If you're a fan of action games, then you really have the pick of the litter this year. From Splinter Cell on the Xbox to TimeSplitters 2 on the GameCube to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the PlayStation 2, all consoles are well represented with a wide assortment of high-profile first- and third-person shooters. Throwing its rather large hat into the ring, Electronic Arts is currently putting the finishing touches on James Bond 007: NightFire for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube, all three versions of which are scheduled to release simultaneously on November 18 in order to coincide with the launch of the latest Bond movie, Die Another Day. The console versions of NightFire are being developed by Eurocom, an experienced developer responsible for everything from The World is Not Enough for the Nintendo 64 to Mortal Kombat 4 for the PlayStation. Meanwhile, a slightly different PC version of NightFire is being developed by Texas-based Gearbox Software, who've been responsible for games like Half-Life: Opposing Forces and the PC port Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, as well as the forthcoming Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and the PC port of Halo. Though the three console versions of NightFire will be nearly identical to each other, they will differ notably from Gearbox's PC version, which will lack any driving missions, but should make up for that omission by including numerous multiplayer modes and a handful of its own new single-player levels.
Electronic Arts recently brought the latest builds of the console versions of NightFire to our offices, and we were able to learn some new details about these games' plot during our hands-on time with them. For anyone interested in learning about Gearbox's upcoming PC version of NightFire in particular, be sure to read our recent preview of it. But first, let's review the details of what we can expect from the console versions.
As you've probably deduced, James Bond 007: NightFire puts you in the shoes of debonair British secret agent, James Bond. As in GoldenEye 007, NightFire will actually use the likeness of Pierce Brosnan for the game's main character, and even though the famous actor doesn't provide his own voice talent, Bond's dialogue in the game sounds remarkably like Brosnan himself. Unlike GoldenEye, however, NightFire isn't based off of any movie, and its plot is completely different from that of Die Another Day. The game starts off on a high note, plunging you into an action sequence before any kind of introduction or mission briefing even takes place. Bond is riding shotgun in a helicopter over Paris, and this chopper is following what seems to be a car chase on the city streets below. A blonde in a Cobra convertible is driving after a military truck with a canvas cover, and she in turn, is being chased and shot at by a number of dark-colored sedans. Being the gentleman that he is, Bond takes it upon himself to help out the distressed damsel. From the helicopter, you'll need to disable the cars chasing the Cobra by shooting out their tires, firing into their gas tanks, or destroying their engines. Towards the end of this sequence, Bond will rappel down from the chopper and pluck the Cobra's driver seconds before her car explodes, and immediately thereafter, he'll jump into his remote controlled Aston Martin Vanquish, which, as it seems, is always at the ready.
Car chases make up many of the most memorable sequences in many of the most memorable Bond films, and they'll play a prominent part in the console versions of NightFire. But can these interactive racing sequences possibly capture the excitement of their cinematic counterparts? Find out next.
As soon as you land in your sports car, NightFire suddenly transforms into a full-fledged driving game that would make Spy Hunter jealous. The Vanquish, which is featured in the forthcoming movie, has been equipped with weapons and other gadgets by Q Labs, British intelligence's infamously clumsy yet undeniably creative R&D division. In this sequence, you're tasked with chasing down the military truck, which as the woman whom you just rescued explains, is carrying important stolen devices. You have missiles and smoke screens to get past the heavily armed sedans, and the ability to turbo boost and lift the Vanquish onto two wheels in order to get through particularly hairy situations. The controls and physics in this portion of NightFire are as you'd expect from any well-executed arcade-style driving game. The visuals are also well done, as you can switch between an external or internal perspective at any time, and easily discern any superficial damage on your Vanquish.
After a couple minutes of driving, you'll eventually chase down the truck, retrieve the stolen goods, and celebrate a successful evening with your new female friend. At this point, the proper opening credits of NightFire are revealed, and they're done in just the same fashion as the introductory sequences of many Bond movies, complete with slow-motion imagery of Walther pistols firing, women dancing, and a self-titled theme song playing in the background. It's only after you're treated to this short spectacle that you can actually choose your difficulty setting and are briefed on your real mission.
A short prerendered cutscene reveals that a piece of missile guidance technology that was intended for use on the orbiting US space weapons platform has been stolen, and NATO, fearing that it may fall into the wrong hands and be reverse-engineered, wants it back, pronto. Early intelligence reports suspect one Raphael Drake in the theft, even though Drake is supposedly a respected green industrialist whose company, Phoenix International, cleans up radioactive waste from nuclear dumps, decommissioned silos, and obsolete reactors. Regardless, British intelligence wants Drake checked out, and Bond is sent off to the Austrian Alps to infiltrate one of Drake's mansions, where he is expected to take delivery of NATO's hardware from one of his underlings. In this first mission alone, Bond will have to HALO jump from a cargo plane, sneak past patrolling sentries, scale precipitous cliffs, covertly snap pictures of the mansion visitors, and ultimately, have a shootout with a helicopter gunship from onboard a moving gondola.
Most of the other first-person missions are equally as frantic, and they'll see Bond travel to Japan, the South Pacific, and even into Earth's orbit. Helping him out along the way will be a wide assortment of weapons, and in true Bond fashion, a veritable arsenal of seemingly harmless gadgets. Throughout NightFire's dozen missions, Bond will have access to 21 different weapons, including his signature Walther PPK, as well as a number of other handguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, and explosives. His list of gadgets includes Bond's laser-equipped Rolex, a handy pair of X-ray glasses, a micro camera, and a key chain that doubles as a stun gun. What's more, nearly half of the levels in NightFire will be driving missions, though not all of them will have Bond driving his Vanquish. Included in the game is a snowmobile equipped with machineguns and rocket launchers, an off-road vehicle, and an ultra-lite plane. Even the Vanquish itself will be able to transform into a submarine of sorts in one of the later levels.
James Bond 007: NightFire is expected to go gold (meaning its development will be completed) any day now. From what we've seen of it, the game certainly is taking a step in the right direction to capture the essence of GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64--an essence that has eluded Bond games since then--though we'll of course hold off until we thoroughly play the finished version of the game before passing final judgment. Until then, be sure to take in the latest batch of screenshots and movies that we've added to our