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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS games
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GoldenEye: Rogue Agent

Review published November 2005 by Corbie Dillard

Publisher: Electronic Arts Games
Developer: Tiburon - Cambridge
Release Date: June, 2005
ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
Genre: First Person Shooter
Price: $39.99

Let's face it, the Nintendo DS with its dual screens and touch screen technology should have developers drooling over the prospects of a FPS (first person shooter). Finally the accurate mouse-type control of a personal computer can effectively be executed on a portable system. Those who purchased a Nintendo DS system near the launch got an early taste of this potential with the demo of Metroid Prime Hunters that was included with the system. Now, Electronic Arts has taken the initiative and released GoldenEye, the first DS first-person shooter, and although the game does show off a lot of potential for the genre, especially considering it's running on a portable system, it somehow feels a little rushed at times, especially in terms of its gameplay execution.

Story

Although GoldenEye is a James Bond game, you take on the role of an agent that's been badly injured in a fight with the evil Dr. No. You've lost the use of your right eye and now seem more content on getting revenge than carrying out your missions as a secret agent. MI6 has now deemed you unfit to carry on as an agent. You're now on your own in trying to take on the task of each of the game's campaigns in an attempt to foil the plots of each of the evil villains.

Gameplay

Gameplay in GoldenEye is fairly straightforward. Using the DS touch screen, you can control most aspects of the firepower you use in the game. The touch screen also works as a HUD that allows you to change weapons, use your magnetic shield, and switch between the different views at your disposal. You'll also use the touch screen as your targeting mechanism. You always have two small firearms in your inventory, which never run out of ammo. As you make enemy kills you can then pick up their weapons, which as the campaigns go on, become bigger and more powerful. You can also use melee combat, if the need arises, and you'll find that it comes in quite handy in close quarters when it becomes difficult to target enemies. GoldenEye allows you a lot of room to customize the controls, but finding the perfect way to comfortably hold the DS and still control the game can be a little tedious given this wide variety of settings. You can use the D-pad or the "X" and "B" buttons to move forward and backward. Targeting and turning from side to side are accomplished via the touch screen and the shoulder buttons are used to fire your selected weapons.

The control in the game ranges from responsive, to all over the map. Trying to find the control setup that is most comfortable to you may take some time. First off you have to decide whether you want to use the thumb strap stylus, which is a little tough for people with small hands since the reach is so far to the middle of the touch screen, or the regular stylus in which you then have to decide which hand to use it with. This is where the gameplay begins to get tricky. Trying to hold and use the stylus while still using the d-pad or face buttons, and yet having to fire via the shoulder buttons can become quite a tricky affair. It seems that the touch screen may lend itself well to the controls of an FPS game, but in GoldenEye it feels like the developers might have tried too hard to get it right and in doing so left the controls a little shaky at times.

The campaigns in the game have a nice feel to them, but the actions can become a little repetitive, as most of your time and energy is spent merely exploring the areas and taking out your enemy targets along the way. It would have been nice to see a little more depth to the campaigns, but fans of first-person shooters should feel right at home with the straightforward way in which the game's missions unfold.

Multiplayer

There are several multi-player games available. The single-cart game allows another player to download the game to their DS using your game cart and then play a one-on-one match to the death. While this mode is enjoyable enough, the real multiplayer treat is when each player has their own GoldenEye cart. It's then that you can play a team showdown where you team up with another player and take on the other team in a death match. There's also a unique game in which both players are given a blue or red colored section and they must hit switches to make a rail cart go back and forth between the other player's sections. The object of the game is to get the rail cart to roll to your opponent's base three times. Given the standard action you'll find in the main game, these multiplayer games are a very nice diversion and add a lot of replay value to the game.

Graphics

Visually GoldenEye has some high points and some low points. Most of the areas in the levels have a nice, sharp look to them, and show a good amount of detail. Even the frame rate manages to move along at a steady 30 fps, even when the action begins to heat up. The one area of the game's visuals that seems a bit lacking is the character models. Many of the characters look like they just stepped out of the polygon circus, and most look blocky and unrealistic. To make matters worse, they move in a clunky fashion that adds to their unrealistic facade. The game is also a little too dark in some places, making it difficult to maneuver in tight quarters. The upside to this slightly dark feel is that it tends to hide some of the tacky textures you'll encounter when you get too close to certain objects.

Sound

If you've ever seen a "B" grade horror movie, you'll have a pretty good indication of what to expect from the music in the game. For starters, the music never seems to change in tone or tempo, which makes it not only bland, but also repetitive. It just doesn't seem to fit in with the type of action going on throughout the game's many levels. The sound effects, while accurate enough, also have a slightly fuzzy tone to them, which could be the result of being output at a low bit-rate. There are a few voices in the game that do tend to perk up the sound effects a little, but even they are few and far between, and certainly not enough to save GoldenEye's below-average soundtrack. This might be forgivable if it weren't for the outstanding sound capabilities of the DS that are pretty much wasted with the sound in this game.

 

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Conclusion

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent is a decent first-person shooter in its own right, but shows that the genre still has a ways to go on the DS before reaching the level of playability of its PC and console counterparts. That's not to say that GoldenEye is horrible, far from it, it just never seems to get on track with its, at times, awkward play control. If you're in the market for a first person shooter, and you want to see the possibilities of what might soon come for the DS in this genre, you might want to pick up GoldenEye. It's a nice play through, and has some very valid gameplay elements to it. For everyone else, the game is a rental, at best.

Playing Hints and Tips

- It's best to memorize the functions found on the touch screen HUD, as some of these functions are really close together and can be difficult to get to in a pinch.

- If you find yourself under heavy fire, you can always grab a hostage and use them as a human shield. It works surprisingly well.

- Find a control setup that works best for you and stick with it. It takes time to get used to moving around and shooting accurately.

- When in close proximity to an enemy, don't be afraid to use a little hand-to-hand combat. It will generally stun your opponent long enough for you to fire a couple of rounds at them.

 

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

The visuals in GoldenEye have a nice, detailed look to them, and tend to move at a pretty steady frame rate. Occasionally you'll come across a particular area that looks a little bland, but for the most part the game looks nice. The only real drawback comes in the character models, as they not only look a little plain, they also tend to move in a rather clunky manner, taking some of the realism away from an otherwise adequate graphical performance.

Sound

What few voices there are sound pretty bad. In fact, most of the sound effects in general sound a little fuzzy and don't seem to take advantage of the DS sound capabilities. The music in the game is tolerable, but it's nothing terribly memorable, and you might be better off just playing the game with the background music turned off completely. It's obvious that not much attention was given to the musical aspect of this game.

Fun Meter

Given that GoldenEye is the first attempt at a first person shooter for the DS, it's actually carried out pretty well. The game's control mechanics could use a little work, but the game at least shows that there's a lot of potential for this genre on the DS. The game could have used a little more realism in the actual combat portions of the game, but for those looking for a typical "shoot everything that moves" FPS game, you should be content with this game until a better one comes along. GoldenEye is a decent first attempt at a DS FPS.

Addictivity

GoldenEye just lacks the polish that most FPS fans expect from this type of game. The game is a step in the right direction for this genre on a portable system, but given that it doesn't offer much in the way of innovation, it's one you'll most likely play through once and not pick up for awhile. A little too vanilla for most diehard FPS fans.

Total Score= 3 Dragons, 60%



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