Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Black Ops
# of Players: 4
N Amer - 10/20/2000
The World Is Not Enough Review
In an effort to streamline this review, I have chosen to do a word-association sequence. I believe this will provide not only a quick run-down of what you can expect, but also a glimpse at what impression the title leaves with someone who lives for video games.
The words used to elicit a response have been selected by a highly qualified, hand-picked panel consisting of my girlfriend, her mother, a slightly used Hewlett-Packard electronic dictionary with anagram functions and two cats. Mostly, the cats just walked around on printouts of the possible choices and whichever ones were still discernible, we kept. My responses will often be more detailed than the single word typically sought, but that’s due largely to the fact that we are playing my game.
Summer: Not when Christmas is celebrated.
Culture: Very few. The grand extent of the different cultures encountered by the amazing Bond appears to be a large group of greedy, poorly spoken eurotrash.
Selection: Many weapons.
Travel: All over.
Hate: The sad, random AI.
Dismay: At the sad randomness of the AI.
Heat: Something you would like to celebrate with Christmas.
Scary: That developers still want me to believe I could be shot in the face repeatedly while standing directly in front of my friends, but none of them would blink an eye as long we were guarding stolen Nuclear submarines or the occasional hostage.
Enjoy: Sniping. And large guns requiring only one shot for maximum effect.
Friend: Anyone willing to let you mop the multiplayer maps with their dignity and self-respect.
Litter: Obviously we got a little too excited about the panel including cats.
Love: Many sniper weapons.
Disgust: Waiting to reload when all you wanted to do was change your *&#n weapon.
That all seems pretty clear, right? For those readers who want yet more information, of a nature distinguished by it’s detail and specifics, I would suggest going out, buying the game and playing it yourself. However, since I get paid the big bucks to give you the straight dope, I can’t really make that suggestion and call it a review. How unfortunate for me. I also can’t use a pathetic re-enactment of an even more pathetic psychology technique as a review. How unfortunate for you.
Let’s talk about pretty pictures then. For the N64, The World Is Not Enough (TWINE) does very nicely. However, most of us have probably at least seen a hardware accelerated image somewhere in the past, oh I don’t know, four years that leaves us wanting a little more. I do give EA/Eurocom some credit for the fogging technique they use during explosions. I don’t know if it’s because so many polygons get tossed around at once that the higher resolution isn’t sustainable at a decent framerate, or that they wanted to give the impression of dust filling the air, but I like it either way.
On the other hand, I do not like the animations. Sadly, Super Mario64 is still undefeated in the ‘Moves About Like He May Possibly Possess Cartilage’ category, so you’ll just have to pretend you aren’t bothered by motion-captured mannequins in your N64 games. It’s been nearly five years that we’ve had to suffer through this, so I’m sure everyone’s adjusted by now. Other than that and the horrific, nay... heart-stopping drop in framerate during the submarine level, you’ll probably like what you see.
Control is also on my Happy Happy Joy Joy list, which generally contains only Star Wars movies and Batman toys, making it exclusive, to say the least. This inclusion has been achieved through EA/Eurocom’s ability to swallow, and possibly even digest the fact that Rare created a nearly perfect set of control schemes with Goldeneye. Therefore, in a surprisingly move for a company backed by the arrogance and influence of Electronic Arts, they did not try to force on us some arcane, ninja finger-magic, tendon-rending setups just to prove that they too can make super fun game long time. This satisfaction with developer pragmatism lasted right up until I tried playing the ‘00 agent’ difficulty, wherein I discovered that a glass of castor oil with a pepper spray chaser is not only incredibly painful, but also a welcome alternative to actually playing TWINE without an auto-aim feature.
Now, you can remove the auto-aim from either of the first two difficulty levels, should you choose to start down the dark path, but the hardest setting prohibits it’s use entirely. I won’t bore you with the details, but I stand firm in my belief that the mouse (whether you be a trackball disciple like myself or otherwise) has yet to be proven an inferior method of control for the first-person shooter (FPS). The N64 gamepad does an admirable job of providing you with easy access to many of the functions, but once you have to actually track your weapon reticle (unassisted by the auto-aim) across three hostiles while walking sideways, the limitations become painful in a way I can only describe as spiteful and vindictive.
And since I’m already on about things that displease me, I’d like to take this opportunity to mention the Artificial Intelligence (AI). I understand that there is only so much that can be done on the aging (yet still shapely) Nintendo64 system, and that even the best examples of AI found elsewhere are still struggling mightily to fool monkeys into pressing pretty buttons. This does not twist my undergarments into a bunch, as it were. Rather, my complaint takes a forgiving step past the crude reactionary algorithms TWINE displays to plant it’s foot squarely on their vexatious inconsistency. On one level, if I stun a guard with my wristwatch taser and then mercilessly beat his senseless body with my fists, it will draw every person on the map carrying a gun to my location, but the gentleman guarding the millions of dollars of naval equipment will casually stroll past a compatriot writhing in agony on the floor from a long-range sniper shot to the cranium.
"Nice day Bob!"
"What’s that? Oh yes, I did get a haircut, can you really notice?"
"Say, have you seen how shiny my new machine gun is?"
