Friday, 9 November 2012

007 Games Part 13: Nightfire (PC)

Super AiG's Guide to Every (old) James Bond Game Ever, Finale

This is the last Bond game post for a long while, I promise you. Just two more Nightfire games and then we're done. Normal service will resume shortly.

Game 25 - Nightfire (2002)
Formats: PC, Macintosh.

nightfire pc title screen
Finally another Bond game for computers, after 10 years of total console domination. This probably follows the same storyline as Eurocom's console version of Nightfire, but it's definitely not a straight port. This is a separate game created by Borderlands developer Gearbox Software, who should hopefully know a bit about making a first person shooter.

Click the pics to view them at a slightly more civilised resolution.

And just to mock everything I just said about this being different from the console version of Nightfire, the game starts with the same CGI gun barrel video, the same opening theme, and the same mission briefing as the PS2 game. All skippable I'm happy to report.


LEVEL 1 - RENDEZVOUS.


But it's totally missed out the entire driving scene where Bond rescues Dominique, and thrown me straight into level two! Plus I've got a different gun!

Like in the console game I was supposed to land on the truck and ride it into the castle, but I kind of missed the roof so now I've got to walk. It probably wouldn't have done me any good anyway, seeing it's all covered up this time.

The road to castle gates is guarded by assholes, but fortunately I'm licenced to kill them all. They make no effort to run for cover, but they're irritating little bullet sponges who can soak up a half-dozen bullets unless I manage to nail them with a headshot.

Oh, and yeah it did let me shoot out the searchlight if you were wondering.

I'm having a little trouble actually spotting the bastards I'm trying to shoot in this blizzard, and it doesn't help that they're in camo. Also I'm sure they've changed the layout of this place from the console version. In fact I'm starting to suspect that this isn't the same level at all. Shame I've got a crap memory when it comes to maps so I can't say for sure.

Well the level may be entirely different, but the combat is very similar. No regenerating health, lots of weapons and gadgets, and I have the freedom to complete objectives at my own pace. Plus the enemies like to stand out in the open like idiots. There's no waiting for people to pop out of cover in this.

There's a switch on the wall so I flick it, grab some armour and head back out into the cold. Sadly I never find out what it did. Possibly something to do with searchlights.

Surprise, turns out I had a tuxedo under my gear. Nobody could have seen that coming, especially not the guards who just let me inside thinking I'm a guest who got lost.

Huh, this cutscene was done in-engine on the PlayStation 2 version, but here it's pre-rendered. I wonder why that is.

Well I've made it to the party again. This place looks a lot smaller than in the console game and I've got a different mission objective to complete: I have to take photos of all the female guests. You know, for spy reasons. 

There's no challenge to this at all. Everyone's in this one room, and I can walk right up to their faces and they don't care. As far as I can tell the mission only exists to get the player to look at the 3d modeller's hard work up close.

When he's finished being creepy, Bond sneaks into the empty library to meet up with Dominique, the woman from the... actually she hasn't turned up in the PC game yet at all because it's missing the first level, and Zoe, who's from another game never released on PC. They're all agents for various governments, and they plan to retrieve a briefcase with a stolen guidance chip inside. 

And I plan to spend a minute or two just walking around this room. The artists at Gearbox put so much work into this place, but it only exists for the player to immediately walk out of.


LATER, AFTER I INEVITABLY BLOW MY COVER AND EVERYTHING GOES TO SHIT.


Crap, I've really screwed this up. My armour's down to zero and poor Bond can't survive another hit.

Fortunately this game has something the PS2 version could never have: quicksaves. Not something I want to abuse if I can help it, but it's nice to know I can set myself a checkpoint along the way, instead of being kicked back to the start of the level every time Bond gets his dumb-ass killed.

Sorry, I mean when I get Bond's dumb-ass killed.


SOME CORRIDORS LATER.


Well I've found my way to my cable car escape route, now I just need to get hold of the briefcase with the guidance chip inside and I'll be done with this place.

Hey Zoe, check out this awesome rocket launcher I picked up on the way here. Wait; is that... the briefcase with the guidance chip inside? I don't have to look for it? Wow I guess she got bored waiting for me this time and went and got it herself. And I am not complaining.

Well, uh, okay then I think I'm done with this level.

Oh right, I forgot the helicopter fight. Sadly it's not a Hind this time, and my missiles don't seem nearly as good at steering towards it.

I do like the way the little henchmen fall out when it takes a hit though. It serves them right for flying around in the cold with the doors wide open. Idiots.

Damn, the helicopter crashes right into the cable car in this version. Luckily Bond's strong enough to hold on to a thin strip of leather carrying the weight of two people. While sliding down a cable,

Though now we're stuck in a snowy forest. I guess it must be time for a high-speed snow-mobile rail shooter escape scene!


