E3 2001: Hands-on: James Bond in Agent Under Fire

Read about Electronic Arts' pseudo-sequel to Tomorrow Never Dies on the PlayStation 2.

Following Electronic Arts' cancellation of The World Is Not Enough for the Sony PlayStation 2, the company revealed that it will release a revamped game for Sony's console titled James Bond in Agent Under Fire. The game combines elements of first-person shooting and combat driving in its gameplay and is similar in style to EA's Tomorrow Never Dies for the PlayStation. In the first-person missions, you will be in various locations around the world and will be assigned a specific set of objectives. In the level we played, Bond found himself in search of a group of scientists who were being held hostage by a belligerent terrorist organization. The game's controls are relatively intuitive using the PS2 controller: The left analog stick moves the characters, the right analog stick is used to look around, the R1 and L1 buttons are for strafing, the D-pad lets you scroll through weapons and equip silencers, and the various face buttons are used to deploy a grappling hook, duck, fire, and jump. The control scheme worked relatively well with the PlayStation 2 pad for the most part, but some functions, such as targeting the crosshairs using the analog and movements demanding a combination of actions, were tricky at times.

In addition to its first-person missions, Agent Under Fire will also include several driving missions. Here you will take to the busy city streets in a typical "Bond" vehicle, loaded with a variety of gadgets including chaff grenades, machine guns, and homing missiles. Perhaps because the driving missions in Agent Under Fire are located on busy city streets, they seem more intense than the ones in Tomorrow Never Dies. The city courses are large and relatively complex in their design. Through these elaborate courses you will have to dodge pedestrians and realistic traffic, while shooting down a barrage of enemy vehicles. In the level we played--where we had to chase down and rescue hostages from a terrorist's van--we had to dispose of five or more peripheral terrorist vehicles before we could even attempt to chase after the van itself. According to Electronic Arts, these driving missions will account for approximately 30 percent of the levels in the game.

Agent Under Fire uses several advanced graphical effects on the PlayStation 2. Most notably, the particle effects are truly impressive--debris and smoke from explosions engulf the entire screen, blurring Bond's line of sight, and subtle nuances, such as smoke from the gun's discharge, add to the game's visual detail. In one of the levels we played we found ourselves walking along a cobblestone pathway that was created using multiple texture layers, which realistically highlighted the inconsistencies in the layout of the stones. Additional graphical effects include bullet holes appearing on marble structures and wooden doors.

The single-player missions in Agent Under Fire are on a point-based system: You earn points by using a variety of weapons and attempting to avoid enemy contact. You can choose to engage the enemy at every opportunity, but the gameplay system encourages stealth-based action. The E3 version of Agent Under Fire had a two-player head-to-head gameplay mode, but EA promises that the final game will have a four-player option. Agent Under Fire will be released in Q4 2001.

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