Sunday, 4 November 2012

007 Games Part 8: Tomorrow Never Dies, 007 Racing

Super AiG's Guide to Every (old) James Bond Game Ever, Volume 8

Two more Bond games today, each released only for the Sony PlayStation, which probably annoyed a lot of N64 owning GoldenEye 007 fans. Poor Nintendo was left out this time for whatever reason. Though they did end up getting GoldenEye's spiritual sequel, Perfect Dark, so I guess they had the last laugh.

Game 18 - Tomorrow Never Dies (1999)
Formats: PlayStation.

Tomorrow Never Dies Playstation title screen
So much black.

Despite being made to tie-in with the 1997 film, this game actually came out two years later. Around time that the next movie, The World is Not Enough, hit cinemas in fact.

Tomorrow Never Dies video game gun barrel
There you go, the first gun barrel scene in a Bond game to use an actual clip from the movie. It's a bit fuzzy due to the CD quality video, but we've reached maximum authenticity.

Tomorrow Never Dies select mission screen
Hey, they've nicked the level select screen from GoldenEye! I support this decision 100%.

Strangely they didn't nick the idea of split screen multiplayer. Though I guess it would be a little crap with only two controllers.

I guess Q branch was bored and decided to spice up the mission briefings a bit. Documents and photographs are hardly suitable for a high class spy agency in this day and age. What we need is cheesy 3D rendered virtual devices and video clips.

Okay my mission is to head to a military outpost near the Russian border and tag a radar dish that's been hacking GPS satellites, so that our jets can blow it up. Point a thing at the thing, seems simple enough. Though I don't remember this bit happening in the movie.

That looks roughly equal to GoldenEye's graphics to me, painted tree background and all. So far it's doing well.

Whoa, it's in third person. And what the fuck's up with these controls? This came out at the tail end of 1999, two years after the system got analogue sticks, don't tell me that developers hadn't perfected two stick movement and aiming yet. I have to walk and turn with the left stick, and strafe with shoulder buttons.

Okay, switching into aim mode to hit this guy may have been a bad idea. The bloke's zig-zagging all over the place, getting closer and closer, and I'm struggling to keep up.

Bond's quickly sent face down into the snow by incoming fire, but he just springs back up again on the spot and the 007 counter ticks down from 3 to 2.

Well now I know that the game has lives, and I'm about to waste a second one getting shot by this asshole. I'm just letting the auto-aim handle things now, as it's doing a much better job than I am. By the time I'm in position to shoot anyone I've already lost half my health.

Aha, if I keep moving they can't hit me! Crap, actually that's not true at all, I'm still getting my ass kicked.

I don't get how they could have screwed up so badly with these controls, when GoldenEye got it right two years earlier by letting the player choose their own set-up. Redefinable controls is ALWAYS the correct choice.


4000 RETRIES LATER.


Damn this place is starting to look ridiculously purple.

You know, I was actually starting to feel like I was getting the hang of this. Right up to the point where I had to tag this dish with a laser designator. It took me forever to figure out that I could cycle through the gadgets in the left hand box, Metal Gear Solid style.

And then we're straight into skiing! No saving the game, no return to the level select screen, just lots of trees and enemies trying to catch me. And lens flares, obviously.

A Union Jack parachute for a secret agent? Well that's just dumb. Yeah I know Bond had one in the movie The Spy Who Loved Me, but that was dumb too.

I really hope this is the end of the level now.



LEVEL 2 - ARMS BAZAAR.


Alright, I'm at level 2 and I finally got a chance to save the game. Plus it seems I've actually reached the start of the movie, where Bond has to photograph illegal weapons at an arms bazaar.

I had to hit a walkthrough to figure out how to get the last photograph though. Turns out I had to use some sticky bombs someone had surreptitiously smuggled into my inventory between levels to blow up a crate. I didn't even know these things could be destroyed.

And then I was suddenly thrown into a timed sequence where I had run around looking for a cockpit key while being shot at by mounted gatling guns (no mid-mission saves remember). But I'll forgive them because they let me fly the jet! Well, they let me fire the guns anyway.

Mission complete. Damn that was a short level.

Also, more FMV clips from the movie in glorious low-res CD video quality! That's something GoldenEye couldn't have done on the N64. Not that it necessarily should have.

GoldenEye's in-engine cutscenes looked basic, but they were consistent with the rest of the game. This feel like I've earned an action scene from the film, rather than it being a part of the story I'm playing.

And it's even got the entire opening credits (with the names of the game developers replacing the movie crew), complete with the actual theme song. That's another first for a Bond game.


LEVEL 3 - CARVER MEDIA.


Okay, MI6 has already figured out who the probable main villain of the game is, media mogul Elliot Carver, so I've been sent off to chat to his wife. In the movie this involved going to a party, but it seems PlayStation Bond is just going to break in to his offices and murder everyone with an AK instead.

It's still a pain in the ass to get around with these controls, but I'm getting better at it. Mostly because I've figured out that pressing the O button automatically points the camera at the nearest enemy, meaning I don't have to bother with that tedious 'aiming' thing anymore.

