Playing all the video games - Part 000010

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

I tried to play 007: The World is Not Enough for the N64 earlier today, but my controller pack (memory card) has become corrupt. So while I wait for a new one to arrive, I thought I'd take another crack at the appalling Gameboy Color version.

Game 000010: 007: The World is Not Enough (Gameboy Color)

007: The World is Not Enough begins as a difficult, but possible, top down shooter. It ended for me, after sinking five hours into the toughest stealth level (mission four of eight), that I have ever played. You can check out this guy on YouTube struggle through it, (it soon gets tedious), and he's playing with save states on an emulator!

007: The World is Not Enough (GBC)

The World is Not Enough is slightly unusual in as much as all three versions of the game had different developers. The N64 version seems to be considered similar, but superior, to the PlayStation game - whereas relatively little information about the Gameboy Color version, developed by 2n Productions, seems to be available on the internet. I do wonder if perhaps no reviewer managed to progress far enough with it to give it a thorough appraisal, (have I mentioned that this game is virtually impossible yet?) Although I also observe that this was released on 11 September 2001, so an alternative hypothesis is that the world was too distracted by the tragic events of that day to pay this game any attention.

The level design is rather... shocking.

Each of the four levels I played essentially were essentially of the same format. Navigate around some sort of maze, (in one case literally a hedge maze), while trying too much damage. If you're health bar fully depletes you lose, and you must start again from the beginning. The world is full of identical villains who despite being cosmetically indistinguishable from each other seem to fall into one of three AI types which determine under what circumstances they will detect and chase you. Not being able to predict how each enemy will react until you have been detected makes this a frustrating game of trial and error... if they'd just made the minor adjustment of giving the AI types different coloured suits then this may have added an interesting puzzle element - as it is, it is just a dull memory exercise for when you inevitably get caught of guard, take too much damage and have to restart the level with a little bit more hindsight.

These guys are everywhere!

The guns in this game require you to continually shoot and move in order to avoid taking return fire - fine - but each time you punch a guy he is temporarily stunned allowing you to punch him again. Unarmed combat soon becomes the unsatisfying method of choice, as on average this approach means you take much less damage. If the levels were say split into two, then you'd probably have more fun sticking with the guns - but the missions are so long and bland, that there really is a huge disincentive to having to restart them.

Although this game did suffer from the same issue as the top down shooter for the Gameboy Advance, 007: Everything or Nothing, that the screen was just slightly too zoomed in to get a sense of where you were - to this games credit, at least the enemies don't spot you until they are one the same screen - giving you slightly more of a fighting chance. There bright green uniforms also mean that they were easier to tell apart from the background than some of the games I've played so far!

However it is in the fourth level, a forced stealth mission, where my growing frustrations eventually caused me to quit. Numerous lazer traps requiring pixel perfection precision for a control scheme that didn't offer it was too much for me, and my Gameboy Color was once more returned to my shelf of retired portable game consoles.

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A cautionary tale... if you ever go on holiday to a city where there is a possibility that you'll be stranded indoors due to major flooding - take more than just this game with you.

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Playing all the video games - Part 000009

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

I went to see Skyfall this week. It's rather good. I also played 007: Racing this week. It isn't.

Game 000009: 007: Racing

A few firsts for this series. This is the first driving game I'm writing about; this is the first original PlayStation game I've got to; and this is the first time I've decided to stop playing a game because I was finding it too difficult. (Although 005 and 007: Licence to Kill went unfinished due to budget constraints and technical difficulties respectively.)

007: Racing

007: Racing has you play as Pierce Brosnan's Bond and puts you in control of a variety of similarly handling weapon mounted vehicles. The game offers a reasonable amount of mission variety - from simple races to more detailed objective based combat scenarios... shoot down a helicopter, infiltrate a base, Speed-esque don't slow down or the bomb will explode challenges, etc... However the game is really let down by poor controls, which are not sensitive enough to provide the level of precision needed to complete the more combat heavy focussed challenges.

The driving of the cars actually handles reasonably well - and they deform after taking damage in a semi-realistic way. (I believe the cars are modelled using four-collision boxes!) Driving fast through some of the levels is quite fun, but it is the slow paced nature of the combat that really left me frustrated with this game. In particular, aiming your weapons is a very hit and miss affair. Your guns always shoot exactly in the direction that your car is facing - and the game just doesn't offer you the precision of handling to aim accurately when driving slowly, (no power-steering on these cars!) None of this would be a particular problem, as a slow and methodical approach to some of the levels was clearly intended, but the occasional sections where time limits are imposed on you makes finessing the controls way too challenging to be fun.

