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007 Agent Under Fire Review and Reflection

“Well, I like to do some things the old-fashioned way.” –James Bond, Skyfall

When operator Zoe Nightshade is captured by Identicon Corporation while investigating allegations of weapons smuggling, James Bond infiltrates their Hong Kong facility to rescue her and recovers a courier case. While eluding Nigel Bloch, head of Identicon, in a vehicle chase, Nightshade is killed and the vials are retrieved. However, Bond manages to catch up to them and recovers the vials, which are found to contain blood samples of world leaders and that of ambassador Reginald Griffin, who is working in the British embassy in Bucharest, Romania. Bond discovers that the vials are related to Malprave Industries in Switzerland and arranges to visit their facility. Upon realising he and CEO Adrian Malprave had previously met in Bucharest, Bond attempts to escape the facility, obtaining photographs of Malprave’s plans. He learns that Dr. Natalya Damescu had left Malprave Industries and is under the protection of the British embassy, as she possesses knowledge of their plans. Returning to the embassy, Bond fends off the terrorist attack, including their leader, and picks up a data chip pointing to Poseidon. Bond next travels to an oil rig in the South China sea in pursuit of Bloch and follows up to an underwater cloning facility. After destroying the lab, Bond escapes and encounters the real Zoe Nightshade: the Nightshade at the Identicon facility had actually been a clone. The two board a British aircraft carrier and discover Malprave’s plan to clone the world leaders and replace their originals in a bid to take over the world. Returning to Malprave’s facilities in the Swiss Alps, Bond rescues the world leaders and defeats Bloch in a showdown before escaping with Nightshade, while Malprave dies when her base self-destructs. This is 007: Agent Under Fire, a 2001 first person shooter that was the first James Bond game for sixth generation consoles that featured an all-new story and return to the style that GoldenEye had pioneered.

Agent Under Fire never quite hit the same heights as GoldenEye did, being criticised for flimsy AI and short missions by period critics. Indeed, the game hasn’t aged as gracefully as its successor, Nightfire: Agent Under Fire holds the players’ hands throughout all of the campaign missions, and there’s very little room for exploration and discovery. Moreover, the storyline is, for the lack of a better word, tacky. The notion of creating clones of world leaders as a proxy by which to rule the world is roundabout and ill-conceived: the same outcome would be better achieved by manipulating the media (Tomorrow Never Dies), controlling fuel transport (The World is Not Enough) or investing in super-weapons to challenge the world’s militaries (Die Another Day). Similarly, use of clones opens the floor to deaths that suddenly lack impact or shock, and brings about storytelling clichés that diminish the weight of Bond’s actions. However, where the story is lacking, Agent Under Fire excels with its gameplay. In particular, the integration of gunplay and using Q Branch’s sophisticated gadgetry to advance was particularly smooth, and one could go from hijacking crane signals to destroy an entire group of guards back to sniping distant foes at the press of a button. GoldenEye had a comparatively unwieldy gadget system, but capitalising on the controller’s D-pad to cycle between weapons and gadgets, as well as mapping different buttons to weapon and gadget use simplified things considerably. Moreover, while Agent Under Fire is a first person shooter, the game also features driving segments that allow players to get behind the wheel of Bond’s gadget-laden super cars. Racing around modestly open maps to complete objectives offers a pleasant change of pace from the on-foot combat, and altogether, while Agent Under Fire‘s story might not win any Newbury awards, the game completely succeeded in demonstrating what was possible from a James Bond game on the most advanced consoles of the time.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Agent Under Fire opens in Hong Kong harbour, on a facility that looks like something straight out of a science fiction novel. Set under a golden sunset, the mission would come to set the expectation of what sort of atmospherics would accompany a James Bond game, and here, I equip the P2K, which I’ve unlocked the golden version of for scoring well on this mission. The P2K is modelled on the Smith and Wesson SW99, but unlike its real-world equivalent, the P2K is limited to a six-round magazine (and the real version accepts 10, 15 and 20 round box magazines).

  • As the evening light casts the Identicon facility’s interior in orange-yellows, I fight my way through guards en route to the submarine pen. Along the way, I pick up the infamous Koffler and Stock KS7 (Heckler and Koch MP5), which was a bit of a joke amongst players of the time. In FAQs dating back to 2001 and 2002, the KS7 is described as the worst gun in the game, whose inaccuracy and weak damage meant that it would often take an entire magazine to take out one enemy. Agent Under Fire has a wide range of weapons, and throughout campaign missions, Bond will have access to all of the weapons featured in the game.

  • Unsurprisingly, the most powerful and versatile weapons are found towards the end of the game. As I near the last segments of the first mission, I find an SSR-4000, which is based on the SIG-Sauer SSG 3000. On a per-shot basis, the SSR-4000 is the most powerful and accurate weapon in Agent Under Fire, being a bolt-action rifle with two zoom levels. The weapon’s slow firing rate and small magazine is typical of a bolt-action rifle’s, being balanced to favour long range combat. In the campaign, enemies equipped with the SSR-4000 also have a laser sight, allowing players to quickly work out where they’re aiming and return fire or get to cover as appropriate.

  • Agent Under Fire has a disproportionately large number rail-shooter missions, in which the game automatically drives a player around, and the only aim is to fend off enemies. While the concept of rail-shooters have been maligned owing to titles like Call of Duty, back when they were introduced, they did represent a fun way to have a high speed shootout where players could focus purely on shooting. In Agent Under Fire, the rail shooter missions follow the same approach: Bond is equipped with an RPK, modified SPAS-12 and occasionally, an anti-vehicle option.

  • While Agent Under Fire fails to account for the fact that Hong Kong has left-hand traffic, the game otherwise does a phenomenal job of capturing the Hong Kong aesthetic. Roads are perhaps a bit wider, and traffic is considerably lighter than things are in real life, but the apartment buildings and neon signs are spot on. As Bond beats an escape, droves of Bloch’s men follow in pursuit, making use of cars and limousines alike in a bid to head off Bond. Rail shooting missions feature an impressive ammunition pool, and unless one were to keep their finger on the trigger for the whole of a mission, it is unlikely that one will run out.

  • The CH-6 rocket launcher is named for the fact that it can fire six shots before reloading, and it is immensely effective against vehicles. Owing to its power, it is only available in the second mission, and here, I’ve got the Golden CH-6, which has a bottomless reserve of rockets. With this unlocked, one can pretty much just stick to the CH-6 and decimate all vehicles on the road.

  • Bond subsequently picks up his own vehicle, the BMW Z8: this vehicle was first seen in The World is Not Enough, and its presence in Agent Under Fire speaks to the fact that the game was originally meant to be PS2 and PC versions of the Nintendo 64’s The World is Not Enough, but midway through development, the PC version was scrapped, and the PS2 version was changed into Agent Under Fire. In Agent Under Fire, the Z8 is equipped with two forward-facing machine guns, unguided rockets and homing missiles. Thanks to an unlock, I have unlimited missiles, which renders the mission considerably easier.

  • Racing through the streets of Hong Kong in a weapon and gadget laden BMW proved quite fun: once Bond re-enters the city, likely Central, the main objective will show up: a special van carrying the stolen vials will appear, and Bond must use an EMP pulse to disable it without destroying the samples. The Q-pulse is instrumental for this, and players must drive up beside the van in order to use the Q-pulse, which has a short range. More points are scored if players can disable the van sooner, although care should be taken not to fire the EMP when one is out of range: the EMPs are in short supply and must be picked up by driving around the level.

  • The fourth mission is a strictly non-lethal mission, and the only time where Bond uses a dart gun. Regardless of difficulty, the darts will knock out guards with a single shot, and in the quiet of the British embassy in Bucharest, the aim is to sneak in, figure out what happened to Reginald Griffin, and get out. Stealth missions in swanky locations always remind me of Christmas – back in the day, one of my relatives always hosted the annual Christmas parties, and my cousin, would invite us to spend the evening playing Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer after dinner wrapped up while the adults conversed. My cousin favoured cooperative play, and we would challenge ourselves by fighting the bots on maximum difficulty and aggression.

  • In subsequent years, I would come to own a GameCube of my own and beat Agent Under Fire‘s campaign for myself. I occasionally still partake in the multiplayer with maxed-out bots for old time’s sake, and nothing gives more hilarity than squaring off against the Griffin clone on Town. Back in the campaign, I enter Griffin’s office to find him dead, and confront the Griffin Clone, who requires a full magazine of dart gun rounds to take out. Once Bond collects information from Griffin’s computer, it’s time to leave the embassy by taking the elevator back to the main floor and simply walk out the front door.

  • The mission at Malprave’s Swiss headquarters sees Bond pose as a journalist, but his cover is blown shortly after, and he is sealed in the reception area. The mission’s title, “Cold Reception”, is a play on words: the reception is unfriendly, and the setting is chilly, so this becomes a bit of a double entendre of sorts, which the James Bond franchise is known for. Once Bond is sealed in, hitting a switch on the desks will open a side passage that allows the mission to progress. The key here is to hit the switch on the desk to the right of Malprave’s portrait: the others will sound an alarm. Time is limited, so players should keep an eye on the clock.

  • After the classic espionage manoeuvre of photographing classified blueprints, Bond sneaks into a server room and downloads Malprave’s data for analysis before escaping. Agent Under Fire‘s game mechanics haven’t really changed: twenty years later, games like The Division still have similar objectives, and while the modes have changed (ISAC replaces the Q-decryptor and Q-remote), the end results are the same. Here, I’ve picked up the SPAS-12, the Frenesi in-game. It’s a pump-action shotgun that excels in close quarters, although it is limited by a low firing rate. The multiplayer incarnation has an alternate fire mode that allows it to fire in a semi-automatic fashion, sacrificing damage for the ability to make quick follow-up shots.

  • At Agent Under Fire‘s halfway point, Bond fends off terrorists attacking the British Embassy in Bucharest. This mission was provided in the demo version of Agent Under Fire back at the local toy stores back in the day, and I vividly remember dying after walking into the path of a sniper’s laser sights every time a controller freed up. This mission has the same aesthetic as that of Nightfire‘s second mission, requiring that players fight their way through a relatively classy setting. With the P2K, I ended up using manual fire to carefully place my shots and aim for the head: headshots are a one-hit-kill, and allow one to pick off enemies with relative ease. Body shots are highly ineffectual even on low difficulties, and although the manual aim (the precursor to today’s ADS mechanics) was tricky, when things connect, it allows one to save on ammunition.

  • I’ve never been much of a marksman on the console, and so, when the opportunity presented itself, I immediately picked a KS-57 off a terrorist. The KS-57 (AK-47) is an iconic assault rifle, but in Agent Under Fire, it’s a relatively weak weapon with improved accuracy and stopping power compared to the submachine guns, but is otherwise eclipsed by other assault rifles. Here, I enter a bathroom with a suggestive hologram, concealing a secret entrance that opens into the next area. Fanservice has never really been a thing in the games that I prefer playing, and having seen what contemporary graphics are capable of now, moments such as these are absolutely tame compared to what’s possible nowadays.

