James Bond 007: Nightfire

No deal, Mr. Bond.

Snap275_1Don’t let the James Bond license fool you into thinking Nightfire is a classy stealth game. It’s not, nor is it a very interesting shooter. For whatever it’s worth you do play as James Bond, Britain’s MI6 playboy superspy. James is sophisticated, suave and resourceful – or at least that’s how we remember him from the movies, since he’s none of these things in Nightfire. Here you play as a gun valet, a stunt double who shoots ridiculously unintelligent (even for a Bond game) enemies in uninteresting levels rife with buggy AI and a forgettable story stringing it all together.

Before starting your first mission, you’re treated to a very cool intro sequence. It’s a promising start that will have you expect a memorable cinematic adventure, but in actuality the nine missions are a clichéd collection of shooter romps. True, these are the clichés we’ve come to expect – guns, girls, even some gadgets – but they’re presented with a half-hearted yawn. Comparisons with No One Lives Forever are unavoidable, but the truth is that game pulled off this kind of spy gameplay with much more class.

The head of Britain’s secret service, M (obviously not voiced by Dame Judi Dench), has entreated you to investigate Rafael Drake, a slick industrialist and utterly forgettable evil super-genius who heads the Phoenix International Corporation. He’s acquired some nuclear missiles, but you’ll probably never really care. Nightfire isn’t big on coherent storytelling. What I do know is that you have to stop him by attending a fancy dress party, infiltrate his secret underwater lair, and predictably blast off into outer space for a final end-all battle.

Snap276_1You wield a variety of gadgets throughout the game, such as pen-darts, a laser-watch, and very cool X-ray specs. Including his trusty Wolfram P2K pistol (with optional silencer), Bond can carry up to four firearms at one time — machine guns, sniper rifles, missile launchers, and a massive shoulder cannon among them. You can also load up on frag and flashbang grenades, tripmines, and body armor. You’ll find the latter lying on desks or in stairwells, and sometimes inside padlocked chests and lockers that can be broken into using your laser watch.

Objectives are relayed to you by M or by lovely allies like the alluring Alura McCall and secret agent Zoe Nightshade, a holdover from Agent Under Fire, a console game that never made its way to the PC. Unfortunately, these goals — blowing up a computer, setting charges on the base of a bridge, and so on — seem pretty straightforward and arbitrary. You have a license to kill, but little license to exercise creative problem-solving as you would in NOLF or Splinter Cell..

S3_1o what is there to like about Nightfire? Well, if it was a movie, the set design would win an Oscar. Missions take place in a variety of minutely detailed environments, from a countryside paper-walled Japanese estate to cluttered rocket-ship hangars to Drake’s opulent chandeliered inner sanctum. A few sequences showed promise, such as one part where you’re trapped inside a dangling elevator and have to snipe enemies before they can shoot through the cable that’s holding you up. A few levels do offer some passable stealth, and the game can be fun.

The appeal of a James Bond game, Bond being Bond, is in the rendered cinematics: trading double-entendres with the ladies, parachuting out of danger, and driving your Q-rigged Aston Martin. Unfortunately, a driving mode was jettisoned from Nightfire’s PC version. What’s left – a half-hearted shooter peppered with cosmetic spy gadgetry and questionable AI – can’t begin to help this game.

System Requirements: Pentium 700 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 675 MB HDD, Win98

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