Confession time: I don't think Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 is all that great. It's a fine game, sure, but I've always felt that its spiritual sucessor Perfect Dark was better in basically every way. Besides, in 2002, we got the Eurocom-developed 007 Nightfire, another James Bond FPS that manages to hit all the highs Rare's beloved 1997 classic did - while still falling into the same trap of just making everything 'acceptable'.
Unlike Goldeneye 007, 007 Nightfire is a completely original James Bond story that manages to hit all the right notes while still standing on its own. Globe-spanning conspiracies? Check. An endless barrage of quips and one-liners? Check. Impossibly beautiful women? Well, for PlayStation 2 standards. The authentic Bond package is all neatly tied together by the game actually using the likeness of Pierce Brosnan, although he is voiced by a merely 'acceptable' impersonator rather than the real deal. Still, it's hard to care what he sounds like when he's still firing off the always-hilarious double entendres the suave spy is infamous for. ("Lower center of gravity?" Really James?)
In Nightfire, Bond is out to bust megalomaniac billionaire Raphael Drake, who plans to use a space-faring missiles platform to drastically shift the balance of power on the global stage for the sake of world domination. As far as stories go, it's no Casino Royale - but it's a decidedly Bond tale nonetheless, and gives the game an excuse to do some truly inconceivable globetrotting.
Bond's quest to topple Raphael will take you everywhere from Austria to Tokyo to even outer space itself in a not-so-subtle reference to Moonraker. Each level consists of rather labyrinthine industrial complexes that have multiple routes and seemingly pointless rooms to add to the immersion. In a way, the level design reminds me of Return to Castle Wolfenstein in all the best ways, even if navigation can occasionally be more than a little frustrating.
The actual combat itself is what you would expect from a first person shooter in 2002 - you have a wide variety of (mostly) real world weapons at your disposal, and have quite a bit of aim assist to make up for the lack of accuracy that comes with playing on a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse. The only real twist here comes in the form of Bond's many gadgets, which you can use to interact with the environment and access different parts of the map. A good example comes in the form of Bond's laser-equipped wristwatch straight out of Goldeneye, which can be used on structural weaknesses as well as the odd control panel here and there.
The only other major gameplay hook comes in the form of interacting with special locations such as ziplines, which will play a canned animation while the first few notes of the iconic Bond theme blare. While it's an interesting idea, the triumphant music feels unfitting when paired with watching the static Pierce Brosnan model do a mundane activity while you rack up damage.
While the on-foot portions of the singleplayer are certainly generic, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the game's vehicle sections are nothing short of a blast, allowing you to drive an assortment of vehicles around some genuinely impressive scenery and blowing up everything that gets in your way. Sadly, I was informed that these sections - along with a good chunk of on-foot missions - are actually absent from the PC port. So consider this one of the few shooters that's actually better on consoles.
Of course, much like Goldeneye 007, Nightfire isn't a game remembered for a particularly strong campaign. No, the real draw comes in the form of the split-screen multiplayer, which is basically just an updated version of the one found in Rare's N64 title with different maps and characters. While a chronic lack of friends made it hard for me to get many matches of this multiplayer in, what I did manage to try out was an absolute blast, and it doesn't take a vivid imagination to realize why Nightfire is so fondly remembered as a couch-gaming classic.
When you get down to it, 007 Nightfire is one of those titles that isn't a bad game, but it's not a great one either. It's a fine product, perfectly serviceable and fun with friends - but again, what isn't fun with friends? It ticks all the core boxes you need to make a good game, but never really pushes itself to go above and beyond into something any more than 'good'. One of these days, we'll get a great Bond game. But it looks like that day has still yet to come.
007 Nightfire was reviewed on PC via the PCSX2 emulator with a PlayStation 2 disc that was purchased by the reviewer. It is also available on Xbox, Gamecube, PC, and Mac.
The game was selected for review by a $50 patron via our Patreon campaign.
A perfectly acceptable console shooter that, while certainly enjoyable and functional enough, doesn't do much that spectacular.
- Enjoyable Multiplayer
- Captures the Bond 'Feel'
- Confusing Level Design
- Dull Combat