Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PS2, Xbox, GameCube, Windows, Game Boy Advance, mac OS
Release dates: 18 November 2002 - 21 June 2004
Were you to ask the fan base for the GOAT of James Bond games, most will say Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64. Some with questionable tastes might say Bloodstone or 007 Legends. But a not insignificant number will point to this little talked about solid gem in the James Bond gaming arsenal: James Bond 007 Nightfire.
Strangely what I hope is a positive review of the only worthwhile thing 007 did in 2002 (come at me Die Another Day, you potential franchise killer). Instead of a generic face blending the then five official Bond actors, we have an exact recreation of my personal favourite to don the tux and Walther, Pierce Brosnan. This is very likely because he was the Bond of the day and to somewhat capitalise upon the impact which Die Another Day was having. Personally, I want to believe it was entirely due to the top brass at Electronic Arts making sure that I’d save my pocket money for months to get the game.
Oddly enough, for whatever reason Mr. Brosnan’s face is on Bond, but his voice is not from Pierce’s mouth. I can never find out exactly why this is the case. Thankfully it would be rectified in future games of the series such as Everything or Nothing (and well, that is possibly the only one) but it causes quite the disconnect with the character of Bond. Thankfully, the only times Bond appears in third person view is in cut scenes. Still, it is uncanny to see Pierce Brosnan’s face with someone else’s distinctly different voice emanating from it. Any resulting problems are thankfully, quite minimised by the above-mentioned limit on showing the face of the Brosser but still. It gives the effect of watching a very untalented friend try to take on ‘Free Bird’ at a pub’s karaoke night.
As a massive fan of the 007 franchise itself, though as I said, I was disappointed that Pierce Brosnan does not maintain his voice, instead we get Maxwell Caufield’s dulcet tones, it makes up for this. It is not only by sort of paring down times when Canfield speaks and times we are exposed to his voice emanating from Brosnan’s mouth, but by also trying little things to expand the James Bond universe (or at least, the portion which Electronic Arts curated).
Apart from very isolated examples which are so well hidden, they can be missed by ardent 007 fans, the movie franchise very rarely references its own past. Nightfire sees this and says ‘Hold my Martini (Shaken, not stirred). At the start of the game, you are accompanied by CIA Agent Zoe Nightshade from the previous (and first in the EA chronology) Agent Under Fire. This is undermined somewhat by the character playing absolutely no role after the Castle mission of the campaign and having no exit, so it is nearly pointless to include her. However, it is a very nice touch and frankly something EA should be praised for.
There are also references to the series going back decades. The Aston Martin V12 Vanquish transforms into a submarine. The then current Bond car has the same gimmick as the Lotus Esprit from 1977’s classic The Spy Who Loved Me. The vessel it explores is not called the Liparus as the super tanker in that film is but gives a strong resemblance. These are all very welcome additions, but another is that the focus of levels does vary quite often.
The game opens with an on rails shooter, something it does come back to. Driving next. Then heavy stealth and your tried-and-true run and gun sequences (the ninja in the Japan levels in pure nightmare fuel). This means the levels never out - stay their welcome and though the game itself isn’t particularly long (8 - 10 hour single player length. On maximum difficulty at best) but it hides this somewhat, hiding the negative and accentuating the positives.
Adding to the feeling that while this game is a (mostly) original story you are playing through, it is also a Bond film. This is helped by it having a title sequence with its own accompanying music (‘Nearly Civilised’ by Enya). While this sequence is a bit flawed and does not even include the people voicing Bond, M or Q, it is a nice inclusion and provides the basis for the title sequences of varying quality in future games.
One thing you may have noticed about this review is I am mainly talking about the console versions. The PC one does exist, but there are some substantive differences between that and the consoles. Honestly, the PC version has merit, however now choosing between the two is like choosing between a release version and a Game of the Year version. It deserved its lower scores across the board in comparison.
While not exactly in the rarefied atmosphere which it got in GoldenEye, the multiplayer here is an extremely solid offering. There are many varied multiplayer games available and for times when people to play with are thin on the ground, bots are available. The characters broadly represent the franchise well, although as these feature the likenesses of actual people, it is questionable at best if it is appropriate to run about gunning them down. Even if the Gondola is a fun moving toy.
Overall, James Bond 007: Nightfire is something of a forgotten second place to the legendary Goldeneye. Certainly, more so than Goldeneye’s remake and whatever GoldenEye Rogue Agent was. With a short but fun single player and a multiplayer that at times equals the legend that is the one from Goldeneye, which is a recipe for success. My main gripes would be it having the great disconnect that is Pierce Brosnan’s face with (the substantially cheaper) Maxwell Caufield’s voice. But these actors all give excellent performances.
An excellent and worthy addition to anyone’s gaming library and it is definitely worth your time, especially as the single player will not last too long, but the multiplayer will almost definitely take longer.
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