Electronic Arts’ first three forays into the James Bond universe saw the developers unsure of what to do with the franchise. On its fourth attempt, EA seems to have more direction. “007 Nightfire” captures the tone and action of the Bond movies in an original story with solid gameplay to boot. While it does not surpass Rare’s “Goldeneye” as a revolutionary first-person shooter, “Nightfire” is the next best thing to being Bond.

The game begins just like a Bond film, with an action-packed, interactive teaser followed by an authentic intro sequence with a song by Esthero. Pre-rendered narrative scenes move the story along and look fantastic, as do the in-play graphics. Bond is a perfect likeness of Pierce Brosnan, complete with trademark one-liners (but without Brosnan’s real voice). 007 must complete a wide variety of missions with unique objectives, from high-speed chases in his decked out Aston Martin to sniper missions to all out, run-and-gun levels.

There is no shortage of weapons, from automatics to guided missiles, or Q-Branch gadgets, like the wristwatch laser and cell phone grappling hook. The variety in “Nightfire” keeps the action fresh and interesting as the game goes on.

“Nightfire” also one-ups its predecessors in the all-important multiplayer mode. The game features a wide variety of well-designed arenas and multiplayer scenarios, like capture the flag and assassination or just straight deathmatch. AI bots with customizable personalities and skill levels can make multiplayer battles even fiercer. All that’s missing are ongoing player stats, which would allow friends who compete often to compare scores.

EA is now shooting in the right direction with their 007 games. Instead of attempting to be the next “Goldeneye,” the cinematic “Nightfire” succeeds in its own right by representing the entirety of the Bond experience.

3 1/2 Stars

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