  • After reaching the rooftops, Bond rappels over into the next building with the Q-claw, rescues the embassy’s staff from the terrorists and enters the building’s basement, where he confronts the Jackal. The first time I fought the Jackal, I was unaware of how the game’s mechanics worked and died instantly. Later, I realised that the Jackal doesn’t actually take damage, but instead, retreats on the catwalk to a different position after taking enough fire, and eventually will fall after trying to fire on Bond from above a ventilation fan. The Jackal is armed with the Windsor FSU-4 (basically the Colt M16A2 with the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher), and in the mission, the Windsor Viper (Colt Anaconda) can be used, as well.

  • With the Jackal defeated, the last step of the mission is to destroy an AH-64 attack helicopter. Agent Under Fire makes it easy for Bond to do so: there’s four mounted machine guns on the roof, and while their ammunition is limited, empty the boxes on two of those guns will do significant damage to the attack helicopter, to the point where a few magazines’ worth of fire from the FSU-4 will destroy it. For folks looking for a shoulder-fired solution, there’s also an MRL-22 rocket launcher and extra rockets lying around. It goes without saying that one should give plenty of space between themselves and the attack helicopter if opting for the MRL-22 approach: the splash damage is very much lethal to Bond.

  • While the Jackal had been carrying a data chip, the terrorists manage to extract it, and Bond heads off in hot pursuit in his iconic DB5. The DB5 is equipped with the same capabilities and equipment as the Z8, so operating it is no problem. Like Hong Kong, Bucharest’s streets offer players with a degree of freedom in how they wish to go about reaching their target, and these segments of the game handled very smoothly. With my unlimited missiles, I had no trouble recovering the data chip, but after the DB5 is totalled following a daring jump over a canal, Bond switches over to a tank in a manner reminiscent of GoldenEye.

  • The tank segment of the mission is a rail shooter, which makes no sense considering that Bond is also the one operating the tank: this tank resembles the Russian T-90, and in-game, is equipped with a MGF-34 main cannon, as well as a minigun. I imagine the weapons were named and chosen purely for cool factor: the real T-90 is armed with the 2A46 120mm smoothbore cannon and a 12.7 mm Kord HMG, whereas here, it looks like it’s got an M134, which is an American weapon and therefore would not be equipped on a Russian tank. While the mission itself isn’t logical, it’s also a fun ride through Bucharest as Bond tears apart hordes of Malprave’s forces.

  • In 2001 and 2002 FAQs, writers wondered why the splash damage from the tank’s main cannon was so minimal despite the weapon working well against vehicles. Per my remarks in Rogue Agent, since it’s been two decades since then, I doubt that reaching out to the FAQ writers would be effectual, but the answer is simple: the MGF-34 is firing kinetic penetrators rather than HE rounds. I understand that at the time, gamers assumed that tanks would always fire high explosive shells owing to how developers intended tanks to really be used in single-player campaigns and therefore, didn’t need balance. In today’s games, things have become rather more sophisticated, and different rounds are implemented to have different functions.

  • The data chip that Bond finds takes him to an oil drilling platform in the South China Sea as he pursues Bloch. Agent Under Fire marks the first time I’ve fought on an oil rig, and I admit that this mission was masterfully designed: Bond has the option of charging in loud, using a side passage to stealthily reach a mounted 50 calibre gun, or sneak closer to the side railing and take out the sniper, then seize the sniper for himself. I went the route of the mounted gun, and after decimating everything, including an attack helicopter, I proceeded across the now-quiet deck with the Calypso submachine gun in hand. The Calypso P750 is based off the Calico M960, whose unique helical magazine allows for a very high ammunition capacity. In-game, its high RPM makes it an excellent close quarters weapon.

  • The second half of the mission entails climbing progressively higher in the oil rig. Bond begins in the pump room and must use the Q-jet, as well as a pumpjack, to escape. Enemies begin dropping the FSU-4, and while it’s been fun to use the Calypso, the FSU-4 is better suited for long range combat. A few snipers can also be found, and they’ll whittle players down very quickly if not dealt with. Climbing the ladders to higher platforms, Bond can use the Q-remote to drop enemy snipers without trouble, and an MRL-22 rocket launcher can be found, allowing one to drive off the attack helicopter that shows up, if need be.

  • Forbidden Depths is the last of the rail shooting missions, and Bond is equipped with both the pump action shotgun and RPK. Beginning with an absurd amount of RPK ammunition means that players shouldn’t have any trouble dealing with the enemy forces. The mission is one lengthy tram ride through the tunnels to Malprave’s underwater cloning lab: Agent Under Fire really took the idea of an elaborate lair to new heights, and the cloning lab is an example where the designers were really free to build levels as they appeared in their imaginations.

  • The only other Bond game with such imaginative environments was 2004’s GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, which took things even further. While racing through the underwater tunnels, Bloch eventually joins Bond and drops mines that must be shot at to avoid damage. The trams will eventually reach a terminal that begins sinking into the lava below, necessitating use of a camera-guided rocket launcher to stop. With this rollercoaster-like mission over, Bond’s finally reached the underwater base. This is the only mission where players will have a chance to use the PS100 and the UGW.

  • The exotic components in Malprave’s cloning lab has a distinctly sci-fi feel to it: simpler graphics back in the day meant that increasingly creative means were used to convey a high-tech asthetic, and games have come a very long way since then. Today, games like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and even Division 2 do a more realistic presentation of what ultra-sophisticated labs would look like. Here, as I fight through the research labs, I wield the PS100, a personal defense weapon modelled on the P90. The PS100 is the best weapon in the submachine gun category: while sporting a smaller magazine than the Calypso, it is more accurate and makes short work of enemies.

  • Once Bond’s through sabotaging Malprave’s cloning facility, it’s time to beat a hasty exit: Bond’s deactivate pressure stablisation and tempreature regulators, causing the base to go critical. I’ve picked up the UGW here: this assault rifle is the second best in the game, dealing reasonable damage and mounting zoom optics that allow for medium range combat. The UGW is based on the Steyr AUG A1 with the Swarovski optic, and here, I fight my way through the submarine pen en route to my exfil. Blowing up enemy lairs has long been a staple of James Bond movies and games alike, and in this area, Agent Under Fire delivers.

  • Once the underwater cloning lab is destroyed, Bond returns to a British carrier on the Mediterranean Sea and clears it of Malprave’s forces: it is here that Bond learns what Malprave’s plans were. While it’s fun to fight on an aircraft carrier (I would not do so again until 2010’s Crysis), the story in Agent Under Fire definitely left something to be desired, resembling a hastily-written Bond fanfiction whose goal was to incorporate as many iconic Bond experiences as possible at the expense of coherence. Malprave’s plot is implausible as it is ludicrous. Nightfire completely improves on things, sporting a superior, cohesive and engaging (if still familiar) story that made every mission’s contribution to the campaign more obvious.

  • After reaching the deck and reluctantly freeing a member of the crew, Bond heads off to rescue Nightshade again. This final segment requires caution, since she’s surrounded by depth charges that will explode should anything hit them, sending players back to the last checkpoint. Agent Under Fire utilises a lives system: players have only have two attempts to clear a mission before running out of lives, after which they would need to start over from the beginning. In the end, Bond is able to save Nightshade and stop the clones of the world leader from getting out by shooting down a helicoper they’re in. The British carrier has 50-calibre machine guns on deck, and unlike the 7.62 mm mounted guns, the 50-calibre guns do not run out of ammunition.

  • As evening sets over the Swiss Alps, I begin the final mission, dubbed “Evil Summit”. The biggest challenge about the first area are the snipers, and fortunately, off in a storage room, players can grab their own SSR-4000 for some counter-sniping. After acquiring the program to unlock the access way, hordes of Malprave’s soldiers will flood the platform. They’re armed with the Koffler and Stock D17, which is based on the Heckler and Koch G11 caseless rifle. The D17 is the single best weapon in the game, with a high RPM, accuracy and magazine capacity.

  • Upon picking up the D17, there’s no real reason to use any other weapon. Having the D17 makes this last segment mangeable: the goal is to rescue all of the captured world leaders. After clearing the central control room, Bond must enter four missile silos and rescue the remaining leaders, who will see themselves out. Once this is done, all that’s left is to fight Nigel Bloch. While Bond appeared to have killed him in an earlier mission, it turns out this was his clone. The fight against Bloch plays out similarly to the fight against the Jackal: Bloch is technically invincible and upon taknig enough fire, will simply move to a next area.

  • After pursuing Bloch through a ventilation system, Bond picks up a spare MRL-22 and uses this to defeat Bloch in a scripted sequence, bringing the game to an end. Because of how boss fights are written in Agent Under Fire, I found them to be quite unsatisfying. However, for the most part, Agent Under Fire is a solid game that demonstrated what was possible on a sixth generation console, and the sequel, Nightfire, would return as a refined, polished version of Agent Under Fire.

Indeed, Agent Under Fire would receive a sequel not a year later in Nightfire: using polished concepts from Agent Under Fire, Nightfire proved to be an improvement over its predecessor in every way. The balance of gadget usage and sure aim was further polished, and the game retained a balance of on-foot missions and vehicular segments. However, the story was superbly-written, this time around, and the Nightfire even had James Bond with Pierce Brosnan’s likeness. The learnings of Agent Under Fire were evidently applied to Nightfire, and in this way, Agent Under Fire might be seen as a proof-of-concept, using the Id Tech 3 engine to explore different mechanics. The mish-mash of concepts, while feeling distinctly disjointed in Agent Under Fire, still worked very smoothly. The gunplay remains impressive, and alternate fire modes allow some weapons to be more versatile. Vehicular segments handled well. With gameplay concepts proven to be viable, Nightfire was therefore able to incorporate a better written story, superior visuals, stronger voice acting and a more iconic soundtrack into its experience. Consequently, while perhaps not the most imaginative or memorable James Bond title, Agent Under Fire nonetheless remains an enjoyable experience for its gameplay and aesthetics: the story doesn’t really make much sense, but it does give players a chance to visit a wide range of locales, from Hong Kong and Bucharest, to a classic underwater lair and the Swiss Alps, all the while doing classic James Bond stuff. Furthermore, while the campaign is quite short, Agent Under Fire features one of the best multiplayers ever to grace a James Bond game, and replaying the campaign missions for high scores will allow players to unlock improved gear, as well as more multiplayer options. Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer is a work of art, worthy of a separate discussion, and even now, provided one has a few extra controllers available, one can still invite some mates over for some classic, 2001-style TDM hailing back to a time where games didn’t need an internet connection or lootboxes for fun to be had.