LEVEL 2 - AIRFIELD AMBUSH.


...or we could have a stealth mission in an airfield instead. I suppose.

Zoe keeps giving me instructions like 'turn off the generator to cut the searchlights' and 'don't follow me into the same building, you idiot', and I have to follow them to the letter. I tried ignoring her and wandering off and I tried sniping the guards, but every attempt to go off-script eventually ended with me getting caught.

Still at least I didn't run into an invisible wall or get a "YOU ARE LEAVING THE MISSION AREA" message popping up, so it's still doing better than a lot of modern first person shooters.

This brings me back to all those fun times in Deus Ex, trying to sneak up behind someone with the electric prod. Anyway I just have to use something from my box of gadgets to knock this guard out without being seen, and I can get inside the entrance to the tower. Wherever that is.

There are no objective markers in this, and no map, so I'm forced to use my brain and find my own way around. To be honest I can live without markers, though I do miss those auto-maps. It seemed like every FPS had one in the mid 90s, then all of a sudden they vanished. I blame Quake.

I have to admit, this is my favourite screenshot from the game so far. And I'm honestly not sure why.

I'm hiding in the corner because there's a camera right above me, slowly panning from left to right. I guess someone in the security room likes the view as well. I don't know exactly what happens if it sees me, but I don't much want to find out.


LATER.


Well I did my part of the mission just fine, but Zoe screwed up and got chased outside. So now I have to defend her as half the guards in the base swarm after her. This is going to turn into another bloody 'protect Natalya' mission like in GoldenEye isn't it?

Fortunately this turned out to be really easy. The hardest part for me was trying to figure out where Zoe actually was, and fighting the temptation to shoot the explosive barrels next to her. I screwed up the latter more times than I'd have liked; I guess I've just been conditioned to instinctively shoot red barrels.

And yet these assholes never learn. Stop standing next to bright red explosive barrels you dumb fucks; it never works out for you. Well at least they're not trying to hide behind them.

It's nice to get back to some good old fashioned running and gunning, though I still wish it was a little easier to spot the enemies. They like to find a dark place to hide and shoot me from, so I have to either fire blindly into the shadows or run through the gunfire to get close enough to see them.


LEVEL 3 - UNINVITED GUESTS.


And then we finally meet back up with the PS2 game in Japan, just in time for a bit of hostage rescue. Great.


30 MINUTES LATER.


Having a quicksave key makes saving these people more bearable than it was on the PS2, but on the other hand this place is a bloody maze of rooms and corridors split up between loading screens. I've been wandering around for half an hour so far and I'm only found half the hostages.

Oh right, this screenshot's just reminded me that I can only carry 4 weapons at a time. And I must drop one weapon to pick another up.


20 MINUTES LATER.


Well I rescued all the hostages, but then I found out that whoever designed this building forgot to put a door to get back inside from the garden (or they've hidden it really well). It took me fucking forever to figure out I could climb along this cable to get back in.

Then after a short fight with a ninja I completed my job here and drove away (in a cutscene) to the next mission... sneaking through a building to retrieve information from a mainframe without harming any guards. I am so much not in the mood for a surprise stealth level right now.


I honestly can't tell if this is better or worse than the console game. With the rail shooter and driving levels replaced it's definitely slower paced, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Mid-level save games are definitely a point in its favour, but on the other hand it's missing my beloved level select and all the rewards. I think I'd need to play them both more before I can judge either of them properly.

I know this much: it ain't crap, so it gets a star:




Game 26 - Nightfire (2003)
Formats: Game Boy Advance.

Right, one last Nightfire and then I'm done with the Bond games for now. It's a handheld shooter so I have to admit that I'm not optimistic about this one, but it exists and I just have to deal with that.

Well the music's right, but there's something's off about this gun barrel animation somehow. He looks like an agent for the Ministry of Silly Walks.

A level select, I presume? Well so far it's doing better than the PC version.

Damn, I feel like I should be writing all this down. Wait, the right shoulder button is 'Thrust (underwater or space)'? I really don't like where this is going.

Damn, I missed my truck again.

Like the PC version it's jumped straight to Austria, skipping the car chase sniper mission in Paris. Probably for the best though, as who wants to aim a rifle with a d-pad?

Shockingly the GBA game doesn't look as good as the PC or console games, but I think those are actual textured polygons, with sprites for enemies.

Were they taught to yell "Somebody kill him!" in training or something? Everywhere I go, they all do it. Fortunately they weren't taught to shoot straight, so I can get away with doing this.

They die in like two hits, but getting those two shots on target can take a while using a d-pad.

