GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (2005) Nintendo DS - MI6 Review

For the background story to the title, it's use, the controversy, the storyline, and the full lowdown on the console game released in November 2004, read the MI6 review of the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube versions. This review will focus on the issues specific to the Nintendo DS spin-off edition.

Can you squeeze a 128-bit generation console first-person-perspective shooter on to a tiny handheld platform? Yes, is the resounding answer based on EA's achievements with "GoldenEye: Rogue Agent", but as you would expect there is a price to pay.

The gameplay of the console version has made the transition to the DS almost intact - so that means the single player campaign missions are largely dull, variety is thin on the ground and the overall experience is lacklustre. But playing the game on the tiny DS gives an added sparkle and novelty factor which helps hide a lot of the console versions's flaws.

But things have been lost along the way. The missions, although very recognisable from the console version, have been cut down to just six shorter outings.

The much-hyped but ultimately disappointing "E.V.I.L" AI takes a heavy blow too, with the behaviour of many goons quite predictable and unthreatening. The game engine suffers from occasional glitches, and collision detection is somewhat unpredictable.

As with the console version though, the gameplay is lifted by the only real innovation of this game, the "golden eye", which gives you special powers earned throughout the campaign. The dual weapon control seems easier than the console version too, and adds an extra level of depth to an otherwise bland FPS engine.

It is the control system of "Rogue Agent" on the DS which really shines out amongst everything else. Perhaps the defining feature of the DS generally, the touch screen comes in to it's own with GRA, making previous handheld FPS Bond titles ("The World Is Not Enough", "NightFire" - GameBoy Advance) feel terribly clunky.

The touch pad adds a similar amount of control enjoyed by PC gamers over their console counterparts. GRA offers four different schemes, with the stylus mode the best, closely followed by the option to use the touch pad as a traditional "mouse look" feature.


Above: The top screen and lower touch screens area on the DS.

The console version enjoyed 128-bit graphics, but the DS only has the equivalent of a Nintendo 64-bit capability. As such, the full 3D engine has been squeezed in to a combination of basic 3D maps with sprite overlays for the players hands and onscreen enemies.

Although necessary for performance on the DS, the use of sprites instead of 3D characters limits the animation and scaling quality. You can expect to see countless identical goons all die in exactly the same way.

This compromise does lead to a smooth frame rate though, which peaks at 60fps and only lowers to around 30fps when the action gets really intense.

The overall look of the game can best be compared to the classic Doom and Duke Nukem games on the PC from yesteryear. It is apparent that GRA borrowed quite a few of the techniques those games used to make the most of limited processing power.

If it wasn't for the heavily restricting unlocks (more on those later), you could easily forget the single player campaign. As with the console version - before the cutbacks - a strong focus during development has been the multiplayer experience. Combined with the DS wi-fi capability, playing GRA amongst a gaggle of players could not be easier. For those set-ups with only one game cartridge, the experience is limited to one map and one mode and an impressive 8 players, but is certainly better than nothing. The real experience comes when all players have a game cartridge and can take part in any of the four play modes.

Originally planned for the console version, but ultimately axed at the last minute due to pressures to get the game out on time, the DS version enjoys bots so single players can experience some of the multiplayer modes. But don't expect to mix both as you would with a PC FPS game, as bots and human players can not be combined in team games. The AI of the bots is as clunky as the single player game though, so you can't really hone your MP skills on your own.

Just as things we looking up for the DS version... The sound for GRA on the DS is dreadful, and clearly a low priority during development. The music is not even comparable to the average 16-bit console game from yesteryear, but thankfully there is an option to lower the music volume and leave yourself with the SFX. But they will slowly drive you crazy too, as the samples are of low quality (for space reasons) and the lack of variety, especially goon deaths and weapon effects, will quickly become tiresome. GRA is definitely not a game for players using headphones.

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UK - MI6 Price: £24.99
USA - MI6 Price: $29.99

GRA will enjoy good sales on the DS largely because it is the first FPS game on the platform. The lack of polish, poor presentation, unbearable music, and game engine/AI niggles is perhaps due to EA's priority to get this game to the market before the much anticipated "Metroid Prime Hunters" later this year. The storyline is even more compressed and illogical as the console version, but then this could be said about many earlier FPS games.

The main critique of GRA on the DS though is the unlocks system. Almost every map, extra and multiplayer skin has to be unlocked by success in the single player campaign. Hopefully cheats will be discovered to unlock full the joys of the MP games without having to wade through the campaign missions.

Despite these short comings, GRA on the DS is a fairly solid game that "does exactly what it says on the tin". You should not expect thrilling single player games or polished gameplay, but you can look forward to meaty multiplayer games, smooth graphics, and the stonking novelty factor of playing an FPS game on the DS. The excellent control system is its seminal achievement, and will have many DS fans lording it over the Sony PSP for some time to come.

Pros   Cons
Brilliant control system   Very restrictive unlocks system
First FPS title on the DS   Game engine niggles
Good multiplayer features (when unlocked)   Lack of varied animations
Smooth graphics   Dreadful sound

Single Player Campaign
Overall MI6 Rating

"GoldenEye: Rogue Agent" pack shot, images, screenshots and concept art copyright EA Games.