December 9, 2001
James Bond Agent Under Fire isn't based on any of the Bond movies, despite the uncanny familiarity of some of the levels and scenarios (such as driving the tank through a city). Electronic Arts have decided to develop an entirely new storyline for this game. As Bond, players must defeat the evil criminal mastermind Malprave, head of a terrorist organization that is bent on ruling the world with help from stolen clone technology. Helping Bond along the way is the gorgeous agent Zoe Nightshade and a cast of familiar characters including Q and M. Each of the levels is set in a different location around the world and each contain different missions and objectives. As a player you can either blast their way through each level using hi-tech weaponry, quietly rely on spy craft tricks and gadgets to accomplish objectives or do a little of both. Agent Under Fire is split up into three quite different game genres, all of which are quite impressive in their own right.
The missions themselves are pretty standard fare, and aren't anything that we haven't seen several years ago in many other FPS's. These missions include things like rescuing hostages (who are leaders from around the world), to sneaking into buildings (in Cold Reception mission), to defeating the bosses. It would have been nice to see a little more variety and a few more Bond type moments such as sliding along cables, and using objects within the levels etc. Another problem with the game in the FPS levels is that absolutely everything important in the game is pointed out to you with a little cut scene. Need an escape route? The game will show you an air vent. Not sure what to use an item for? The game will tell you when and where to use it. This totally removes any discovery or exploration required through the game, and doesn't just happen in the early levels, but even through the last mission.
Two of the missions in the game, Dangerous Pursuit and Streets of Bucharest, are pure driving levels. Both of these levels are very well presented with some great detail in the surrounding buildings and include many other cars on the roads as well, but no where near the number in Acclaim's recent Burnout. Both the Austin Martin DB5 and the BMW Zed 8 in Agent Under Fire are very responsive and, as in the movies, loaded with missiles and machine guns to take out the opponents.
The multi-player component of Agent Under Fire is quite possibly the games biggest strength. Although the frame rate drops to about 25fps (half of the single player game) the gameplay is superb. With almost 20 weapons, many power ups including cloaking and jetpacks and 10 characters to select from there certainly is plenty of variety. The levels design is also impressive, and the multi-player mode includes 5 different modes of play from Deathmatch, Protect the Flag, Golden Gun (where it's a one shot kill), Anti-Terrorist training and Top Agent. This variety is enough to keep yourself and three mates going for hours.
The biggest problem with Agent Under Fire is that it's just way too short. The single player game can be completed within 6-7 hours, although obtaining a gold medal in the levels may take a little more time. With only 12 missions, including a couple of driving levels and on rails moments it's a game that you may put down after one play. Fortunately you can go back and play levels. Another annoyance with Agent Under Fire is that the game doesn't make enough use of the items. The Q-Laser is only ever used to cut padlocks. Why couldn't it also be used in more inventive ways such as to blind the enemies, or cut through wire fences and glass etc. The Q-Claw which is used to latch onto distant walls is used on less then a dozen occasions, and even then the walls have an ugly white patch that it can latch on to.
Certainly the most impressive area of this game is the graphics. The opening intro is a little concerning with some aliasing and flickering problems, although it shows some great action from the game. Fortunately the in-game graphics are a lot more impressive with a very solid 50fps frame rate and some stunning levels to admire. The texturing is varied while the animation on the characters is adequate for a FPS. The explosions are among the best yet seen on the Playstation 2 while the lighting is also quite stunning.
James Bond: Agent Under Fire is a solid title let down by a lack of single player missions. The game has a wonderful graphics engine with now slowdown while the mission variety is superb, although it would have been great to see more variety in the enemies in each level. While the single player game is a little short, the multi-player levels and options more then make up for that deficiency. As a multi-player game it's among the best yet on Playstation 2. This is a very solid title that will keep Bond fans happy for some time. Definitely worth consideration.