Review: GoldenEye: Rogue Agent
Posted 16 Jan 2005 at 07:22 by Tom
I know what you're all thinking, and I can tell you that you are all wrong. This is not EA simply cashing in by remaking Rare's legendary 'GoldenEye'; this is EA cashing in on the GoldenEye name to sell a surprisingly good FPS based in the Bond universe. If you are a fan of the films then you will love this game. Whilst it, like 'Everything or Nothing' and 'Agent Under Fire', uses a new story line rather than one from a film, it has a variety of characters that we all know and love. And, to make things a bit different, you don't play as 007.
The game starts in the fantastic storming of Fort Knox sequence from Goldfinger. You are another 00 agent supporting bond in his mission. However, things take a turn for the worse and instead of being disarmed, the nuke blows, blinding you in one eye. M blames you for the failure of the mission and you are dismissed from M16. Rather then heading to the job centre or to drown your sorrows at the nearest bar you go to Goldfinger and work for him. He is engaged in the mighty struggle for power of the underworld against Dr. No and builds you a new eye, the GoldenEye, which has 4 powers which you gain as you progress through the game. This story line sees you visit a variety of locations that really feel as though they could have come straight from Ian Fleming's mind such as divulging underwater and exploring cavern and volcano bases. You also see some familiar faces, including Scaramanga and Pussy Galore. The story is spread over 8 levels, and is actually quite engrossing with some good twists.
Gameplay is fantastic. It reminds me of Halo in many ways, but in no way am I comparing it in the same league mind. Firstly, health recharges, like the shield. You also have body armour. The weapon system is also very reminiscent of Halo and very realistic. You have a right hand holster in which you always carry a basic handgun. On your left side you have a similar holster for grenades. However, there are a variety of 1 and 2 handed weapons that can be used in any combination. However, to change weapon you have to drop it, and then pick up another. It seems as though days of carrying a variety of different guns at once are finally over, in favour of a more realistic and infinitely more tactical system. You have to be very conscious of what you have in each hand, as when you run out of ammo you revert to the default (grenades or handgun) and you need to know which of the 2 you will want to use when you run out of ammo. In another delightfully Halo-esque turn, there is a melee attack which you can use to gradually beat your opponents to death with. Or…more entertainingly, to daze them and throw them over cliff edges.
The sheer variety of weapons available, particularly when combined with the limits on your arsenal, mean that there are a variety of tactics that can be employed. The one I found both most enjoyable and successful was to be very slow and steady, taking all cover and relying on sniping and grenades. In the later levels, the difficulty is significantly higher and a tactic like this has to be used or you will get nowhere. In many previous FPS games I have played, including GoldenEye, an all-guns-blazing tactic could be successfully employed throughout most of the game. Personally, I prefer the slower, more considered style of play, so Rogue Agent is about my favourite style of play for an FPS. However, I know that many people dislike this way of playing, so remember, you have been warned.
The GoldenEye adds even more to the game. There are 4 functions the eye can perform, MRI scan, mechanical interference, shield and magnetic pulse. You will use all of them a lot before the game is over. MRI scan simply enables you to see enemies through cover over a short range. It is relatively useless as there is only one gun that can shoot through cover. Mechanical interference can be very entertaining, for example there are often gangways that can be opened, or electrified. You can lure enemies onto them, and open them from long range. The shield is essential, and can be used for both defence and attack, as a melee attack whilst shielded is instantly fatal. Magnetic pulse is also good fun, and you can use it to throw guards around.
Personally, I only have a few major grumbles with the gameplay. The first is that there are some parts that are exceptionally hard. Not just kinda hard, but really 'hardest thing ever' hard. To make matters worse you generally re-spawn a long way further back, and often further back than necessary when you die. There are also several gameplay elements that are excessively repeated, a great example being shooting down helicopters. The instant you see a rocket launcher you know that soon you will have to faff around blowing up yet another helicopter. The final problem is the 'guidance' arrow. It couldn't be more useless if it was put there deliberately to mislead. It swings around your cross-hair, and theoretically shows you where to go. It doesn't, so just ignore it.
