GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (2004) - MI6 Review
Ever since EA took on the licence to create James Bond games
five years ago, every one of their titles has inevitably been
compared to the Nintendo classic "GoldenEye 64" released
back in 1997. The shadow cast by that game, still judged by many
as one of the best of all time, still appears to darken the creativity
of EA. Past attempts at a first person shooter (FPS) game, "Agent
Under Fire" and "NightFire", although competent,
fell short of the "GoldenEye" benchmark. So maybe "GoldenEye:
Rogue Agent" a case of `if you can't beat them, join them`.
It's All In A Name
In development at EA's Los Angeles studios since
early 2003, this game was originally titled "Dr. No
vs Goldfinger" and was based on the principal of villains
battling it out for control of the criminal underworld.
Sound familiar? It should because that is still the premise
for "Rogue Agent".
Depending on which side of the "chicken and egg"
debate you sit on, either the name was given first and the
reasons for its use had to be conceived, or the central
gadget to the game was created and sparked the concept of
using the name. Either way, the branding came under attack
in the gaming press, many citing it as a cynical marketing
ploy. To further confuse the situation, the game was even
"GoldenEye 2" in its initial press release,
so perhaps a comparison to the original N64 game is more
In an attempt to justify the use of the legacy, the main
character is dubbed Goldeneye (courtesy of Pussy Galore),
after he receives a "golden eye" augmentation.
You need to suspend your knowledge of the Bond series and
have an open mind to the idea of resurrecting past villains
to be able to swallow the time-shifted plot.
These are the two areas where "Rogue Agent" will
come in for most criticism: the use of the "GoldenEye"
brand to help raise the profile of another FPS shooter based
loosely in the Bond universe, and the concept of merging
past villains from the series into a futuristic setting.
Shortly after the time of the game's announcement, EA explained
that this title was an attempt to use the Bond licence in a creative
way. Unfortunately for EA, someone else had the same idea. "Evil
Genius" by Vivendi really stole the march on "Rogue
Agent" this year with a spoof Bond game in which you play
a Evil Genius who is trying to take over the world. Released to
rave reviews, "Evil Genius" is a good example of how
the 007 licence could have been used creatively, especially by
a company who owns "The Sims".
Above: Concept artwork
for the Auric Enterprises and Midas Casino locations
If you are interested in "Rogue Agent" you will belong
(predominantly) to one of three categories: GoldenEye N64 fans,
James Bond game fans, or FPS genre fans. Will these groups be
The N64 Legend
There is bad news for any fan of the original GoldenEye
N64 game that is expecting a sequel. "Rogue Agent"
is not a follow up to the 1997 game. In fact, besides the
name of the game and the run-and-gun style FPS action, there
is very little to link the two. "Rogue Agent"
is an original storyline with no connections to the N64
game or the movie of the same name, and aside from Xenia
Onatopp character and the Uplink multiplayer map, it bears
little resemblance. Perhaps this is a good thing though,
as "GoldenEye 64" is so steeped with nostalgia,
recollections of its quality have almost become urban legend.
The "GoldenEye" prefix on this latest game is
really a misnomer.
Similarly, fans of James Bond games will be left feeling
a little empty, because as the title may suggest, James
Bond is nowhere to be seen after his brief cameo in the
Despite having the rights to 42 years of cinematic Bond-lore,
and basing the game in 007's universe, you may come away
wondering why it feels so foreign to everything you have
previously experienced. Aside from some familiar voices
and half a dozen characters, there is little to tie this
game into the Bond universe, however the wit, charm and
style of 007's world everyone expects can be found in small
The highlights from the use of the Bond licence include
the locations, which are the main stars of this game. Fort
Knox and Crab Key are the headliners, with Atlantis, Scaramanga's
Funhouse and Uplink as some of the best.
Fans of the FPS genre will also be left wanting more from this
title. "Rogue Agent", although containing some unique
ideas to the format with the goldeneye gadget and deathtraps,
still plays like an average FPS game. What will dent this game's
impact on the FPS audience is the competition, with "Halo
2", "Half Life 2" and "Killzone" all
released around the same time. On the positive side, the run-and-gun
action and arcade feel to the gameplay may make a refreshing change
to the serious and realistic competition, but the lack of stealth
and strategy in "Rogue Agent" doesn't give the gamer
much room for manoeuvre in playing style.
EA have been brave at attempting to satisfy each of these
potential audiences with "Rogue Agent", but have
narrowly missed the mark. What you are left with is an average
FPS game with loose connections to the Bond universe, a weak
story and a monotonous single player mode. However, on the
upside, the excellent multiplayer features and potential longevity
may cast the negatives into insignificance.
||"...you are in for
some good old fashioned run-and-gun, no holds barred high
octane multiplayer couch fests this holiday season..."
