"The names' Bond...James Bond". How many times have you heard that, right? Well get ready to hear it all again, because the world's most famous super spy/chick magnet is back for more gaming action. For one of the first times ever in a James Bond game the PC platform is a primary focus, but can the combination of Gearbox Software and EAGames produce a winner in Nightfire?
After a moderately lengthy opening clip to get you in the mood, you are pretty much straight into the action. Thanks to the usually overlooked aspect of clear and concise menu's gameplay is only a mere 2 or 3 clicks away.
The usual pre-mission briefing (which usually aren't so brief) leads Bond into his mission, some of which seem overwhelmingly difficult when described in detail. Nevertheless, this is a Bond game after all so doing the impossible is somewhat of an expected requirement, and usually 'things' seem to fall into place for Bond during the heat of action.
After all the cliches are out of the way, 007: Nightfire is actually quite an impressive technical master piece. Being based on the extremely aging Half-Life engine means Gearbox Software had two scenarios on their hands - either leave Nightfire as an aging technological blunder or modify the engine like nuts, and it looks like they have implemented the later to great detail.
In-game, Nightfire plays just like every other first person shooter, nothing really strikes out as unique but that isn't necessarily a problem. Sticking to what works is a great policy to use and it has done reasonably well here for 007: Nightfire. One thing that does become apparent however is the superb graphics considering the engine being used, which is discussed in greater detail later.
The player is given the choice of the usual single player or multiplayer modes. Single player was the mode I was personally looking forward to the most (being a dialup sufferer) however it generally came off a little disappointing. Being that there are only 9 missions means that finishing this game isn't the lengthy challenge one would expect from a good first person shooter. On top of that, a lot of these missions are practically the same in style despite on or two stealth only missions. This came as quite a surprise to me, as I had generally expected better considering the amount of variation found in many previous Bond games.
To further tarnish the quality of the single player mode we see a general lacking of quality enemy A.I. When missions involve stealth there doesn't seem to be a problem in hiding without being seen, however as soon as a combat mission comes up the game goes into trigger happy mode. There is absolutely no way you can use stealth in a mission which involves some sort of combat, because as soon as you get near an enemy, within sight or not, they will open fire and call all their buddies over. This gives the game a linear type feeling - something which should not be seen in a Bond style game at all.
Multiplayer is nothing overly special, you have choice of three main game modes which include capture the flag, combat training and team combat training over various maps which are styled to those found in single player. One feature which can come in handy on lonely servers is the option to fill the teams with computer controlled bots. These aren't the smartest critters, more attention to the AI would have been nice, but they do a fine job in filling the teams to create greater competition.
Bond has a reasonably large arsenal of weapons and gadgets at his side, including various handguns, machine guns, a laser watch, mobile phone grappler, a credit card computer worm virus and more. The way single player missions are structured means many of these, specifically the gadgets, are only really useful occasionally, well at least not as much as I expected. Many missions feature use for the laser watch, but most of the time it is just to open a crater with no direct impact on the mission outcome.
Being that Nightfire is based off the Half-Life engine (as heavily modified as it is), the visual experience is actually very surprising. Textures are high quality, models are detailed and the special effects go hand-in-hand with the Bond style gameplay. Although we ran this game off a rather high spec computer (see top of review for specs), which allowed for highest details at great speed, almost every setting is impressive enough.
Gearbox Software, who were responsible for many of the official Half-Life addons, did a great job on the engine, specifically the graphics. These guys will also see to it that Halo finally makes its way to the PC, which shouldn't be a problem with the performance shown on the engine here in Nightfire.
The audio in 007 Nightfire is nothing to write home about, but it manages to do a reasonable job in creating the Bond atmosphere. The one let down here is the total lack of customisation for audio settings. In the option menu you are only allowed to change the master and music volume, so any audio enthusiasts looking to play around with API settings will be disappointed.
Note: originally it was said Pierce Brosnan's voice was featured in 007 Nightfire, however this is not the case. I apologize for any inconvenience caused by this incorrect statement.
Controlling is not much over the usual first person shooter system - W/A/S/D is used for movement while the mouse controls looking and shooting. Infact being that this game is based on the Half-Life engine, most buttons are identical to Half-Life, like 'E' for using objects in levels, so getting the hang of the controls is a very simple task. Other features like your Q-Specs use the keyboard as well, making for a very easy to master yet powerful controlling subsystem.
007 Nightfire shows signs of a good game, but there are too many aspects letting it down to make it great. If you can put the short single player mode aside, and the repetitive nature of the missions themselves, you have grounds for a worthy virtual Bond experience. Perhaps it was rushed out onto the market in time for the movie release of "Die Another Day", but regardless, enough is offered here to make Nightfire a serious consideration for every Bond fan.