Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Games
Release Date: November 22, 2004
It is, and remains, fun to be a bastard.
Goldeneye: Rogue Agent may be the best James Bond game yet, which is funny, because Bond is only in it for about thirty seconds. It's an FPS, like Goldeneye on the N64, but it sets itself apart from the recent glut of them with its style, its difficulty, a standout soundtrack from Paul Oakenfold, and the host of inventive ways in which you can kill people.
Rogue Agent is rich in the typical FPS methods of homicide: gunshots, explosions, beating a man to death with the butt of your rifle, and the use of anti-tank ordinance on a single unarmored human target. It expands upon this repertoire with the use of human shields, transposing a dazed enemy between you and his former friends, and by letting you use whatever's handy to catch your enemies in an improvised deathtrap. Want to run somebody over with an automated trolley? Go for it. How about pouring liquid gold on a guy's head? It's in there.
This process of applied sadism is being carried out by Goldeneye, a former member of MI-6. Following his losing an eye at the hands of Dr. No, Goldeneye was forced to leave the agency. (Considering some of what Bond's done to his villains, I have to wonder exactly what it is that Goldeneye was doing that he was fired for it. Acid baths? .38 emasculations? Tickle torture? The mind boggles.)
He winds up in the employ of Bond's archnemesis Auric Goldfinger, who gives him a new eye, and in so doing, gives him a new name. Goldeneye's missions for Goldfinger will team him up with and pit him against a who's-who of Bond's greatest villains, such as Scaramanga, Oddjob, Xenia Onatopp, and finally, Dr. No himself.
Yeah, the timeline's kinda wonky. Roll with it.
Rogue Agent starts off difficult, and never really lets up. You've got a couple of spy tricks, such as your eye's ability to hack remote systems or see through enemies' cover, and a couple of neat guns show up now and again. I like the mag rail, which fires through objects, and the Detonator, which fires a slow-moving, sticky grenade which you can trigger remotely.
You've also got your arsenal of dirty tricks, which doesn't show up quite as often as I'd like. You can daze an enemy by using a tranquilizer gun or a couple of punches, then turn him around and use him as either a shield, as mentioned above, or a weapon, by shoving him into a couple of his buddies. Further, several rooms throughout the game come equipped with a deathtrap, such as a live wire in a pool of water or Goldfinger's Subzero Chamber, which will instantly kill anyone, including you, who's caught inside.
At the end of each level, you're scored depending on how many of these dirty tricks you've been able to pull off. Success unlocks various secrets, like features of the multiplayer mode and concept art. It's a very well-done mechanic, in that most of the tricks you're graded on are worth doing for their own sake, and aren't stunts of dubious merit (i.e., the Bond Moments in Everything or Nothing).
Your enemies in Dr. No's organization are well-armed, well-equipped, and by using a new AI engine called EVIL (Emotion-based Visceral Intelligent Learning), they're smart enough to coordinate their attacks. They'll actually tell each other what weapon you're carrying or where you are. If you rush their position down, they're prone to falling back to relative safety, and if you freak them out, they may actually use each other as human shields.
They're also usually on the defensive, and starting surprisingly early on, they have close air support. Rogue Agent is not afraid to pit you up against an armored column or a couple of attack helicopters, and while you'll usually have the firepower you need to take them down, it'll usually take a few restarts before you get the knack of it.
An additional factor here is that, for whatever reason, Goldeneye can only carry either one heavy weapon or two light ones. You can equip dead enemies' guns, such as assault rifles, sawed-offs, submachineguns, or heavy pistols. When those run out, you've got a pocketful of frag grenades and a drastically underpowered 9mm with effectively infinite ammo. You spend a lot of time doubling back to grab a gun you just dropped, or hunting around on the ground for a better weapon than the one you've got.
As a shooter, Rogue Agent fits somewhere between the relatively realistic tactical action of Halo or Call to Duty, where the use of cover is your single most important tactic, and less realistic, more intense games like Painkiller. It's probably tilted a bit towards the former, since Goldeneye is surprisingly difficult to kill. You can pick up armored vests from a few dead enemies and his health will recharge over time, but neither of these are a big help when there's a tank bearing down on you.
The biggest problems that Rogue Agent has are all relatively minor. It'd be nice to be able to carry more weapons, for instance, and the levels are absolutely enormous. At times, we're talking Turok 2 enormous, to the extent where they just will not give up and end already; I lost count of the number of times somebody chased off my ride during the Hong Kong stage.
It's also worth mentioning that for all the talk about Rogue Agent letting you be a villain, there's really not much in the way of truly villainous content. It'd be more accurate to say that your character's an antihero, since he's running around shooting bad people while in the employ of a supervillain; your "villainous" activities consist of being slightly more bastardly than Bond himself would be in a similar situation.
The deathtraps are few and far between (although they're always worth playing with when they do show up), the human shields aren't as useful as I'd like them to be, and many of your other dirty tricks are location-based. For example, the Cheap Shot trick depends upon your having access to a mag rail, which only appears a couple of times. I'm a big fan of Rogue Agent's singleplayer game, but it's not flawless.
Rogue Agent's also got a multiplayer mode, which is great for about 15 minutes on each map before the thrill kind of wears off. Catching each other in deathtraps and stunning the other guy with an EMP is fun (and why does an EMP stun another human, anyway?), but I found it wasn't long before we wanted to play something else. If you were addicted to Perfect Dark or Goldeneye on the N64, then you'll have a lot of fun with this, but I was never a big fan of those.
Goldeneye: Rogue Agent has a challenging, excellent single-player mode, with great presentation and some truly amazing set pieces. This is about as close as any shooter's come to replicating the action-movie experience, with plenty of toys to play with and a great techno soundtrack. It's not without its faults, and the multiplayer mode isn't all that great, but for a singleplayer experience, Rogue Agent delivers.
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