Helicopter!

Another small annoyance I had with this game was how it would automatically switch weapons when you collect a new power-up. Picking one up in the middle of combat really breaks up the flow of the game, as you have to slowly cycle back to your weapon of choice.

The game has a total of twelve missions, each with two difficulty settings. Some of the missions also offer you the opportunity to replay them in a challenge mode where you are given additional constraints to satisfy in order to unlock various cheats.

It's a shame really, this game looked like it could have had a lot of potential, the cars have a lot more weapons and gadgets available than your standard Bond game driving level, but it really could have done with some more polish before it was released. Someone should make a better one of these.

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I spent last weekend in a flooded Venice, so made a start on the equally tough, equally frustrating, 007: The World Is Not Enough for the Game Boy Color. (I very much doubt that I'll reach the credits on that game either) I also have the N64 version ready to start playing this afternoon, I seem to remember that game coming out about the the same time as Perfect Dark, and I don't recall it being compared favourably. Then it's only the (apparently abysmal) 007: Tomorrow Never Dies for the PlayStation left, and I'll have played all the games beginning with "00"!

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Playing all the video games - Part 000008

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

With the release of Skyfall this week, Bond fatigue is really beginning to set in - but the quest continues with 007: Nightfire.

Game 000008: 007: Nightfire

EA's sequel to 007: Agent Under Fire makes incremental improvements on its predecessor, but was certainly not revolutionary. I elected to play the PS2 version of the game, (as my PS2 was already connected to my TV), and blasted through this game's single player in under 6 hours on the easiest difficulty in a number of short gaming sessions spread across the week.

007: Nightfire

Nightfire is another FPS focussed game with an occasional driving or on-rails shooting section thrown in to mix things up a little. Thankfully the quantity of the latter had been reduced somewhat from Agent Under Fire, and the cars controlled slightly better too. Having just finished recently released 007: Legends, the non-linearity of some of the levels made a refreshing change. Unlike Legends, Bond is equipped with an impressive range of gadgets which often provide fun additional ways to complete objectives or dispatch enemies. Additionally, taking the stealthy route is more palatable, as it is quite possible to play quickly and still remain unseen. While Legends' approach is certainly more "realistic", Nightfire's way is more fun.

I guess this games controls did feel somewhat clunky and outdated - and playing the game with the default controls is certainly a reminder of how far the genre has come in the last few years, (anyone remember left analogue stick vertical axis to move back and forwards, horizontal axis to aim left and right?) ... luckily the controls are customisable, and I was soon playing with something more familiar.

The game was split into 12 missions - the best of which had you penetrating fortified bases, either secretly taking down enemy goons out of sight or engaging them in intense fire-fights through the narrow corridors. The worst of which had you penetrating underwater bases in a "submarine car" while trying to wrestle the awkward controls in order to navigate a fast moving minefield. Overall, it's probably one of the better Goldeneye clones I've played, and is certainly not a bad game - but if you like your gaming to offer you new experiences, then Nightfire does nothing particularly noteworthy. Despite it being competent, I was bored of it by the time I was done.

A word of warning - if you are thinking of picking this game up then reviews suggest that you should stay away from the PC and GBA versions.

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Next time I'll be playing through something (slightly) different; 007: Racing for the original Playstation.

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Playing all the video games - Part 000007

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

So within minutes of finishing off Everything or Nothing, I popped recently released 007: Legends into my Xbox 360 and continued on my journey.

Game 000007: 007: Legends

I spent about 8 hours playing through the campaign on normal difficulty over the weekend, plus an additional couple of hours checking out the challenge mode and multiplayer. Alex's recent review of this new game is pretty spot on, so I'll try to keep this short.

007: Legends

In many ways my experience with Legends was almost exactly the opposite of Everything or Nothing. The game is a fully functioning competent FPS, clearly modelled on the Call of Duty franchise. There's nothing wrong with that - the controls are largely intuitive and the graphics are good, but nothing special. Moreover the XP system, a sort of in game achievement system where you can spend your points on weapon, gadget and skill upgrades is a nice touch. Where the game really lets itself down though, is on its level design.

