The first thing gamers think of when they see the word GoldenEye is the fondly remembered N64 classic of the same name. An obvious attempt to cash in on that nostalgia, does this pseudo-sequel live up to the legacy of the original? Sort of, but it doesn’t set any new standards.
The overall aesthetic of the game leaves a bit to be desired. The enemies are animated fairly well, especially when they die (or get blown across the room), but there’s not much else to say about the graphics. Why not? Well, they just weren’t that memorable. “Blah” is the best word I can think of. In a way, though, it holds up to the look of the original GoldenEye, but that’s coming from a last-gen console graphics engine. We’re nearing the end of this generation and the games’ visuals are supposed to be raising the bar at this point, not lowering it.
In-game navigation is accomplished not by a map or radar blip in your HUD, but with a simple arrow at the top of your view. This almost makes the game too straightforward, but being as how doors typically lock behind you when you enter a new area, it doesn’t really matter. The arrow does come in handy, however, because in Rogue Agent, the feeling of d?j? vu is all too common. Monotonous, blatantly rehashed chunks of terrain make you think you took a wrong turn and backtracked. Fortunately, the game always points you in the right direction, but it’s hardly a fair trade-off.
Aiming, movement, and firing two weapons at once have as good a feel as you’ll find in a console FPS, where mouse and keyboard perfection is nigh unattainable. Despite being able to dual-wield almost every weapon in the game (and any combination thereof), they both fire at the same spot, so if you had any thoughts of scoring two headshots simultaneously, forget about it.
The feel of the game harkens back to classic GoldenEye as well, but many steps forward in this genre – both in level design and production values – have been made in the interim. The soundtrack and voice acting are on par with industry trends, but the storytelling, cut scenes, and everything else there is to see in Rogue Agent left me feeling empty. The main character doesn’t even have a voice, apparently; he fires plenty of guns, but never shoots off his mouth. I thought one of the great things about playing the bad guy would be the smart-ass remarks or talking trash to the good guys. Nope. Speaking of good guys?
Surely we’ve all heard by now that the rogue agent in Rogue Agent is a former 00 who got kicked out of MI6 for unnecessary roughness (and getting a certain “other” agent killed?I won’t name any names). The prospect of turning against those who left him out in the cold sounded like fun. Alas, instead of there being a good vs. evil backdrop, you’re left to play evil vs. eviler, and there really isn’t much to do besides shoot. There are no moral issues about killing one group over another, and there’s no penalty for killing anyone – friend OR foe – either. Playing as a mercenary where you could take jobs for Goldfinger or Dr. No, playing back and forth to the highest bidder – now that would have been cool. As it is, you’ll plow recklessly (?cause all bad boys are reckless) through the minions of No, of which there are about four different types. It felt more like a clone war than facing an army of individual evildoers. Occasionally you’ll run up against a tougher bad guy who actually has a name, but their only job is to absorb more bullets than the average lackey and introduce a new weapon periodically, like the powerful but impossible-to-hit-anyone-with-at-a-distance Predator MG (i.e., chaingun).
While the death animations can be fun, as can using the electronically augmented golden eye to see through walls, generate a shield, control devices remotely, or throw enemies about (thus replacing the usual Q-gadgets from a typical Bond game), the AI surrounding you sounds good, but executes in a flawed manner at best. Enemies will react and shout things very specific to the situation, like telling their comrades your location, which weapon you’re carrying, or if you have your shield up. They even yell things like, “Let’s flush him out!” and sometimes take their buddies as human shields if they’re cornered. The problem is that these guys never press the advantage, and given that both the player’s health and eye-shield energy will recharge fully if you simply take cover for a bit, this action game slows down considerably as you wait safely on the opposite side of a crate from ten No agents for your vitals to recoup. The stupidest thing I saw was an enemy hiding behind a crate shooting at where I just was, while I watched him through a window from his flank. What’s more, he was crouched and fired right into the crate in front of him with the Detonator–a weapon that fires remote mines that are detonated with alternate trigger presses. In short, he blew himself up. And he didn’t die after the first blast. He blew himself up three times straight before he’d had enough and died. If at first you don’t succeed?
There are some crazy firefights to be had here, and they do feel intense. Towards the end, particularly on the Dam level (pun intended), things heat up to the point of frustration. Patience and timing are required, as is a little luck. However, mundane, repetitive, and even blocky designs on everything from buildings to hallways to tanks to troops to V.T.O.L.s make it a fairly boring experience whenever bullets aren’t whizzing past your head.
The weapons themselves feel and sound pretty good, packing a punch, provided you can get a bead on someone. The game keeps stats for all your different kills, per weapon and technique (head shots, accuracy, human shields, etc.). The dual-wielding offers some nice combos (the Detonator and sub-machinegun side by side I liked a lot) and some bits of the environment are destructible. One nice feature is the so called Machine Kill. Several levels have portions where if you trigger a switch and an enemy (or enemies) is standing in the right place, the environment will kill them. This ranges from platforms dropping from cranes to cargo sleds shooting through a chute and mowing down anyone crossing it to electrocuting entire floors of a building at a time. They’re nice, but it’s hard to know when to use some of them – let alone find them if you don’t have the golden eye turned to Gadget Mode. Also, the AI can activate them against you, but provided you don’t leave anyone standing in your wake, this shouldn’t be a concern.
Since the GameCube is still online anorexic, all you get here is four-player splitscreen fragfests, with a few other modes thrown in. I was very discouraged to see, yet again, that there was no single-player botmatch to be had. True, there weren’t any bots in the original GoldenEye, but this is 2004. Rare’s own follow-up to GoldenEye – a little game called Perfect Dark – had the Combat Simulator, which offered endless options for single and multiplayer action. On newer hardware, years past when that game set the new standard for FPS content, it’s truly sad to see the same options completely lacking from Rogue Agent. What’s worse, this is the GC, and without online play, it’s going to be tough to get people together to engage you. This is where a GameCube-exclusive offline botmatch mode would have been killer.
GoldenEye: Rogue Agent is a by-the-numbers first-person shooter with some bits and pieces thrown in for long-time Bond fans. Without anything particularly noteworthy, though, and having probably been hurried out the door in time for the holidays before anything too original could be worked in, it’s not something you need to rush out and try. The few good firefights and the novelty of the many Bond references may warrant a rental, but the short play length, throwaway story and characters, and underdeveloped multiplayer content keep it from being worth a purchase.