Graphically this game also excels. The levels are huge and nicely detailed. They aren't simply a series of rectangles, unlike so many before, but actually well designed buildings. They are full of set pieces, from the aforementioned gangways, to cranes with loads you can make drop on people. The environments are very interactive. One important thing to note though regarding archways, most but crucially not all archways or gaps can be fired through… even if they look big enough. Check first before you throw a grenade through, you could end up blowing yourself up. One area where the graphics are terrible though is the cut scenes. The video quality is terrible, full of blocks and jerky movement. There are also occasionally frame rate issues when sniping, especially if there is lots of dust in the air. Thankfully it's not too common.
The sounds are also good. There are shouted orders between guards and plenty of background noise too. It all makes it very atmospheric, especially when you can sense the fear in the guards voices when they see you coming and the confidence of the various bosses when they battle you.
It all falls down when you try to play multiplayer though. It starts off well enough, with 3 modes to try and lots of maps including lots you will recognise from the films. Somehow, when you are actually playing it though, it lacks the soul that games such as Timesplitters 2 has in bucket loads. It's perfectly playable, but lacks the polish of the rest of the game. Add to that the fact that the quality of graphics goes down rapidly as soon as you try adding more than 2 people to the fray. There are also no bots, which is disappointing, as there was clearly quite a lot of effort put into this game.
In summary, this is a very good game and should keep you going for a while. There are 4 difficultly levels of the main game, each providing more unlockables which cater to that and the levels are so huge that it can take several hours solid play to finish them off. There are a whole bunch of FPS's available so it's easy to be critical of the smallest things, in my opinion though, this is certainly one of the biggest gaming surprises I have had in a while which I would recommend taking a look at.
Since this review has been submitted I have received A LOT of feedback from people saying that I have over scored the game. Perhaps that is true, but what certainly is true is that this game is completely unlike EA's previous, very poor, contributions to the Bond franchise. Barring some of the more advanced weaponry, I found this game to have a much greater sense of reality to many other FPS games I have played. You have to be slow, patient and stealthy to survive. Reality is lethal. This isn't a game where the grunts have to empty 3 clips to kill you. Duck and cover is essential to survive. In GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Time Splitters 2 and many other legendary FPS games, fast reflexes and a good aim is all you need to progress as you are well armoured and your enemies can't take much punishment. To review this game I spent a lot of time playing other games. I wanted to get a clear idea in my mind of what a good FPS game was, the way you have to play them and weapons tactics that can be used. Rogue Agent stood up well against all of them. I admit it has a pretty average multiplayer, and at times it can be repetitive but there are some parts in there so hard you feel pride to have got through them and set pieces that are very enjoyable to go through.
Not only that, but it is a game that requires plenty of thought. For example, you have to think very carefully about your weapons technique. Do you go for 2 SMG's, a shotgun and an SMG, a heavy weapon with a scope? There are many combinations, and all are suitable in various situations, you just have to work out what you can expect. You also need to work out efficient and effective ways of completing sections that maximise both death and points.
Ok, you are all entitled to your opinions, as I am to mine. I believe this is a good game. It kept me occupied for a long time, and a rarity for most games I review that I don't specifically request, I have played it since the review and expect to continue playing it. It may just be that this game just happened to be exactly the sort of game my state of mind feels like right now, but it could be that its actually a good game that people are ignoring, or writing off simply because of the poor memories of EA and 007 mixing.
If you are considering getting a new FPS game at the moment, at least rent this game. The style of play may be exactly what you have been wanting, and if it is, you will have a thoroughly enjoyable time finishing it. If you find you dislike the style, then leave it and move on, but at least you have been willing to try something slightly different from normal, not everybody likes everything.
N-Europe Final Verdict
A really pleasant surprise. Worth trying, but bare in mind the style of play may not be for you.
Great duckand cover gameplay
Well thought out weapons system
Well made levels
Not everyone will like the style of play
Unbelievably hard in places