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent- A Review and Reflection

“How does it feel to be on the receiving end?” –Aaron Keener, The Division 2: Warlords of New York

After an assignment leaves an MI6 agent without his right eye, the agent is sent for an assessment simulation with James Bond and fails after he leaves Bond to “die”. Dismissed from MI6, the agent accepts an employment offer from Auric Goldfinger, who has scientist Francisco Scaramanga fit him with a cybernetic eye. The agent takes on the moniker GoldenEye, and helps Goldfinger secure the Organic Mass Energy Neutraliser (OMEN), a weapon capable of breaking down organic matter at a molecular level. After fending off Dr. No’s soldiers, GoldenEye is sent to Hong Kong and assassinate Dr. No – despite being betrayed, GoldenEye manages to take out the traitor and escapes with Pussy Galore. Despite having moved the OMEN to his casino in Las Vegas, Dr. No’s forces continue their pursuit of the device. GoldenEye fights through the casino and reaches a vault housing the OMEN, successfully defending it, but fails to stop Xena Onnatop, who was leading the operation, from escaping. Goldfinger has GoldenEye infiltrate the Hoover Dam and tasks him with eliminating Onnatop. He succeeds in killing her, and Goldfinger sends him to the Octopus to locate Dr. No’s base. Determining Dr. No is hiding out at Crab Key, Goldfinger sends GoldenEye on a one-man assault on the facility and kills Dr. No, but Goldfinger realises that GoldenEye is far too dangerous to be left alive. He detonates Crab Key’s reactor and leaves GoldenEye for dead, but GoldenEye escapes. Pussy Galore reveals Goldfinger has taken control of the Lair, and Scaramanga provides GoldenEye with a special computer virus to disable the Lair’s defenses. After clearing the Lair out, GoldenEye confronts Goldfinger – despite being trapped, the computer virus activates and overloads the OMEN. Goldfinger is disintegrated in the process, and GoldFinger manages to evacuate alongside Pussy Galore. Meanwhile, Ernest Stavro Bloefeld takes an interest in GoldenEye after sharing a conversation with Scaramanga, deciding to simply wait and see before making any decisions about how to best deal with GoldenEye. This is GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, a 2004 first person shooter that was a spinoff of the popular James Bond series of video games. Despite being unrelated to the James Bond franchise as a whole, and suffering poor reception as a result of the plot and gameplay mechanics amongst video game critics of the time, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent was commercially successful amongst players.

During my play-through of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, I found the game to handle very similarly to Halo 2: dual-wielding is very much a part of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, and the fact that players can only hold onto one active weapon at a time means that even more thought must be given towards what one takes with them. Equipping the rocket launcher for anti-vehicular combat leaves one ill-prepared to fight soldiers, and two-handed weapons actively prevent the player from using grenades. While I found the mission objectives to be unremarkable, the levels themselves were very well designed, and fighting enemy forces was always a thrill because of how many different ways I could approach the firefight. I could sneak behind cover and pair the MRI vision with the Mag-Rail to pick foes off from behind cover, methodically pick enemies off with the AR-4, or charge in with a pair of HS-90s blazing, using the shield to absorb all damage. GoldenEye: Rogue Agent thus was a thrilling game, and I had a great time going through the game right up until I finished Crab Key. After reaching Goldfinger’s Lair, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent takes a turn for the unfair after the OMEN XR is introduced – in the player’s hands, the OMEN XR is a semi-automatic weapon firing slow-moving plasma orbs that disintegrate enemies in one hit. The weapon’s great firepower is offset by the low projectile velocity and the small capacity, so the OMEN XR is not the end-all solution to all combat scenarios. However, in the hands of an enemy, the OMEN XR is a devastating weapon capable of vapourising the player even if they are at full health and armour. Because of how common enemies carrying the OMEN XR are, the final segments of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent were downright unfair. Any sort of carelessness will send players back a long way, and the final fight of the game has players squaring off against four named enemies, each of which equip their own shields and shoot with devastating accuracy. Consequently, on my run of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, I actually had started the game back in April, but after reaching the Lair, I lost interest, and it was only late in October that I decided to give it another shot; as it turns out, I’d been a stone’s throw away from finishing the fight, and after defeating all four of Goldfinger’s remaining enforcers, I had finished a game that I’d been longing to play since I heard about it back during 2004. Despite the frustration with the final mission, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent overall is an entertaining game, and I found that the period reviews for the game to have misunderstood and misrepresented what the title had been trying to do.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • One knows they’re dealing with an old game when the screenshots are 4:3. I only have one screenshot of the opening mission, and I remember starting this after things had slowed down during April: I’d just finished watching Koisuru Asteroid, and Battlefield V was reaching the end of its lifespan. At the time, I was still on the fence about Warlords of New York, and with the global health crisis both introducing a lockdown in my area, as well as knocking anime out left and right (Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Oregairu were both delayed), I had quite a bit of extra time around to make a dent in my old backlog. Right out of the gates, I was impressed with the way GoldenEye: Rogue Agent handled the dual-wielding system; players can freely swap out weapons in their left and right hands.

  • My favourite weapon for most of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent was the AR-4 Commando, a facsimile of the HK 416. In GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, the AR-4 is equipped with an optic that provides magnification, and while it can be inaccurate when fired on full automatic, burst-firing the weapon allows it to reach further ranges with fair accuracy. With a 30-round magazine and capable of holding its own at close and long range, the AR-4 is the best weapon in the game, fulfilling the role that Halo 2‘s Battle Rifle did.

  • GoldenEye will always start with the SPEC-9, a 9 mm pistol modelled on the USP Match. As I make my way through Goldfinger’s lab here, I find an interrogation room with a laser identical to the one that Goldfinger had used in Goldfinger: there, Goldfinger had captured Bond and was about to deal some damage when Bond mentioned Operation Grand-Slam. Subtle call-outs to Bond films appear throughout GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, and being a Bond fan myself, it was nice to recognise the different references. Here, I’m rocking the Mk. II Detonator, which acts as a miniature grenade launcher with impressive range and damage.

  • The HS-90 (FN P-90) is the most common weapon in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, and can always be relied upon in a pinch. With a high rate of fire, large magazine capacity and reasonable accuracy, the HS-90 can be paired with almost any weapon, rendering one capable of handling close and medium-range combat without any trouble. Here, I’m rocking the Jackal in my left hand: modelled after the Desert Eagle, the Jackal only has an eight round magazine but hits like a truck. Different weapon combinations work with different efficacies, and in general, one can’t go wrong with the HS-90. I’ve noticed that a lot of guides from 2004 call the HS-90 a “machine gun”, and indeed, some folks use the term “machine gun” and “automatic weapon” interchangeably.

  • This is certainly not the case: an automatic weapon is any weapon that can fire multiple rounds without releasing the trigger because the weapon has a mechanism (either using the recoil or gas from an earlier round) to chamber the next round. A machine gun is a purpose-built weapon for firing full-power cartridges (such as the 7.62mm NATO round) in a sustained manner. Technically, the P-90 isn’t even a submachine gun (weapons that fire pistol calibre ammunition): it’s a personal defense weapon (PDW), a class of weapons that fire small-calibre ammunition shaped like an intermediate cartridge. I imagine that contacting the writers of these FAQs to offer revisions would be an exercise in futility, since all of them date back sixteen years, and their email accounts likely no longer exist.

  • The mission in Hong Kong is set on the rooftop of a fictional restaurant/public bath of sorts: to be clear, no such building exists in Hong Kong in a site where the IFC and The Centre are simultaneously visible along with the Hong Kong Bank of China Tower. While the site has been heavily fictionalised, it was nice to see Hong Kong appear in a video game. In this mission, enemies speak Cantonese, and there are various signs in Traditional Chinese around the level. GoldenEye traverses the rooftops by way of zip-lines, and fortunately, while using said zip-lines, one can still fire their weapons.

  • While GoldenEye can pick up body armour to provide an additional layer of defense from enemy fire, unlike traditional 007 games, GoldenEye has regenerating health. Health begins recharging as soon as one is out of combat for a while, similarly with the energy shields in Halo 2, and what’s more, like the Halo 2 energy shields, GoldenEye’s health will make an audible indicator when it is recharging. Despite the sophisticated mechanics in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, the HUD remains relatively simple: ammunition is displayed on the lower side of the screen, and the left hand’s status is also displayed, whether it be zooming in, throwing grenades or firing the left-hand weapon if one is equipped. Health is indicated on the right, armour on the left, and the active Eye Power sits on the centre of the screen.

  • Early in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, the Eye Powers are not particularly useful, and I got through entire missions without using them. In Hong Kong, I alternated between the AR-4 and the Harpoon RL, a fictional pump-action rocket launcher that is devastating against infantry and vehicles alike. During the fight with Dr. No’s VTOL, there was, fortunately, an endless supply of the Harpoon RL on the rooftops to take advantage of. While powerful, ammunition for the Harpoon RL is relatively rare, and so, after dealing with vehicles, my first inclination is to switch back to the AR-4 or HS-90.

  • Of the abilities in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, the polarity shield is probably the most versatile and useful. It absorbs incoming damage, and when engaged, allows players to down any enemy, even named enemies, with a single melee attack. GoldenEye does have access to melee strikes in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, just like in Halo – the melee offers a means of dispatching nearby enemies without expending ammunition, and GoldenEye is able to even use enemy soldiers as a shield. This ability is useful for helping one to absorb incoming fire: it is brutal and absolutely speaks to GoldenEye’s ruthless methods. Most first person shooters do not have this as a feature, and it wasn’t until this year’s Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, where a game utilises this mechanic.

  • During the fight in Goldfinger’s Las Vegas Casino, I picked up an M134 Mini-gun (the Predator MG). Like the Harpoon RL, it slows down player movement, but capable of holding 200 rounds (with an extra 200 in reserve), the Predator MG is a beast at close quarters: the rounds are individually powerful, and the weapon has a high rate of fire. At longer ranges, spread becomes problematic, but in the narrow confines of the casino, with its card tables and slot machines, the Predator shredded enemies, allowing me to quickly reach the vaults.

  • Goldfinger’s vaults have a very clean feel to them: Bond villains always seem to have a distinct sense of aesthetics when it comes to interior design, and here, I fight through the corridors en route to the OMEN. Having now been given the polarity shield, it was here where I found that GoldenEye: Rogue Agent‘s Eye Powers add a new versatility to the game. In Halo, the idea of a deployable armour ability only arrived with Halo: Reach. Altogether, there were many features in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent that were well ahead of their time, and one must wonder what gaming journalists were thinking back in the day.

  • The Hoover Dam mission has a very late-spring, early-summer feel to it, being set during the evening. The mission reminds me of those days late in the term when the school year was ending, and the days were lengthening. When GoldenEye: Rogue Agent first came out, I was a middle school student, and I’d just beaten 007: Nightfire. Back in those days, the internet was nowhere nearly as advanced as it was now, and I found out about the game only because I had been looking up walk-throughs of Nightfire on GameFAQs and came across the new title. After reading the various weapon guides, I became intrigued with the game. One of my friends did have the game and found it enjoyable, although he remarked that Nightfire was better all around as a Bond game. Having now beaten both, I’d agree here: even now, Nightfire set the standard for what Bond games should be.

  • I’ve heard rumours that there is a new Bond game in the making – Bond titles like 007 Legends, from Activision, have been horrible, and the bar isn’t particularly high to surpass those games, but compared to classics like Nightfire, Agent Under Fire and GoldenEye 64, any new Bond game will have quite a bit to live up to. Back in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, I blow up a helicopter with a well-placed round from the Harpoon RL. The road on the top of Hoover Dam was the first section of the game I had any trouble with – since I started out with a half-empty AR-4 magazine, I was short of ammunition. It took a few tries to beat this segment: once I worked out where more ammunition could be found, dealing with enemies became much simpler.

  • I ended up picking up a Longbow SR (AMP TS DSR-1), a bull-pup bolt-action sniper rifle that excels at long-range shooting. It’s the only weapon in the game suited for extreme long range combat, and its unmatched stopping power is reigned back by a low rate of fire, small magazine capacity and the fact that ammunition for it is extremely rare. With its high magnification scope, it surpasses the AR-4 for long range combat, but my lack of skill on a console means that I prefer automatic weapons, which are more forgiving to use where controllers cannot offer the same precision as a keyboard and mouse.

