Do you think James Bond ever had to walk to Gate 999?

007 nightfire

James Bond 007: Nightfire (2002)

I was once told that a big advantage of working in the corporate retail environment is that “you get to meet new and interesting people every day”. I’m sorry, but to me, that is hell on earth. It was bad enough speaking to them over the phone. I couldn’t imagine having hateful negotiations with suppliers and wholesalers in my office, while they pretend to enjoy being in my company, alls so I can cut 2 cent off the price of a box of tablespoons so my department would save a hundred quid extra that month.

But the most incredible false benefit advertised in job specs is that you get “the opportunity to travel”. I’ve thought of ways where this might be a benefit, but not much comes to mind. If you land yourself in one of those jobs where all the boys and girls are of that certain young age and all like each other, no agendas, no clashes, bunches of slap and tickle and you can all go on the razz for a few days on end, then great. It also helps if it’s a conference in Vegas that you’re hitting up. Unfortunately that kind of thing is milimetrically rare. 

You won’t be sent to Vegas, not by any stretch. Especially if you’re in Ireland, where if your destination isn’t Dublin then it’s usually a trek over to the UK. And that may be a nice and short flight, but if you’re having to be somewhere from 9AM that morning then between getting ready, the taxis to and from the airport and the usual airport guff, you might have to be out of your scratcher by 5.30AM unless your company paid the extra 40 quid and let you get over there the night before. Vegas, Seattle, Amsterdam? Not me, but I have been sent to Reading and Leeds. My brother was once sent to Didcot (me neither). If you’re very (un)lucky you might get sent to some vast industrial region in China to inspect the merchandise, and won’t your lungs just love that?

That Jame Bond’s got some working life though, hasn’t he? I think he once complained about having to pay taxes along with the rest of all the civil servants. He had the cheek to say this during the knees-up that MI6 sent him on to Casino Royale (in Montenegro or the south of France, depending on the source) with a whole bundle of money. There you go son, you head over and try to bankrupt the main villain with that wad of cash, and have yourself a few hefty vodka martinis and 80 cigarettes a day on us. And better than that, we’ll assign a classy bit of crumpet from the treasury to help you. As if Bond needed any help getting his leg over. Do work trips get any better than that?

He even gets a nice few weeks of leave after every assignment, does Bond. Oh, diddums, did that trip to Monte Carlo and a few spins in the best Aston Martin of the era take it out of you so much? I tell you, he needs to go on a few work trips with me because by God, I’ll show him luxury. International meetings – pah. On paper, they sound great. Sexy, even. But unless your name’s Bond, James Bond and you’ve got Britt Ekland waiting for you after you land in Acapulco, then you’ll find that the novelty quickly wears off.

After all, you probably won’t get the chance to match Bond’s preference of one “large, very strong, very cold, very well-made drink” before dinner. Even if you do go out on the razz with the client, it’s often the last thing you want to do after speaking with them for eight hours – and you’ll still need to have your gameface on. You might just get smashed with your colleagues instead, but what if they’re strictly business?

Well, in his neverending quest to one-up me, you can forget about Didcot: Bond heads to space in 007 Nightfire, released in 2002 for that wonderful trifecta of consoles – PS2, GameCube and Xbox. I understand that there’s wonky PC and GBA versions as well, but how much time do you think I have? Anyway, Bond’s not heading to space for the first time either. The plot of Nightfire is essentially just a retread of Moonraker, a Bond flick whose plot didn’t win Best Screenplay that year, shall we say.

But damn, is this one action packed. Only twelve levels, which is a bit low-end, and all said and done there really aren’t that many on-foot missions – far more often, you’re firing missiles from a plane or sniping cars from helicopters or having laser battles in space. This game was from the Brosnan era, not long before the release of Die Another Day, so wild stuff was the order of the day. No invisible cars then, but cars going up on two wheels and firing missiles and EMP charges for fun.

Unfortunately I do have to advise you to wuss out and play the game on the easiest mode. The simple reason for this is that you still have the old Agent Under Fire thing of enemies either no-selling your three round bursts, or seeing them do a little dab before responding with a rip of gunfire that takes a big old chunk of your life. There’s plenty of body armour around, so make sure you’re always strapped up (like Grace Jones filming her sex scene with Roger Moore) because you’re never quite sure where the checkpoints are.

Talking of ridiculousness and treacherous checkpoints, Nightfire cements its legendary status in the last few levels when things really start getting properly absurd. Firstly, your Aston Martin V12 Vanquish turns into a submarine, The Spy Who Loved Me style, and you’re having to weave in and out of sea mines while not getting blown away by nuclear subs. You’ll have to do all of this in one go.

Straight after that, you’re flying a plane and blasting enemy bogeys out of the sky, but don’t breathe out now because next you’re trying not to get your ass cooked by rockets while firing your laser cannon at an enemy black ops team. before heading up to space to confront the villain. You’ll be having to learn new controls on virtually every level just to get by. It’s all terrific fun of course, a great time capsule of Bond in the mad old days. Although really, by the end of it all, you almost wish for a few more straight-shooting levels.

You’ve got plenty of story cutscenes and some proper turn-of-the-century CG sequences in the mix as well. It’s rubbish having Pierce Brosnan’s face but a naff voice coming out of it, though. It doesn’t sound a bit like Pierce, and it’s no wonder they splashed the cash to get him in for the next Bond game. Apart from that, there’s no less than four Bond girls to take your pick from, and let’s just say, they ain’t ironing boards.

But what makes Nightfire linger in the memory the most is its multiplayer. It doesn’t match the phenomenon that GoldenEye 007 for N64 delievered, but I’d still call Nightfire’s multiplayer legendary. Even if you’re Billy-No-Mates, you’ve got AI bots to mess with. Not the greatest AI in the world, of course, but there’s bundles of levels, modes and weapons options – and everyone remembers going to the snowy Skyrail level and using the remote-control rocket launcher to explode their friends from the other side of the map.

I’m digging the game’s incidental soundtrack as well. Nightfire’s got its own theme tune, although it’s a bit plodding and the in-game version only lasts a minute. You get the properly extended version during the ending credits, but they either had too many staff on this game or they made the credit sequence too slow because the full song ends up playing three times in a row, in a manner all too reminiscent of Father Billy O’Dwyer playing Ghost Town on repeat in Father Ted.

But still, who cares? This is a game from the times when you could take some mad liberties and have it work out for the better. That PS2 era where not everything had to be spot-on, like the voices or the animations, but it was okay. It wasn’t a Call of Duty clone, there wasn’t a rubbish online mode or micro-transactions, and it just did what it wanted. Nightfire was the type of game to drink and smoke morning, noon and night, start its day in Paris and end it in Cuba, give one to three Bond girls in a row and still have enough left to charm the pants off you.

15 May 2020

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