There are actually some really great sections in this game. In particular, the zero gravity combat at the end of the Moonraker mission stands out for trying something a little different and really pulling it off. (The achievement worth no points... or 0G also made me laugh). It's just a shame that most of these brief enjoyable segments feel lost in a sea of unimaginative combat situations. For an eight hour game to feel padded is really saying something.

A game where you shoot some stuff.

To the developer's credit, they did occasional try and break up the monotony with Batman-esque scan the background for clues sections. These environmental based puzzles were fun the first couple of times, but soon got repetitive... and the forced stealth sections of the game, only served to demonstrate that that those mechanics felt broken. Clearly an interesting idea, whereby you could use predictable AI behaviours in order to navigate around the environment unseen. However these sections soon became a matter of trial and error, as it was never clear when and where you could leave a body lying around without anybody noticing it, and triggering the alarms.

Jaws!

The multiplayer was decent, but nothing better than you would find in almost any other modern game, The leader board based challenge levels were also a nice addition, allowing you to really customise everything from your health, to enemy accuracy, (and even turn on paint ball mode!). Modifying the 15 or so variables for each of the ten challenges affects your score multiplier for that mission - and experimenting with that was a lot of fun... right until I reached the forced stealth levels, which I hated, and so that ended my time with that!

Although the meta plot (in which they attempt to explain why all of these films have been packaged into one game), is brief and confusing, the game does a reasonable job of narrating each of the five films it chooses to explore, doing a serviceable job of reminiscing over some of the memorable parts of each film. The end of the campaign really took me by surprise though - it just stopped without any sort of conclusion, and then advertised the upcoming Skyfall DLC. I don't think that I'll be returning to play that.

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Next on the list is the sequel to Agent Under Fire; 007: Nightfire. I seem to have acquired both the Xbox and the PS2 version of this. So if anybody has any insights as to which version is better, please let me know.

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Playing all the video games - Part 000006

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

After sinking into a Diablo III shaped hole for a few months, I thought I'd finish off the game of 007: Everything or Nothing which I'd previously started.

Game 000006: 007: Everything or Nothing (Home Console)

Having been underwhelmed by the handheld version of this game, I wasn't sure what to expect of this. However, "the internet" does seem to think that this third person action game is the one half-decent Bond game post Goldeneye, so I was prepared to enjoy it. I started playing the PS2 version of the game back in May and completed about two thirds of it over a period of a couple of days. I finally picking up the game again and completed it this morning. It took me around 15 hours in total.

007: Everything or Nothing

I must confess that my first impressions of this game were not good. The controls didn't feel particularly tight, and there are noticeable improvements in both controls and graphics between this game and 007: From Russia with Love. The game also has quite a steep learning curve; it is very easy to find yourself completely surrounded and out gunned unless you take the levels at a slower pace than a typical shooter. However it is the game-play variety which really makes this game stick out above the other Bond games I've played so far. Once I learned how to use the game's nuanced cover mechanics I found myself able to overlook the fact that this game has aged poorly and appreciate some of the great level design.

Everything or Nothing opts for a larger quantity of shorter missions than most games, so your objectives tend to feel more focussed and less padded out with long sections of running around and shooting generic bad guys than many shooters. I particularly enjoyed the variety of gadgets which Bond has at his disposal in this game. From remote control robotic spiders to invisibility suits, this game certainly celebrates the more gimmicky side of franchise. Additionally every level has a few "Bond moments" to find - small set pieces of hidden content where you interact with the environment in interesting ways.

Take cover or you will soon die.

The game features an original story and soundtrack, and with its mission variety and frequent cut scenes it certainly captures the feel of the films much better than many of the movie based games. I particularly enjoyed some of the vehicle based missions as the combat felt satisfying... Although once again, the controls definitely felt dated... I particularly enjoyed one of the motor bike levels where you had to take out a tanker with your bikes in built flame throwers!

This certainly isn't an easy game, and I found myself notching back the difficulty on a few missions in order to get past them. However, there is a sense that you could learn the levels - and with the short missions and high score based unlocks, it certainly seems that the developers went out of there way to add some re-playability. Although personally, there were only a couple of missions which I enjoyed quite enough to warrant a rerun.

Helicopter!