The reasons for these high and low points become clear when you
take into account that "Rogue Agent" was designed as
a multiplayer game with a game engine tuned to the multiplayer
experience. The single player campaign and `Bond universe` storyline
were additions, so they can be forgiven. "Rogue Agent"
is the first Bond-licence game by EA to focus heavily on the multiplayer
aspects with equal, if not higher, priority than the single player
experience. After years of their multiplayer modes coming under
fire, EA should be applauded for this shift in focus, and for
what is achieved in the multiplayer game.
Above: Single player action
from Operation Grandslam
It is worth looking at four of the novel additions EA have brought
to the tired FPS genre with "Rogue Agent" in detail, as
they can set the gameplay apart from the vast array of other shooters
Golden Eye - The Golden Eye is the most original
idea in the game. Given to you by Scaramanga after you lose an
eye to Dr. No, this gold tinted vision device gives you special
powers and is upgraded throughout the game. MRI Vision gives you
the ability to see through objects and identify where opponents
are lurking, the Magnetic Polarity Shield protects you from taking
damage, the EM Hack allows you control devices remotely, and the
Magnetic Induction Field gives you the ability to pick up and
throw enemies around. The status of these four powers are displayed
in a visually pleasing heads-up-display circling the outer edge
of the screen, keeping the vital stats in your peripheral vision
and not getting in the way of the action. Thankfully the powers
are not constantly available, and the recharge period has been
set perfectly so their use does not become repetitive. The Magnetic
Induction Field is limited to use on human opponents, but the
ability to push and pull objects with the would have provided
additional opportunity for strategy.
Death Traps - Another great idea, and very much
in the style of Bond villains, are the many death traps scattered
thought the game's locations. These devious devices deliver death
by falling trap doors, releasing poisonous gas, igniting rocket
engines, venting steam from a nuclear reactor, and many more.
Aside from the trap doors, many of the death traps are unique
to certain locations and are key to how the maps play out.
E.V.I.L. - Lots of hype was made of the new
"E.V.I.L." AI used in the game during pre-release. Since
the AI is now "organic", the game does not rely on scripted
events to trigger opponents in to action. This means that next
time you round the same corner, the opponent you saw last time
might not be there - he might be teaming up with another foe,
creeping up on you from behind, or having a quiet cup of tea in
the lair staff room. Well perhaps not the last one, but the variety
is impressive to begin with. However, over multiple plays, it
is possible to pre-empt what the AI is going to do to some extent.
One of the new "organic" features is that opponents
may become intimidated by your especially evil behaviour, and
take one of their own side as a human shield. Whilst this behaviour
may at first seem a neat idea, it does pose one logical problem
- you can now take out two opponents for the price of one. It's
a nice idea on paper, but it doesn't really work in the game.
Dual Wielding - The original GoldenEye game
had a feature of double weapons (without a cheat you were restricted
to two weapons of the same type), but "Rogue Agent"
has ushered in the possibility of weapons mix and match. You can
use any combination of single handed weapons, giving you hundreds
of possible setups. This is the area in which strategy, hard to
come by with the run-and-gun nature of the game, comes in to play.
Deciding which weapons compliment each other well for your present
situation will have you coming back for more.
"You expect me to
do what, Mr Goldfinger?"
The single player campaign is where most players without
internet connections, or friends, will spend a fair amount
EA estimate that the 8 long missions for the single player
campaign will take an average gamer around 20 hours to complete,
and this is hard to argue with. The difficulty level does
graduate on a fairly smooth curve, but this is often achieved
by increasing the enemy shields and strengths rather than
providing difficult situations for the player.
Many of the later missions use over a dozen different maps
and will take a couple hours to complete, which makes a
refreshing change to the countless small missions used in
EA's last Bond title "Everything or Nothing",
but some of the missions do feel too long and a few of the
maps are over expansive and repetitive. Most of the missions
end with some sort of "boss" battle, but as with
other elements of the game, these too can seem lacking in
Each mission consists of multiple objectives, and this
is another aspect of the single player campaign that feels
under-developed, as the vast majority of the objectives
are the same - "get from A to B".
