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Everybody knows GoldenEye revolutionized console first-person shooters, especially in terms of multiplayer. But it’s a great game in general and it showed that not all games based on movies or novels have to suck. There’s been numerous 007 games over the years and while none have revolutionized a genre like GoldenEye did, many of them are enjoyable and worth playing. Developed and published by EA, Agent Under Fire was released for PlayStation 2 in November, 2001, and GameCube and Xbox in March, 2002. For this review, I played the Xbox version. From what I’ve researched, this originally started out as the PlayStation 2 and PC versions of The World is Not Enough but shit happened and the end result was Agent Under Fire.
As you would expect, you play as the iconic British secret agent and slick ladies man, James Bond. A CIA agent known as Nightshade is a mole in the Identicon Corporation based in Hong Kong. Her and Bond steal a case of vials which turn out to be blood samples of world leaders. Bond goes after a British diplomat whose blood sample was in one of the vials and his investigation eventually leads him to uncover a plot involving cloning. The story isn’t on the same level as any of the films and the voice acting isn’t horrible. The performances get the job done and there’s nothing here that does any of the established characters like Bond and M an injustice. However, the villains have an evil cartoon-quality about them. Unfortunately, the story is quite short and can be beaten in under five hours.
There’s three difficulty modes and the story plays out in missions which contain areas broken up by loading points. These loading points seem to double as checkpoints and when you die or fail an objective, you lose a life and can restart from the last checkpoint which may mean you have to replay through a lengthy area again. If you lose all of your lives, you die and must restart the entire mission. Most missions have you running and gunning in first-person but others have you driving or riding in vehicles. The vehicle missions break up the first-person action nicely and they’re actually more fun than I thought they would be. The ones where you ride in a vehicle are essentially rail missions where you just need to shoot back at enemies. The missions where you get to drive a vehicle have you driving a car equipped with dual machine guns through large open areas, while you’re pursued by enemies. You can basically drive anywhere you want and collect Q gadgets and weapons like rockets and missiles to combat enemies. I can’t say any of these driving missions are that difficult but they are fun and action-packed.
The gameplay in the first-person missions is what you would expect. You can run, jump, crouch, and the game utilizes an auto-aim system which can sometimes be a bit wonky but you can aim manually at any time. You’ll acquire weapons and ammo throughout the environments or pick them up from fallen enemies and body armor acts as health. You’re provided a briefing before each mission but you can bring up a list of your objectives at any time during gameplay. The controls may take some getting used to if you’re used to playing more modern shooters and luckily, there are multiple control presets you can choose from, one of which feels what I’ll call “modern”. You will be provided gadgets to use during missions that will help you progress and even help you in combat. The Q-Laser can cut through locks. You can use the Q-Remote to download information and then use it again to interact with something. The Q-Claw allows you grapple onto claw points found in the environments. The Q-Jet allows you to basically jump higher but does require fuel. There are other gadgets you can use but those are easily the most important. You’ll be contacted by M or R if you get stuck or need to do something specific to proceed which usually involves a gadget.
While the story may be short, there is a good amount of replay value thanks to the scoring system. You’re scored in each mission based on your performance and if you can reach the gold medal target score or higher, you’ll be rewarded with a Gold or Platinum medal which means you unlock something. You can unlock gold weapons, accuracy, and armor, and multiplayer maps, characters, and modifiers, among other things. After earning a gold medal in a mission, you unlock 007 Bonus Tokens which are scattered throughout the environment and collecting these on subsequent playthroughs allows you to rack up more points.
There’s a decent roster of weapons at your disposal in this game including pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, grenades, and there’s more in the multiplayer mode like a photon cannon, grenade launcher, and mines. If you’re out of ammo or have the opportunity to sneak up on an enemy, you can always use your fists. Enemies consist of your typical thugs and goons, and later levels contain automatic turrets. Some enemies can take more damage than others. They’ll shoot at you, throw grenades, fire rockets, take cover, and run around, but they’re not always intelligent. They’ll often run right out in the open or right towards you and they never seem to run from grenades. They also like to stand next to explosive barrels which are everywhere so you can easily save ammo by blowing them up and killing the nearby enemies in the process. The later missions are more challenging since they consist of more enemies and tougher enemy types in general but I can’t say there were any sequences that were brutally difficult.
