With Pierce Brosnan vacating the role of James Bond, Electronic Arts has been put into an interesting situation. How do you make a James Bond game when there's no James Bond? Well, a hero is only as good as his opposition is bad, so there's certainly room to tell a story from the other side of the tracks. That's what EA has done with GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, but an uninteresting story and lackluster gameplay, both online and off, leaves this latest adventure feeling rather flat.
This ain't your father's GoldenEye.
GoldenEye: Rogue Agent bears a similar name to Rare's Nintendo 64 first-person shooter, GoldenEye 007, which was a first-person shooter take on the Bond movie, GoldenEye. GoldenEye 007 is remembered as a classic, as one of the best early games for the platform. Yet this new game has absolutely nothing to do with that game, apart from belonging to the same genre, and it only has passing references to the film (namely the inclusion of the character Xenia Onatopp). By resurrecting the name, but not referencing much of the GoldenEye material, the whole game feels like a cheap attempt to cash in on the nostalgic feelings that many have for the Nintendo 64 hit. It's perhaps the most "evil" thing about GoldenEye: Rogue Agent.
GoldenEye's single-player campaign spans across eight missions, putting you in the role of a former secret agent that has been booted out of her Majesty's secret service for being too ruthless for the job. This sends you into the waiting arms of Auric Goldfinger, who takes you in and fixes an eye injury you received while fighting Dr. No by giving you--wait for it--a golden eye! The story then pits Goldfinger against Dr. No. However, the cutscenes that feed you plot points don't really keep you in the loop very well, and the menagerie of returning Bond villains make the whole "what if?" scenario feel like second-rate fan fiction.
Your eye implant has some helpful powers that become available as you progress through the campaign, and this is GoldenEye's only gameplay feature that makes it conceptually different from other recent shooters. You start out with the ability to see through walls, and then you quickly get the abilities to hack machines (specifically, to hit switches or to prevent guns from firing) from a distance, create a shield that blocks all damage, and unleash a telekinetic attack against enemies. All of these draw from an eye energy counter, which slowly rebuilds after use. The bullet shield is really the only truly useful tool in the set, though, as it always comes in handy. The X-ray vision and hacking are effective in a few specific spots, and the toss attack takes way too much energy to be useful in a crowd.
Playing as a bad guy is meant to be the main focus of GoldenEye's gameplay, but the extent of your evil deeds is pretty much limited to grabbing stunned guards, using them as human shields, and then tossing those same enemies into other guards. The storyline has you performing some objectives that aren't really something a good guy would be doing, but the fact that the game pretty much plays out as Goldfinger versus Dr. No in a "who is the evilest of them all" competition keeps the game from feeling any different than your average Bond game. If the developers truly wanted you to be evil, you'd be kicking puppies and taking actual hostages, not merely defending yourself from other evildoers.
Being bad has never felt so...uninteresting.
GoldenEye plays sort of like a low-rent version of Halo 2, and like that game, it contains both dual-wielding and a health meter that recharges to 100 percent if you stay out of the line of fire for a few seconds. Given the game's abundance of cover and the artificial intelligence's lack of drive when it comes to flushing you out, the meter recharge makes the game a simple matter of having enough patience to pop out, shoot a few guys in the face, then duck behind cover again to let your health and shield recharge. Enemies will slowly close in over time, but this just opens them up to a head shot, which is an instant kill when you do it right, and doing it right is awfully easy, especially on the standard enemies.
The game's levels are poorly paced. Eight levels might not seem like a high number, but most of them are long to the point of being tedious. The rooftops of Hong Kong seem to go on forever. Escaping the underwater facility, known as the Octopus, also takes a lot longer than it should. Part of this is because the game's environments are pretty bland, but most of the blame falls squarely on the lack of variety. You'll only encounter a few different types of foes, and almost all of the game's enemies are just soldiers wearing varying degrees of body armor. You'll occasionally bump into a bad guy that actually has a name that appears when you target him. While this would have been a cool way to give the enemies personality or to include some tougher foes, these commanders just have shields that make them take more shots before keeling over. Better AI would have made the game's combat much more interesting. At least there's a pretty good variety of weapons to work with.