There were a couple of incredibly frustrated quick-reaction events throughout the game, typically at the end of missions, and failure to realise what I was doing and hit the trigger in time left me replaying entire missions from the start. In a game where ammo can be scarce, and so you soon learn to pick your shots carefully these quick time events certainly feel a little against the grain. Moreover in a game which prides itself on its mission variety, nothing says "unique experiences" less than sitting through the same 10-15 minutes of content twice.

A few people have asked me whether they think this game is worth revisiting. I think that I'd cautiously recommend it to any 007 fans who have been disappointed by recent games in the series. It certainly offers something a little bit different. However, be prepared for some frustrating controls at times. Clearly the developers still hadn't entirely figured out how to make the most of the dual-analogue controller. Big fans of the Sean Connery films will probably find more to like with the nostalgic nods and better controls, offered in From Russia with Love. For everybody else, this is the superior game.

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Following Alex's review of 007 Legends, I can't say that I'm looking forward to the game. However, it arrived in the mail this morning, so I'll be playing that next.

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Playing all the video games - Part 000005

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

I've been a little busy this week taking part in a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle hunt. My team still has 2 more puzzles to solve, but these games aren't going to play themselves, so I took a few hours break this afternoon to play through 007: Licence to Kill on the ZX Spectrum. Or, more aptly, I should probably say that I took a few hours break to figure out how to connect a spectrum to a modern telly, find a working cassette player, a suitable power converter - and figure out how to load games from cassettes onto the console. I then spent about 30 minutes playing the game - stopped for a break, realised that in the process of loading the game, I'd broken the "play" button on the cassette, and so had no way of reloading the game! Still, I think I saw the majority of it...

Game 000005: 007: Licence to Kill

Licence to Kill was a video game developed by Quixel and released on a variety of cassette based home computers in 1989. I played through the spectrum version of the game - but the differences between the versions seem only to be cosmetic.

007: Licence to Kill

My time with this game was relatively short, and I only managed to see four of the six levels before the difficulties of relying on decades old technology caught up with me. The game took about 2 minutes to load, but once it was stored in memory the transitions from level to level were practically instantaneous.

Level one begins with Bond flying a helicopter, dodging some incredibly accurate anti-aircraft guns and chasing down "the evil drug smuggler Sanchez". Not that you'd know any of that by playing the game - as the story, controls and level objectives are only found in the games instruction booklet /cassette case insert, (so much for in-game tutorials!) This proved an issue several times during the game, as I couldn't work out how to pause. So upon starting a new level I would inevitably die within the first few seconds while looking up the controls, lose all three lives and have to restart the game from scratch.

Is that a henchman or an oil barrel?

Perhaps the most interesting level was the second, which had you infiltrate an enemy base on foot while shooting down Sanchez's henchmen. Conserving ammo was essential here, which was a challenge due to the game's confusing controls. (Hold down the fire button and the direction keys are no longer used for walking, but instead for aiming.) Being forced to duck in and out of cover gave this mission some depth that the other stages seemed to be lacking.

Having very little familiarity with games from this era I feel ill equipped to pass any judgment of this game relative to its peers. It was nice to see that each level had essentially been coded from scratch, and introduced a new game-play mechanic - but some of these were more entertaining that others, and after my half an hour stint with this game I felt no incentive to return to it. Messing around with this older hardware however, was a lot of fun. I'm certainly looking forward to to playing through some more Spectrum games in the future, (I recently acquired a box of about 100 of them from some guy who was going to throw them out!)

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In other news, my copy of 007: Everything or Nothing finally arrived this week - so I look forward to playing through that over the next week. For now however, back to the puzzles...

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Playing all the video games - Part 000004

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

Since my last blog Activision have announced the release of 007 Legends, a new Bond game featuring scenes from 6 of the films, including the new one, Skyfall, to be released later this year. So that's a game I'm going to have to come back to later. Talking of coming back to games, still no sign of 007: Everything or Nothing for the PS2! So in between sessions of playing Waves, Fez, Trials Evolution and after eight years finally finishing the magnificent 4-player competitive co-op Gamecube game Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, I have also played through 007: From Russia with Love. I’ve heard good things about Everything or Nothing, so I definitely will be returning to this once it arrives!

Game 000004: 007: From Russia with Love

From Russia with Love was the final game EA developed before losing the Bond license. The game was released towards the end of the lifespan of the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. A PSP game was also released for this game, but reviews suggest that this was a poor port of the home console versions.