Each mission offers a different set of objectives. You’ll be infiltrating areas, rescuing hostages, shooting down helicopters, and killing a ton of bad guys. My least favorite mission is the stealth mission where you can’t kill anyone. If enemies detect you they will run to an alarm and sound if off which you can disable. However, in this mission, if the alarm goes off, you fail. Luckily, besides the stealth mission, no other mission relies on a lot of trial and error to proceed unless you’re having a particularly difficult time taking down enemies. One thing I love about the 007 series is the exotic locations and Agent Under Fire will take you to Hong Kong, Romania, Switzerland, and the South China Sea. You’ll traverse through a secret underwater base, an embassy, research facility, oil rig, and other diverse locations. And many missions give you options on how you want to proceed which are usually tied to gadgets. Do you want to use the Q-Decryptor to get through the door or maybe use the Q-Claw to grapple onto the roof and sneak in through the ventilation shaft. While the environments are pretty straightforward, you’re often provided options like this which is pretty cool and encourages replay value.
I didn’t get a chance to play the multiplayer with other people but Agent Under Fire does allow you to play against bots. Multiplayer contains multiple game types including Combat Training which consists of deathmatch or team deathmatch as well as Escort. The other game types include Protect the Flag, Anti-Terrorist Training, and Top Agent. With bots, you can only play the deathmatch and Top Agent game types. However, I will say I was impressed with the amount of customization on offer in multiplayer. You can set up point limits, time limits, set the level of auto-aim, you can select from different presets of weapons or set up your own custom set, and you can also decide if you want powerups to spawn like health, shield, bionics, cloaking, power, and armor. You can configure different modifiers like low gravity, increase or decrease the speed, one shot, random weapons, persistent weapons, and more. You can select up to three bots, choose their characters, set their skill and aggression levels, and assign them to teams and the bots will perform well enough. They’re pretty good shots, they’ll go for weapons, armor, and powerups, and they’ll run and jump around the maps like crazy. There is a good selection of maps, most of which are pretty small and confined so you’re never far from any action. They vary in theme and are filled with items to collect like ammo, armor, and powerups, and knowing where items and weapons spawn will be a big help.
Visually, Agent Under Fire looks okay. I guess it looked pretty good for 2001. Some textures are a bit bland, others a bit blurry, but the diverse locations keep the game from becoming visually stale. The muzzle flashes and particle effects seen during firefights makes the combat feel somewhat intense but I do not like the bullet tracers. They’re bold, they’re noticeable, and they seem unnecessary considering the strong auto-aim in this game. I wish you could turn them off. Now there’s one element of the audio work I really enjoy and that’s the classic tune that plays whenever you accomplish something. The soundtrack is filled with tunes from the film series which is expected and the sound effects are really well done. The entire audiovisual presentation is impressive. You’ll hear bullets firing from everywhere, bad guys shouting, explosions will be booming, and it all appears very flashy which is really a good thing because nothing about the gunplay really stands out in terms of gameplay. On the technical side, I didn’t notice any bugs but the frame rate did drop frequently, usually when the screen was busy which happens often.
I definitely had fun with Agent Under Fire but there’s nothing truly incredible about the game. I think it just became less exciting over time. By today’s standards, it’s very generic but for 2001, this was probably pretty damn good. There are better shooters out there and in terms of 007 games, it has been surpassed by superior titles such as the sequel Nightfire which is often considered one of the best games in the series and Everything or Nothing. However, I really like the cinematic quality of the action in Agent Under Fire. The way the guns sound, the scripted enemy deaths, the explosions, bullets coming from everywhere, the 007 music, it’s all just very cool. But that’s about it. The gameplay is fun but doesn’t go above and beyond any of its contemporaries. If anything stands out about the game, it’s the vehicle sequences which can be a lot of fun, even if they are very short. It’s a shame the story mode is as short as it is because even with the scoring system and unlockable content, I still feel like the developers could have included more stuff which would have done the game wonders.
Ultimately, I would recommend Agent Under Fire to fans of first-person shooters, action games, and/or the 007 series. This is definitely a good 007 game but not a great one. As a first-person shooter, without the 007 coat of paint, there is nothing exceptional about this. It feels like the kind of game that would satisfy fans of the genre or series at the time but can easily be forgotten. There are some memorable sequences here and there, like some of the vehicle sequences, but the game as a whole feels a bit lacking. Still, while there are better shooters out there, there’s also a lot worse. If you’re a fan of 007, you owe it to yourself to check out Agent Under Fire.