  • After making my way through the interior of the Hoover Dam, I come across the generator hall. I’d actually visited Hoover Dam when I was in Las Vegas some sixteen years earlier: I remember that vacation best for the luxurious buffets that the hotels on the Strip offer, as well as the excursion to the Hoover Dam. The interior is actually rendered faithfully, and towards the end of this mission, I would fight Xena Onnatop. Were it to be a melee-fight, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent would have doubtlessly proved boring – to keep the gameplay fresh, and at the expense of narrative, Onnatop only toys with GoldenEye before grabbing a nearby VTOL, and so, one can to shoot her down in a fight, as opposed to resorting to quick-time events (incidentally, quick-time events did become popular for a while in the early 2010s).

  • The Octopus is an underwater auction house of sorts for GoldenEye: Rogue Agent‘s enemy factions. Only accessible by submarine, the location holds a computer that happens to have the coordinates of Dr. No’s personal base. Shortly after arriving, I immediately picked up the AR-4. The observant reader will notice that I’ve not made too much use of the Mamba 12G: this double-barrelled shotgun is a fictional weapon that is devastating up close, but is stymied by a low firing rate and long reload time. It is most effectively paired with the HS-90: when burst fired, one can annihilate nearby enemies with the Mamba 12G while fending off more distant foes with the HS-90.

  • During the course of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, there are two weapons players will encounter, usually in the most inopportune times when ammunition is low. These weapons are the Venom 200ML and the Tesla EM. The weapons are equivalent to Halo‘s plasma pistol in terms of efficacy: the Venom 200ML only slows down opponents, and is utterly useless, while the Tesla EM can punch through polarity shields and deal some damage against named enemies, who are usually shielded. Unlike the plasma pistol, they do not have a dedicated utility, and when one runs out of ammunition, it is preferable to stick to the SPEC-9 and hand grenades rather than pick any of these toy guns up.

  • Conversely, the Mag-Rail is probably one of the most effective and entertaining weapons to use in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent; ammunition for it is comparatively rare, and the weapon requires a moment to charge up before it can fire, but the projectile can pass through walls and take out opponents on the other side. Paired with MRI vision, one can stay behind cover and pick off foes so as long as they have energy for their Eye Powers and ammunition for the Mag-Rail. The Mag-Rail is best paired with the HS-90, allowing one to deal with enemies at close to intermediate range.

  • The penultimate mission is set on Crab Key, Dr. No’s iconic base from Dr. No. While it’s not totally faithful to the Crab Key in the movie, the general aesthetic is captured, and much like how Hoover Dam reminded me of those days late in May, Crab Key reminds me of the summer. This is hardly surprising, since Crab Key is located in Jamaica. Since the Octopus mission, I’ve been conferred the so-called “Magnetic Induction Field”, which uses magnetics to pick up and throw enemies around. While the most entertaining of the Eye Powers, it is very power intensive and usually leaves one vulnerable in a firefight. I’m guessing that it acts on the metals the enemy’s armour is composed of, since there is no way for the eye to generate enough power to have a tangible effect on the body, even in a fictional setting.

  • Before I pushed my way towards the heart of Crab Key and its reactor, I took one last look at the scenery. The visuals in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent were passable for its time: Halo 2 and 007 Nightfire both had better graphics, and I wonder if a part of the development budget went towards the voice acting and character models: GoldenEye: Rogue Agent features the likeness of Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman, Harold Sakata, Joseph Wiseman, Christopher Lee and Famke Janssen. As it stands, while the visuals were nothing eye-popping, the game’s main appeal lay in having faithful renderings of classic characters, the level design and gameplay mechanics.

  • At this point in the mission, I’ve emptied out my weapons and so, had to fall back on the SPEC-9. I’ve skipped quite a bit of the mission here: players must make their way through several fortified areas and defeat Dr. No’s tanks, go down into an excavation and push deep into Dr. No’s base in order to confront him. GoldenEye: Rogue Agent‘s graphics were on-par for what was available at the time, but these areas of the game were a little less inspired than the other parts of the mission, and so, I’ve opted to skip past them.

  • The fight with Dr. No was simple enough: after using the remote hacking ability to disable the safeties on the reactor, the reactor will overload and electrocute Dr. No. The challenge here was getting in range to carry out the hack, during which I did not have access to the polarity shield. It took a few attempts, but in the end, I got it done. With Dr. No down for the count, GoldenEye’s quest for vengeance is complete, although Goldfinger suddenly betrays GoldenEye, claiming he is too dangerous to be left alive. It would appear that Goldfinger had only allowed the employment of a former MI6 00-agent to eliminate his rival, and with the rival dealt with, this leaves Goldfinger to take centre stage.

  • The final mission is set at the Lair, a massive base located in a hollowed-out volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The interior is faithful to the original Volcano base as seen in You Only Live Twice, but is smaller in scale and lacks the launch pad. Players won’t spend too much time here, since the goal is to sabotage Goldfinger’s rogue operation. While GoldenEye is only armed with the SPEC-9 to start things off, enemy soldiers will soon drop what is one of the most infamous weapons ever to be featured in a James Bond game.

  • For the past fifteen or so years, I’ve only ever read about the OMEN XR at GameFAQs: gamers of 2004 described it as a dangerous weapon for its ability to vapourise enemies in one round, making it obscenely powerful; the OMEN XR is only limited by a low muzzle velocity and small capacity, and FAQs don’t mention what these limitations entail. Technically, this is a miniaturised version of the OMEN Goldfinger plans on using for his quest to dominate the world, being able to fit into a firearm’s form factor. While the OMEN XR appears great on paper, its low rate of fire and muzzle velocity means that in practise, the weapon is utterly useless at longer ranges.

  • When it does connect, the disintegrations that the OMEN XR causes are amusing, however, and at close quarters, against small number of enemies, the OMEN XR works just fine. However, in a serious situation, the OMEN XR is more of a liability than an asset, and the weapon’s overwhelming power against individual opponents does not leave it better suited for dealing with groups of enemies. Having taken a look around, it would appear that the internet actually does not have any screenshots of the OMEN XR in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent proper. This post rectifies that in full – I do believe that I now have the internet’s only screenshots of what the OMEN XR looks like from the first person perspective.

  • While amusing, the OMEN XR is ultimately impractical, and my preferred setup during this final mission was to pair the HS-90 with either the Mag-rail, or the Mk. II Detonator, which respectively allows me to engage enemies from behind cover and effectively deal with groups with a well-placed shot. I believe the Mk. II Detonator fires the same detonators seen in Tomorrow Never Dies: despite its small form factor, it is capable of causing serious damage, making it one of the best weapons in the game. The AR-4 is all but absent in this final mission, so having a HS-90 around is essential for survival – enemies equip the OMEN XR, and in their hands, the weapon fires in bursts of three that make even an ordinary soldier exceedingly lethal.

  • The interrogation room from Crab Key, as seen in Dr. No, is inexplicably transported over to the Lair. Players will simply need to pass through this room, retrieve the virus, and then continue on towards the next part of the mission. The first half of the final mission was moderately challenging, but the second half is diabolical. Every other soldier is equipped with the OMEN XR, and being hit will instantly kill the player. The polarity shield can absorb one of these rounds, but since soldiers fire in bursts of three, one cannot simply rush out and expect to tank all that damage. Making things more difficult, ammunition for the better guns is scarce, so one must really pick their shots well.

  • The simulation rooms were tricky, but fortunately, Goldfinger’s betrayal means that some of the soldiers will fight on GoldenEye’s side. They are moderately effective, and can help act as decoys, drawing fire off GoldenEye and allowing players to move into position for a better shot. Named enemies will show up in each of the three simulation rooms, and once all are cleared, players will continue fighting into the base to reach Goldfinger. Checkpoints are rare, and deaths are extremely punishing here: besides the OMEN XR soldiers, enemies make use of the Venom 200ML and Mk. II Detonator, which slows players down and can cause massive damage.

  • On my first play-through, I’d cleared the conference rooms and meeting areas out, and reached the final part of the base, but had to call it quits that evening back in May. When I learnt that I had been a gruelling boss fight away from finishing the game, I lost the will to continue, and GoldenEye: Rogue Agent sat unfinished for five months. I subsequently spent May and June in Battlefield V, caught up with Warlords of New York in July and spun up my own World of Warcraft server in August: it wasn’t until late last month that I decided that I might as well return and finish the fight. What awaited was diabolical: it took me some forty minutes to kill the named enemies here, but after I finished, I was left with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.

  • I grabbed an OMEN XR off the floor, cleared the remaining soldiers out  and watched the closing cutscene to GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, where Goldfinger attempts to kill GoldenEye but fails. With GoldenEye: Rogue Agent in the books, I’ve now completed a game that I’d been wondering about for the past decade-and-a-half, and while the final mission was brutally difficult, overall, I found GoldenEye: Rogue Agent to be a surprisingly enjoyable game. The gaming journalists of the time got this wrong, and looking back now, what was considered to be a “mediocre, unimaginative” game from EA still is leaps and bounds ahead of modern games like Fortnite. Back then, games didn’t have loot boxes: enjoyment boiled down entirely to skill, rather than emote dances. I note that today marks the sixteenth anniversary to the release of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, and it seemed appropriate to mark this date with a revisit of the game, hence this post.

In retrospect, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent was actually ahead of its time in the areas that period critics found lacking. The story of an MI6 agent going rogue allowed the game to explore a side of the Bond universe that was never dealt with in the films and suggests that the villains of the James Bond universe are not more effectual than they are because all of them have their own aspirations and plans for the world; these plans do not entail cooperation, and the reason why the villains have not already overcome the world’s governments is precisely because they are too busy quarrelling with one another. Bond films have always presented the villains as threatening the world, one at a time, and GoldenEye: Rogue Agent offers a suggestion as to why this is the case. As it stands, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent‘s story, while doubtlessly written to simply maximise the amount of exotic locations players can shoot through, is still reasonably entertaining, on top of the insight that being a bad guy in the Bond universe is a tough occupation. Besides providing the justification needed to blow stuff up in cool places, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent‘s gameplay was actually ahead of its time. The dual-wielding system was as sophisticated as that of Halo 2‘s, which would have released a mere thirteen days earlier, and unlike Halo 2, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent also incorporated the Eye Powers. GoldenEye can use MRI vision to spot enemies from behind cover and walls, hack into remote devices and disable enemy weapons, project a shield that temporarily renders him impervious to damage, or even pick enemies up and throw them. The weapons systems, together with the Eye Powers, give players tactical options during combat and encourage creativity in dealing with the enemies that GoldenEye: Rogue Agent throws at the players. The enemy AI was also fairly responsive for its time: they react in real time to the player’s actions, whether one picks up different weapons or engages different Eye Powers. Altogether, between the strong art and animation for its time, plus having a robust dual-wielding system and the Eye Powers, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent actually proved to be exceptionally innovative for its time, especially with the idea that players were not playing the good guys. The game has a very distinct personality from more conventional James Bond games, and every aspect of the game, from the visuals, to the soundtrack, conveys a sense of deadly professionalism and determination, quite unlike the suave, classy air that James Bond had been associated with during that time period, prior to Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond in 2007’s Casino Royale, which redefined what being James Bond meant.

