By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
Electronic Arts� "Agent Under Fire" is exactly what a James Bond video game should be � slick, sexy and jam-packed with action � but this adventure is short with limited playability over time, except perhaps for its multiplayer modes.
The game begins with the roar of the MGM lion, a familiar Bond film-style introductory movie and the instrumental theme song that accompanies every 007 film. Without giving away too much of the story line and its plot twists, the missions revolve around Bond as he tries to stop Malprave, a criminal mastermind who is planning to take over the world with cloning technology. The first few levels involve attempts to retrieve Malprave�s briefcase with the cloning plans and blood samples.
On foot, in vehicle
Primarily, "Agent Under Fire" is played on foot, and from a first-person perspective, but a few of the missions require the player to drive vehicles. On one of the most visually appealing levels, players must race through the streets of Hong Kong � first as a passenger armed with weapons to destroy helicopters, barricades and enemy cars � and then drive a BMW Z8 to stop � but not destroy � a van with secret weapons inside.
Naturally, there are all kinds of weapons to use throughout the game, ranging from pistols, sniper rifles, dart guns, grenades and missiles, and some of the missions will call for blazing guns while others require more stealth (Bond�s style, of course). Plus, there are a handful of cool gadgets right out of Q�s lab such as a laser to burn through locks and a claw to scale buildings.
Despite the weapons, vehicles and high-tech gizmos, the single-player game play is disappointing because it�s too easy and quite short. Experienced gamers should be able to finish the first five of 12 missions at medium difficulty in less than an hour. Fortunately, the action gets a bit tougher later in the game, but it�s still an eight-hour title at best. Also, the enemies aren�t the smartest, so it�s easy to pluck them off and continue on with the mission objectives.
Graphically, "Agent Under Fire" looks great and its visuals easily are the game�s greatest asset. The player models are highly detailed, especially the key female characters such as Zoe Nightshade. Plus, the indoor and outdoor environments are gorgeous, be it an underwater oil rig, a city street or a large house.
The level design, on the other hand, is somewhat linear and predictable for the most part, especially compared to the more imaginable and interactive levels found in similar 3-D shooters such as "Red Faction", "Half-Life" and "No One Lives Forever".
The multiplayer options are fun, supporting up to four players with the addition of a PlayStation 2 multi-tap peripheral. There are four game modes such as "death match" and "capture the flag," plus many characters and weapons from which to choose. The split-screen visuals that are part of the multiplayer mode proved to be a welcome addition to the otherwise short game play of the single-player game. Multiplayer video frame rates remained relatively smooth, maxing out at about 30 frames per second, though they can be up to twice as fast in singe-player mode.
To wrap up, "Agent Under Fire" is a good � but not great � game that could be better with more depth and challenging game play. The game is certainly a fun and polished joyride while it lasts, but players will undoubtedly stick to the multiplayer modes rather than run through the solo adventure a second time.