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007: Agent Under Fire (Xbox)
Sprung from the popular pages of Ian Fleming's spy novels, Bond comes to the Xbox, gadgets and all.
By Andy Mahood | Apr. 17, 2002

The Lowdown: A shallow and rather mediocre James Bond-themed shooter that fails to deliver anything even close to Rare's seminal Goldeneye.
Pros: Exquisite graphics and sound; entertaining vehicular combat sequences; nifty gadgets; comprehensive multiplayer.
Cons: Thin solo gameplay depth; moronic enemy AI; awkward controller response; occasional framerate bottlenecks.

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Platform:  Xbox
Game Type:  FPS/Action
Developer:  Electronic Arts
Publisher:  Electronic Arts

Full Game Information
When you're sitting on one of the most valuable licenses in all of video gaming, involving one of the most popular literary and film icons of all time -- Ian Fleming's timeless James Bond -- it pays dividends to make sure that all of your bases are covered. Electronic Arts is doing exactly that by ensuring that the latest chapter in its 007 franchise is readily available to all gamers, whether their choice of "weapons" happens to be Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft.

Enter 007: Agent Under Fire for the Xbox, a direct port of a game that has already seen service on both the PS2 and GameCube. As with its cross-platform siblings, the Xbox version of Agent Under Fire offers up a twelve-mission single-player experience that pits our man Bond against legions of villainous thugs as he struggles to save us from yet another megalomaniacal criminal mastermind bent on world domination. The storyline -- manufactured purely for the game and not based on any of the film treatments -- does a capable job of sticking to the tried and true Bond formula, with a clear emphasis on gadgets, girls, and gunplay. Lots of gunplay!

As a first-person shooter, however, Agent Under Fire is mediocre at best. Comparisons with the Xbox's genre-defining FPS title Halo are quite unfair because the older Microsoft game is so dramatically superior in its AI quality, game mechanics, and replay value that any serious analogies quickly become an exercise in apples and oranges. Where Halo offered a deep and superbly well-paced single-player experience, Agent Under Fire relies more on flashy visuals and a famous, well-pedigreed hero to carry the day. While there's no question that assuming the persona of "Bond, James Bond" is utlra-cool, it's not enough to make up for abbreviated gameplay depth and moronic enemy AI.

There are three selectable skill levels when you begin any of the game's dozen missions -- Operative, Agent and 00 Agent -- with each providing different degrees of difficulty through variable weapons accuracy and AI lethality. The first two skill levels are so easy, however, that most FPS veterans will whip through all twelve missions in a single afternoon while the 00 Agent level appears to be reserved for diehard gamers who wish to maximize their points and unlock all of the game's bonus items and multiplayer maps. Points are awarded on speed, accuracy, ammo efficiency, and the successful execution of various "Bond moves" (such as shooting out tires and locating secret panels), and the unlockable extras that you can earn upon reaching preset benchmarks are about the only thing to keep you coming back for more once you're done playing through the meat of the game.

No self-respecting FPS game would be without a sniper mode.
With only twelve short chapters to work through (each only offering about ten to fifteen minutes of solid play value), Agent Under Fire becomes a "been there, done that" experience in very short order. Forget about seeing any of those sprawling, expansive Halo-style levels here. EA has mixed up the background scenery and mission goals for each chapter quite admirably, but it has failed to deliver the kind of gameplay depth that could have rescued Agent Under Fire from that ignominious "rent before you buy" category. This is a shame because the game's remarkably well-executed driving sections (where you engage in some intense, trigger-happy action from behind the controls of a tank, a rail car, and numerous Q-Branch enhanced vehicles) are about as satisfying as any gaming vehicular combat sequences ever get. Four of the game's twelve levels are devoted to this particular theme, and despite their brevity, each one earns full marks for its unadulterated entertainment value.

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