Possibly due to the nature of the objectives, and the often
confusing layouts to the maps, you are provided with a small
on-screen arrow indicating the general direction in which
you should by heading. Game play can also become repetitive
due to the lack of stealth or strategy required to achieve
The unlocks system, which has worked well on previous Bond games,
is in place again, although there are no "cheat" modes
to activate. Unlocks like "DK Mode" and "Paintball
Mode" gave the original "GoldenEye" fantastic longevity,
and although the extra multiplayer skins and maps earned by skillful
play might appease some, the lack of unlockable gaming functions
seems an obvious mistake. Unlocks are earned by a complex scoring
system which makes use of "Rogue Bonuses" which are
earned in a variety of different evil ways. Replay value of the
single player missions is likely to come through the Rogue Bonus
system, as there are many ways to achieve different awards.
Without spoiling the plot (almost all Bond fans will be unimpressed
by the cut scenes), your "golden eye" powers increase
as the game progresses and you take on Dr. No's forces on behalf
of Goldfinger and his sidekick Oddjob. Blofeld is also back in
all but name. Due to the legal conflicts in the past, he is now
known simply as "Number 1". SPECTRE is also referenced
with a familiar looking logo, but has been rebranded to avoid
any calls from Kevin McClory. Pussy Galore makes a welcome return
as an ally to Goldeneye, and she is the only character lucky enough
to be kitted out with new clothes - the rest of the cast appear
in their traditional cinematic costumes. On Dr. No's side is the
alluring Xenia Onatopp, but she is quickly dispatched mid-way
through the game. Francisco Scaramanga has a cameo role as the
villain's equivalent to Q, providing the Golden Eye and other
devices to the evil doers. The choice of characters used in this
title is quite well restrained, although the experience could
have been improved by seeing these familiar faces more often.
The plot twist comes after the penultimate mission and should
have set up a great climatic ending as you ascend the ranks, but
instead provides disappointment as the final confrontations take
place in cut scenes rather than one-on-one battles. You can't
help but feel you've been cheated after all that effort.
Above: Multiplayer action
from the Bathhouse and Golden Gate Bridge maps
|Evil In Numbers
Multiplayer is what "Rogue Agent" is all about.
The game was designed to be a great multiplayer experience,
and this is the best feature of the title. There are five
modes of multiplayer, offering good variety and some innovation
on the regular ideas.
could almost justify this game as a multiplayer only title
- the deathmatches really are that good..."
"Showdown" and "Team Showdown" are the standard
one-on-one and team-on-team deathmatches respectively. "Domination"
gives both sides a points total and the aim is to reduce the other
team's score to zero by placing yourself at risk on special pads
on the map. "Countdown" is similar idea, where teams
have to protect one of their players who has to stand on a deathtrap
and get their clock to zero before their opponents. "Tug-O-War"
is the real innovation where two teams have to battle over switches
to advance the movement of a bomb into their goal zone. There
are only two maps for "Tug-O-War" mode, but the gameplay
is so good you won't mind playing the same map over and over again.
Multiplayer maps are where "Rogue Agent" really wins.
With 25 maps in total, you won't be stuck for finding some favourites,
and all of them offer a unique aspect that will have you try them
out in different modes. Death traps are the main feature of many
of the maps and provide some stellar moments in battle.
The combination of maps, gameplay modes and death traps is sure
to deliver longevity to "Rogue Agent", much in the way
the original "GoldenEye" survives today - 7 years on
from its original release. Aside from Goldeneye, Xenia, Oddjob
and Dr. No, the other dozen skins available in multiplayer modes
are of no-name goons from the single player campaign. It seems
ridiculous to have a fabulous Funhouse multiplayer map but no
Scaramanga skin to play it with. The premise of creating classic
battles between villains seems flawed when there are only three
from the film series to choose from. Also missing from the game
is the "co-op" mode which had been quoted
earlier in the year.
Multiplayer is where "Rogue Agent" shines. If the lack
of skins wasn't an issue, you could almost justify this game as
a multiplayer only title - the deathmatches really are that good.
Whether die-hard N64 couch clans will be converted remains to
be seen, but the inclusion of online play for the PS2 and Xbox
platforms opens up a new audience to joys of deathmatch.
Above: Multiplayer action
from the Moonraker Fuel and Uplink maps
Controlling "Rogue Agent" will take a little getting
used to, especially the advanced mode, but learning to move and
look around the environment like second nature is essential to
success in the multiplayer modes and later campaign missions.
Alternative default control layouts are provided for those players
who like something a little different. Like the original "GoldenEye",
there is no jump feature, which even today is not an uncommon
omission to an FPS game.
The only real bone of contention is a lack of strafe buttons.
Instead of simply hitting the equivalent of L and R to move sideways,
you must use a combination of move and look sticks to achieve
the effect. Players who master this technique are bound to reign
supreme in multiplayer battles.
