James Bond 007: NightFire Preview
Superspy James Bond is on his way to the Xbox. Get the details here.
See it in Action!
As the 40th anniversary of the character known as James Bond looms on the horizon, Electronic Arts has been working on the next video game incarnation of the superspy. For nearly two years now, the development team has been working to craft a story, characters, an assortment of gadgets, and exotic locales befitting the James Bond license. James Bond 007: NightFire will take you through the halls of a castle located high in the snow-covered mountains, to the South Pacific, and through the streets of Paris in a high-speed pursuit. Needless to say, you'll encounter plenty of action on your trek to uncover a plot involving a famous philanthropist, Raphael Drake.
Electronic Arts didn't want to create a game that simply involved moving Bond directly from point A to point B. Instead, the development team has designed the first-person shooter levels in such a manner that you'll be presented with multiple solutions to a single problem. In fact, some of these solutions offer a dramatically different experience from the others, giving the game a somewhat nonlinear feel. For example, in one of the first missions, James Bond parachutes within 100 yards of a castle, with numerous guards positioned just outside the entrance. There are quite a few paths you can take at this point. If you think you have a good feel for the control scheme or you're just generally feeling bold, you can run down the steps with your gun blazing, thereby alerting just about every single guard within the immediate vicinity. You can also use a much more subtle approach by taking out individual guards in a quiet manner. Or if you don't particularly care for either of those strategies, you can hop off the bridge and into the back of a truck that will transport you all the way up to the doors of the castle.
Interestingly, the decisions you make at one point may affect the route you take later down the line. Back in the castle mission, if every single guard in the complex has been alerted, then it's obviously much more difficult to go up to the front door, knock, and ask that you be let in. It might be wiser to take an alternate path, which winds its way around the outside of the castle where guards can't track you. What makes this particular path even more fun is that it's one of the first times you'll be exposed to the game's third-person action sequences, in which James will have to perform special actions to proceed. In this case, you have to move past a series of windows, but of course, there's a catch. Inside the windows, you can see guards making their nightly patrol of the castle, and if they see or hear James walking outside, they'll immediately open fire. While we have yet to experience any additional branching-path areas, the ones that we have seen so far give a pretty good indication of the development team's attempt to blend different action elements into one seamless experience.
Indeed, you'll find that NightFire actually encourages you to think about your actions and decide whether or not they're actually the best method for completing Bond's objectives. Of course, there will be occasions when you'll have to get into a gunfight, but in some of the later missions, stealth becomes a key element for survival.
Multiplayer Bond Mayhem
Your journey will eventually take you to Japan and into an enormous palatial estate overrun by Yakuza and other nasty types of characters that would like to see 007 dead. Fortunately you can get the upper hand on most of them, thanks to some of Bond's stealth-friendly gadgetry. You will have access to night-vision goggles, which enable you to spot enemies in the darkest conditions, but you'll also have thermal goggles, which not only display heat signatures from enemies nearby but also give you the ability to see through certain types of objects, such as crates. If you think that an enemy is lurking behind a corner, you can don the thermal goggles, verify if there's an enemy there, and then react accordingly. Though it doesn't really help you in any specific way, it's worth noting that you can even see an enemy's breath while in thermal goggle mode, which gives you just a small taste of the amount of detail the development team has incorporated into the game.
Likewise, Bond will also have weapons that are designed to make very little, if any, noise. Obviously, there's the standard-issue silencer and pistol, but you're supposed to be James Bond, so naturally you'll have a key chain that fires electricity that will incapacitate enemies who come into direct contact with it. Being silent is only part of the stealth element in NightFire, because if a guard sees one of his comrades lying dead on the ground, he'll start to investigate to find out if there are any intruders in the complex. If you find yourself in such a situation, you can either assault the other gang members while they are investigating the body by throwing a smoke grenade to disorient them, or you can simply wait for them to come to you. It's just another example of the different options you'll be presented with throughout the 12 levels in the game.
Not all of NightFire is based on first-person shooting. In fact, there are five missions in the game focused on driving of some sort. One mission in particular will let you drive in Bond's car, the V-12 Vanquish, and not surprisingly, it has quite an arsenal: heat-seeking missiles, tire tacks, and an EMP emitter. It can pop up on two wheels to avoid various obstacles out on the road or even transform into a submersible if the need to go underwater ever arises. In the V-12 mission (which was designed with the help of the Need for Speed team), you'll be involved in a high-speed pursuit through the streets of Paris in a mission to find and destroy a specific van before it reaches its destination. The controls in this portion of the game are quite similar to those found in the Need for Speed game The other driving missions in NightFire have James Bond driving off-road vehicles and even snowmobiles.
NightFire will support two to four players through its multiplayer mode, which will include a variety of modes such as king of the hill, arena, and team arena. We had a chance to play a few multiplayer games, and they already seemed quite solid. Some of the maps, such as Fort Knox, are quite large and should present some interesting opportunities to snipe other players. Other maps are small and well-suited to frequent frenetic gunfights. There's even one map in which you can remotely control a small but powerful tank.
The two years of work on NightFire appear to have paid off. The game seems to blend different types of action quite well, and the fact that you can take so many different paths in completing your mission adds a nice touch of nonlinearity to the game. Currently the development team is working on tweaking the gameplay for each platform and making sure that it's getting the most out of each system's graphics capabilities. But NightFire should be ready in time for its late-fall release on all platforms.
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