Mission-based action game reviewed
At its heart Codename Eagle is a mission-based first person shooter set in an alternative history where Tsarist Russia has invaded Europe before the Germans could kick off the First World War.
You play a British secret agent with the unlikely name of Red, carrying out a series of dangerous missions behind enemy lines. You will find yourself assassinating Russian officers, blowing up dams, destroying V1-style rocket launch ramps, and stealing documents from Russian army bases. The missions are just varied enough to keep things interesting, and although the first person shooter sections of the game don't shine, they are still vaguely amusing.
If Infinite Loop had left it at that they would have had an enjoyable if unremarkable game... But instead they decided to let you drive a wide range of vehicles as well, including tanks, trucks, motorbikes, boats and even aircraft, and this is where the game falls down.
The problem is that the vehicle sections of the game are poorly implemented, and just don't suit a game that is designed to be played entirely with the mouse and keyboard. I'm no flight sim fan, but I can at least keep a plane in the air in most games. In Codename Eagle though the controls are unresponsive, the physics are truly crazy, and the planes all handle like pigs.
Actually, that's an insult to pigs...
Ye Cannae Break The Laws Of Physics
Infinite Loop have also decided to totally ignore the laws of physics.
In one mission you have to steal a Russian plane to escape after a raid, which should be easy. Except that there is a bloody great mountain at the far end of the runway, and it's almost impossible to get your plane to pull up steeply enough to clear it without stalling. Crash into the slope as you try to gain altitude though and your plane usually just sits itself on the cliff face and then tries vainly to drive up the side of it. This kind of stupidity is sadly all too common in Codename Eagle.
In another mission you get to sail a small boat across a lake. Unfortunately the developers apparently forgot that boats can only sail in water, and if you find a beach with a gentle enough slope you can actually take the boat clear out of the lake and "sail" it over hills, along roads, and across bridges, all the time floating in the air a few feet off the ground.
In fact, it's actually easier to "drive" the boat than any of the land vehicles, which all seem to suffer from severe understeer at high speeds, powersliding around almost uncontrollably whenever you try to steer them. In a hardcore rally game this kind of behaviour would be fine, even admirable. But this is an action game, and you are supposed to be shooting at people with your turret guns as well as struggling to control your vehicle. Besides, if this was a rally game I would be using a steering wheel to drive with, not a mouse and keyboard...
The choice of camera views doesn't help matters much either...
It's almost impossible to hit anything firing a gun from the third person chase cam view, but at the same time it's almost impossible to drive most of the vehicles from a first person view because you can't see the vehicle around you, and so have no idea of how big it is, often crashing into objects that seemed to be well out of the way.
On the other hand, I found it hard to control the planes from the third person view because of the way the camera lags behind the plane when you turn, but I couldn't hit anything with my bombs from the first person view because I couldn't see where they were falling.
Then there are the mission scripting problems. In one mission you are supposed to assassinate a Russian General, sniping him from a church tower as his car stops at a checkpoint at a bridge. For a start off the car doesn't stop - even if you kill the man at the sentry post, the barrier across the road lifts as if by magic as soon as the first armoured car in the General's escort gets near it, and your target never even slows down.
Then there's the bug that left me waiting for half an hour in the church tower for the General to arrive. And if you have graphics detail set to "low" in the options menu, the fogging is so severe that you never even see the General as he drives through the mist-shrouded village below you. Whoops.
Luckily my machine (a P2-300) is powerful enough to handle "medium" detail at a reasonable framerate most of the time, but given that the graphics are rather unremarkable by today's standards, I'm surprised that the game requires so much horsepower for so little apparent benefit.
With mission-based first person shooters all the vogue at the moment, and the promise of being able to drive such a wide range of land, air and water based vehicles, Codename Eagle was a very promising game. Unfortunately the reality is rather disappointing.
The voice acting is so bad it's funny, although I'm not convinced the humour is entirely intentional. The accents are appallingly cliched, and way off mark - the British characters all sound like an American's idea of an English aristocrat, and the Russians sound like Chekov from Star Trek crossed with a drunken Scotsman. The plot is also pretty dire, with a hilarious plot twist that makes the "Luke, I am your father" scene from The Empire Strikes Back look positively inspired by comparison.
The graphics are adequate but unimpressive most of the time, the controls are poorly suited to the mouse and keyboard combination the game is aimed at, the vehicles' "physics" are laughable, and the whole thing feels hackneyed and uninspired. AI ranges from dumb to dumber, with soldiers happily ignoring nearby alarms and gun fire.
Strangely, a couple of people have told me that the multiplayer is actually quite good, especially in Capture The Flag mode. Sadly I haven't been able to test it for myself though, because nobody actually plays the game online, and I don't have a LAN handy.
If you can find someone to play online with it might be worth a look. Otherwise this is one to avoid...