007: From Russia with Love

I played the PS2 version of this game over several small gaming sessions during the last few days, spending a total of seven hours with the game. To my surprise, unlike the last two games on my list - I thought that this one was actually quite good. Not that the last two games were actively bad, but this is the only one of the three that I could make an argument for a four star rating... Maybe. Let me however, caveat that statement with the remark that I haven't yet played Everything or Northing. A game which, from what I've read, did everything that this game does, but did it two years earlier - and did it better. Still, I guess my point is, I think that the 3rd person shooter is a better format for a modern Bond game - or at the very least, I admire it for being slightly different.

The game is roughly based on the film - but perhaps does a better job of capturing the feel of the early Sean Connery films in general, rather than From Russia with Love in particular. In particular there are some great nostalgic scenes early on in the game that have Bond visit M's office, and Q's lab. If memory serves, this was actually the first film to introduce Q - and Bond was only given one gadget. In the game however, the player has the usual plethora of gadgets - including a remote controlled toy helicopter fitted with wireless camera and explosives. While fun to use, it did stick out as being a little out of place in a game that otherwise is visually and stylistically quite faithful to the Connery ear. Talking of Connery, he returns to the role to provide new dialogue for Bond throughout the games frequent cut-scenes and story-beats. Initially this dialogue is actually a little jarring, as Sean Connery actually sounds more like "Sean Connery playing Sean Connery" than "Sean Connery playing James Bond" (his accent is thicker than in the films), but as this is a re-imagining of the film, I soon got used to this.

3rd person action

From Russia with Love has 14 missions, plus a handful of optional unlockable levels. As with Agent Under Fire, there were essentially three types of mission - and yet again the on-rails shooter (this time on the back of a boat) and the driving levels were the poorest parts of the game. They provided nice mission variety, and were fun in short bursts - but didn't provide anything that you'd want to go back through to play again... which is unfortunate, because 3 of the 14 missions are driving levels that have you drive around the exact same streets each time.

The game has plenty to like, with a reasonably intelligent AI that use the scenery well in order to take cover - but are ultimately foiled by the games ridiculously lenient auto-aim system. There are well designed stealth mechanics as well, but it is perhaps a shame that there really is little incentive to use them, as even on the hardest difficulty setting the vast majority of the missions can be completed by just running and gunning through them.

Jetpacks

The weapon select system was well implemented using the d-pad, and the game pauses to give you time to choose the right gun depending upon the task at hand. Each gun and gadget in the game can be improved by spending research points that are found hidden around each level - providing plenty of secret areas to find during the course of a mission.

Perhaps the best parts of the From Russia with Love were the levels that gave you the jetpack to fly through. With unlimited fuel and ammo - these sections were always trivial, but somehow immensely satisfying, as the device handled well and it gave a sense of speed that was perhaps lacking from the rest of the game.

There have been improvements made to 3rd person shooters in recent years, but this game doesn't feel quite as behind the curve as Bond's 1st person equivalents - and as such is the best of the Bond games I've played so far.

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I'll continue to wait for Everything or Nothing to arrive - but until then I guess it's time to figure out how on earth you get a Spectrum to work on a modern TV!

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Playing all the video games - Part 000003: 007: EoN GBA

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

The PS2 version of the game still hasn't arrived - so I've had to pass the time with the Gameboy Advance version of 007: Everything or Nothing.

Game 000003: 007: Everything or Nothing (Gameboy Advance)

The portable version of the game was developed independently of the home console version by Griptonite Games. Whilst the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube versions of this game were generally well received, the GBA version obtained "mixed reviews". (Which I believe is a video game euphemism for "not very good")

007: Everything or Nothing

I played this game in two sittings on the default difficulty setting and finished it in just over 2 hours. There's something quite fun about listening to familiar tunes down-sampled through tinny speakers, so the familiar Bond motif certainly put me in a good mood going in!

The game has eight missions, and the first one is over within a minute of starting the game. The game is an isometric shooter with a very generous auto-aim. The central mechanic of hiding behind objects and sneaking up on the AI to perform stealth kills works reasonably well - but the camera was slightly too zoomed in for my liking, meaning that it was difficult to plan an unseen path around some of the levels. The inclusion of a radar, showing you both the locations and the orientations of nearby enemies was a nice touch though. Visually the game looked a little bland with the same textures and objects used repeatedly throughout most levels.

Not so stealthy!

