Developers: EA Redwood Shores
Publishers: Electronic Arts
Plot: 007 is assigned to help CIA agent, Zoe Nightshade, investigate a corporation suspected of weapons smuggling and to retrieve a mysterious chip.
Agent Under Fire is a typical example of someone trying to create a James Bond story, without really understanding what Bond is. The 007 franchise suffers from people assuming they understand the tone through the various parodies and stereotypes based off the spy genre. For example, in Agent Under Fire, the plot revolves around a megalomaniac villain with a world domination plan. The set-pieces include a submarine being lowered into a tanker of sharks, a cloning factory and a punch-up using jetpacks. The villain himself, Bloch, is exactly what you would expect a child to come out with. Pantomime, sporting a vaguely European accent (where in Europe is anyone’s guess), he chews scenery and keeps Agent Under Fire trapped in a sense of under-achieving. It is all a little embarrassing, as if someone threw in several assumed Bond trademarks and hit the ‘randomiser’ button. Yes, I expect Bond to be a fairly cheesy experience, especially in game format. We are going to have a plot that doesn’t really hold too much logic on a second watch and a script comprised mainly of awful puns. I don’t even mind the odd womanising scene, as if the game is going to aim for the cliché, it might as well go for that side of things. (However, on the PS2, the women look awful, naked bodies complete with six-packs and spines more noticeable than a Stegosaurus). It would be nice if Agent Under Fire at least attempted to balance this out with some form of subtlety. As a result, Agent Under Fire isn’t really much better than a game hopelessly trying to mimic the storyline of one of the films. The action and levels are so forced, there is no flow to the game, meaning that it is a struggle to get through.
But who comes to a game for the plot right? Agent Under Fire is really about playing a game where you are thrust into the role of 007, the coolest secret agent around. Well, sadly, the gameplay is just as lazy as the story. The maps are so routine and bland that playing this game is just frustrating. The developers figure out that the player wants to get from Point A to Point B and try to create a level that accommodates that. However, each mission can be wrapped up in the space of ten minutes. A driving level early on is over before you can even blink. All the little set-pieces you remember with nostalgia as a child are actually pretty poor. A boss fight with uber-assassin, the Jackal, takes 30 seconds if you know what you are doing. A stealth mission in an Embassy is over in moments. Sometimes the briefing intro screen lasts longer than the actual mission you are being briefed on. One thing that Agent Under Fire is remembered fondly for is the 007 bonus points system. Almost every encounter can earn one if you think outside the box and wonder WWJD (What Would James Do?) Sure, you can push your way through the door and shoot the guards to pieces, but for added experience, why not grapple through a ventilation shaft and shoot the enemies from behind? Ignite a gasoline tank to cut a five minute shoot-out down to one bloody explosion? It sounds good, but while this game’s sequel Nightfire balanced the use of these points brilliantly, Agent Under Fire is, once again, a bit of a mess. Almost every action can be modified to earn you a point. Every enemy vehicle can have its tires shot out to get you a point. Every room has a vent that you can use, ignoring half of the enemies in the game. That little Bond theme tune music that plays every time you earn one of these points gets grating. Nightfire made you feel like you earned that achievement – Agent Under Fire throws them at you, like a dog owner that won’t stop feeding their pets. I really don’t like to overly criticise a game, but trust me – your memory of Agent Under Fire is much better than the actual product.
Final Verdict: Trust me with this and just skip right ahead to Nightfire. You’ll be better off for it.