James Bond 007: Nightfire
For 007 fans who also happened to be gamers, James Bond video games were kind of a must.
From The Duel to Goldeneye to Agent Under Fire, From Russia With Love and beyond, we had to try them out and, more often than not, they ended up being pretty darn entertaining. Not always perfect, granted, but generally good enough to warrant a playthrough.
Nightfire was one of the few games I personally played and completed on the original X-Box and, since I recently played it all again on the PS2 this time, I thought it would be a good one to bring the table while it’s still fresh in my mind.
Released just before Die Another Day, easily the weakest of the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, Nightfire was able to use the likeness of the actor, which was pretty cool, but sadly not the voice. We had to wait until Everything Or Nothing to hear the soothing sounds of Mr Brosnan in a 007 game, sadly.
The game opens in typical Bond fashion, with an absurd music video credits sequence and although it’s not quite as epic and stylish as the one in Everything Or Nothing, it’s still good fun with actors portraying some of the game’s main characters in live-action. Then, smooth-faced CGI Pierce Brosnan awkwardly spins around and the game begins:
The “Paris Prelude” soon kicks off and it’s all kinds of awesome.
You’re shooting down vehicles from helicopters arcade-style, driving the Aston Martin Vanquish through the dark streets of Paris at break-neck speed, shooting missiles from it, driving it sideways occasionally. It may not be much more than a training level but it boasts some simple yet effective driving mechanics and spot-on visuals.
Great start, 007.
We soon get to the first-person shooter aspect of the game as you find yourself on top of some tower, having to weasel your way inside some snowy Austrian castle and into a very exclusive party where the game’s villain, Raphael Drake, is in attendance and is suspected of working on some missile guidance chip deal of some sort.
You can choose to stealthily dispose of various security guards with your sniper rifle, climb around the walls of the castle or, if you’re really lazy, jump on top of some truck, hide in the back and wait for it to take you inside the place.
Personally, I enjoy dispensing bullets in bad guys’ right butt cheeks.
I’m specific like that.
To each their own, I suppose.
With each secret you uncover, a “007” logo pops up and at the end of the level, you can unlock various characters to play as/against in the multiplayer sections, which are actually loads of fun. Being able to play as Oddjob and throwing your hat at your friends thereby killing them off and seeing them feeling the shame of losing to a hat is definitely one of the biggest highlights for me to this day.
You’ve got a great range of weapons to use during the game from handguns to laser rifles, crossbows and, my favourite, tranquilizer darts. I don’t know why but seeing security guards tumble slowly and silently is hugely satisfying.
Once inside the party, you get to walk around incognito for a bit. Luckily, you can still try and chat to random people (such a waste of time), punch vases when no-one’s about or mess around with your many gadgets in ways that totally don’t look odd in a classy, low-key party atmosphere.
Speaking of those gadgets, Nightfire makes genuinely good use of those, giving you plenty of opportunities to use them but giving you enough alternative routes to completing certain levels that you don’t always have to. You’ve got a phone that’s also a grappling hook, a lighter/camera, car keys doubling up as stun guns, a laser watch.
They’re mostly ludicrous but when you think back to Die Another Day and realise that the film included an invisible car, a space sun laser beam, flawless face transplants, superhero suits, Madonna with a sword and a ring that breaks windows, those almost sound too tame and old-fashioned!
Gotta love that laser watch, though.
The whole party thing somehow ends up with Bond hopping on a cable car and shooting guided rockets from a bazooka at the villain’s #1 henchman Rook, who is firing at you from a helicopter hovering over your head.
It’s insane, in a good way.
Also, since this takes place early on in the game, it’s one of those boss fights that’s not hard at all when you know what you’re doing but is still really rewarding somehow.
The main villain in Nightfire is Drake, a cheesy-looking dude with a goatee who would probably be played hilariously by Jemaine Clement if this was a movie.
And this is why I’m not casting Bond movies.
What follows is Bond’s escape from the Austrian castle as he hops on a snowmobile and, after a short bout of static arcade-style shooting at people and things, does the same thing but while on the move. This is all artifice in the vein of that early Paris level but it works. Besides, you then get to drive that Vanquish again and, while I don’t always (which is to say very rarely) enjoy driving mini levels in essentially non-driving games, the ones in this game are a pleasure.
I do love how the game encourages you to go off-road and crash through a terrace or fly over a bridge full of police cars instead of following the main road to the letter. In fact, you usually get some kind of reward for doing that!
Bond does like to think outside the box usually, so it’s good to know that the game gets its main character and has a fittingly witty sense of humour.
I won’t go into too much detail for every level but I’ll sum up by saying that the game offers a good amount of variety as a whole and within most levels. Take the Japan level, for instance, where you’re required to not only shoot down trench-coat-wearing yakuzas but escort some guy safely through the entire level and…
Rescue geisha girls.