Damn, that's a creepy corridor. Looks like Elliot Carver is secretly an obsessed Brent Spiner fan.

Finally I met up with Carver's wife, Teri Hatcher, but she doesn't seem too too happy to see me. First thing she does is give Bond a slap to the face. I guess she has every right to be annoying seeing as I just gunned down half her staff.

Sadly Carver found me by following the trail of bodies, and had me locked away. With no weapons, and no hope of escape. Though I do still have my cufflinks, so at least I'm presentable. Hey, maybe these can be used somehow to help me escape!

I figured out an escape plan, ran out, and got myself shot by a gang of enemies waiting outside. By the time I'd found my gun and managed to fire back, I'd already lost all my lives. Which meant I didn't last long on the next level.


Well it's no GoldenEye that's for sure, but this still could have had some appeal to it if the controls weren't so damn awkward. But they are, so I can't really recommend this.




Game 19 - 007 Racing (2000)
Formats: PlayStation.

007 Racing title screen
Somehow I get the feeling this one isn't directly based on a movie.

Well if Mario and Star Wars can have a hundred racing games, I don't see the harm in James Bond getting one too. Hopefully it won't have super-deformed bobblehead Bond villains driving around as the other racers though.

Gun barrel shot is present and accounted for. Sadly the game doesn't get a full music video with '007 Racing' awkwardly shoved into the lyrics, while sexy silhouettes of cars dance in the background.

007 Racing Bond driving his Aston Martin
Hey, I start off driving an Aston Martin DB5. Classy.

Hey, wait a minute... this isn't racing at all! I'm apparently meant to be rescuing someone.

Straight away I find myself in a dead end, blocked on the left by a castle wall, and the right by a wooden barricade. And I've just picked up a pack of hellfire missiles. Hmm, I think I can figure this puzzle out.

The barricade never stood a chance. Whoa, is that actually John Cleese's voice on the radio? Either that or the best Cleese impersonator I've ever heard.

It seems I'm stuck driving around in circles until I get the stinger missile and blow up the helicopter. It says 'obtain stinger missile from courtyard' in my objectives, but I'm not seeing a courtyard anywhere.


LATER.


Ah, here we go. It was just down a side road. Plus I got a health kit for my car too. Seriously, they're actually called 'health kits'.

007 Bond shoots helicopter with stinger missile
You know, getting a car pointed towards a helicopter that's chasing you is surprisingly difficult, even with a radar. Turns out that cars tend to like going forwards, so I keep driving past everything I'm aiming at.

And mission complete! Or not...

Huh, I failed the mission because I picked up the wrong stinger missile? I blew up the bloody helicopter, who cares what missile I used to do it? Oh plus I also failed to rescue the person I came here to get. Well, I would have picked her up if I'd actually seen her anywhere.

Right, okay let's try this again from the start. This time I'm going to see how well hellfire missiles do against solid wooden doors in the scenery.

Whoa, I honestly didn't expect that to work. There's my stinger missile and Cherise Litte. Plus a whole row of henchmen with machine guns. John Cleese implores me to fire back at them (for the sake of the car), but I think I'll hold off with the explosives until I've collected my passenger.

Now there's only one last thing to do before I leave.

Just hold still you bastard helicopter.


LATER.


Well that's done with. And the game's got a level select, excellent.

Seems that my next mission is to drive my car off the street and crash into the river. Finally, something I'm good at.

Oh, and I have to find and collect all these floating microchips along the way. They should have put some Offspring songs in the background here, gone full Crazy Taxi.

Done. Wasn't that much trouble, except I kind of accidentally chose 'restart mission' on the victory screen first time around, and had to play the whole thing from the start. Apparently it doesn't count as completed on the level select screen until I quit the mission complete screen.

Alright, what am I doing this time. Disabling vehicles, disabling forklifts, getting inside a distribution center... whoa slow down there, save something for the next mission!

Great, now they've got me dogfighting other cars in an arena. I need to get enough distance from them to fire my missiles, while they're driving towards me trying to ram my car. You can imagine how this isn't working out.


A FEW RETRIES LATER.


I can get a few hits on the bastards, but I'm always close enough when the missiles hit to get caught in the blast radius. My poor car is getting destroyed by my own missiles, over and over again.


MORE RETRIES LATER.



I know, instead of running out to grab missiles, I can just hide in this alley where it's safe, and shoot them with my machine gun when they drive past.

Or not, because this gun isn't doing any damage!


MUCH LATER.


Well I finally blew up all eight cars, through sheer luck and persistence rather than any kind of new insight, and now I've got to do it again except against forklifts. Oh, and they haven't given me any missiles this time. And if my car blows up I have to restart from the very beginning of the mission. Which it did, and I did, so I quit.


I really wasn't expecting much from this game, but it turned out to be alright. The graphics look decent for a PlayStation game, the handling seems fine, and they even got John Cleese in to insult me when I fuck up. But cars aren't really suited for combat. They're really good at going forward at a decent speed, but dogfighting other cars in one (or helicopters for that matter) is a pain in the ass, and not really an ideal thing to build missions around. In my humble opinion.


James Bond will return tomorrow for part 9 in: The World Is Not Enough. Twice.

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