Skyfall: A Reflection and Revisitation of Themes and Triumphs In The Twenty-Third James Bond Film

“Chairman, ministers: today, I’ve repeatedly heard how irrelevant my department has become. Why do we need agents, the 00 section? Isn’t it all rather quaint? Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do, and the truth is that what I see frightens me. I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map, they aren’t nations. They are individuals. And look around you – who do you fear? Can you see a face, a uniform, a flag? No, our world is not more transparent now, it’s more opaque! It’s in the shadows – that’s where we must do battle. So before you declare us irrelevant, ask yourselves – how safe do you feel?” –M

MI6 Agent James Bond and trainee Eve are in pursuit of an agent who has made off with a hard drive containing the identities of British operatives embedded in terrorist cells around the world. When a pursuit ends in Bond being accidentally shot, the hard drive is lost, and Bond is presumed dead. Three months later, after a public inquiry, M is pushed to retire by Gareth Mallory, and MI6 is compromised. When Bond learns of this, he returns to London. Despite failing physical and aptitude tests, M authorises his return to the field with the aim of having Bond retrieve the hard drive and eliminate the assassin who’d originally taken it. Tailing the assassin to Shanghai, Bond kills him before learning the identity of his employer, but a poker chip sends him to a Macau casino, where he encounters Sévérine. She promises to help Bond out if he can eliminate her employer, bringing him to a derelict island. Here, Bond meets and captures Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent who was captured by foreign actors and fell to counter-terrorism. Back in London, Q attempts to decryt Silva’s laptop, inadvertently introducing a virus into their system and allowing Silva to escape. It turns out that Silva was desiring revenge against M for having abandoned him on an assignment decades earlier, and he plans to attack a public inquiry. Bond deduces Silva’s intentions and thwarts the attack before taking M to Skyfall, his childhood home in Scotland. Q and Bill Tanner design an electronic trail to lure Silva out with Mallory’s tacit approval. After arriving in Scotland, with gamekeeper Kincaid’s help, Bond and M prepare the house for an attack. They fend off the first of Silva’s men, but Silva himself appears later and lays siege to the house with incendiary grenades. Kincaid leads M through a priest’s hole to a church, and Bond rigs explosives that destroys the house, along with the helicopter. Silva pursues them and reaches the church before Bond, begging M to kill them both, but Bond kills Silva with a knife. M succumbs to her wounds and dies. After M’s funeral, Eve introduces herself as Moneypenny, and Mallory is appointed as the new M, briefing a Bond who is ready to take up his next assignment. Skyfall is the twenty-third 007 movie in the franchise and released in 2012 to positive reception for reintroducing classic elements from James Bond films with a modernised spin.

At its core, Skyfall covers the idea surrounding the worth of human resources in an age where SIGINT has begun to vastly outperform HUMINT in terms of efficacy, accuracy and safety. These themes permeate the film: while M continues to run the 00-section and use field operatives, villain Raoul Silva specialises in electronic communications and cyberwarfare, exploiting lapses in MI6’s security to accomplish his revenge. Q remarks he can do more damage with a few well-placed lines of code than 007 could in a month. At the public inquiry, the minister questioning M wonders why there’s a need for human intelligence at all when almost all of it can seemingly be gathered with a keyboard and mouse. The vulnerability of MI6 to this novel form of intelligence, then, speaks to society’s shift away from more conventional means of getting things done. As M rightly puts, enemies no longer operate behind unified banners or a centralised organisation. They are becoming increasingly anonymous and decentralised. Even with the best technology in the world, good guys operate against an enemy that is cunning, ruthless and elusive. However, as formidable as they are with a keyboard, the cleverest villain still has weaknesses, and this is something that one cannot pick up from behind a screen – upon meeting Q for the first time, Bond remarks that what HUMINT offers that SIGINT cannot is the ability to make a crack decision, whether or not to metaphorically (or literally) pull a trigger. There are things that one can ascertain in person that would be much trickier to investigate remotely, and hence, there remains a need to strike a balance between the old and the new. This balance is demonstrated as Q and Bond work together during Silva’s escape, as well as when they lure Silva to Skyfall estate for the climactic conclusion: away from his keyboard and mouse, Silva and his thugs are mortal men vulnerable to bullets, blades and fire. In the end, Skyfall indicates that against foes that would hide behind a keyboard, it is a combination of the old and new ways that work best, although even then, sacrifices often need to be made if one means to secure victory.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When I watched Skyfall in theatres eight years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with what the film had brought to the table – it was a striking balance of tradition and modernisation, reintroducing familiar characters in new roles and new personalities. The film opens with a lengthy chase sequence: after a hard drive is stolen, Bond pursues an assassin through Istanbul in an attempt to retrieve it. Dispensing with the iconic gun barrel, Skyfall continues in the vein of Craig’s movies in being grittier. I realise that, even back in 2012, Skyfall was better remembered for Adele’s rendition of the opening theme (almost to memetic levels), and while her performance of Skyfall was solid, the film itself is phenomenal. This is one of those things where I find myself at odds with the online community, who praised the song and forgot about the movie, and one of the things I aim to address in this post are the merits of Skyfall, which I feel to be under-appreciated.

  • After Bond is accidentally shot when Eve misses the assassin, he is presumed dead, and Thomas Newman’s style begins to make itself heard in Skyfall‘s soundtrack: a contemplative, melancholy tone is found in the incidental music, which mirrors the film’s themes of old and new. The Bond motif can still be heard interspersed throughout the film, cleverly woven into Newman’s compositions, but some of the songs that truly shine are those that have a purposeful sense of modernity to them. Mallory is seen speaking with M here, and in Skyfall, Judi Dench shines – she plays a regal, composed M fully aware of what her department’s purpose is, handling criticisms with dignity and a raw determination to see the job through.

  • After an unknown enemy reroutes gas lines into M’s office, triggering an explosion, MI6 moves its operations underground. This prompts Bond, who had disappeared into the tropics as retirement, to return to London. Bond’s aging was apparent here: he struggles to keep up with the tests, fares poorly as a marksman and walks out of a psychiatric test. It is in Skyfall that the realities of being a field operative are shown – Connery, Moore and Brosnan’s Bonds had suggested that being a spy would be a classy, suave occupation defined by martinis, girls and guns, but with recent thrillers like The Borne Identity, the 007 franchise has begin stepping away from the glorified, idealised vision of espionage in favour of a more down-to-earth, dangerous occupation.

  • The Craig era of 007 movies had initially struggled to make this transition, but by Skyfall, the series has found its footing. I was rather fond of Mallory’s character: he is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, a well-known actor best remembered as Harry Potter‘s Lord Voldemort. In Skyfall, Mallory seems fairly intent on seeing M’s retirement, stating that she’s had a good run and feeling the 00 section to be obsolete. He questions Bond on why he’s bothered to return before leaving M to brief Bond on the next assignment, which sends him to Shanghai.

  • While London only is presented briefly in most 007 films, Skyfall features the city as a more prominent background to remind viewers of the series’ roots. To this end, key scenes surrounding M and MI6 are set in London, and here, Bond heads to meet Q in a museum. K-On! The Movie had its home release a few months prior to Skyfall, and at the time, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast the two films’ portrayals of London – both take viewers to more mundane parts of London, including the Underground and museums, but because K-On! had been about exploration, its portrayal of London is much more colourful than Skyfall‘s.

  • Ben Washaw’s Q is quite unlike Desmond Llewelyn’s Q – the latter portrayed Q as an eccentric, uncommonly talented inventor whose genius lay in being able to conceal weapons in common, everyday objects. He enjoyed a light-hearted relationship with 007, briefing him on the gadgets that would come to save Bond’s skin in each movie, and constantly lamented that his gear never came back in pristine condition. Conversely, as a younger Q, Washaw’s talents in mechanical engineering, while still impressive, are secondary to his ability as a programmer and computer scientist. Q’s first exchange with Bond is a reminder of Skyfall‘s themes, challenging viewers to consider where the line between youthfulness and age, innovation and efficiency, is struck.

  • It is therefore unsurprising that Skyfall‘s Q equips Bond with a fingerprint-encoded Walther PPK and a radio transmitter before Bond leaves for Shanghai: this is a back to the basics loadout that evokes memories of Dr. No (when Bond switches over to the PPK), From Russia With Love (Q’s first introduction), Goldfinger (the radio transmitter), License to Kill (another fingerprint-encoded rifle) and GoldenEye (mention of an exploding pen). Once in Shanghai, Bond takes the time to do laps in a pool before setting off to tail his quarry, the assassin he had been pursuing in Istanbul.

  • In Shanghai, Bond’s old strength appears to begin returning to him: the assassin enters a building for another job, and Bond is forced to cling to an elevator to ensure he doesn’t lose the assassin. While Bond cannot stop the assassination, or prevent the assassin from falling to his death in the subsequent confrontation, he does manage to find a poker chip that points him to a casino in Macau. The fight here was a visual spectacle: as Bond and the assassin struggle to gain the upper hand over the other, the electronic signage of the building adjacent floods the floor in an unearthly light, giving the fight a surreal feeling.

  • Skyfall continues to subvert expectations for what a Bond movie is, but it also finds novel ways of playing the characters off one another: a recurring occurrence in Bond films was Moneypenny and Bond’s flirtations, which had a humourous tone to them. When Eve is sent to Macau to assist Bond, she helps him freshen up before they hit the casino. It creates a more human side to Bond’s character: previous series had presented Bond as a gentleman, but a stone-cold killer who brushed off death as an occupational hazard, and remorse as an impediment to his assignment. Craig’s Bond is more layered: he is someone who struggles with the balance between his duties and finding a meaningful human connection ever since the death of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.

  • While ostensibly set in Macau, Skyfall‘s portrayal of the colonial city is entirely fictional: there is no district of Macau hosting a sprawling casino, and in fact, Macau counts itself as the Chinese version of Las Vegas, with hotels and casinos rivalling those of Vegas’ Strip. I concede that Skyfall probably intended to create a more exotic portrayal of Macau to set the scene apart from Shanghai, which was correctly presented as a glittering metropolis. If memory serves, Bond also visits a floating casino in Macau during the events of The Man With the Golden Gun, lending additional credence to the idea that the choice to create a fictionalised Macau was deliberate.

  • At the casino, Bond meets Sévérine, a woman who was once a sex slave and currently works for a mysterious employer, whom she remarks to be fear incarnate. She agrees to help Bond out if he promises to take her employer out, and he agrees. Bond Girls figure in most 007 movies, although the precise definition of what makes a Bond Girl is not agreed on, ranging from “love interest” to any female character with a considerable role in the film. In this sense, Skyfall breaks the convention because the film’s romantic aspects are minimal. I’ve always found the romance in James Bond movies to be generally weak, a token aspect of the film compared to the spectacle of explosions and car chases. It is only in films like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale, where Bond considers retirement to be with someone important to him, where the romance becomes more meaningful.

  • Conversely, in Skyfall, besides Sévérine, the women (Eve and M) play a much larger role in the plot itself, setting in motion the events that leads Bond to the villain. This aspect of Skyfall shows that a Bond movie could hypothetically do without Bond Girls and still tell a compelling story. With this in mind, a Bond film without a Bond Girl probably would not be counted as a true James Bond movie: this is that balance between tradition and innovation that Skyfall itself speaks to, and I feel that Skyfall itself did a decent job of exploring these new realms. Here, after cashing in the poker chip that was meant as the assassin’s payment and taking a drink, Bond defeats Sévérine’s bodyguards, convincing her that he is up to the task. The palm-encoded gun comes in handy here when one of the henchmen grabs Bond’s PPK, but it refuses to fire, leaving him to be bitten by a Komodo Dragon.

