Porting a hugely successful title to another platform is usually a safe way to assure furthered spotlight time and profit expansion. The PCâ€™s Half-Life 2 and Far Cry Instincts can both look forward to this extended good fortune when they arrive on the Xbox later in 2005. Porting successful games makes perfect sense in terms of progressive business acumen, so what exactly were EA and MGM Interactive thinking when they decided to bring GoldenEye: Rogue Agentâ€”a well-documented critical and commercial failureâ€”to the fledgling Nintendo DS?
Unceremoniously tossed from British MI6 for reckless brutality in the field, Rogue Agentâ€™s central character is swiftly recruited into the ranks of nefariousness by classic villain Auric Goldfinger. Embroiled in a vicious war with the infamous Dr. No for control of the Bond underworld, Goldfinger unleashes you, the gameâ€™s rogue agent, in an attempt to overthrow Dr. No and secure Goldfingerâ€™s rise to power. However, Dr. No also thrives on an unquenchable need for power and a lust for destruction, so heâ€™s not likely to concede defeat so easily. Your skills will surely be tested as you face wave upon wave of Dr. Noâ€™s foot soldiers and also an array of famously villainous Bond henchmen. Nothing is easy in the underworld, but as the gameâ€™s subtitle proudly states: Why save the world, when you can rule it?
World domination, itâ€™s a grand ideal. And therefore itâ€™s all the more ignominious that Rogue Agent never truly follows its own marketing mandate. At no point in the game does the possibility of your eventual â€˜ruleâ€™ ever come into play through the narrative structure. That said, what little narrative content Rogue Agent actually has is pitifully shallow and amounts to plot immersion rivaling some of Dolph Lundgrenâ€™s less inspiring work. Storyline is a completely secondary facet when placed alongside the gameâ€™s need to push you relentlessly through insipid level environments while arbitrarily exchanging heavy gunfire with scores of Dr. Noâ€™s generic zombies. The on-screen enemies are not dead, per say, but their predetermined movements and static A.I. positioning swiftly renders them unto cannon fodder hell. The only palpable challenge tabled by Rogue Agent exists through the sheer volume of opposition. They just keep on coming. Every one of them frantically eager to be peppered with hot lead or ripped asunder by a fragmentation grenade. The life of a professional henchman must be tough; youâ€™d have to hope they get decent medical coverage.
To its credit, the gameplay package in Rogue Agent does try admirably to integrate the DSâ€™s innovative control schemes. Players will no doubt tinker momentarily with the gameâ€™s stylus and thumb pad layouts before frowning deeply and selecting the more natural two handed â€˜all buttonsâ€™ option. But blinkered persistence with the pesky and discomforting stylus will garner superior control resultsâ€”isnâ€™t reader-reviewer trust a beautiful thing? By using the stylus on the HUD touch screen to directly influence player point of view and weapon aiming (much like an analogue stick), the player can then use either the digital pad or the face buttons for movement. Depending on whether you prefer left or right-handed control, the shoulder buttons remain open for firing weaponry. However, with the stylus control system players must tap their assigned weapons for either single selection or dual wielding as itâ€™s not physically possible to reach the second shoulder button. Of course, the thumb strap control option leaves both hands with a spare trigger finger, but keeping that pad doing what you want while stretching across the HUD for movement is, shall we say, testing upon the patience.
Outside of movement and weapon selection, the HUD touch screen also provides instant access to the powers of your enhanced GoldenEye. These attributes assist directly in your progress from room to room and include MRI Vision (seeing through static objects to detect waiting henchmen), EM Hack (breaking through electronic defenses), Magnetic Polarity Shield (fairly self explanatory), and a Magnetic Induction Field (that violently thrusts enemies away from you). You can also tap the HUD to follow the prompts for color-coded door locking devices, grab unsuspecting opponents as human shields, and operate sporadic environmental machine traps. Getting the hang of the stylus and thumb strap methods is certainly an investment in time and patience but, once mastered, promotes a more defined PC feel to the controls where the stylus directly and accurately influences the upper screenâ€™s aiming cursor.
