The first truly awesome Nintendo 64 game was "Goldeneye," a first-person shooter loosely based on the James Bond movie of the same name. Now comes "The World Is Not Enough," another Bond-based shooter that delivers great looks and a lot of fun--but nothing terribly surprising.
Much of "World" builds on the legacy of "Goldeneye." Players have distinct missions, each with a set of objectives--get the money, kill the bad guys, protect the civilians. You get the idea. Fail to complete an objective--accidentally cap a civilian, for instance--and the whole mission gets scrubbed.
Mission-based games are nice because they allow players to chew off little bits of a game over several days or weeks. Tough day at the office? Spend a few minutes ridding the world of diabolical digital scum and everything seems right again. The missions in "World" offer a range of challenges, which makes the game more than just a "Quake"-style fragfest in exotic locales.
For instance, players get a ton of gadgets from Q Branch at the beginning of most missions. Some are necessary. Others are not. It's up to players to figure out what to use and when. It's also up to players to decide when to be a booty-kicking spy and when to be a wussy boy.
The cops in "World" don't like to see seemingly ordinary folks packing heat any more than police officers in real life do. So when Bond is trying to make a smooth getaway or is mingling with everyday people, he has to keep his guns out of sight lest the fuzz decide to engage him in a firefight. It doesn't matter who shoots first in "World," if Bond takes out a cop the mission is over.
And it gets increasingly difficult to avoid such messes because the nonplayer characters in the game frequently get involved in the action. When bad guys storm a place crawling with security, for example, the security guards pull out their guns. Sometimes they help Bond dispatch the thugs. Other times they skulk around and look threatening, which makes them easy to mistake for targets.
Visually, "World" delivers everything one would expect from a Nintendo 64 at this stage in the system's development. The environments look better than they did in "Goldeneye," particularly for players with N64's Expansion Pak installed. The thugs move and act realistically--although parents may not appreciate how realistically they thrash about in the throes of death. Of course, compared with newer systems such as Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2, the graphics in "World" look chunky and clunky.
But although "World" offers everything in its place, it fails to take game play anywhere none of us have been dozens of times before. It has none of the mood or attitude of a game like "Perfect Dark"--which, incidentally, was developed by the same company that produced the original "Goldeneye."
"Aerowings 2: Airstrike"
There has yet to be a really great flight simulator on Sega Dreamcast. The second installment of "Aerowings," "Aerowings 2: Airstrike" doesn't even come close. Yes, it has a lot to enjoy, but it ultimately fails on many levels.
First, the fun stuff. For two-player, split-screen dog-fighting, there are not a whole lot of choices on Dreamcast. So "Airstrike" sort of wins by default. Fighting against a friend can be a real hoot. And some of the toughest solo missions in "Airstrike" offer a true challenge to all but the best video sky jockeys.
But too much of "Airstrike" gets tedious. Players slog through training missions over boring terrain. One of the fun things about flight sims is the ability just to tool around and check things out. But the ground terrain in "Airstrike" is so flat and uninspired that there's nothing anyone would want to look at.
Shooting at stuff in the clear blue sky over and over gets old fast. So does "Aerowings 2: Airstrike." Rent it with a couple of friends and have fun shooting at each other. But when they go home, there's not much in "Airstrike" to keep a solo gamer happy.
"Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn"
Not so with "Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn," a remarkable, engaging game that swallows players whole. Would you expect anything less of a game that sprawls across four CD-ROMs, demands more than a gigabyte of hard disk space for a full installation and has a manual that's 250-plus pages long?
Like the original "Baldur's Gate," "Shadows of Amn" takes place in the Forgotten Realms world of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons universe. Players familiar with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons can probably skim the quick reference card included in the game and start playing. Others should flip through the manual to get a sense of the richness of the fantasy.
Players begin the game in a dungeon and must work quickly to free their companions before finding a way out into the countryside of Amn. Here, players delve into the history of their character and unlock stories that go well beyond those of most games.