November 18, 2002 - It's pretty amazing when you think about it. Developer Rare's GoldenEye came out for Nintendo 64 in 1997 and in the five years since, on more powerful next-generation consoles, competing software houses have still been unable to make a significantly better Bond first-person shooter. Look at publisher Electronic Arts' track record, though, and you'll know that it's not for lack of trying. The company has released several 007 follow-ups, a few of them noteworthy, but none of them good enough to officially dethrone Nintendo's gargantuan success of old.
There's good news though. Eurocom Entertainment, working closely with EA's Need for Speed racing team, has delivered what is easily the best 007 offering in years. James Bond 007: NightFire is spilling with the spy license, from the perfectly realized digital likeness of Pierce Brosnan as Bond to the huge wealth of varied weapons and undeniably secret-agent-worthy locales. It's also got a spot on control, a strong selection of different play styles, from first-person shooter areas to driving levels and more. And yet, it's not perfect, and it's not quite ready to take down GoldenEye. Keep reading to find out why.
NightFire, unlike Eurocom's other big project for the year, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is not based on any particular book or movie. Rather, it takes inspiration from several of the best 007 moments across the years. In the completely original storyline, the super-spy finds himself on the trail of a corrupt businessman who's hatched a plan to use a secret weapon to destroy the world. Bond's quest to stop the terrorist before he can do any harm takes him across the world through a variety of first-person shooter and driving levels, deep into the ocean, and soaring into space. You'll recognize elements from past movies, including one or two familiar faces. The truth is that with so many great locales and scenarios to fully explore, we don't care that this game has nothing to die with the latest Bond movie Die Another Day. As in with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Eurocom has done a commendable job of capitalizing on the license. Everything about the game, from the slick opening video to the FMV cut-scenes and selection of gadgets and guns, screams Bond cool, and there's so much to see and choose from that NightFire is easily the best realization of 007's world yet.
Gameplay is split up into two three categories: first-person shooter areas, which make up most of the title, driving levels, and a couple on-rails stages. The shooting stages are significantly better than the racing and on-rails ones, in our experience, but none of them are poor. Eurocom has done a fine job of balancing action with stealth elements in most of these levels. In the second stage, for instance, Bond must infiltrate a castle located deep in the snowy mountains, and it's up to you to figure out a method to do this, of which there are two: you can simply run directly ahead with guns blazing and take your chances or you can go a sneakier route around the castle and slip in unnoticed. In later levels, you'll have to devise ways to successfully take out a series of rooftop snipers, to unlock several security systems, to make it to the skyscraper without harming a single innocent guard, and more. It's all good fun, particularly the sniping bouts, and it's broken up brilliantly by objectives that have Bond opting for all sorts of handy gadgets, including his laser, grapple, stunner, micro-camera, night-vision and heat-vision glasses, and more. It's easy to see some of the inspirations in the weapon choices, too, which include everything from a briefcase sentry gun to a weapon that enables you to shoot missiles and them guide them with a camera. Very well done. Were NightFire strictly a FPS, it would definitely be one of GameCube's better ones.
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ESRB Content Descriptors: Animated Violence, Realistic Violence
Features: 16:9 Support, 480p Support, Dolby Pro Logic II, Memory Card