GOLDENEYE: ROGUE AGENT / Electronic Arts / Gamecube

James Bond games were pretty much complete garbage until 1997's Goldeneye for the N64. That title singlehandedly made Bond-themed games a sales force again. Unfortunately, shortly after it was made, most of the people responsible for making it left Rare to form their own studio. Rare then lost the license to EA, who sat on it for a decade shitting out any number of Bond games, none of which were nearly as good as Goldeneye.

Some of EA's Bond games actually weren't bad at all. Everything or Nothing and Nightfire were pretty well regarded, for example, and we just reviewed From Russia With Love here, which I thought was pretty decent. Nothing ever approached Goldeneye in quality, though. So for them to use the word in the title of a new game - implying some sort of a sequel, something on the same level - was kind of a dick marketing move.

Even more so when you see the contortions they went through to make "Goldeneye" relevant without actually using the movie or the previous game at all. The story actually has nothing to do with ANY Bond movie in particular; instead it's some weird fan-fic style mish-mash of elements from different Bond movies, but all teleported to a present-day setting. First off, you're not James Bond, but some other unnamed agent. You start out in MI6 for one brief training level; during a simulated mission in which Auric Goldfinger takes over Fort Knox with his plan to irradiate the world's gold supply, 007 manages to get himself killed and you get to the end only to see the place go up in a nuclear blast. None of this actually appears to really be your fault, nor do you really do anything overly objectionable other than shooting a bad guy who is hanging off a railing, but somehow this is enough to get you kicked out of MI6. Goldfinger is waiting IRL with a job offer though, so you go join him to be an evil henchman. You'll then fight the forces of Dr. No, who has broken ranks with SPECTRE.

And after all that, that doesn't explain the Goldeneye connection. OK, so at some other vague and unspecified point after you get kicked out of MI6, Scaramanga outfits you with a golden eye after you get one shot out. So that's your name. The eye gets upgraded throughout the game to have different abilities, but starts only with the ability to see enemies behind cover at close range.

EA's biggest problem with these games always seems to be level design and key gameplay mechanics. They just fundamentally don't get either somehow, and make a bunch of inexplicably terrible decisions. It's like they hired competent graphics people, sound people, writers and programmers, but then decided to pay tarsis monkeys off with a few bananas to direct the whole thing. Nowhere is this more apparent than here in Rogue Agent.

Goldeneye's biggest problem is irony, really. For a guy with an augmented eye, you have a hell of a time even seeing and aiming at enemies. This is thanks to a confluence of issues. The first is that your reticule is this ridiculously tiny (and dull) laser sight that usually blends into the background and becomes nearly invisible. It almost plays like an "iron sights" game, except the guns weren't designed to be used that way, so really it's more like a "you can't aim" game. There's an auto-aim you can turn on, which is virtually required to make the game even playable, but even that doesn't solve the problem, because you still have to have the sight at least near the enemies body, which is still quite challenging when YOU CAN'T SEE IT.

This is also one of those FPS that almost has more the mentality of a rail shooter; as you go through the linear levels the enemies are already set up behind cover and waiting for you, and when you enter their "zones" they are automatically aware of your position at all times, even when they can't see you. You're forever walking into some massive, mostly empty room where the enemies are waaaaay off in the distance, obscured behind something or another, picking at you with elite sniper accuracy while you struggle to even get your laser sight trained on them (the sluggish movement of your view with the c-stick doesn't help this at all either.) Compounding the problem even further is the game's dull, murky color palette, in which enemies just kind of blend in with the background.

That's not even getting into the weird two-handed weapon system (hold two weapons pointlessly that each have their own fire button on the L and R triggers, yet there's no button to zoom when you have a rifle), having to stand around constantly to regenerate health, simplistic FPS engine (no jumping or stealth aspect) and artificially padded-out levels with tremendously long boring stretches. This game is an unplayable mess, and the 5/10 and 6/10 critical reviews for it when it came out were actually being too generous in my opinion.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video