Each mission has a number of primary (compulsory) and secondary objectives. At the end of each level you are rewarded with 100 style points for each primary objective you complete, and 200 for each secondary objective. These points can be spent on stat-increases that take effect in all subsequent missions (including any that you choose to replay.) My approach was just to save up for the most expensive perk - slowly regenerating health, which I soon regretted as it turned a moderately challenging game with limited opportunities to pick up health packs, to an incredibly easy one. Consequently the second half of the game was much easier than the first half - and I doubt that this was the developer's intention.

The game had a small selection of gadgets and secondary weapons - almost all of which seemed less effective than using your guns, and required the select button to cycle through. I find myself wondering whether I might have made more use of that if I'd been playing on the original GBA rather than the GBA-SP, which has an awkwardly positioned select button.

Infiltrating a card game

Although the majority of the levels provided nothing of particular interest, I feel like I should mention that I really enjoyed the games 3 boss fights. Each one required using objects found in the world in interesting ways, and provided a slight puzzle element to an otherwise mindless game. On the other hand, the unlockable Blackjack mini game rewarded for collecting 2500 style points was clearly coded by someone who'd never played the game before... Never heard of a 5-card trick?

It is worth briefly mentioning that the game has a multiplayer mode, which I didn't have the opportunity to check out, and also features support of Nintendo's GBA to GC adaptor in order to offer hints and statistics on the small screen to anybody playing Everything or Nothing on the big screen.

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So another fairly inoffensive, yet bland game. More Bond next time...

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Playing all the video games - Part 000002: 007: Agent Under Fire

I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

I caved in... I have a copy of 007: Agent Under Fire for the PS2 arriving in the post, but I was in my local video game store on Monday morning and spotted that they had a 2nd hand Gamecube version on sale for next to nothing. So I bought a second copy, and played through it that afternoon. While I was at it, I also picked up copies of 007: From Russia with Love, 007: Nightfire, ordered two copies of 007: Everything or Nothing from Amazon (the Gameboy version is not just a port of the others), and I have just been notified that I won 007: Licence to Kill on ebay. I better make sure that my ZX Spectrum still works!

In a comment on my last blog, @MattyFTM pointed out that “there are a lot of terrible James Bond games [I’m] going to have to play at the start of this run...” Indeed, it looks as if around one third of all Bond games are listed as having titles beginning with “007”. Since I plan to be commenting on all of these games, I think that I should probably share my thoughts on First Person Shooters’ in general - just to provide some perspective for my thoughts on 007 games in particular.

The First Person Shooter is a genre that I am pretty indifferent to. I may end up picking up one a year if it comes highly recommended by a friend - but as a rule I find them fairly formulaic, and so tend to avoid buying them on a whim. Having said that, some of my fondest gaming experiences have come from being obsessed with online multiplayer for three FPS’ in particular. Namely, the PC version of Halo: Combat Evolved, Battlefield 1942 and Team Fortress 2. There is something about the FPS that tends to draw a critical mass of players that many other multiplayer games cannot sustain. For me this created (the illusion?) of a community, which made me overlook the inevitable repetitiveness of the experiences for longer than I would have otherwise.

Of course the real question (as far as is my judgement likely to be clouded is concerned!) is did I play Goldeneye? Well, yes - I did... I really enjoyed it too (does that make me cool or clichéd?). Although not for the reasons most people seem to. I’ve never played the multiplayer - I hear it was revolutionary. Rather, the thing that kept me playing after the final credits was trying to unlock all of those “cheats” by beating the set times on each level. I was less than half my current age at the time, and I found some of these a real challenge. I guess that for much the same reason as why achievement hunting can become addictive, there was something about this meta-game which I found just as compelling, if not more so, than the main game itself.

Game 000002: 007: Agent Under Fire

This game was the fourth of eight Bond games to be developed by EA, and is one of only a handful of 007 games to feature an original story. Agent Under Fire was released for the Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube, and was the first Bond game to be released for this generation of consoles. The only real difference between these three versions of the game is that the Playstation version is lacking bots in multiplayer.

007: Agent Under Fire

I played through this game from start to finish (not something I plan to do with every game), on the default difficulty setting in 3 two hour sittings. I was initially shocked by how unintuitive the controls were. I've always preferred a keyboard and mouse for this sort of game, but the button mapping adopted by most modern gamers where player movement is controlled with the left stick, and head movement with the right makes a lot more sense to me than this games default control scheme. (Essentially, the vertical axis remain the same, but the horizontal axis are switched.) Luckily the game allows you to choose from 4 different control schemes - so a few minutes later and I was away.

