Tuesday, September 27, 2011

N64 Month: The World Is Not Enough

NB: The previously scheduled review, Jet Force Gemini, has been postponed.  Sorry, I just feel like I have too little inspiration and time.  Don't worry, I will get back to it soon.  But with one other game left which I have more to say about, I might as well get something done by the end of the month.  In other words, I just pulled a Moonraker on ya.

007: The World Is Not Enough
  • Publisher: EA Games
  • Developer: Eurocom
  • Release: Nintendo 64, 1 November 2000
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • Players: 1-4
  • Save: Controller Pak, 2 pages
  • Rarity/Cost: Moderate (US$5-15)
I have let slip before that the James Bond series is my favorite fandom, so with that in mind it might seem odd that I haven't reviewed any of the movies yet.  Well, apart from feature films not being my specialty... yet... I was thinking of doing something bigger.  That's why I'm proud to announce that in honour of the first movie's (Dr. No) 50th anniversary, 2012 will be "James Bond Year" at the SDP!  What that means is throughout the whole year, I'll attempt to review all of the James Bond movies in chronological order.  However, that does not preclude me from reviewing any of the tie-in video games, including one which I find unappreciated among all the Goldeneyes of the franchise: The World Is Not Enough for Nintendo 64.  (NB: There were similar tie-in games also released for PlayStation and Game Boy Color, however they are so different that they would require separate reviews, something I have no current plans to do anyway.)

Nintendo and Rare's Goldeneye 007 was the king of the first-person shooter genre for a while since its debut, but inevitably the crown had to be passed down.  The way I see it, there were not one, but two spiritual successors to the throne.  One was Perfect Dark, and while not involved with the James Bond licence, it did build off of Goldeneye's engine and all but perfect both the single-player and multiplayer experiences.  Incidentally, Perfect Dark would get a 95% or even 100% call if I were to do a formal review, but if you have the choice, stick to the recent XBox 360 port.  So what was the other heir to the throne?  Why, that would be The World Is Not Enough, a tie-in with the 1999 Bond film, and while it was made by a completely different development team, it still played similarly enough to Goldeneye while making its own welcome tweaks.

If you're not familiar with the film, it was pretty mediocre, I'll admit.  Like a number of Bond films, the plot is intricate and merits repeated watchings to take it all in, but here's the short of it.  Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is tasked with protecting Electra King (Sophie Marceau), the orphaned daughter of a British oil magnate.  The villain is Renard (Robert Carlisle), an anarchist who has kidnapped Electra in the backstory and lost his ability to feel pain.  Things get complicated when Electra and Renard team up to nuke Istanbul, thus sabotaging the King oil pipeline's competitors.  Oh, and Electra's role as the Bond Girl gets swapped out mid-way for Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist.  ...Yeah, your mileage may vary.  The game covers most of the plot points from the movie, although unlike Goldeneye which added playable levels not covered in its respective film, there are scenes here which aren't playable, at least in the N64 version, such as the casino and the King pipeline.
Welcome gameplay changes from Goldeneye include
being able to switch to gadgets in-game.
Carrying on the franchise's legacy, it's only fair that TWINE shares most of its mechanics with Goldeneye.  Each of the 14 missions has you completing a series of objectives, some of which you can't complete if you kill the wrong person, destroy the wrong object, or even blow your cover by pulling out a gun.  This time around, objectives can also be added mid-mission, through the use of in-game scripted events.  Some tasks require the use of gadgets, which can finally be selected in-game (hold A and press B) instead of having to go to the pause menu every time, like in Goldeneye.  A selection of control schemes allows you to switch between Control Stick or C-Button (think Turok) movement, or flip the controls for left-handed support, but the Control Stick sensitivity is a bit too tight for my liking, with no way to modify it.

The graphics are par for the course in terms of late-era N64 titles, but if you've grown tired of Goldeneye's much-referenced "blockheads", you'll find this a pleasant upgrade.  Having an Expansion Pak plugged into your console enables you to switch on the "hi-color" graphics mode, but while having it active can occasionally trash the frame rate, turning off leaves a grainy filter over everything, so pick your deathtrap.  There's quite a bit of voice work to be found in this game as well.  Sadly, due to the space constraints of N64 Game Paks, the voice clips have been compressed something awful in order to fit, but the sound-alike actors sound fairly similar to their film counterparts, and John Cleese reprised his role as R, gadgetmeister-in-training.
Multiplayer adds bots so you can play with yourself.
And if you have fond memories of Goldeneye's multiplayer, then fret not, since TWINE's got you covered.  The requisite variety of characters (including vintage Bond villains), maps, modes, and weapons is accounted for.  This time around, AI-controlled bots can be used to fill in any of the 4 positions not being used by human players.  Since I hardly ever got the chance to play multiplayer games, this was pretty much a Godsend for me, and thus gave TWINE a slight edge over Goldeneye in my book.  While I must give credit to Goldeneye for all it's done to build the first-person shooter genre as we know it today, don't feel bad if you see TWINE as a more polished, if not better, game if they were both released today.

Graphics: 3 martinis out of 5
Sound: 4 martinis out of 5
Control: 4 martinis out of 5
Design: 4 martinis out of 5
The Call: 80% (B)

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