When Goldeneye was released for the N64, a great many PS owners were faced with a choice of either biting the bullet, and buying the Fun Machine, or hoping that someone would create a 007 title for the system. Well, two years after the movie hit theaters (and arriving just in time for the next one), Tomorrow Never Dies arrives in stores, and I've just finished playing it. As Sean Connery (as Bond) said to Goldfinger: "I suppose you want me to talk?"...Let's just say that what's here is interesting, at best- but it's definitely no Goldeneye!
Tomorrow Never Dies is one of the most frustrating games I've played in quite a while, for a lot of reasons. As much as I tried to like what's here, and there is a lot to like, I kept running into the same annoying problems again and again. First of all, the game is way too short, with only 10 levels, and to compensate for this, the developers have made it nearly impossible to complete for the casual player, thanks to the cheap enemy AI that allows them to see and shoot you with deadly accuracy from what seems like miles away! And this is on the default Agent setting! If you want to throw your Playstation out of the window, you'll want to attempt the 007 difficulty, but don't say I didn't warn you. Secondly, the graphics leave a lot to be desired with most areas being way too dark, with poor draw-in (that hides the aforementioned cheap enemies), and bland locations to sneak around (and die a lot) in. It seems as if the game was rushed out the door, despite the long delay, go figure... Third, and most infuriating, is the poor control, and slow character animation! 007 moves like he's 0070 years old, and once again, we get another "action" game where the character can't jump, fight hand-to-hand, or dodge enemies! This is a shame, as these tactics are part of all the Bond films, and even Goldeneye had the option to use your fists! Even though you have the option to use "stealth tactics", and the animation of Bond sneaking about is nice, all it amounts to is that you move REALLY slow, instead of just slow, making you a sitting duck a good 90% of the time! 007 can walk backwards, though, which ends up being completely useless in the game, but again- it looks nice!
The game actually gets off to a decent start, with a slick opening combining in-game footage with clips from the film. Like any good trailer, it sets the tone for what's to come, and I was all pumped up after this, and ready to kick some terrorist butt- then the game began... The first level is almost the same as the first area in Goldeneye in terms of the objectives, but much shorter, and without the underground areas. All you have to do is kill a few guards, target a radar dish with a laser, and fight some really dumb soldiers that come out of a helicopter. A short ski sequence follows, and it's not very impresive. The second area is taken from the film, with Bond visiting an arms bazaar in order to get proof of illegal weapons sales. In the film, the area was quite large and well designed- the game gives us what amounts to an arms flea market, with a whopping three weapons to photograph, plus a plane you get away in later on. In order to "liven things up" in this section, you have to run around getting shot at (and shot) while shooting guards, until you kill one who coughs up the plane's cockpit key, as a 2 minute timer runs. The game takes over after this, giving us the actual credit sequence from the film, which is a great touch. After this, I looked at the mission select screen and saw that i only had 8 remaining levels, and I knew that there would be trouble.
The rest of the game plays the same way, and if it weren't for the artificial difficulty that comes from placing cheap enemies in areas with limited draw distance, an average player could finish the game in about two hours. But, "NO Mister Bond, I want you to die!!" seems to be the rule of the day, as every other bland-looking level is filled to the rafters with death around every other bland-looking corner, with bland enemies that all look and animate the same, and in some levels, if you happen to stand around in a room for a second or three to catch your breath, or get your bearings, you're sure to be greeted by a hail of bullets from offscreen as you exit! Probably the worst thing here is that you can't save the game, except after each mission! So by mission 9, the time the game gets halfway decent, your patience will be fried to a crisp. There is nothing worse than getting killed as you get two steps away from the end of a level, and having to start the whole damn thing over!
Most of the time you die in this game, it's because of something you didn't see, like a guard up on a rooftop a block or two away, or a bunch of teeny-tiny land mines popping out of the trunk of a car you're speeding after. But for sheer frustration, level 7's ski sequence gets my unanimous vote as Worst Level Design of the Year. It took me 58 tries to get through the hell of this slow-moving nightmare, because i either hit a tree or rock and died instantly, or i sailed off a cliff, thinking it was a jump- you can't tell where the heck to go, or what's up ahead, as far as certain obstacles, and the sense of speed is non-existent! If you try to get up any speed at all, or try to slow down, that's when you hit something! The lone car chase level is also very annoying in the sense that you seem to be driving at 30 mph, no matter how much you step on the gas, and the control is so stiff, it's as if you're driving a painted piece of wood. Not good, and I think the folks at BMW will have something to say about this!
I kept on playing (and dying) looking for something good under all the rust, and I have to say that the music is amazing throughout the whole game, and as a whole, the presentation is very slick and with the exception of the awful-looking in-game cinemas, well-done. Black Ops, who did the excellent PS game Treasures Of the Deep, really laid an egg here- perhaps some changes were made at the last moment (like a lot of licensed games), which left them little freedom to do the game that they (and we) wanted. This is too bad, because a lot of people will be very disappointed with this game. Yeah, I finished Tomorrow Never Dies, in fact I refused to stop playing until I did- but after all that hell I went through, I wonder if anyone else will...
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