Weapons on the whole are well rounded and the combinations of
dual wielding, whilst tricky at first, does become an automatic
process as you gain experience. There are however a few eccentricities
with the guns. For example, the Predator MG seems better suited
at shooting down helicopters with a few rounds than emptying a
clip into flesh and blood.
Good To See You, Mr...
The visuals of "Rogue Agent" are average. Level
design, textures, and effects are slightly weaker than you
would usually expect from EA. The overall feeling of the
environment is rather flat, and this is perhaps in some
way due to the time restraints which caused EA to draft
in texture artists from TKO Software. The collaboration,
although essential to having the game meet its release date,
seems to have impacted the quality you would usually associate
with an EA title. This is not to say the game is lacking
though, as due to the sheer size of the locations, there
are plenty of nice touches to be found throughout.
Legendary production designer Sir Ken Adam was brought
in assist "Rogue Agent" development, but his involvement
was only at a conceptual level. Maps in the game were still
designed by level designers, as you would expect, so there
are fewer jaw-dropping moments throughout the eight locations
than first thought.
As mentioned earlier, the locations of the game do stand
out and, at times, give a great feeling that you are deep
within the Bond universe. But often that feeling is whisked
away by overlong maps. The expansive maps do give a lot
of ground to cover, but size isn't everything.
The only let down of real note are the character models.
The lack of time on development clearly shows in the low
detail, repetitive and uninspired ranks of goons you will
On the plus side, the addition of heat and smoke effects
adds an extra sheen to the overall presentation. Smooth
frame rate seems to have been the top priority when deciding
where the line between looks and playability should lie.
Blue. Sparks. Two words which are bound to be muttered by a
few gamers when they start unleashing rounds on opponents. The
Bond franchise has a history of "no blood" hits, and
"Rogue Agent" is no exception. Despite the Teen rating,
there is no blood in the game. Instead, blood has been replaced
by blue sparks that fly off opponents whenever they are hit. The
story explains this with the concept that the goons use high-tech
shielding developed by Dr. No. This concept falls apart when you
make a head shot where, clearly, no armour exists. EA should have
perhaps opted for dust or particle hits instead.
"Like listening to the Beatles without
An interesting decision was made in the style of music to accompany
"Rogue Agent". DJ Paul Oakenfold was brought in to develop
the game score, which in a change to the usual cinematic approach,
was instead based around the dynamic nature of gameplay. The score
mixes well when the action and pace of the game changes, as opposed
to the old school approach which "Everything or Nothing"
used. The downside to the score is that, despite pumping out some
adrenaline boosting beats, doesn't sound like a score that belongs
in Bond's universe.
Spot effects and weapon sounds are unremarkable, even the futuristic
weapons which give scope for some creativity. The voice over work
is an improvement from the lacklustre performances in "Everything
or Nothing", although sometimes the delivery may edge a little
towards the other end of the scale and can come across as over
Christopher Lee reprises his role as Francisco Scaramanga, and
Dame Judi Dench returns as M, but that is where the famous names
end. The rest of the characters have been voiced by sound-a-likes
rather than the (potentially controversial) option of recasting
characters with modern day Hollywood talent which EA have become
Followers of the development of "GoldenEye: Rogue Agent"
will undoubtedly be left feeling slightly disappointed, as it
does not deliver on its promises for a smattering of small reasons.
Although it was a great achievement to release
"Rogue Agent" on time considering the set backs
in development, it might have been advantageous to delay
the game by a few months, as with "Everything or Nothing",
to deliver some extra polish, address some of the missing
features and avoid obvious comparisons to the flood of strong
FPS titles all hitting the market at the same time.
Trading in on the GoldenEye name instantly set the bar
too high for "Rogue Agent", whether or not the
gadget or title came first, is of little issue. The story
had potential, but has failed to live up to the hype, and
with little to do with James Bond, this game feels weak
and uninspiring - ultimately missing the mark.
But if you can suspend your disbelief at the storyline,
and are not expecting either:
a) a GoldenEye 64 follow up
b) a title respectful to the James Bond lineage
c) a serious FPS game
...then you are in for some good old fashioned run-and-gun,
no holds barred high octane multiplayer couch fests this
|Fast high-octane run and gun action
|| Lack of stealth or strategy in campaign
|Great multiplayer maps and modes
||Gun battles can become repetitive
|The Golden Eye
||Poor multiplayer skins
||Some nondescript single player maps
|Dual wielding weapons
||No cheat modes to unlock
| Rogue Bonuses reward bad behaviour
||"Rushed" feel to entire package
|MRI Vision and rail gun combo
"GoldenEye: Rogue Agent" pack shot,
images, screenshots and concept art copyright EA Games.
|Single Player Campaign