On Her Majesty's Secret Serviceable At Best
When you think of James Bond as a video game franchise what comes to mind? One-liners? Crazy gadgets? Espionage? Some sort of sexy lady sidekick? Throw 'em all out the window because this isn't a James Bond game. Bond himself only shows up very briefly. He dies a minute into the tutorial (don't worry, it's virtual reality or something) and MI6 disappears with him. You play as Some Guy. You don't speak or have a personality. After being kicked out of MI6 for seeing a VR approximation of 007 fall out of a helicopter, you start working for Auric Goldfinger as he engages in a dumb turf war against Dr. No. Goldfinger gives you orders over the radio. Sometimes Pussy Galore talks to you over the radio as well. That's about the extent of the 007-style pizzazz you can expect in Rogue Agent. The fact that you don't play as Bond isn't even the main problem here, it's that nothing of note remains to distinguish this as remotely 007-related. Even the soundtrack is decidedly non-Bond, ditching brass altogether in favor of chugging Shadow the Hedgehog-style mid 00s teen rock guitars and shitty Matrix-inspired techno licks. In short, Rogue Agent a fairly cookie-cutter FPS in the Halo mold that happens to feature some of the film series' scraps in terms of names and concepts, but none in substance or style.
While previous EA bond games had driving, stealth, and rail shooter sections, everything besides shooting guys is absent this time around. Luckily, the shooting of guys isn't half bad. The button layout is thankfully more modernized than in previous games of the license. Rogue Agent completely copies the control scheme from Halo, which is fine by me. While I don't like to compliment games simply for being more in-line with current sensibilities, EA's Bond games had been steadfast in their appropriation of N64-era playstyles well past the point of obsolescence, so the change is warranted. You can even adjust your aim sensitivity in the options menu, which is a luxury the series hadn't had before now. There's a heavy emphasis on dual wielding in a system also gutted from the Halo series. You can exchange the use of grenades with any weapon you find on the ground. There are also two-handed weapons like assault rifles which replace both grenades and the ability to dual wield with an aim-down-sights mechanic. Whenever you run out of ammo you simply swap to a weak pistol with infinite ammo.
Previous EA Bond FPSes utilized a rudimentary auto-lockon feature that would stick the crosshair directly on bad guys' chests. As far as I can tell, that has been replaced with a more nuanced auto-aim system that is in-line with Rogue Agent's console contemporaries, albeit perhaps more noticeably forgiving. The health system is sort of like Halo in reverse. You rely on pickups and enemy drops to replenish your armor, but in emergencies you have a small pool of regenerating health. It works out okay. The "Golden Eye" itself (literally the protagonist's cybernetic eye) may be a contrived marketing gimmick, but in practice it represents a great leap forward for the use of gadgets within the series. Previous Bond games, the original Goldeneye included, had you fiddling through menus and pause screens to select these gadgets, and few of the gadgets would have a more than superficial use. The Golden Eye is instead a series of super-powers that can be selected on the fly with the d-pad and toggled with a dedicated button. The included powers, like X-Ray Vision and Shield, aren't exactly inspired but are easy to use and directly impact your moment-to-moment experience.
Playability is hampered somewhat by three major factors. The first is a huge acceleration curve on the aiming controls that makes things feel swimmy. On top of that is the FOV, which feels low even for a sixth-generation console game, and the framerate, which is at most 30fps but usually feels more like 15-20. All these combined with the levels' muddy, grey-beige environments make navigation and situational awareness a bit of a pain. Ultimately, however, this game plays pretty decently. I was surprised by this, given the game's reputation, but the firefights can be pretty fun and dynamic. Unfortunately, it all breaks down with a pretty shocking lack of variety. You spend the entire game shooting the same enemies over and over and over again. There are only eight missions, but they are incredibly long, lasting about 60-90 minutes apiece and consisting of some pretty egregious copy and paste level design. I'd begin every session with a lot of renewed good will, only to have it ground into dust by the time I finished a single mission. The final mission is by far the worst. Many enemies carry gauss rifles that can kill you in a single hit, but are unwieldy for you to use back at them. The ending falls flat by teasing a final boss encounter and then refusing to deliver in the game's singular act of failing to prolong itself for as long as possible. I was surprised when the ending FMVs started playing; I'd beaten the game without even realizing it.
The core gunplay in Rogue Agent is more fun than its reputation suggests and is a massive improvement over previous 007 games, but the 90-minute long missions are repetitive slogs that are a struggle to get through without losing interest. The cutscenes have some familiar characters, but for the most part this feels like a generic post-Halo FPS rather than a 007-themed game.