CE provides lots of acreage on which to roam, but not much to do during the journey...

User Rating: 6.5 | Codename Eagle PC
Before Codename Eagle, most first-person shooters were limited in the width and depth of the area that a player could inhabit. As detailed and mechanically miraculous the Quake engine was in the ‘90s, wide-open spaces were rare; even outdoor levels were often hemmed in by cliff walls or a flat timberline. Eagle’s most endearing feature was its roominess, which allowed the player to drive or fly a variety of hybrid WWI-style vehicles all the way to the distant horizon. The terrain textures are a bit blurry by today’s high-res standards, and there was very little detail found in anything but the game’s hills, valleys, and sparse vegetation. Many buildings were just painted boxes, and the enemy soldiers were a mere silhouette until they drew very near to the player. Otherwise, Eagle excelled primarily as an early experiment with the “overland trek” school of design that made more recent games like Far Cry, Chrome, and Serious Sam so entertaining.

Even though there wasn’t all that much to do on Eagle’s huge first level – which started off as little more than a driving tutorial – I found myself wandering hither and yon, just looking at all the snow-covered mountains and wide, flat spaces. I spent my fair share of time pulling stunts in the truck and armored car, as well as on the motorcycle in the game’s second level (which covered even more area along the same patch of ground). The gun battles I encountered were dull and difficult – fighting the same soldier over and over through most scenarios was too repetitive, and the only real challenge came from the Russians’ preternatural aim – but most of the vehicular combat was rewarding. The last level’s ack-ack sequence was a blast, like a good game of Missile Command rendered in 3D. However, the adrenaline it generated was misspent on the blimp battle that followed, the fun of which was hamstrung by ridiculous ammo and fuel supply limitations.

Eagle’s interminable cutscenes of lifeless still-frames borrowed from a film about terrible accents played on an old, broken cinematograph were a mistake. Although the game’s story arc of recovering the rightful heir to the Russian throne worked just fine, the method in which it was told was just plain bad. I would even prefer the timeworn Doom-style scrolling text exposition to watching a sepia-toned slideshow of inert photos.

Overall, Codename Eagle provided a gratifying sandbox experience in which I got to play with a decent variety of cars and truck and things that go. The game still holds value as an evolutionary step toward the intoxicating range-roving freedom found in more modern titles. Although Eagle’s infantry combat was underdeveloped and the opportunities for wanton destruction by land, sea, or air were limited, a few quirky and enjoyable situations will keep this title out of mothballs for at least one more playthrough in the future.