STAFF REVIEW of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (Xbox)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004.
by RichVGS

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent Box art Anyone who knows me knows that my two favorite things in the world are movies and video games. When I was a young kid growing up, I recall going to a number of movies with my parents, but one memory that stands out was one of the first films I went to with just my father. It was ?The Living Daylights,? the first James Bond film featuring Timothy Dalton in the role of Agent 007. Sitting in that theater I thought that Timothy Dalton was one of the coolest people ever. A couple of nights later, my dad called me into the living room and told me to sit down on the couch and watch ?Thunderball? starring Sean Connery as Bond. It was truly a great cinematic moment in my life. For the weeks following, I would beg and plead with my parents to take me to the video store so I could rent all the James Bond films. Years later I?m still the hardcore James Bond fan that sat in that dark theater almost seventeen years ago. As I type this in my basement, I look on the walls and see the posters for ?From Russia with Love,? ?Goldfinger? and ?Die Another Day? systematically placed around my shelf of DVDs, which of course features every James Bond film. So it goes without saying that every time a James Bond game gets released, I?m usually first in line to get a copy. So after all the hype and positive reviews, I couldn?t help but get big time geeked up for Goldeneye: Rogue Agent from EA.

Before we go any further, allow me to explain some things to those who have not gotten a chance check out Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. First, the lead character is not James Bond. You will take the role of a former MI6 agent who has been deemed to reckless and dangerous for active duty. Second, this is not a sequel to the Goldeneye game on the Nintendo 64. The N64 game was put out by Rare and retains the rights to the Goldeneye movie video game franchise. EA named there latest take on James Bond video games Goldeneye: Rogue Agent partially because you were a former MI6 agent and you have a mechanical, gold colored eye that possess many interesting abilities that we will get into later. Finally, even though the game contains villains taken directly from various Bond films, the game has no direct connections to any film in the series. With that in mind, we may continue.

After being asked to leave MI6 and having your license to kill revoked?well?what is a disgraced agent to do? Not exactly McDonalds or K-Mart material. No way are you meant for the exciting world of charter accountancy. Where to go and how to make a buck? Oh, I have an idea. You could go work for the other side, and that?s exactly what you?ll do. It seems that he world of evil doers bent on world domination have split into two sides. One side is lead by the reclusive Dr. No and the other by greedy Goldfinger. While Goldfinger?s main focus is gold, he also has a thirst for world power and with all the money at his disposal, he has just purchased himself a disgruntled secret agent. In addition to a sweet pay day, one of his allies has just provided you with a new mechanical eye that has the ability to interfere with electricity, see through objects, some basic psychic powers and even create a shield to protect against small arms fire. In essence, your Goldeneye will make you even more unstoppable then even the great James Bond.

While you maybe a rogue agent, you certainly don?t have to work alone. One great thing about working for Goldfinger is the group of other evil thinkers that work along side of him. Such allies include Odd Job and Pussy Galore (both from the ?Goldfinger? film) but you?ll also run into other past Bond villains such as my personal favorite Francisco Scaramanga (?Man with the Golden Gun?) who is the only equal match in deadliness to James Bond himself. Even with all of this help, your best work is still done on your own. Most of the missions involve tracking down and almost capturing Dr. No or destroying some facility or weapon making No?s chances of advancing on the world less and less. You might be working for the bad guys, but the fact is that you do a bit more world saving then you might believe. Of course being bad has some advantages. Taking hostages and using them as human shields is one perk that you won?t find James Bond doing very often. Also, its much more fun running into a room and gunning down everything that moves as opposed to being cautious and worrying about whom you?re aiming your guns at. In the world of Dr. No versus Goldfinger, no one is innocent.

Fans of Halo 2 and the fun of duel wielding weapons will want to check out Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. Similar to Halo 2, there are some weapons that require you to use both hands in order to use. These include the sniper rifle, the scope machine gun and the rocket launcher. All other weapons are duel wielding. Your default weapon is a pistol and grenades, but you can equip any combination of small arms via had designation. Your left hand uses X to pick up a weapon and the left trigger to fire while the right hand uses B to take a gun and the right trigger to fire. Unlike previous Bond games, there is no weapons inventory system, meaning that the weapon you are holding is the weapon you are stuck with until either a better weapon comes along or you run out of ammo. One recommendation I can give to players is be conservative when using distance weapons like the sniper rifle and the scope machine gun because it is often better to use them to attack unsuspecting enemies from a distance then spend the ammo on up close and personal encounters. During the rooftop missions in Hong Kong where you have to zip line from building to building, it is better to use such weapons to take out enemies from a distance that have little to no chance of being able to return fire accurately.