There are many more examples of this, but what it all boils down to is the fact that I was initially really impressed with how aware the enemies seemed to be of their surroundings, but the acute sense of disappointment settled in right about the time a guard hiding behind a crate came running at me in a homicidal rage while reloading his weapon. This seesawing of quality tends to make the high points look really cheap and showy. Sort of like a teenage pop star, but without the leather pants.
The final AI fiasco occurs in the multiplayer scenarios. Perhaps Perfect Dark spoiled us all with it’s vast array of bot styles, or maybe the proliferation of multiplayer games over the net has raised the bar in general for what we expect of our opponents in deathmatch scenarios, but when I chase a guy down a hall and relentlessly unload an AK-47 clip into the small of his back, I tend to expect a reaction. Call me silly.
Of course, I do have to extend a warm ‘thank you’ to the developers for making me laugh out loud as I watched the AI bots implement circle-strafing, but only when they were reloading. (For those unfamiliar, circle-strafing is the classic FPS technique of moving in a circle while firing your weapons at an object/enemy in the center to make yourself a more difficult target.) The rest of the time, they just took the shortest distance between two points, one of which was someplace that did not contain a special weapon, the other being the lethal and highly active muzzle of my weapon.
But guess what? TWINE is still a great game. Despite these flaws and shortcomings, it is still one of the most addictive N64 titles I have ever played, and that speaks volumes. To me anyway. You may just have to trust me.
The lengthy missions with constantly unfolding objectives, as well as the thrill of taking down some rather accurate gunfighters with barely an ounce of life left are experiences I am grateful to have participated in. The game has just enough story to give the gameplay purpose without bogging you down in unforgivingly rigid methods of progression (with one exception; the end of the nuclear missile level). Not that TWINE is as open-ended as, say, Dues Ex, but it does a decent job.
And while I criticize the often witless AI in the multiplayer mode, the truth is, I spent more time in there than is probably healthy for my personal relationships...such as they are. The options available for teamplay are, on occasion, almost intimidating, and unlocking the stream of bonuses through the main game can consume many hours of your life if you take that whole ‘completion’ thing seriously. I was happy to settle for a few extra wardrobe options and multiplayer games like Team King of the Hill. But then, I never got all the Burger King Star Wars glasses either, and it’s been 20 years. You may not be so complacent.
So what can I tell you? I hate that it automatically reloads your weapon, wasting valuable time in a firefight when you could more easily just switch to another gun. I absolutely love using the bolt-action sniper rifle on the mountain airport level to drop nasties from 150 yards out. I don’t care much for guys with rocket launchers and a never-ending supply of ammo, but I like using X-ray goggles to line up a head shot before I open a door.
Essentially, this is a game that you get what you want to take from it. If you feel the need to let some questionable AI and odd auto-aim inaccuracies stand between you and a good time, then they will. But if you’re able to overlook or exploit some of the imperfections as necessary, then you are going to have a good time with this Bond game. In fact, you’ll have one of the best times on the system, if I may be so bold. And I just may.
Just put it in. However, there were some annoying load times after you die, which are made even more excruciating once you discover that restarting a level is a nearly instantaneous reload. This means that the memory is wiped to display the ‘failure recap’ screen, which is something you didn’t want to look at in the first place. An option to restart after dying would have been nice.
Very nice unless you stop using the auto-aim. Never do this if you plan on enjoying the game. Otherwise, the response is good and the controls are acceptable, though the scheme I chose (making the yellow ‘C’ buttons the forward, back, left and right commands) placed the jump command on the D-pad, which was slightly less ridiculous than the look on my face when I realized I had no other choice. Yes, I know I said the control was great earlier, and it still is, since I only had to jump about six times in the entire game.
Very nice, high-res gameplay if you have the expansion pack. If you don’t, I have no idea what TWINE looks like, because I am deathly afraid to play any game without this device when the game makes specific use of it. Sort of like not turning off your grandmother’s oxygen because you really don’t need or want to see the exact shade of blue she turns.
Well, it seems they use the compression technology Factor 5 (Rogue Squadron) pioneered, which allows for some decent voice samples and only slightly synthesized tunes, but it’s still not Dolby Digital we’re dealing with here people. The sound effects are nice, but I would have liked some more impressive samples for a few of the rifles. If you’ve ever seen The Long Kiss Goodnight, (though I can’t imagine why you would have) the M-16 looking weapon Geena Davis wields toward the end makes the perfect sound.
This is completely up to you. If you want to try and unlock the time-based secrets, you’re in for a massive challenge. Otherwise, if you take your time and play methodically, it’s a little difficult, but rewarding. Watch out for City of Walkways on any setting.
Not only has it been done before, they practically stole the design docs from Rare. And it’s not as though first-person shooters are an uncommon breed these days.
This is what will make this game incredibly popular six months from now. N64’s will be at rock-bottom prices, and TWINE will likely be on the lower-priced, million-seller list, so all the people who have finally gotten sick of playing Goldeneye’s multiplayer will flock to this for a revitalization of their obviously unhealthy obsession. More power to ‘em.
I’m very glad I had the opportunity to play this game. I would likely have passed it up on my own, since I have little respect for EA after the travesty that was their last attempt at a Bond game, but they did the right thing with this one. They borrowed heavily from Rare’s golden child and as we all discovered in school, copying someone else’s homework usually works out well.
Now that’s she’s polygonal, Denise’s acting doesn’t seem so stiff…
Review Date: 02/19/2001