James Bond 007: Nightfire’s Lasting Legacy and Why It Appealed So Much to a Young Bond Fan
With the current legacy of Daniel Craig’s era as Bond at risk of being nothing more than an endless diary of delay dates for No Time to Die, it gives us plenty of time to reflect on the legacy of the gaming accompaniments to this popular franchise. When it comes to James Bond, Nintendo’s GoldenEye remains a fan favourite amongst gamers; however, it was EA’s Nightfire, the sequel to Agent Under Fire released the previous year, that first introduced me to the gaming world of 007, and the title that remains my favourite to this day. With new details of IO Interactive’s Project 007 being gradually revealed and it holding the potential to be the next generation of Bond fans’ first gaming experience, it makes me wonder just why Nightfire was such a success, and why it’s a game that I still play today.
I was a young boy when I received a PlayStation 2 and a few games one Christmas, and amongst those games was Nightfire. My gaming experience at this point had been limited to Pokémon on the Game Boy Color, so this was my first time having a console that wasn’t handheld. I was already a huge, if slightly obsessed, fan of the James Bond films at this young age. I was first introduced to Roger Moore’s era, and the over-the-top action and larger than life baddies immediately appealed to me; this, in turn, led me to explore the other Bond eras, which included Pierce Brosnan’s time in the role. So, James Bond-obsessed, pre-teen me was having a pretty tough time wrapping my head around the fact that I could now be James Bond—which was basically all I wanted at that young age, and maybe still what I want now.
The game begins like any of the movies, with its very own theme song, title sequence, and iconic gun barrel moment. After this, the story mode’s first level, “Paris Prelude,” throws you straight into the action, as you are tasked with protecting French Intelligence agent Dominique and subduing a truck with a stolen device in it. So much of this opening level feels reminiscent of Brosnan’s period as Bond. However, while Bond isn’t actually voiced by Brosnan here (that role is fulfilled by Maxwell Caulfield), his likeness is used and it took little convincing for pre-teen me to accept that this was the very James Bond I knew and loved from the movies.
You can only imagine my excitement, then, when the action of the level moved from sniping from a helicopter to driving on the streets of Paris. This occurs as a result of a video sequence that sees Q remotely driving an Aston Martin, much in the style of the BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies, to below the helicopter for Bond to abseil into. Yes, I now found myself behind the wheel and in control of an Aston Martin. This game had won me over in mere minutes.
My amazement with being able to really be James Bond only continued as the story mode progressed. In addition to when you weren’t looking to achieve that high score, the freedom that certain elements of the game allowed you was a lot of fun, too. The very next level, “The Exchange,” was a great example of this. It offered multiple ways to progress through the level and there is fun to be had with the interactive scenery while inside Drake’s (the villain of the game) castle—did anyone else go around smashing all the windows, breaking the vases, and blocking Rook’s way through doors, or was this just me? Something tells me I wouldn’t make a very good 007 in the real world.
The game also has so many parallels to the movies, which was definitely a huge factor in how much I enjoyed it. Much like the way Nightfire uses Brosnan’s likeness, it does the same for M and Judi Dench, giving players another familiar face to engage with. Several of the levels draw inspiration from the films, with the likes of The Spy Who Loved Me and its fantastic underwater car chase featuring the Lotus Esprit, somewhat recreated in the level “Deep Descent.” This was another level in which I enjoyed the freedom the story mode allowed you, resulting in me seeing just how close I could get to the sharks circling near the surface of the water. Beyond this, much of the game’s climax feels similar to Bond’s space adventures in Moonraker, with the penultimate and final levels, “Countdown” and “Equinox,” really taking the story mode out of this world.
However, the story mode is really only, well, half of the story, because Nightfire’s best feature is without a doubt its multiplayer mode. Here, you can play a range of games against AI bots with up to three other players. However, the real beauty is that you can play these games by yourself and the bots—there’s no need for a second player. I often found myself playing the multiplayer mode more than the story mode. It’s here that you can play as the skins that you have unlocked as rewards in the story mode or, if you are proficient with cheat codes, entering “PARTY” in the codenames section unlocks all of the multiplayer characters for you. Not only can you play as all of the characters from the story mode, but there are a wealth of characters from the movies just waiting to be selected. All of the franchise favourites are at your fingertips: Jaws, Goldfinger, Renard, Oddjob, Scaramanga, Pussy Galore, Baron Samedi, May Day, Max Zorin, and so many more are present, easily the most extensive list of options seen in any Bond game at the time.
What’s more is there are combinations of characters and weapons that just made my little Bond-obsessed brain so happy. There is the possibility to play as Scaramanga and use his golden gun, you can be Bond and use his trademark pistols, but maybe the most satisfying of the combinations is that of Oddjob and his lethal bowler hat. This was a unique weapon that you can only use if you select him. It’s a one hit one kill, and this fun touch makes the game feel connected to the films and made gameplay more fun. It was challenging to play against characters like Scaramanga, especially if he has his hands on the golden gun, which sometimes offers a free shot as the bots find themselves running directly into walls or doorframes. This is always a confirmed kill for you, and it almost feels like a mercy killing, allowing them to respawn and re-enter the game normally. It’s an amusing glitch that, while showing the game’s imperfection, helps give it a little more character too.
Ultimately, Nightfire was and still is a game that I enjoy playing by myself, with my friends, and my sister. Its clever ties to the film series, entertaining and playful story mode and, most importantly, its excellent multiplayer mode, ensured that it’s been a constant in my life ever since I received it and the main reason why my PlayStation 2 remains very much connected to my TV. It also encouraged me to explore future Bond releases, including Everything or Nothing, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, and From Russia with Love. All of these games had their merits too—it was especially cool to play as Sean Connery’s Bond in FRWL and drive the iconic Aston Martin DB5—but none have managed to have the same lasting effect that Nightfire has.
So, how will Project 007 and its future cinematic counterpart of the film franchise fare? Well, with it looking ever more likely that the wait for the No Time to Die is to be extended, who fancies a game of Team Arena in Fort Knox to pass the time then? I call playing as Oddjob.