I've been trying to figure out if this is a simplified version of the console game's level, or something entirely new, but I really can't tell. It's definitely nothing like the PC game, I'm almost mostly sure of it.

"Zoe, I... didn't expect you to be here. Even though this is the third time you've walked in on us in this room in three games."

The GBA game skips straight to this scene as soon as I enter the building. Definitely no messing around photographing guests in this one. Or voice acting.

My objective here was to sneak around to the Conference Room undetected to spy on a secret meeting.

I was expecting a pain in the ass stealth mission, but nope I turned left, used my laser on a door, and that was it. Objective completed! Took about 10 seconds, including the time I had to wait for the laser to cut through the lock.

Weirdly the game doesn't seem to have any vertical auto-aim. So if an enemy moves slightly above or below my crosshairs I have to stop, hold down L&R, and tap the d-pad up or down to get Bond pointed at his level. C'mon, even Doom had this figured out.

Oh shit, out of ammo! Uh, crap how do I switch weapons again?

Turns out my guns were all empty, and I had to run up and electrocute the guards with my car key stunner. I guess I should start putting my bullets into the enemies from now on instead of spraying most of them across the wall behind them.


A COUPLE OF CORRIDORS LATER.


This must be close to the end of the level now. I bet the cable car is just around the corner.

What... the... fuck? Seriously, is this saying I lost the mission because they threw in a civilian down here for no reason?

Well now I know not to shoot at pixels that look like these. These are friendly pixels. Oh damn, you don't suppose that's supposed to be Zoe? That poor agent has no luck.

To punish me for my poor judgement the game throws me back outside the castle at the very start of the level, with all progress lost. Well fuck that, I'm done with the game. Even the PS2 version had the sense to have the occasional checkpoint at a cutscene.


MUCH LATER.


Okay fine, let's see if I can at least finish the first level. Firing missiles at a moving helicopter with these aiming controls... well this is going to be interesting.

Finally, the helicopter is a smoking wreck and that's Mission Completed! Wait, what? WHAT? I was 3500 points away from finishing the level? I completed all objectives, survived, defeated the level boss... and lost. Not even the Atari 2600 game was this dumb! Right that's it, I'm turning this off.


So what have I learned about the second decade of 007 games? Well, it started late. It took until 1997 for GoldenEye to finally come out, but a lot of people considered it to be the first (and perhaps only) great Bond game, and it set a new template for the franchise. Not a great deal of Bond platformers were released after that one. Instead the series became mostly first person shooters with vehicle driving interludes, and I don't think I'm being too biased when I say that it was generally a good direction to go in. Also less than half of the games were based on a movie this time, allowing developers to throw in as much first person shooting and vehicle driving as they felt like, without leaving players wondering what happened to the story they saw at the cinema. Not that anyone was complaining about GoldenEye doing its own thing.

On the other hand James Bond 007 on the Game Boy and 007 Racing on the PlayStation stand out from the shooters as the last attempts to actually do something different with the franchise, and though I didn't like them much, they added some variety and I think it's obvious how repetitive the games have gotten since then. The James Bond books and films are at least as much about the character travelling around, investigating, and actually dealing with people as they are about him running down corridors with a machine gun, and out of all of these titles it's the Game Boy game that's come closest to including that in gameplay. But with Modern Warfare games topping the charts while Alpha Protocol bombed, I guess mindless shooting is what we're stuck with. Shame really, I bet Telltale or Quantic Dream could make an awesome Bond adventure game.

Oh oh... LEGO James Bond! Why hasn't that happened yet?

5 comments:

  1. LEGO James Bond! Shit, they owe you rights for that Ray! What are they waiting for???

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have you given any consideration to doing No One Lives Forever 1 and/or 2?

    I didn't play either of them until about 6 months ago, and was utterly shocked at how great of games they were and how good they still are today. I think it'd be an appropriate (and welcome) contrast to all of the mediocre-to-above-mediocre Bond shooters that you've been putting yourself through.

    I'd get them for you as a donation for the site, but they're sadly not available on GOG or any similar services. A shame, really.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't worry man, I own both games on disc and I do plan to give them a try at some point. But after playing half a dozen spy shooters in the last week I think I've tormented people enough for a while. Maybe in a month or so I'll give one of them a shot, after I've brought some variety back to the site, and worked through some of my backlog of game requests.

      Delete
  3. Whaaat? You didnt try out x-ray specs on babes? ;-)

    On more serious note: I agree with mercatfat - NOLF 1&2 are masterpieces in their own sub genre, they definitely deserve your attention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh, I had X-ray specs?

      Oh damn you do get a pair, and they work as well! Well there's a missed opportunity for a screenshot.

      Delete

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