007 Racing Hands-On

James Bond has always been known for his slick cars. Now it's your turn to get behind the wheel and utilize Q Branch's latest gadgetry in this Spy Hunter-inspired mission-based racer.

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When 007 Racing was first announced, many believed it would be another Twisted Metal clone. As it turns out, EA knew better and instead 007 Racing is very similar to a 3D version of Spy Hunter. 007 Racing is mission based, much like Bond shooters both past and present. You begin each level with a list of mission directives to accomplish, some of which are simple checkpoint-type requirements, like picking up computer chips in a set order, while others have you bombarding military installments and rescuing fellow MI6 team members. And yes, some of the levels consist of all-out automobile combat.

No matter which mission objectives are required, 007 Racing is heavy in the weapons department. You have side-mounted machine guns, ground-to-air missiles, oil slicks, smoke screens, and tire shredders. Knowing when and where to employ the different weapons is where the challenge comes into play. In the first level, you must retrieve a ground-to-air stinger missile in order to take down a helicopter that harasses you throughout the level. If you miss with your one shot, you must begin the level again.

In this early version, 007 Racing's difficulty is a tad too harsh at times. The first level is easy enough, but after that, the difficulty begins to ramp up quickly. You'll find yourself attempting the same levels over and over searching for that one elusive power-up, orhidden area. Each of the 14 levels features such varied objectives that you won't find yourself getting bored or frustrated most of the time. Having to use your wits to proceed also helps set 007 Racing apart from the competition and connects it to the Bond license at the same time.

The sound in 007 Racing also helps set it apart from other car-combat games. Q constantly chimes in telling you to take care of the car, while M reminds you of your mission directives. The music follows the classic Bond theme very closely while still adding some contemporary flair to the mix. Several of the popular villains from previous Bond movies make an appearance, and they constantly taunt you as you attempt to accomplish the directives.

Running on the Need for Speed engine, 007 Racing looks pretty good. It plays fast, the textures have a nice variety, and the helicopters, tanks, and other enemy vehicles look excellent. When you watch a race in the replay mode, the graphics are bumped up a bit and things look even better. The game features real-world locations like Monte Carlo, Amsterdam, South America, and New York but there are few visual clues to separate one from the other. Each track is enormous and sometimes the biggest challenge is just finding your way around. Eutechnyx still has a few things to clean up, but with a month before release it has plenty of time.

And what would a Bond game be without cinematics? Before and after each level, there are real-time cinemas to get you into the story, along with a narrative from M explaining your mission. As you complete one level with a river jump, Bond's car smashes through the middle of a helicopter burning it to the ground. In another level, a bomb has been planted in Bond's ride, and if he stops for an instant it will explode. This is remedied by ramping the car into the ocean where it will explode safely. At the completion of each level, engaging FMV scenes play to tie things together.

007 Racing is already extremely fun and challenging. With 14 levels that may be played on multiple difficulty settings, this is one car combat racer that has some replay value. If going through the one-player missions isn't enough, there's still a multiplayer mode with two variations just waiting for abuse. Fans of the classic Spy Hunter arcade-game who have waited forever for a 3D update will be happy with 007 Racing. Bond fans who are eager to enjoy something other than a first-person shooter would do well to give this game a serious look.

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