Quantum of NO Solace!!
When I started out playing 007 Nightfire, I was enjoying it quite a bit. The first mission is cool. You sneak into a castle on a snowy cliffside, infiltrate a classy dinner party hosted by the bad guy, make out with his wife, escape in a hail of gunfire, and then make a getaway in an Aston Martin in a level that plays like an arcade racer except you can shoot missiles. I'm a huge fan of their '007 moments' idea where you get bonus points and a little musical sting when you find hidden opportunities to do cool stuff (such as, instead of shooting the guards inside of a cable car you shoot the whole thing off of its hinges).
But this goodwill went away before too long. First, for a game from 2003, Nightfire is a bit past its prime. It stumbles up on all the Console FPS issues had smoothed over 2 years prior with the release of Halo. Looking around and aiming is insensitive to minute movements, meaning you'll be pretty reliant on an automatic lock-on system that glues the crosshair onto enemies' chests. This makes headshots next to impossible to pull off, and the enemies in later stages are kevlar'd up to the point that they can take half a magazine to the chest before going down. Sometimes the lock-on will simply not work when you'd like it to. A Goldeneye 64-style 'free-aim' mode disables the lock-on but slows your aiming speed tremendously and movement is made limited to the point where you can only strafe, not move forward or back. I know it was part of the brand's identity, but it seems silly to me that 2003's Nightfire decided to stick with mechanics from a 1997 game made for the N64 controller rather than try to keep up with its contemporaries.
Unfortunately the rest of Nightfire doesn't live up to the promise of the first mission. The game doesn't immediately become terrible, but things just seem to get lamer and lamer the more you progress. Late in the campaign you are thrown into four vehicle/turret missions in a row. There are also a few stealth-mandatory levels where a raised alarm fails the mission. At a point it almost seems like the designers confused making the game more challenging with making it more irritating. The final boss gauntlet puts you in outer space with a Quake II-style railgun, picking off a beehive of astronauts who are equipped with the same. At the same time you have to keep track of eight missiles, shooting the small port on the side of them that only opens right before they launch. Meanwhile the main bad guy is trying to blast you with a laser cannon and your lady-friend is shouting a constant stream of contradictory orders over the radio. It's not fun.
And yeah, it ends with you going to outer space. I'm not too familiar with the Bond films, least of all the latter-day Brosnan ones. I hate to gripe on the basis of ignorance, but Bond in this game just feels like a collection of memes divorced from any context or coherency. Something about how every operative in every intelligence agency in the world is a hot babe who wants to bang him just because he walked into the room rubbed me the wrong way. Written down I suppose that sounds true to the source material, but there's just something about the specific execution here that doesn't coalesce and ends up feeling like ideas awkwardly being jammed together to tick some boxes.
With its sights firmly on recapturing Goldeneye on the N64, Nightfire fails to keep up with its contemporaries that had long since bested Rare's classic. The 00's-era trappings it does employ are irritating cliches like turret segments and instant-fail stealth missions, so enjoyment trends downward after the first mission. Nightfire has the best vehicle levels in the series, however, by virtue of keeping things relatively simple.