  • Ultimately, Sévérine takes Bond to meet her employer, an unusual character who is physically unimposing, but also unstable. This is Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent who turned to criminal activities after being abandoned. His hideout is on an island that resembles Hashima Island: the real Hashima Island was originally a coal-mining island, and had been home to mines since 1887. By 1916, the island’s first concrete apartment was constructed to accommodate miners and their families. These structures were intended to protect against typhoons and would soon dominate the island over the next five decades, but when the coal seams began running dry in the 1970s, the island was abandoned. Here, Silva’s setup can be seen: he’s running servers in a large room that resemble the crudely-assembled rigs that crypto-currency miners use.

  • For Sévérine’s betrayal, Silva decides to execute her, concealing it as a sporting game where the object is to knock a shot of Scotch from her head using an old Percussion Cap Ardesa 1871 Duelling Pistol. Aware that Bond’s marksmanship is poor, Silva anticipates that Bond might accidentally hit Sévérine in the process. Bond deliberately misses, and Silva shoots her himself, declaring himself the winner of that contest. However, Bond manages to turn the tables on Silva and kills all of his guards, just as a contingent of helicopters arrive to take Silva in.

  • In a way, Silva represents a proper modern villain, driven not by grandiose plans for changing the world, but rather, petty revenge. Given the prevalence of petty flame wars on social media platforms such as Twitter and Reddit, Silva’s motivations are in keeping with the times, and I’ve found the world’s blind faith in social media opinions to be a disturbing one. I imagine that many of the people behind popular hate memes and misinformation campaigns out there would resemble Silva: possessing some talent, but ultimately, unstable and motivated by trivial reasons. Just because Silva is petty, however, does not mean he is any less dangerous.

  • As Q quickly discovers, breaches in a computer network do not usually result just from an adversary having a superior algorithm for defeating security, but rather, as a result of being played. Social engineering, rather than an uncommon brilliance with writing algorithms that can crack encryption hashing, is how most hacks are carried out – while most films suggest that all one needs is a strong mathematics background, Linux or Ubuntu and fast fingers to be a hacker, the reality is that hackers are frighteningly good actors, counting on their ability to lie and deceive their way into a position where they can access sensitive data. Silva’s done precisely this, engineering his capture and counting on Q to be careless in order to break into MI6’s systems and create enough disorder to go after M.

  • During the inquiry, the minister questioning M goes on such a long-winded spiel about the usefulness of field agents coming to the end, that Mallory asks her to allow M to speak, as this was the purpose of the hearing. The minister is played by Helen Elizabeth McCrory, and while I initially thought she had played Dolores Umbridge, it turns out she’s actually the actress for Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter. Despite the claims against her approach, M remains calm and explains that she stands by her work because of the changing world: it is precisely because the world is changing that tried and true ways need to be retained and act as a measure of defending things the old fashioned way while newer techniques are refined.

  • Having eluded Bond in the London Underground, Silva arrives at the hearing and opens a firefight, hoping to kill M. Fortunately, Bond is not too far behind Silva and dispatches most of Silva’s henchmen. Mallory takes a bullet during the firefight while trying to protect M, and after Bond shoots a pair of fire extinguishers to create a smoke cover, Silva is forced to flee when he’s lost the initiative lost. With Silva gone for now and M safe, Bond decides it’s time to head elsewhere, on account of Silva’s considerable reach and resources, somewhere where they’d have the edge over Silva.

  • To ensure that Silva can locate M and himself, Bond asks Q to create a trail for Silva to follow, likely by mimicking the tracking signals used by MI6 company cars, with the aim of luring Silva into the open. The operation is not strictly by-the-book or legal, prompting Q to remark that his “promising career in espionage” might be over before it really began. While it took some getting used to, Washaw’s Q is actually a nice change of pace from Llewelyn and Cleese’s Q – while as brilliant as his predecessors, Washaw’s Q is still learning the ropes surrounding intelligence, and makes mistakes on the job, making him more relatable. I’ve long joked that Cillian Murphy might be suited for portraying Hibike! Euphonium‘s Noboru Taki, but now that I think about it, Washaw wouldn’t be a bad choice, either.

  • A part of keeping M safe includes switching over to the Aston Martin DB5, which first made its debut in Goldfinger. Capable of reaching 100 km/h from zero in eight seconds and reaching a top speed of 233 km/h, the DB5 became famous as being the first Bond car to be equipped with an array of unusual features: an oil slick, tire spikes, front-facing .30 calibre machine guns and an ejector seat. In Skyfall, this appears to be the original DB5 from the Goldfinger days in-universe, as the car is equipped with the ejector seat. In a in a bit of a humourous moment, Bond idly fingers the button under the transmission column when M remarks the car isn’t very comfortable, and it seems she knows precisely what the ejector seat is about.

  • When Mallory notices Bill Tanner and Q writing a phoney tracking signal, rather than reprimand them, he instead suggests to set the Scotland segment of the signal down the A9, which is the longest road in Scotland and therefore, well covered by traffic cameras. Mallory begins the film as someone who questions M’s efficacy, but over the course of Skyfall, comes to see M’s standpoint on why having field agents and HUMINT is so important – the attempt on M’s life and his efforts to defend her show that Mallory is someone who does what he feels is best, and moreover, is someone who isn’t unwilling to admit when there are merits to the other side’s perspective.

  • The unique terrain in Scotland accounts for its world-famous gloomy weather, where it is rainy and overcast for a fair portion of the year. The weather is so prevalent that the Scots even have their own word to describe it: dreich. It seems appropriate to send Bond and M up here: there is a sort of melancholy about as they make their way to Bond’s childhood home. I am generally not fond of weather such as this, but I concede that there is a charm about the miserable, grey weather that is perfect when one feels the inclination to do some introspection and brood a little.

  • After arriving at Skyfall, M and Bond meet gamekeeper Kincaid, a gruff but warm individual not unlike Hagrid. One would be forgiven for thinking they could find Hogwarts nearby – the famous School for Witchcraft and Wizardry is also set in the Scottish Highlands, and up here, Bond’s comment about going back in time holds true. An ancient stone house in the middle of nowhere, far removed from the wireless connections of the world, feels like a place befitting of a “better man wins” face-off. With Kincaid’s help, Bond and M rig the old home with improvised traps and uses whatever’s available to prepare for the inevitable firefight against Silva and his henchmen. Bond initially asks Kincaid to sit this one out, but ever loyal to the Bond family, Kincaid declines and readies his Charles Parker 1878 double-barrelled shotgun for the fight.

  • As evening sets in, Silva’s first wave of men begin showing up. Bond uses the DB5’s machine guns to mow them down, and then picks off survivors with a double-barrelled Anderson Wheeler 500 NE. Inside the house, the various traps finish off any stragglers. A lull steals across the landscape, and in the distance, The Animal’s cover of Boom Boom begins playing, announcing Silva’s arrival. I know The Animals best for their classic, House of the Rising Sun, and listening to the lyrics in Boom Boom, it seems an appropriate choice of song for Silva, expressing his thoughts about wiping M and Bond out. This creates a jovial atmosphere that stands in complete contrast with the mood that surrounds Skyfall and its final firefight.

  • After disposing of the first wave of Silva’s henchmen, Bond picks up an HK-416 D10RS to provide himself with more firepower. Considered to be one of the best assault rifles around, handling very well and shooting accurately, the HK-416 uses a short-stroke piston system that was based on the G36 line of rifles but sports a frame similar to the AR-15 family of rifles. The D10RS has a barrel length of 264 mm and is one of the more compact variants of the HK-416. After Silva arrives, he orders the DB5 destroyed and begins tossing incendiary grenades into the house in an attempt to flush M and Bond out. Kincaid takes M through the priest tunnel, and Bond rigs some dynamite he’d retrieved from the quarry to blow a pair of large gas tanks.

  • Kincaid and M make it through the priest tunnel and find the home burning: when the gas tanks exploded, it killed most of Silva’s men, and stunned the helicopter pilots, causing them to crash into the house. The resulting explosion is even larger than the first and flattens the old stone house. Bond himself barely escapes in the priest tunnel and comes out the other end, but unlike Kincaid, who knows the area well, he is forced to traverse a frozen lake and defeats the remainder of Silva’s men after falling into the frozen water.

  • Climactic battles in James Bond movies are always my favourite part of the film, featuring some of the most impressive action scenes. Some of the best final fights include the raid on Fort Knox in Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice‘s assault on Blofeld’s volcano hideout, the firefight on Stromberg’s Liparus in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker‘s space battle, which marks the only time a James Bond ever was in space. While Moonraker‘s fight can be seen as ludicrous, as my first 007 movie, I personally enjoyed it greatly. By comparison, Skyfall‘s final fight is nothing outrageous or of an impressive scale, but it works well enough for the story, being an old-fashioned gun fight in a field where skill with a keyboard and mouse has no bearing.

  • While Bond is distracted fighting the remaining henchman, Silva notices Kincaid’s flashlight and follows it to find M and Kincaid in an old chapel. He implores M to shoot them both so they die together for their sins, but fortunately, Bond arrives just in time to throw a knife into Silva’s chest, killing him. It’s a bit of an anti-climactic death for Silva to symbolise the futility of his actions, and that for all of his field experience and knowledge in cyber-warfare, he is still just an ordinary man.

  • In Skyfall‘s most poignant moment, M succumbs to her wounds and dies. However, rather than dying to someone who had a vendetta against her, she dies in the company of her best 00 Agent – while Bond might not be the most by the book 00 Agent she has, he’s the most resourceful and committed to doing his job, no matter the cost, and there is a symbolism about dying in a chapel, just as her current job of identifying and bringing the perpetrator Silva to justice comes to a close. With Judi Dench’s M deceased, her role as M draws to a close, and I admit that I was very fond of her portrayal as M – previous Ms were played by Bernard Lee and Robert Brown, who portrayed a stern, serious intelligence head that embodies the English spirit. Dench, on the other hand, handles the post-Cold War MI6 with a matronly dignity.

  • After M’s death, Mallory is promoted to be the new M. Bond briefly contemplates the old M’s passing before returning to his duties. However, M’s death weighs on Bond heavily, and in Spectre, it is revealed that Bond is secretly investigating a lead M had been working on prior to her death, similarly to how Harry, Ron and Hermione continued to pursue Horcruxes after Dumbledore’s death. With this, my revisit of Skyfall draws to a close. For the themes that it covers and the fact that it weaves its themes into the very fabric of how the film was presented, Skyfall is probably my favourite James Bond movie from a story perspective. Despite eight years having passed since I first watched and wrote about the film, Skyfall‘s themes and messages remain relevant today. The film also evokes memories of my undergraduate thesis project, but I will be saving those thoughts when I write about Halo 4, which released in November 2012.

