It's been a really long time since we've seen a James Bond game on a computer. EA originally intended to release The World Is Not Enough on the PC, but those plans were canceled and the game was released only on console platforms. The world's most famous secret agent has made himself at home on console systems, and perhaps he should have stayed there. NightFire is a solid entry on consoles, but the PC version's straightforward nature and bungled multiplayer options make the game a passable experience at best when compared with other first-person shooters for the PC.
NightFire's single-player campaign is a story-driven first-person shooter. You'll see prerendered video clips that provide context for the in-game events before and after most missions, and you'll hear radio messages from your allies as your objectives change mid-mission. The actual plot focuses on a global organization known as Phoenix International, which has been contracted to dismantle nuclear missiles and clean up nuclear power plants around the world. But, like most video game corporations, Phoenix is evil to the core, and the company's leader intends to overtake an orbital missile defense platform and use it to essentially destroy the world. Of course, that's where James Bond comes in. His objective is to defeat Phoenix and save the world from destruction. Along the way, 007 will use a good collection of weapons and spy gadgets to achieve his goals. While the game feels a little disjointed when compared with the more cohesive console versions, the story is well told and contains enough twists, turns, and polygonal "Bond girls" to provide a level of suave intrigue that's similar to what you'd expect to find in one of the films.
The console versions of the game include a few levels that take you out of the first-person shooter experience, instead putting you behind the wheel of one of Bond's souped-up cars or in a helicopter as a sniper. The PC version unfortunately doesn't have any of this. More first-person shooting levels have been added in an attempt to make up for the omission, but the console versions' driving levels do a great job of providing a change of pace, and without them, the game seems considerably less exciting and original.
The level design in the single-player section of the game is solid enough. You'll occasionally find more than one way to tackle a problem--the difference is usually between simply running in with your guns blazing or trying to find a stealthier way to achieve your goal. The objectives are good and give you occasional chances to execute cool Bond-like maneuvers. In one case, you'll have to avoid detection in a building full of guards, invisible alarm sensors, and video cameras. You'll have tranquilizer darts to neutralize pesky guards, and your sunglasses can be set to night-vision or infrared mode, which will let you see the alarm sensors. The stealth elements are well implemented and offer a slight change of pace. NightFire has three different difficulty settings, but the major difference between them is that the enemies become more accurate with their shots as the difficulty level increases--which is usually enough to tack on some extra challenge. While the story portion of NightFire may be fairly well executed, it's definitely on the short side. Even on the highest difficulty setting, experienced first-person shooter players should be able to make their way through the game with few problems.
The single-player portion may be decent, but NightFire's multiplayer mode is pretty horrendous. The main problems are ones that can and should be patched out at some point. Other players with silenced weapons make absolutely no noise when firing at you--not even the "thup thup thup" noise of a silenced submachine gun is audible. Add to that the fact that there's very little onscreen feedback to indicate that you are actually being shot, and you're left with a completely frustrating multiplayer experience. The game has only a handful of fairly drab multiplayer maps, and it doesn't have many multiplayer modes, either. While the console versions had a variety of different team-based modes, here you're left with deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. You can fill empty slots with bots, but the bot AI isn't very good.
Graphically, 007: NightFire is passable. Probably the most striking element of the game is James Bond himself. The character models throughout the game are done nicely, and the lead character looks and moves just like Pierce Brosnan. Unfortunately, you only really get a chance to see the fruits of this "cyber-scanning" labor in the game's blurry prerendered cutscenes. The characters' faces are pretty expressive and animate well both when speaking and when reacting to the other characters' spoken lines. Beyond the models, most of the game has a nice style to it, and the environments all look believable enough.
While NightFire's Bond isn't voiced by his silver-screen counterpart, the Pierce Brosnan sound-alike does an admirable job. The rest of the game's voice work is excellent, conveying just as much feeling as the elaborate facial animation does. The music is suitably Bond-like, and the game's sound effects are equally fitting. Marring the audio presentation is the in-mission speech, which was seemingly recorded at a low bit rate, giving everyone the sound of low-quality streaming audio.
While NightFire is hurt by its relatively short length, the game's single-player mode is pretty well constructed. However, the multiplayer component is more or less broken. The PC version of NightFire makes an excellent case for leaving James Bond on console systems, as it really doesn't compete with what the PC has to offer. Unreal Tournament 2003 and No One Lives Forever 2 are infinitely better choices for multiplayer and single-player shooters, respectively.