I played this game a few years ago when it was released due to nostalgia. I was aware it wasn't going to be anything like the original but that didn't persuade me to play something else. I wasn't very impressed by the game other than they managed to get a pretty good cast to voice the characters. The first person gameplay was solid, not anything you'd rave about but also not bad. The visuals were good, everything looked well put together and executed with good level design...
This article isn't about all that though, it's about the final level of this game. This level is the worst experience in the recent generation of gaming for me because it embodied everything wrong with lazy game development. If you've had the displeasure of playing this game to finish, then you probably know what I'm going to be talking about.
Let me start with that this is a game I played on easy difficulty so I could beat it very quickly for review purposes. I am not the best at FPS games, but also not bad either. This level is just that bad. Also this is the spoiler alert warning if you haven't played it and plan on to.
The level begins with 007 getting off an elevator with Alec's men to meet with him and Natalya. After a lengthy cut scene, all through first person, you and Natalya are alone with guards on their way to kill you. Bond asks Natalya if she can shut down or hack or something involving typing on ridiculous looking computers. That's all she does while you take out waves of henchmen. Now this doesn't sound inherently bad but the issue is she needs to get to 3 computers, if she is shot at, she will stop, yell at you and continue. If you are able to shoot everyone coming in, it'll take roughly 6 minutes for her to reach all 3 computers. However this task is impossible because you don't know where the henchmen are entering from. This entire sequence became boring and mundane because it took so long to finish, About 20 to 30 minutes.
The next section is the catwalk. Alec is firing a beam at you that burns with "the intensity of the sun" and will kill you instantly. In this scene, you must make it to Alec without getting hit by this beam and without getting killed by the henchmen in your way. The biggest problem I have with this section is it's actually a maze. You are supposed to follow a very specific path, you deviate and the beam will instantly kill you. You must also not stop for more than a second because the beam will instantly kill you. This section should take no more than a few minutes to complete, it took me roughly 20 minutes due to extensive trial and error. The game in no way trains the player for this in any earlier sections of the game. If you die, you start at the beginning of the catwalk, so you better learn quick because you're going to be here for a while.
After you manage to pass the catwalk. You are greeted by Alec with a quite long quick time event. It's a fight scene, that lasts about 3 minutes, you mess up one time with the QTE's, start over. This part was so frustrating that it became a thing of pride. I was determined to beat this game so badly that I kept on going.
After you finish the QTE scene, you aren't done quite yet, you must make your way to a room that looks to be important for a satellite station but we’re gonna use it for a gun fight. If you’re able to do this flawlessly, it'll run you around 12-13 minutes. If you die at any point during this part, you start over. Imagine if you will, gunman coming from every angle, Alec, who can take an absurd about of damage, is shooting at you, helicopters hovering and firing on you while you try and survive behind boxes. I think it goes without saying that this is unacceptable game design. This section took me about 45 minutes to complete because I would get to the end and die due to a random A.I. flanking me through the helicopters bullets because he can’t be killed by friendly fire.
When you finally manage to defeat this almost seemingly unwinnable scenario, you are to chase down Alec to the main control panel and shut down the Goldeneye. This leads to another QTE fight that'll run about 20 seconds flawlessly, needless to say, took me about 5 minutes. After that you are done, you've killed Alec, destroyed Goldeneye and Natalya saves you in a helicopter.
Now the reason I'm telling you about this horrendous story is to explain how influenced by current game design this final sequence is. Every part of it is a clear try at being like the big boys of shooters. The first part with Natalya and the computers, I don't mind the whole "survive while shooting waves of enemies" thing, but to make it so long is what's excruciating. And it becomes longer every time Natalya is shot at, it doesn't seem necessary. Other games that have this mechanic are a lot more forgiving by having the time it lasts a lot shorter.
The next section is just a mess, having the player learn a path by constantly killing them is not fun. It's frustrating and borderline criminal. It becomes even harder when you are onslaught by loads of henchmen, it's unfairly hard and again, not fun.
It's been stated in other podcasts I've been apart of that I have a huge disdain for quick time events. They work in some games, are even a fun element added to the overall experience. They are not fun in an action shooter where when your character gets smacked across the face and everything gets real disorientating. The first fight with Alec is so disorientating in fact that you miss the QTE prompts very easily and end up starting over. Who in the development of this game thought that this was fun? Or was it that they didn't care because they just wanted a certain QTE quota?
The next section is not even remotely entertaining. I've played other shooters that put you to the test and force you to use everything you've learned in the final section. I will give them credit that with this section, that was the intent. Intent and execution are two entirely different things. When enemies take a lot of damage, let me take them out before you throw the stand-here-to-not-die part. These enemies will flank you while you are in cover because the helicopters bullets can't harm them. It's nonsense and becomes an element that sours on overall not too bad game.
The final QTE is a nice change of pace because it's shorter and has less buttons to press. It's still not an entertaining element, being forced to do this a second time after the insane final fight makes no sense. It's an exercise in futility.
If you've made it this far in my ranting, then that tells me you are sick of lazy first person shooters as well. It's said that if you want change, be that change. If only I could apply that to buying first person shooters. These types of game play elements are unacceptable but are intensely popular among a lot of shooters because developers have a hard time understanding that games don't need to look like movies. A compelling story line doesn't mean you have to do a final QTE to finish it off. I for one feel cheated when this happens because I wasn't playing "Simon Says" the rest of the game. Look at the most acclaimed FPS games, they don't do this. They have a fun final, tough level that puts you to the test, not a series of survival levels and quick time events. I fear this is a trend that won't change anytime soon.
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