Electronic Arts may be a lot of things, but 'controversial' isn't often one of them. Even with illegal street racing and World War II multiplayer games on the shelves, the world's biggest games publisher manages to maintain its bankability without having its morals rifled through by bloodthirsty investors and consumers. It shipped "a family product" about killing people in Vietnam, for heaven's sake.
However, it's fair to say there is one product on the company's release list that has sparked anger in a lot of gamers. GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, which we originally told you about earlier this year, is EA's best attempt to leverage the James Bond licence while capitalising on the GoldenEye name that Rare's N64 title made respectable. Not only do a lot of people know this, many of them - particularly the hardcore - doubt the firm's ability to live up to GoldenEye's legacy. And they doubt it very vocally, using words like "cynical", "disgrace" and lots of others you can find on older threads. Indeed, even when we played it at E3, while we weren't depressed by it, we weren't particularly convinced either.
Which is why, parked in the only spot of shade we could find in the whole of San Francisco this month, we used some of our time at Electronic Arts' recent 'Hot Summer Nights' event to quiz GoldenEye man Chris Plumber, and see if he could convince us that Rogue Agent will be the game that it needs to be to justify the nametag. What follows is the transcript of our conversation, which you can also download in video form from Eurofiles. Read it, watch it, do whatever you like. Just let us know if you're convinced.
Eurogamer: What have you listened to most from the feedback you had at E3?
Chris Plumber: Well we've been working on a lot since E3. One of the biggest things is performance; obviously frame rate is really important to a first-person shooter. We've made massive improvements there, and we've also been able to maintain the level of special effects so that was really important for us. We wanted the bullet impacts to really create a lot of effects, we wanted to make sure the intensity of the fire fights was maintained, but you know, you've got to have your frame rate back as well. So that's been a huge improvement.
From a gameplay side, the golden eye is now being shown, and we're showing people some of the cool features of the golden eye. It's upgradeable with certain activate-able features, which give you big advantages in the game, and the two features that we're showing today is the magnetic field - and that's really cool because it lets you grab guys and throw them around, you can throw 'em out the window, throw them into other guys, knock 'em down, you can yank them towards you and take their weapon. So there's a lot of depth to that particular feature. There's also magnetic shield and the magnetic shield will deflect incoming bullets, so that's also real handy.
All these have a limited amount of power so you have to be very careful in how you use them and the our rogue scoring system works is the more you sort of play with style, if you play like a Bond villain, then you'll have more of the eye power available to you so you can kind of use it a lot more often. So we're showing off the eye.
We're showing off more of the completed melee system as well, where we've been... We always had this goal of having a really robust, powerful, simple melee system because in the Bond films, you know guys do a lot of fighting and it shouldn't be a situation where you're stuck or screwed or whatever when you run out of ammo - you should be able to take guys out. So if a guy gets close to you, one hit will stun them - punch them twice and they're dead - but what's cool when they're stunned is you can exploit the enemy. You can take him hostage - when you have a hostage he's actually extra armour and you can carry that armour around with you as long as the hostage is still alive. And at the player's will he can take the hostage and throw him - you could throw him out the window just for fun, or you can throw him into other guys and knock 'em over.
We have really cool knockdown mechanics now in the game, so let's say you're not so accurate with the grenade, and you don't take the guys out - you might knock them down though and that would give you an edge. You can run off and sort of do what you do best before they can get up.
The other things we're showing now is... we have Paul Oakenfold's music in the game. [Some music starts up in the background.] You know he's put an original score on everything. [Points at the source of the music.] That's not it by the way! [Laughs] And it's kind of cool, it's like having Paul Oakenfold in your living room spinning for ya. He's doing the entire Hong Kong score across the entire game, so we're excited about that as well.
And this is really the first mission we've shown people where you're really a villain. Now the first mission at E3 we showed at Fort Knox you were actually still an MI6 agent - you ultimately get fired from MI6 at the end of that mission. And that's when you go work for Goldfinger. But this time Goldfinger sends you out on a mission, and you're gonna go assassinate Dr. No. It's across the rooftops of Hong Kong, which is just a really cool setting. It's night, it's raining, there's all the cool neon lights and signs and stuff, so we're really happy the way this level turned out because it captures sort of the spirit of the GoldenEye: Rogue Agent game more than any of the levels we've shown up to this point.