Graphically, Rogue Agent is a worthy â€˜work in progressâ€™ example of what gamers can hope to receive from the DS as it matures. Itâ€™s difficult to criticize the on-screen characters too stringently for the simple fact that the screen itself is only a handful of inches wide. However, the fact remains that itâ€™s all but impossible to discern the arrival of Xenia Onatopp, Oddjob, Scaramanga, and other more prominent foes when the sprites are so small. The character animation on show is fairly impressive, and downed opponents clatter to the floor with convincing weight and delivery. One glitch worth mentioning is the faulty collision detection, which often sees you incurring damage from gunfire through walls, barriers, walkways, and other supposedly safe positions of cover. This makes for some genuine moments of expletive-heavy commentary as you fruitlessly search for the offending chump and his super gun. Other, more atmospheric graphic effects are also a little clumsy, and this is especially true of smoke, which often appears as a flat, cycled animation on a blocky frame constituting the actual spatial dynamics of the effect. This is especially poor when considering that the DS is supposed to run at a similar level to the Nintendo 64, and that piece of hardware can accomplish so much more aesthetically.
Musically, the game pumps acidic techno loops that threaten cranial implosion after only a few minutes of play, but thankfully the music can be switched off, which leaves only the direct game sound effects. These are decent representations in the form of frenetic gunfire, occasional grunts of â€œGet him!â€ as doors open to reveal waiting hordes of henchmen, repetitious but forgivable explosions, and metallic bleeps and bloops when interacting with anything electronic. Rogue Agentâ€™s small story-advancing scenes segueing between the levels extend the sound range of the game through mission briefs, panoramic establishing shots, and other â€˜narrativeâ€™ padding. Although the sound isnâ€™t likely to be nominated for any revolutionary awards, it still serves its purpose through not attracting any undue attention.
One definitive gripe of note with Rogue Agent exists in the abruptly unforgiving learning curve. Upon passing a certain point in the game, opponents are suddenly generously adorned with the Omen XR rifle, which kills you, regardless of armor, in a single shot. Of course, when youâ€™re armed with the Omen, the same can be doled out to any henchman with a death wishâ€”pretty much all of them. However, reaching checkpoints in the game becomes strenuously difficult and, upon reflection, itâ€™s not hard to see why. Rogue Agent consists of only six single-player missions, and a few hours of concentrated play sees you through to its (anti)climax. The sudden ramping of difficulty here seems more like a longevity afterthought than a progressive test of ability.
Aside from the woefully short single-player campaign, Rogue Agent consists of Virtual Training missions where you can battle it out with the top brass Bond villains to better hone your GoldenEye powers. Various modes can be selected, including License to Kill (where single shots eliminate), You Only Live Twice (only two lives are available), Golden Gun (a powerful golden gun is hidden within), and other modes relating directly to the GoldenEye attributes. The Virtual Training missions can be played with A.I. opponents or wirelessly with up to three friendsâ€”though each of them must possess their own copy of the game. A single card multiplayer option, for up to seven friends, is included on the game but only offers a limited deathmatch challenge rather than the full array of multiplayer assets found through the Virtual Training missions.
As global DS owners continue to shuffle their feet and twiddle their thumbs while anxiously awaiting the arrival of the mythical Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, can Rogue Agent offer itself as decent filler material to temporarily plug the leaking dyke of expectancy? The DS currently lacks an extensive back catalogue of first-person shooters to draw comparisons with, so Rogue Agent manages to passably imitate a decent gaming jaunt, at least for its first few levels. However, once the largely bland and repetitive environments, generic opposition, disgraceful A.I. and lack of genuine gameplay panache make themselves known, Rogue Agent quickly becomes little more than a rinse-and-repeat shoot fest. Add to that its single-player brevity, fractured collision detection, tricky controls, and a genuine lack of variety, and well, itâ€™s the old Rogue Agent revisited. Yesterdayâ€™s multi-platform offering was a tumultuous waste of videogame resources, and todayâ€™s handheld iteration shows no signs of improvement. Yes, it fills that yawning gap between now and First Hunt, but it also unfairly inflicts one on your bank account. Bear that in mind before splashing out for the experience, or lack thereof.