All right, everyone knows that in recent history the best Bond game was GOLDENEYE. The Gameboy game isn't really comparable, and neither is the racing game. I'm talking about the first person shooters. TOMORROW NEVER DIES was a poor excuse for a game even if you aren't comparing it to GOLDENEYE, although it did mix it up a bit with the driving and skiing sequences. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH was eerily similar to Rare's masterpiece, without really making any improvements that put it above its predecessor. So far, EA hasn't done anything to put their Bonds above Rare's. But just as the super villains of the world have yet to give up against Mr. Bond, EA decides to take another shot at the Bond franchise throne with 007 IN... AGENT UNDER FIRE.
AGENT UNDER FIRE isn't based on any particular movie, as the past three have been, rather the game has an original storyline. Scientists seem to have perfected genetic cloning, and the most recent entrepreneur in the market of taking over the world has taken it upon herself to clone all of the world's most prominent political leaders in order to get her way.
As James Bond, it is, as always, your job to stop this fiend, save the girl, blow up everything in your path, and stay stylish and suave all at the same time. Typical Bond fare, but we don't love the Bond series because of its innovative new plots.
This game feels like a Bond movie from the start. The entrance sequence shows explosive clips of the game, cut scenes, and the dancing girl silhouettes that have become synonymous with Bond intros. The music, although basically rehashed Bond fanfare, is of excellent quality and adds quite a bit to the overall thrill of the game.
Graphics are an obvious improvement from the earlier games. Moving up to the 128-bit PS2 system gives Bond and all of his classic ladies a great new look. Some of the women bring to mind the DEAD OR ALIVE series, but since the entire game isn't based on these bouncy, um... concepts, it certainly doesn't take away from the game. The levels have good detail, and the character models are spectacular, especially in the cut scenes where it seems like you can read what Bond is thinking just by the sly smiles he throws at the females he's rescuing, or in some cases disposing of.
The control isn't wonderful, but it's as good as can be expected from a console FPS. One complaint is the fact that EA seems to feel the need to dumb down the puzzle portions of the game. M or R (Q's replacement) talk to you throughout most of the game, pointing out how to do things that my dog could figure out by just licking the controller. Even the most obvious tasks like shooting at the tanks marked "Extremely Flammable" behind the line of armed guards are made even more obvious when Bond says "Ah, time for some fireworks." In the movie it would be a classic Bond one-liner. In the game it seems almost demeaning. Some of this goes away as you play on the harder difficulties.
One new feature that EA has added is something they call "Bond Moves." Basically what this incorporates is doing something that you would see in a movie, like shooting a rope holding a crate above a gun-toting enemy, or zip lining down to rescue the damsel in distress. There are a certain number of "Bond Moves" you can get throughout each level, and these can contribute to attaining different medals, similar to ROGUE SQUADRON. Although this adds an interesting element to the game and brings a lot of replay value, the triumphant music that accompanies these accomplishments can be a little repetitive, especially in the earlier levels where opening a sliding door is considered a "Bond Move."
Of course, what would any good Bond movie be without gadgets and cars? You have a basic set of gadgets that have been hidden in your cell phone, such as a laser for opening locks, a decrypter for getting pass electronically locked doors, and a grappling line for... well, grappling. Although these gadgets are neat, their uses are rather uninventive and not very versatile. You can only grapple to certain circles of what looks like chain link, which for some reason the bad guys felt the need to place above the only unprotected entrance to their base. You get some more gadgets as you go through the game, but they seem rather secondary to the main objectives.
You also have several levels that allow you to tear up the cities with vehicles. In two instances you are literally riding shotgun, shooting down helicopters chasing after you and taking out pursuing vehicles. In the other vehicle levels, you are provided with a tricked out vehicle courtesy of R. These were probably my favorite levels, if for no other reason than the control is amazingly smooth with the cars, as opposed to the convoluted control when you are in the first person point of view.
Multiplayer made GOLDENEYE. The regular missions were fun, but getting together with friends in front of the TV and going head to head in grudge match after grudge match made the game what it is today. AGENT UNDER FIRE also has a multiplayer mode, but unfortunately it doesn't quite live up to Rare's. First of all, the PS2 is at a distinct disadvantage simply because of a lack of four controller slots. The game does allow four player games, but the extra expense of buying the multi-tap is a hassle.
There are a wide variety of guns to choose from, but a lot of them seem fairly similar to each other. Probably the worst part is the movement. Your characters go at a walking speed, and although all the characters go at this snail's pace, it just seems painstakingly slow, especially when compared to other FPSs.
It's a good game. Not great, but good with an imaginative storyline, spectacular graphics and a soundtrack that keeps you excited throughout the levels. Due to the addition of the "Bond Moves" and medals, it has quite a bit of replay value, if you don't mind playing through the same levels over and over again. On the downside, it's rather short, being only twelve missions long, and the multiplayer isn't quite up to par. Definitely a game worth checking out, but still not quite good enough to dethrone the all-mighty GOLDENEYE.
Platform: Playstation 2
ESBR Rating: Mature
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Fun Factor: A-
Reviewer's Wild Card: B+