Overall, Skyfall was a superb James Bond experience, being my favourite Daniel Craig Bond film insofar, and while I’ve yet to see No Time To Die, which is supposed to be the last of the Craig Bond films, I imagine that Skyfall will continue to hold the crown of being the top Craig 007 film on account of its themes, presentation and balance between classic Bond experiences, as well as the grittier Craig-style 007. Skyfall cemented Daniel Craig’s suitability as performing James Bond during its run: Casino Royale had presented Bond as being inexperienced, a blunt instrument, and Quantum of Solace was a bit of a disappointment. By Skyfall, Craig plays an aging 007 who is past his prime, determined to continue serving his country even though he is declining both physically and mentally: the idea of returning to old places and older ideas is a recurring theme in the movie, as well, and indicate that while technology has advanced incredibly, the crutch that superior technology offers might not always out-compete raw experience. Skyfall is therefore compelling, telling a story that speaks to the realities of espionage and the world at large: fancy gadgets, fast cars and beautiful women are sidelined in favour of considering relevant social and political conditions in this 007 movie, and consequently, Skyfall does stand out as being one of the more thought-provoking James Bond films for striking a balance between old and new, the overt and the subtle, and respecting the series’ roots while presenting a contemporary, current theme at its core. Eight years ago, Skyfall was an immensely enjoyable film, and presently, topics that the movie covers remain relevant – even more of the world is connected now than it had been in 2012, and the dangers of an over-reliance on technology, as well as not fully understanding what bad-faith actors are utilising technology for, remain ever-present threats on the principles and values that form our institutions. As Skyfall suggests, it is only through a merger of the old and new, experience and innovation, that enemies of our system can be understood and if not overcome, held at bay.

007 Nightfire Review and Reflection

“I’ll credit you with persistence Mr. Bond. Persistence and failure. There are NATO launch sites on Earth which could challenge the arsenal on my island. Those bases will be incinerated…by turning these defensive missiles into massively offensive ones.” —Raphael Drake

007 Nightfire is an appropriate way to kick off a new class of posts under the “Ye olde Arcade” section, where I will review older games for old times’ sake. Released in 2002 for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube, 007 Nightfire is the first-person shooter I owned — at the time, I only played shooters at a cousin’s house during Christmas dinners, and I only had the Super Nintendo console. Enjoying GoldenEye 64 and Agent Under Fire thoroughly, I was thrilled to receive 007 Nightfire as a birthday gift. An original story, 007 Nightfire follows James Bond through his investigation of Phoenix International, a multi-national corporation who is suspected of weapons smuggling. Coming head-to-head with its owner, the industrialist Raphael Drake, Bond learns that Phoenix International has been clandestinely stockpiling nuclear materials for Operation Nightfire: the reorganising of the world under Phoenix International in order to create a world ruled by Drake’s corporation. Fighting through Drake’s private paramilitary groups on a secluded Pacific Island and in an underground launch facility, Bond infiltrates a shuttle, boards the US Space Defense Platform and destroys the nuclear missiles to save millions of lives before taking Drake on in a one-on-one in a space battle that was crafted and honed well before Call of Duty: Ghosts would return to a similar environment some eleven years later.

Possesses a 007 with Pierce Brosnan’s likeness, a novel narrative, its own theme song and is ultimately one remarkably well-executed adventure, making it perhaps the best 007 game ever made; coupled with its excellent graphics and smooth gameplay, this is an excellent instalment in the series that acts as a worthy successor to GoldenEye 64. Aside from technically solid elements, 007 Nightfire is also rifle with callbacks to older James Bond films. Bond’s switch from combat gear to an evening suit to infiltrate Drake’s party is inspired by From Russia With Love. The Aston Martin is clearly the same vehicle from Die Another Day. When Bond visits Tokyo to obtain information from Alexander Mayhew about a missing guidance chip, he visit Mayhew’s Japanese mansion and Phoenix’s Japanese branch, in a manner similar to that of You Only Live Twice. The Aston Martin’s ability to transform into a submarine is from The Spy Who Loved Me, and the ultimate showdown between Bond and Drake is reminiscent of Moonraker. Other elements, such as Fort Knox and the Golden Gun (Goldfinger and The Man With the Golden Gun), also make a return in the multiplayer: this game is packed with references to older James Bond films and is an absolute blast to play through for existing James Bond fans.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Until I review DOOM, I believe that 007 Nightfire will be the oldest game I’ve ever reviewed on this blog. Playing through 007 Nightfire brings back plenty of memories, and as such, the figure captions for this post will be one long trip down memory lane for me. I will offer some suggestions on the gameplay here and there, although how useful those bits of information will be will be up for discussion, since I do not imagine this game is played with any great frequency.

  • The first thing that made 007 Nightfire so enjoyable were the atmospherics: after a chase through the streets of Paris in the first mission, the second mission has Bond infiltrate a party at Drake’s castle in Austria. The snowfall and castle by night evokes a plainly Christmas feeling, even though there is a total absence of Christmas decorations at Drake’s castle.

  • Here, I wield a suppressed Accuracy International AWM with a winter camouflage (Winter Covert Rifle), one of two bolt-action rifles in the game. I imagine that these long-range weapons are outfitted with a straight-pull bolt, since Bond never zooms out in order to chamber a new round after firing. It’s an excellent weapon for long-range combat, and can be used to pick off Drake’s guards without drawing too much attention to oneself.

  • The Walther PPK (Wolfram PP7) is Bond’s starting weapon on most missions. Firing 7.65mm rounds, it deals little damage and has a low capacity, meaning that it will often be replaced by other weapons that are found. However, it’s not entirely ineffective — one of the PPK’s advantages is that it can be suppressed, making it useful for dispatching lone enemies without drawing attention to oneself. Beating the game will unlock the Walther P99 (Wolfram P2K), a more powerful weapon with a larger magazine capacity chambered for 9 mm rounds.

  • Special actions, known as “Bond Moves”, can be performed in 007 Nightfire (as was possible in its predecessor, Agent Under Fire). These actions allow Bond to move through areas more easily, or dispatch a large number of opponents at once in an ingenious fashion. When performed, they confer a scoring bonus that contributes towards the end-of-mission medal, which unlocks multiplayer skins.

  • The interior of Drake’s castle is well-designed, featuring warm lighting and an aristocratic atmosphere befitting of an industrialist such as Drake. It’s the perfect place for a Christmas party, and I’ve often spent time exploring, wondering what such an area might look like by day. Subtle attention to detail in the different levels make the game highly pleasant from a visual perspective, giving it a very polished feel.

  • After retrieving the guidance package and meeting up with Zoe Nightshade (a character returning from Agent Under Fire), it’s time to leave the party. I’m wielding the Heckler and Koch MP5K (Deutsche M9K) with a 21-round magazine, and later, I’ll pick up the AT-420 Sentinel, a fictional shoulder-fired multiple rocket launcher with TV-guided missiles to take on Rook’s gunship. To avoid self-inflicted damage, it’s advisable to shoot out the windows of the gondola first.

  • The gameplay in 007 Nightfire was incredibly diverse for its time, featuring both rail-shooting and driving missions in addition to first-person shooting. The third mission is the escape from Drake’s castle via heavily armed snowmobiles. Armed with both heavy machine guns and rockets, this mission is highly enjoyable, standing in stark contrast with the PC version of 007 Nightfire, which I’ve also played and is an inferior game in every way to the console versions.

  • While it seems a little strange, vehicles can also pick up Kevlar vests to become armoured. After a harrowing chase down the mountain side, Nightshade pilots the snowmobile through a mountain lodge filled with guests before destroying one of the pursing helicopters to end the mission.

  • Equipped with smoke, EMP rounds, boosters, guided missiles, unguided rockets and forward-facing machine guns, Bond’s Aston Martin is a fantastic vehicle to drive. The upgraded missiles can lock onto up to four targets at once, allowing for Bond and Nightshade to reach the extraction point with relative ease. Civilian police cars participate in the chase, although harming them will result in an immediate mission failure.

  • I lock onto one of the helicopters and prepare to blow it away with the guided missiles in order to clear the extraction site here. While an excellent vehicle in all regards, one of the features that I missed from Die Another Day is the adaptive camouflage (in effect, a cloak for the vehicle). It’s explained as making use of cameras to project an image they see onto the other side of the vehicle to give the sense of invisibility. I imagine that adding this ability to the vehicle would make it overpowered, and furthermore, isn’t strictly necessary in terms of gameplay.

  • The fifth mission, set at Mayhew’s Japanese home, is another example of the excellent level design in 007 Nightfire: subtle details, such as the furnishings in the interior or the layout of the gardens outside, are simply spectacular. Here, I’m equipped with a Desert Eagle (Raptor Magnum) chambered for the .375 calibre round. Compared to its .5 calibre counterpart, this one is more accurate and has a slower rate of fire.

  • 007 Nightfire is where I first encountered the SPAS-12 shotgun in a game, and it could alternate between pump-action and semi-automatic fire. Excellent for close quarters combat, it’s particularly effective in the narrow corridors of Mayhew’s mansion.

  • Here, I wield the Ruger MP9 (Storm M32), which offsets its weak bullet damage with a high firing rate and magazine size. How did I take the screenshots for this post? A magician does not reveal all of is tricks is all I have to say on the matter. I did try to make some of these screenshots consistent with those from my old website’s review, and have since replaced them. I’ve discontinued updates for the old site, although the 007 Nightfire images merited a return: I believe they are the only images that remained that I did not capture myself, since I lacked the means to capture screenshots when I wrote that post.

  • The mission to infiltrate the Phoenix International building in Tokyo gives the game a feeling similar to those of the older Metal Gear Solid games, and for this mission, Bond is initially to make his way to the top floors of the building to plant a worm into the computer servers. Only civilian security guards are encountered, and the mission will end if they are killed. To aid players, Bond is equipped with a specially-modified Heckler and Koch P11 (the Korsakov K5 Dart Gun) that fires tranqualiser rounds. To conserve on limited ammunition, it’s also possible to stun guards with the key fob or simply punch them out.

  • The offices for the Japanese branch of Phoenix International feels like the headquarters for Konami, Square Enix or other Japanese game publishers: both missions set in the Phoenix International building in Tokyo give the sense that they were designed and published by Japanese developers with respect to the level design, feeling like something straight out of older PS2 games, such as Metal Gear Solid, despite the fact that Eurocom developed the console version of the game.

  • The seventh mission deals with a derelict nuclear power station undergoing decommissioning along the Japanese coast. It marks the first time I’ve played a shooter set in a haikyo, and the abandoned area serves as a fantastic location for Drake to conduct illicit research on prototype weapons even as he leads a group of reporters in a tour of the area, suggesting that his goals are philanthropic in nature.

  • The standard AWM (Winter Tactical Rifle) is the best weapon in 007 Nightfire for long-range combat. Chambered for the .308 round, it’s well suited for taking out distant enemies in the seventh mission: enemy snipers are prevalent on the map, and can deal serious damage to Bond. The best tactic is to stay hidden and pick off enemies one at a time, always keeping one’s back to a wall. Later, armour piercing rounds can be equipped.

  • The eighth mission sends Bond back to the Phoenix International building after his capture at the nuclear power plant, and is a backtracking mission that places emphasis on going loud. I’ve got the SG-552 carbine here: there’s a suppressed variant of it in the second mission, but here, I’ve got access to a full automatic version equipped with optics. The go-to assault rifle in 007 Nightfire, ammunition for it is reasonably common.