Eurogamer: There are a lot of competing first-person shooters in the market coming this Christmas. If you're a general fan, which a lot of our readers are, why would you want to buy GoldenEye: Rogue Agent maybe in preference to some of the others? I mean, I don't have to list them, I'm sure you're well aware of them...
Chris Plumber: Well what really makes GoldenEye: Rogue Agent stand out and the reason I think people are going to like it is we've taken sort of classic first-person shooter gameplay and we've added a layer of depth in almost every way.
The sort of features that I'm convinced people are going to copy on shooters from now on. And that was kind of the goal. It was sort of like the original GoldenEye when you could do headshots, and now everybody does headshots and then forgets about it, but that was a really important moment in console shooters. So for us the way our melee system works - the fact that you can throw guys around - that is really cool. People are going to have a blast doing it, and that means the combat doesn't always have to be at long range; you can have close-range engagements.
The way our AI system works - it's unlike anything anyone's ever played before. It's the most advanced AI that's ever been on a console. By that I don't mean that it's painful or cheats or anything like that. It's just cool. I mean these guys will run around all over the place. If you can blow their cover they'll move to another part of the room, if there's switches in a room and they can activate deathtraps, they'll do that. But you can also, by playing like a villain, you can manipulate the AI, and you can make them lose their cool, and they'll freak out and maybe grab one of their own guys and take them hostage. It's just the kind of stuff you aren't going to see in any other game.
And this is all gameplay. It isn't scripted gags or cinematic cut-scenes, I'm talking about the actual gameplay. It just has a level of depth to it and replayability that you're not going to find in any other shooter.
And finally of course the golden eye itself, which gives you a lot of cool extra capabilities that you're not going to get in a typical guns-only shooter. So you can use your guns, you can use your hands, you can use your golden eye and intimidate the AI and play like a villain and we think that's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun to be a villain, but being a Bond villain is the pinnacle. And these guys have it all. They have all the women, all the firepower, all the mansions in the States, and you know, rocket ships and you-name-it. And that's what we're letting players experience. You're not some punk on the street trying to make his way up through a street gang or something. This is a Bond villain world we've got you in, and it's just really cool.
Eurogamer: Do you actually encounter Bond in the game?
Chris Plumber: In fact, the first mission of the game you're fighting alongside James Bond. But the game really isn't about Bond, it's about the dark side of the Bond universe and all the villains. You've got Dr. No and Goldfinger, number one and Scaramanga, the man with the golden gun, and all these famous villains and you get to live in their world. You almost get to see it in a way that even Bond wouldn't get to see. You know, so these are the guys you hang out with. They'll supply you with your weapons and your golden eye and all the cool upgrades for it. And, you know, it's very fresh experience for people whether you're a Bond fan or just into first-person shooters. We're really charting new territory in every direction.
Eurogamer: I noticed that you've implemented dual wielding, which is obviously something that Halo 2 has done. Was that a factor in you implementing it into the framework of the game?
Chris Plumber: No, no. I wonder who came first. The reason we have dual wielding in the game is because the original GoldenEye had dual wielding. It didn't have independent triggers because the GameCube [he means N64] had one trigger. So we've always had dual wielding in our game, and I'm flattered to know that other games are also copying that mechanic.
Like I said, I think we're doing things with our game that people will follow now forever, just like the headshot, and I'm sure people will start adding the melee systems in like we have, and the ability to throw guys around, the ability to manipulate the environment the way we have with our deathtraps. So I think that that's cool. It's great to have competition out there, and I hope that we influence people just the way we've been influenced by other games.
Eurogamer: If you've played the original GoldenEye, and you're a big fan, and there are a lot of very vocal, big fans of GoldenEye who swear there's never been a better Bond game. Do you think that this one will finally deliver the Bond experience that they've been looking for ever since?
Chris Plumber: Well, we certainly want them to be happy with this game. We're all huge fans of the original GoldenEye, and nothing would make me happier than to know that the fans that are as passionate about that game as we are find this game to live in that calibre of an experience. And you know, certainly the multiplayer experience, I think right now feels very familiar to people who were fans of the original. We've really gone out of our way to make sure that there's that split-screen, competitive environment, and you know, friends around the sofa in the living room.
Eurogamer: Is that for up to four players?
Chris Plumber: Yeah, up to four-player split-screen. We're showing two-player split-screen today because we've never shown anyone the two-player, but the duel maps that we're featuring are very much right out of the Bond films. [At this point, the interview sort of trailed off as a band mercilessly ripped into Prince's 1999 right next to us...]
You can download the interview in its entirety from Eurofiles.