Editor’s note: We are starting a new series – ‘Tutorial Level’ – on people’s favourite games! Even if it’s not the sort of game you’re used to playing, we hope you can appreciate the passion that goes into these articles. Roshan appeals to our nostalgia for offline multiplayer content while castigating the inadequacies of contemporary titles.
With ‘blockbuster’ video games punctuating the market every year or so, it may be unfashionable to announce that my favourite console game is almost as old as me.
I would even go so far as to say that 007 Nightfire is one of the best games ever made – or, at least, it possesses all of the qualities that a truly stellar game should have.
Sure, its graphics by today’s standards are a clunky and inelegant – even if, as a kid, I recall them being nigh on life-like. Its voice acting can be a bit dodgy (they clearly couldn’t afford to get Pierce Brosnan to voice James Bond, and the stand-in can sound pretty ropey to my adult ears) and the story is a bit forgettable.
But, though its (admittedly short) story may not be as advanced or expansive as Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption, The Last of Us, or other more recent best-sellers, it doesn’t matter.
The story has all the backdrops you would expect for a Bond adventure: Paris by night, a grand, snowy castle in the Austrian Alps, a tower block in downtown Tokyo, an evil lair on a hidden Pacific island, all topped off by a climactic final mission set on a space station orbiting the earth armed with nuclear missiles.
Nightfire emerged in the early noughties and was the last in the line of what was probably the heyday of James Bond-themed shooters. It was preceded by Agent Under Fire, The World is Not Enough and, most famously, 007 Goldeneye.
Like them, it is a first-person shooter, though the gameplay is much more refined, and the graphics much more advanced than its predecessors (quite a feat considering Agent Under Fire was released mere months beforehand.)
Further, variety is provided by missions where you can control vehicles such as Bond’s Aston Martin, an attack plane, and a submarine. The player is also treated to missions which operate more as a rail-gun shooter, or the final mission in zero-G.
Many also allow the player the choice as to whether to achieve objectives (which mainly involves killing everyone you come across while your character makes a quip) through stealth or by going all-guns-blazing.
All this allows for a single-player experience which may be short (there are only a dozen or so, admittedly lengthy, missions) but which is never repetitive.
But the experience doesn’t end there. Nightfire has a fantastic multiplayer element to it. You, along with three others – and however many bots (modelled after the cast of the story and other Bond films) – can engage in a variety of game modes in two-dozen or so different locations.
Given that the game is from 2002, if you want to play with your friends, they have to be there physically in the same room as you with an extra controller wired in, but that’s part of the fun.
Indeed, it is why almost eighteen years after my father bought the game (‘for himself,’ I am told), I still find myself firing up the old Xbox if a friend or cousin is over at mine.
When I play it, I am reminded of how far gaming has come, and, to an extent, how far it has fallen. Sure, today we have more in-depth storylines, sometimes written by film-writers. Graphics quality continues to make leaps and bounds, and we can play games online with people wherever they are.
But that has come at a cost, too. I’m not just talking about the ever-increasing price tag for new games (I think I paid £50 for Wolfenstein The New Order on release, which is quite a basic game for all of its merits, and that was nearly six years ago!), or the cost of having to play online (especially since PSN became subscription-only).
More importantly, there is the cost of games featuring offline multiplayer – good offline multiplayer. Part of the reason Call of Duty and FIFA have remained kingly titles for years is in no small part because they often possess the golden trifecta of a campaign mode, online multiplayer, and offline multiplayer (even if the quality of Call of Duty split-screen has declined).
Firing up the Playstation or Xbox when your mates are over is, I think, undervalued with probably the majority of recent releases, however good and profitable their online or campaign modes are.
Why do we play video games? Part of it is no doubt escapism or for a sense of adventure – in the same way, people enjoy reading books. But I think part of it is – or at least should be – as a way to further social interaction between people, in the same way, that people might play a board game, or watch and then comment on a film together.
Indeed, with the rise of gaming as an e-sport, in the same way we might kick a ball around or spectate a match at the pub. And, frankly, this is something more easily accomplished when your fellow players are in the same room as you.
Nightfire, in sum, was a game with an enjoyable storyline, decent graphics (for its day), simple yet unrepetitive gameplay, and a multiplayer experience which gives it a long afterlife. I would suggest to anyone reading this that, if you have an old PS2 or Xbox gathering dust, see if you can get a copy of this game. It’s not like there’s that much to do in lockdown.