The first level started off fun enough, with some cool set pieces involving various gadgets and guns, and was quite reminiscent of Goldeneye. And, like Goldeneye, as soon as I finished the first mission, I immediately jumped in to play it again and again, trying to beat my high score until I unlocked the platinum medal and unlocked the cheats/ multiplayer maps for doing so. Too few modern games offer incentive to beat your high scores (or even offer high score tables) in my opinion. However, while there were a few missions I enjoyed enough to replay, the same can't be said for all of them.

Helicopter!

The game has 12 missions of 3 different varieties. Standard, walk around and shoot stuff levels; drive around and shoot stuff levels and on-rail shooting levels. These latter two level types offered a nice change of pace every now and again, but were fundamentally uninteresting missions and felt like padding for what is otherwise a pretty short game... I'm still kicking myself for having to sit through a really easy level where you are in a tank following a set route around a city and get to operate the guns, only to find myself dumbly watching a big red train (which might as well have had the words "SHOOT ME" plastered on its carriages), travel across a bridge suspended over two enemy tanks - and failing the mission for not shooting it. The game rewarded my stupidity by forcing me to sit through the segment in its entirety once again.

One thing that games from this era are really missing... Autosave! What a useful idea that was. So nearly was my time with this game bought to a premature close when after 2 hours I bent down to power off the console before thinking "I should probably check that it has saved"... good job I did, as it hadn't - and I had to quit out to the main menu before I could work out how to.

Gadgets

At its core though, the game has a fantastically over the top story line, a novel array of gadgets and some competent (but not exceptional) level design. For the on-foot missions the game usually offers you a stealthy way to complete each objective - but gives you the freedom to go in guns-blazing if you prefer, but will punish you with extra guards to deal with if you trigger the alarms. The AI is predictable, but I don't regard that as a flaw. Much of this game is about learning how best to deal with set-pieces, and although many modern games have moved away from this approach for a good reason - I still think there is a place for more arcade style shooters. I was bored of it by the time I finished though!

Playing this game outside the context of time, I think that this game is technically as good as Goldeneye... but by this point I guess everybody had been playing Goldeneye clones for 4 years, and Halo had just been released. It's easy to see why this game reviewed poorly.

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So that turned out longer than I expected... perhaps a bit too long? Don't expect this quantity every time. For those of you who just skipped to the end, my thoughts on this game can be summarised as "meh - it's all right, I guess." Next time, 007: Everything or Nothing.

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Playing all the video games - Part 000001: 005

I have decided to start the rather futile task of playing all the video games.

Why futile?

Well, to an order of magnitude, 10 new games are released every week - I tend to pick up a new title to try at a rate of at most, one a week... There is a bit of a disparity here! Combine this with the fact that there are approximately 35,000 games listed in Giant Bomb's database, and in the past twenty-odd years I estimate that I've played, say, 1% of them. So even if I could keep up with the constant tirade of new releases - my current backlog is almost certainly insurmountable.

Where to start?

Julia Andrews once said "When you read you begin with A-B-C." Surely this rule of thumb could also apply to video games? Consequently, it is my intention to play through the games listed in Giant Bomb's database in alphabetical order, and to write briefly about my experiences.

Caveats:

I only intend to play games that I can obtain legally, practically and without prohibitive cost. Additionally, if I reach a game that is part of a sequence of games - I will most likely tweak my ordering and play them chronologically instead.

Game 000001: 005

005: Stealth-em-up

005 is an arcade "stealth-em-up" released by Sega in 1981. An hour of research leads me to believe that there is no practical and legal way for me to play this game. Admittedly I haven't yet defined what I mean by "practical" - but purchasing a standalone cabinet is definitely on the wrong side of my personal line of practicality.

Reviews dotted around the internet lead me to suspect that I am not missing much, but surely no game where you can ice-skate past cops while simultaneously attacking them with laughing gas can be that bad? This video demonstrates the four levels in the game. The helicopter vs helicopter level is supposedly pretty tricky.

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OK so 0 out of 1 for games played isn't a brilliant start, but I've just ordered the PS2 version of 007: Agent Under Fire from Amazon. Check back next week sometime for my thoughts.

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