph the guests. This involves taking out the little sneaky spy camera and running up to everyone and taking their picture. Ugh.

Can you really kill 200 people in a skyscraper and not alert the police? Would said skyscraper really need over thirty guards with rocket launchers? If you shoot a scientist working for an evil billionaire’s weapons program on his fortified island, are you really killing a civilian?

Story Presentation: Poorly edited. Bond gets new objectives mid-mission apparently from the Psychic Friends Network. Characters appear and disappear: one mission begins with you needing to rescue someone who was with you when the previous mission ended. How’d she get captured? Why’s she dressed like Lara Croft? What’s the point? What are the character’s motivations?

The Bottom Line

The problem with Nightfire is that it’s a terrible port of a platform game that feels hacked to death in an attempt to edit the game down to nine FPS levels. It’s a bad FPS with Bond clothing. So many other people do it so better so often. The ending tag, “James Bond will return” comes off like a threat.