What? That’s totally a legitimate mission!
Not sure what exactly it has to do with world-destroying missiles getting into the wrong hands but stick with it, it’s a challenging, tense level. The boss, this time, is a faceless assassin who might as well not wear a mask since it’s blindingly obvious to anyone playing the game this far who it is.
One weird thing about this level, though, is the voice acting which, for the yakuzas, is reduced to like two phrases in Japanese which each guy repeats about a dozen times. Unless you’re speeding through the level like a beast, these two phrases will get pretty tiresome.
Things eventually get high-tech as you Die Hard your way through a modern office building packed to the brim with trigger-happy bad guys, automatic weapons around every corner and security guards ready to raise the alarm any second. Oh, and a scary helicopter just outside ready to pulverise you whenever you step near a big window.
It’s mostly tedious in that it’s a bit unclear where you’re meant to be going but, then again, that’s when you get to try out that sweet, sweet tranquilizer gun. Puncturing right butt cheeks left and… well, predominantly right.
There’s also a spacious, sniper-friendly level where you’re meant to take your time and take out as many bad guys as you can as smoothly as you can, without getting shot by an unseen assailant if possible. It’s not an easy one and it doesn’t fly by like the early levels but it’s a fair challenge which should please the more patient, blood-thirsty gamers.
The game definitely steps things up a notch during and after this level.
The obligatory water level follows and initially I loved it since it involves driving an Aston Martin underwater shooting torpedoes at subs and avoiding moving mines. That was until I realised that the whole thing needs to be completed in one go. Not that this is impossible or anything but it would have been nice to know that the game was changing its own rules in terms of what happens when you make a mistake before playing through this level nonchalantly!
That’s water levels for ya.
From then on, the game doesn’t exactly play nice and hardly gives you any presents so you’ll need to stay focused. Soon enough, that first boss with the cable car and the bazooka will look like child’s play, small potatoes.
Bond gets to drive an armoured jeep through the jungle, fly a plane while shooting at other planes circling you and shoot arrows with a crossbow in some kind of claustrophobic top secret bunker. Plot-wise, as it turns out, a Bond girl dies and there I was thinking this was a ballsy move from the game, to have a main character perish just like that. Until I remembered that a Bond girl dies in basically every Bond movie only to be forgotten completely by 007 by the end of the film so it’s not so much “ballsy” as it is status quo in that world, I guess.
Also, Bond is double-crossed by someone, something which also always happens.
He does get his own back on them, of course.
Burned to death by a launching rocket.
Hey, that’s how I wanna go!
And if you haven’t guessed already: yes, Nightfire finally goes all Moonraker and sends MI6’s top agent into space because he totally knows how all that stuff works up there. I suppose after a few too many shaken (not stirred) martinis, I would probably claim to be able to fly a rocket into a space station too.
But anyway, this final level is hell.
And Drake is the Devil. I mean, look at him looking so proud of himself looking silly in his silly little spacesuit.
Ok, so he looks like he’s falling asleep but that’s just the early 2000’s graphics, really he’s smiling enjoying every minute of the torture he’s putting me through.
I hated this final level back on the X-Box and I still hate it on the PS2: it’s cruel and long and… mean.
Not only does Drake talk to you about his evil plan THE ENTIRE TIME but there you are floating in space, constantly having to readjust your gravity, struggling to not destroy whatever ground there is while attempting to shoot at countless tiny circles at the bottom of countless missiles the entire time going back and shooting blue laser beams at floating bad guys you need to zoom into in order to see them properly.
Of course, on top of that, time is ticking and if you miss one missile you have to start all over again. Oh, and you need to avoid getting shot and kill off Drake right at the end. I mean, at least it’s the last level but I would have far preferred a build up to something this stressful. At least let me get used to the space suit and that stupid gun before you send me out to die in the cold, heartless vacuum of space!
Anyway that’s Nightfire and I’m happy to say that it still holds up pretty well, even if it gets frustrating here and there. It looks good, there’s a clear concept that’s well put together, the story’s engaging, the driving levels are fab and the multiplayer is a riot and is packed with familiar faces which should make any Bond fan squee.
It’s a good Bond game with decent replay value and, though it’s probably not the best out there, it’s still a worthy effort that’s well worth trying out on either console. Actually, strike that, just play the PS2 version: those X-Box controllers were clearly not made for human hands.
You seen the size of these things?!
Man, this review’s so long I put 007 himself to sleep.
See what happens when you get me started on James Bond things, 1MoreCastle?
*shoots at 1MoreCastle’s left butt cheek*
Poo, I missed!