  • I’m wielding the AT-600 Scorpion rocket launcher against an endless horde of enemies in the Phoenix Building’s lobby. With the objective being to escape, it’s also the perfect time to boost one’s stats at the end of the mission: unlike the Sentinel, its rockets are heat-seekers. There’s also a Mikor MGL (Militek MGL) in the level with twelve available 40mm grenades (six in the chamber, six in reserve) that can be likewise used to unleash explosive chaos. Exiting the lobby completes the mission and leads to the introduction of Alura McCall, an Australian operative.

  • The ninth mission entails piloting Bonds Aston Martin as a submarine to infiltrate Drake’s island facility. I never could get past this when I first played the game some twelve years ago, but of late, perhaps armed with the wisdom and experience of a graduate student, I’ve managed to beat this level now. A combination of a steady piloting and caution will allow for this level to be completed, and it was very enjoyable to delve deeper into a well-designed facility I’d not seen previously.

  • Aside from avoiding patrols, making use of guided torpedoes to damage surveillance infrastructure, and deploying limpet charges on the underwater missiles, there’s also a section in the ninth mission where Bond must destroy an active submarine. Its torpedoes are devastating, but one trick to make this fight easier (if lengthier) is to stay in the shadows and hammer it with guided torpedoes until it is destroyed.

  • The tenth mission is another driving mission, and I recall watching The New Woody Woodpecker Show during this time period. Produced from 1999 to 2002, it was well-animated and rather comical; Woody Woodpecker himself is voiced by Billy West (Futurama‘s Phillip J. Fry). I rather miss the show, and English-language releases have been even more rare than Kevin Gillis’ The Raccoons.

  • Consisting of three distinct acts, the tenth mission of 007 Nightfire is one incredible ride through a tropical island. After commandeering a heavily-armed SUV and destroying automated turrets en route to an airfield, Bond and McCall take to the skies in an ultra-light armed for a rail-shooter. The pulse weaponry and rockets are superbly effective against ground-based and air-based targets. I prefer using the rockets for harder targets, switching to the D1400 pulse weapons to finish other opponents off.

  • The final act of this mission is in a stationary turret, armed with a powerful anti-tank cannon and what appears to be a directed energy pulse weapon for anti-air targets. The enemy tanks, aircraft and a submarine will always spawn in the same order, making this section of the game reasonably straight forwards to complete. Coming up next in “Ye Olde Aracade” will be a talk on Enter The Matrix, which I played for both GameCube and PC. I have an opinion on that game contrary to most reviewers, and will be looking to write about that one as time allows. Regular programming resumes with the sixth episode of Brave Witches, which I will aim to publish by Thursday or Friday.

  • The penultimate mission through the interior of Drake’s facility is downright epic. The initial goal is to follow Kiko stealthily through the facility to reach a server room, and Bond is equipped with a crossbow for ultimate stealth. Disabling the alarms and cameras helps greatly, and subsequently, once the servers are offline, it’s time to settle a score with Rook, Drake’s henchman. Rook is incredibly durable and can tank direct hits from the M29 OICW’s high-explosive 20mm grenades. Known as the AIMS-20 (Advanced Individual Munitions System) in-game, the OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon) is the best assault rifle in the game, firing 5.56 mm rounds in bursts and also mounts an integral grenade launcher, as well as an infrared scope.

  • The OICW’s best feature are its grenades: smaller than those of the MGL, they are not affected by projectile drop to the same extent and can be used to deal serious damage even at a distance. After defeating Rook, the Phoenix Samurai Laser Rifle can be acquired. The most powerful weapon in the game, it has unlimited ammunition and is quite lethal, although I prefer the OICW for this mission owing to how plentiful ammunition for it is.

  • The final stage of the penultimate mission is to survive two consecutive shuttle launches and fend off two waves of attackers, including two ninjas. At the end of the fifth mission, a ninja shows up to assassinate Mayhew, forcing Bond to engage him. I found that a single headshot (or two body shots) with the AWM would work quite well, but in this mission, the under-barrel grenades can eliminate the ninjas on very short order. Once they’re down, Bond sends Kiko to her death and boards the shuttle for the final mission.

  • 007 Nightfire got the concept of space missions down before Call of Duty: Ghosts existed, and the final mission, titled “Equinox”, is a superb exercise in aiming and persistence. Players must destroy the coupling on the missile gantries, which will send them off course, while simultaneously fending off soldiers who are also armed with the Phoenix Samurai laser rifle. The weapon has good optics and an alternative fire that compresses energy into a powerful ball: its firing sound is identical to the Photon Cannon, a multiplayer-only power weapon available in Agent Under Fire.

  • Once all the missiles are sent off course, Drake himself comes out to fight Bond mano-a-mano. He’s wielding a Scorpion rocket launcher and can tank several laser shots: the heat seeking missiles makes him quite devastating, so it is imperative to keep moving. The first time I beat this mission, I managed to push Drake into the Space Defense Platform’s laser, killing him instantly, although now, my aim is sure enough for me to hit him using the Phoenix Samurai laser rifle. Even after he’s dead, one must keep moving to avoid any missiles still in the area, but once Drake’s lifeless corpse is shown in a cutscene, players can breathe easy, having finished 007 Nightfire‘s campaign.

As far as I am concerned, 007 Nightfire is the greatest James Bond shooter ever made: even today, the gameplay and design of the game is quite solid when compared to some modern shooters. Clearly, 007 Nightfire has stood the test of time, and I’m finding that the game is just as fun now as it was when I played through the game during a lazy summer vacation during my time as a middle school student. Back then, I had a tremendous amount of difficulty beating the submarine mission, and only completed the game recently. The reviews on the campaign’s short length are spot on: it does come across as being quite short, although there is plenty of replay value in trying to collect all of the medals and unlock all of the multiplayer skins. In an ordinary review, I would give 007 Nightfire a strong recommendation and suggest that players check this game out. However, 007 Nightfire is fourteen years old now, and picking up the game for a Playstation 2 or GameCube could be quite tricky. With that being said, it is nonetheless a solid game, and anyone with the game for an older console could probably find it quite entertaining, if a little tacky, by contemporary standards.

Skyfall

Skyfall is the twenty-third film in the James Bond series, focussing on Bond’s investigation regarding an attack on MI6; it transpires that it is part of an attack on M by former MI6 operative Raoul Silva. The film was released on November 9 in North America.

Personal Opinion

This is a curious discussion, given that it is not an anime related matter that falls under discussion this time. However, the opportunity to consider the movie presented itself after I was given the opportunity to see it myself recently, and for what it is worth, the movie is understandably seen as one of the strongest additions to the 007 series yet, breaking away from traditional methods and taking into account the atmosphere in the present-day, while reintroducing all of the classical 007 elements. In particular, the shift from world-domination and gadget-driven elements to character-driven elements stands out from the pre-Daniel Craig 007 movies. Daniel Craig delivers a superb performance as a grittier, more down-to-earth 007 in Skyfall, inspired by elements in the Sean Connery era of 007 films; coupled with Judi Dench’s extended role as M, the characters are presented as more human and vulnerable compared to even the previous Daniel Craig movies as 007. Javier Bardem takes on the role of Raoul Silva, a unique take on a 007 villian motivated not by profit or personal glory, but revenge. Despite his motivations appearing trivial, Silva is depicted as a depraved villian whose desire for revenge exceeds reason: his threat to MI6 as a whole comes from his willingness to use all means to achieve his ends. Naomie Harris plays Eve Moneypenny, and again, breaks out of the character’s traditional role. She accompanies 007 on his missions and is decidedly more active than her forerunners, only consenting to take on a desk job following the film’s events. Despite being a field agent, her exchanges with 007 have all the wit and manner of those seen in previous films. Finally, Ben Whishaw plays the new Q, despite being younger than 007 (yet another first for the franchise). His presentation suggests a quartermaster who is more driven by practicality (as seen in the scene with the new Walther PPK) rather than the fanciful gadgets of older 007 movies. The diverse cast of characters motivate the plot, which proceeds fairly well (the presence of a few minor technicalities, such as Sévérine’s significance, does very little to detract from it) and culminates at the Skyfall Manor. The cinematic elements of audio and visuals are top-notch, from the sound of explosions and gunfire to the panoramas of the locales in the film, ranging from Shanghai to Scotland. Skyfall represents the proper introduction of 007 into a new era where computers and technical know-how are the new weapons, and remind viewers that the transition from the Cold War era, with its clearly defined enemies and allies, is one fraught with difficulty. In today’s age, anyone could be the enemy, especially in light of ever-improving computer technologies, and the fact that this is addressed in Skyfall makes the movie especially relatable and enjoyable to new viewers. Existing fans of 007 will find the return of classical, trademark elements from older 007 movies, including the Aston Martin DB5, complete with ejector seat and forward facing machine guns (Goldfinger), Q’s quip about exploding pens (GoldenEye), the biometric PPK (License to Kill), 007’s note that he has something for M’s eyes only (For Your Eyes Only), amongst others, to be most amusing. For me, the return to the Universal Exports offices seen in Dr. No (1962) all the way until License to Kill (1989) was most welcome.

  • All images are obtained from the trailers: I’ve only presented a handful of them here to augment the discussion, and in the order that the scenes appear in the movie, rather than the order of appearance in the trailer.

  • The age of Cold-War era schemes by grand organisations motivated by idealogical factors and wealth have long past. Modern criminals are more chaotic and tech-savvy, preferring to use computers to conduct their business in place of bullets.

  • Those who praised KyoAni for replicating London so well in the K-On! Movie will probably be disappointed to know that live action does the job even better. That, and the fact that the SIS Building is actually featured in 007 Movies. Unlike the explosion in The World is Not Enough, this scene was created by digitally effects.

  • M and Mallory discuss the limitations of MI6. While presented as initially unfriendly towards MI6, Mallory later assists Bond in thwarting Silva’s assassination attempt and permits Bond and Q to carry out an unauthorized mission to draw Silva out into the open.

  • Q is competent with computational technologies and the design of down-to-earth gadgets that prove useful to 007: in Macau, one of Sévérine’s bodyguards attempt to use 007’s PPK, only for it to not fire, and the radio transmitter is used to locate 007’s position.

  • The cinematography in Skyfall is insane, being directed by Roger Deakins. Every location in the movie (Istanbul, Shanghai, Macau, Hashima island and London) is visualised in beautiful detail.

  • I’m not sure such a casino exists in Macau, and Sévérine’s character seems limited. This could be a clever reflection of how Silva regards those that work under him, though.

  • Much of Skyfall remains in London, contrasting the more exotic locales found in previous 007 films and signifying that the movie is predominantly about 007’s origins.

  • The inclusion of the Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldfinger was particularly clever: the incarnation here even features the very same ejector seat and machine guns hidden behind the headlights. Skyfall manor is located in Scotland, being 007’s home and the scene of the final showdown between 007 and Silva. The desolate moorlands in Scotland appear to be very similar to the location of Hogwarts, and indeed, I found Kincaid, Skyfall’s gamekeeper, to be remarkably similar to Hagrid in character.

  • 007 looking over a panorama of London at the Universal Exports headquarters. This marks the end of my discussion: my final verdict is that Skyfall is an excellent addition to the 007 franchise and may be one of the better Bond films around. The next movie is set for release in 2014, according to rumour, but until then, The Hobbit awaits. On an unrelated note, I don’t consider my reviews to be true reviews, but rather, discussions.