One complaint I?ve had about all the previous James Bond game is that the A.I. has been a joke and the enemies usually can?t hit the broadside of a barn. While the bad guys here can make some stupid mistakes at times, they more often then not move around and try to put you in the middle of a crossfire and just destroy you in a matter of seconds. Don?t expect to see expert flanking maneuvers or stealth assassins coming out of the shadows. You can suspect that the enemies like to run and gun which makes aiming a real difficult task at times. You?ll also see villains run for better cover if they feel like they?re out gunned or too exposed. That?s a good strategy that you should consider taking a look at as well. The standard run in and shoot everything can too often get you killed. Instead find cover to duck behind, peak around and shoot in short, controlled bursts. These are not the typical jump out in front, shoot fifty rounds and only hit you once type drones. If you get into their sights, you will take some heavy damage. While Goldfinger may have the money to buy an expert like you, don?t underestimate the army that Dr. No has placed all around him.

The control scheme can be a bit tricky at times, especially when using your Goldeneye powers during battle. It is often better to get everything you will need ready before heading off into battle. More often then not the times when I need to change things around is being surrounded by bad guys and getting blasted to pieces in no time flat. While you may not plan it, there will be a whole bunch of times when you?ll get pinned down and bullets will come flying at you from all possible directions. One control element that often meant my demise during the game was using the Goldeneye powers. While they are a cool additional element, it often costs too much life to successfully use its powers. Frankly, I hardly ever used Goldeneye abilities during normal battle. It was cool to use such abilities in games like Psi-Ops and Second Sight, but those powers were much easier to use in those games. Again, it?s was cool to add on the powers of the Goldeneye, but most players will probably find them to difficult to use and will almost never draw from them.

Graphically speaking, like the James Bond films, you will visit some amazing looking parts of the world. The rooftops of Hong Kong, the large-scale vaults of Fort Knox, a super underwater facility or the development labs of Dr. No are amazingly detailed. The detail of character design is hit and miss with Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. Characters like Goldfinger, Dr. No, Pussy Galore and the others from the Bond films look unbelievable and so lifelike. You can tell that EA really focused on making the recognizable characters absolutely breath-taking (okay, so Pussy Galore may not look as good as Honor Blackwell did back in the ?60s, but she?s still pretty impressive). Unfortunately, when developers focus so much on particulars, often times other elements get overlooked. In this case, the drone soldiers consist of a handful of character designs that are just copied over and over again. This wouldn?t have been so bad if the drones were all dressed as soldiers, but half of the drones look like cast members of the old Double Dragon game from the NES days, just grown up. Either that or Dr. No is in the business of hiring a bunch of grown up punks who all look exactly the same.

Sounds like a real basic video game soundtrack with some stand out voice performances from the actors of the film series. The music is standard score sounding for the Bond games, which is composed by the same music supervisors as the films themselves. Action of the scene usually drowns out and makes the music unnoticeable and therefore often overlooked. It does serve to heighten the action, but having fifteen drones shooting at you can often do enough heightening without any kind of assistance. Sound effects are the basic issue ones that you hear in most first person shooters. Lots of loud explosions and gunfire blasted through a good surround sound system will have your neighbors calling the cops (either reporting shots fired or noise disturbances). It would seem that the sound people focused heavily on getting as many actors from the James Bond films to voice their video game counter-parts. The cast includes Christopher Lee (Scaramanga), Judi Dench (M) and Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp) reprising their roles that made them famous in the Bond world. While the game is missing James Bond, the mass of characters just more then make up for it.

So what?s not so good about Goldeneye: Rogue Agent? The Goldeneye powers are a bit difficult to use at times and almost feel pointless and not worth the trouble. Drone soldiers either needed to have more variety (differences in character design) or less (make them all uniformed soldiers) depending on how you look at it. Third, when you really break it down, this is just another first person shooter, just based around the James Bond film series. While it?s cool to finally play a James Bond game on Live, if you didn?t tell someone what game it was, it could be mistaken for many previously released FPS games. But the most frustrating thing about Goldeneye is that health system. Taking a direct copy from the Halo series, your health will automatically replenish if you stay out of the line of fire for long enough. While this cuts down on the need to constantly search for med packs, it seems to make no sense why your health would just refill over and over again. The health refill was a part of your special armor in Halo, which explained the ability to live through almost anything. There is absolutely no explanation how you keep regenerating continuously. Some players might like this, but I found it just annoying and confusing. Is it part of the Goldeneye?s power or what?

Overall, fans of James Bond might be happy to see the game go back to its N64 roots in game design and control, but don?t expect a direct sequel. This feels almost like a tribute game to some of the great Bond villains from the film series. Who would win in a battle between Dr. No and Goldfinger? Finally all the bets and debates can be settled (all three of them). Environments, character design and voice acting are the big three standouts of the game, but at the core it is still just another first person shooter. The Live and multiplayer experience offer nothing too terribly new, but the single player campaign is more challenging then most with some decent A.I. and targeting ability. Of course, for hardcore James Bond fans like myself, this is a most own. While it?s not revolutionary in the overall world of video games, this is the best James Bond game to hit consoles since Goldeneye on the N64 and the best Bond game that has a totally original story line. Forget about having your drink shaken, not stirred. In Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, you just fist the entire bottle of vodka and slam that sucker like a real man. Time to blow a hole in the world, Bond villain style.

From the Inside, Keep on Gaming!

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.6 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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