Developed and published by Replicant D6 Agent 64: Spies Never Die is a retro-inspired first-person shooter coming soon to PC. In this particular adventure, you play John Walker, an ex-secret agent who carried the codename 64. Walker has been called back into action to save the world one more time.
The game takes heavy inspiration from Rare’s first-person shooters on the Nintendo 64. With Goldeneye 64 being the one it tips its cap to the most. Though in truth it arguably feels closer to Perfect Dark than Goldeneye; at least visually. Regardless, this leaves us with a promising title that feels like a fun flashback to a forgotten era in gaming, for better or worse.
Agent 64: Spies Never Die is available to wish list on STEAM.
STORY – PIES NEVER SPY
As is frequently the case with titles I preview at this stage Agent 64: Spies Never Die is light on story. There is no splash screen, no opening text crawl, no opening cinematic, and there isn’t much to go on from the store page storywise. The wider context of why these things are happening isn’t told. But there is a short blurb when you select a mission that tells you what your goal is, which is at least something. To be honest with you this isn’t a deal-breaker. As the reason why you are playing a title like this at this early stage is so that you can get the feel of it. And to get a chance to play a shooter in the tradition of the aforementioned classics.
This isn’t to say that the title is devoid of anything story related. When the level opens you are treated to a flyover of much of the level which does help to tickle certain parts of Ol’ Chris’s nostalgia. This gives you a feel of the level and an idea of the situation on the ground. Additionally, there are (on the higher difficulties) a few short interactions with NPCs which are succinct and decently written for what they need to be; they aren’t overly written and meeting them doesn’t slow the game down too much. I have always felt that gameplay is king, and that is where this of preview build of Agent 64: Spies Never Die shines brightest.
GAMEPLAY – SNEAK ‘N’ SHOOT
Agent 64 is very much in the tradition of retro console shooters like Goldeneye 64, Perfect Dark, and to a certain degree Time Splitters. Unlike most modern shooters and the currently in vogue “boomer shooters” you are given a set of tasks that need to be completed to accomplish your mission. You know, rather than the usual “Just keep moving towards the exit” or “Just kill everything” that is the case with most other shooters these days. This is further enhanced by a far more dynamic and difficult selection than most others.
In Agent 64 the higher difficulty levels aren’t just the tired and boring deal where the enemies are merely stronger and take more damage. In Agent 64 the higher difficulty levels add more objectives for you to complete. And they also change the layout of some sections of the map too. On Agent difficulty your job is simply to fight your way to the exit and throw a device on a terminal, all the while fighting weaker foes and getting backup in one area. On higher levels, you are on your own and have to defuse bombs and rescue hostages in a section of the level that would be otherwise cut off from you.
Of course, being a more ‘old school difficult’ kind of affair if you fail one of your tasks you have to restart the entire level from the start; there are no checkpoints or auto saves here, you do it in one or not at all. And for my money, the current build isn’t overly difficult. Once you get a feel for the level and its layout you can clear a level rather efficiently. Agent 64 very much exists in the tradition of ‘Trial and Error’ rather than holding your hand too much. However, there are still a few issues and quirks to be aware of. The best way I can describe the way the game handles is to imagine playing a ROM of Goldeneye and you get an idea of how it controls.
The controls can feel rather sluggish both on the keyboard and mouse as well as on the controller. There is a ‘classic’ control option which felt almost mind-breaking to me. Manual aiming feels slow with you having to stand still in order to do it. And if you aim too far in one direction you’ll start spinning around like a Bayblade. Sure, there is auto-aim but that becomes less effective on higher difficulties. Also, you can’t crouch. This feels really weird to me especially bearing in mind that you could do that in Goldeneye. Maybe it is something that will come in later or maybe Walker is too old to crouch!
Ultimately I feel that even at this early beta preview stage Agent 64: Spies Never Die is incredibly promising. And even beyond the nostalgia factor, it is interesting to see an FPS that feels more involved than many of its contemporaries. And it is a welcome change of pace to see a retro-inspired indie first-person shooter that isn’t trying to be Quake or DOOM. The game gives a healthy amount of challenge. And just before I finished this article there was an update which allows you to unlock a collection of cheats if you are sufficiently quick enough to beat the par times on the highest difficulty.
Sure, as a whole entity the title little rough around the edges at this point. But I knew going into this preview that would be the case for Agent 64: Spies Never Die. It will be interesting to see what else can be done to expand upon the gameplay. As at this stage I just feel that it only needs a few tweaks here and there and a little more content and we could be on to something special.
GRAPHICS & SOUND – OLDEN EYES
Agent 64: Spies Never Die, as the name implies, seeks to recreate the look and feel of a title from the Nintendo 64. The visuals are a little soft, the weapon models are basically designed, and the faces of all the characters are flat textures printed on the simple polygonal heads of the models. It is a respectable and credible feeling recreation of the graphical look of the platform. Though visually I feel that the title is closer to Perfect Dark than Goldeneye 64.
Whilst the lighting effects are far more advanced than anything that the N64 could have done the visuals and aesthetics of it all more resemble the cyberpunk visuals of dataDyne’s skyscraper and the overall graphics of the late N64 Expansion Pak era more than the late 90’s Goldeneye. This isn’t a criticism mind. As Agent 64 does a fantastic job of recreating the look of an N64 game in a more sincere way than some other titles I have played.
I DO RECALL
I will grant you that some of my criticisms might come across as nitpicking. But we have now reached a point where games are being made in the tradition of those I grew up with and played near religiously. And as such, I can’t help but scrutinise titles like Agent 64 a little more given how uncanny it can be to see titles like this and ANTONBLAST which look so similar to ones I used to play. But even still, it has been great fun to play them.
There are a lot of neat little visual quirks which really help to sell the look of the game. Honestly, if I didn’t know that this was an upcoming project I might be forgiven for thinking that it was an unreleased prototype. From the way that the lighting effects are drawn to the way that enemies are animated, everything looks almost exactly like it should do for a Nintendo 64 game.
Agent 64: Spies Never Die features a fine soundtrack which fits the feel of the game itself; it is period-appropriate without feeling too reductive. Any issues that I might have with it are more a matter of taste. And as such your mileage may vary. And even beyond my tastes, it, along with the sound design of the game feels really top-notch. There seems to be this weird quirk where some indie developers will overcorrect when making retro-inspired titles and make their graphics and sound too (for want of a better phrase) ‘primitive’ for the era that they are seeking to replicate. However here the developers of Agent 64 really nail the look and feel of it almost perfectly. However, there is at least one area that I feel is lacking.
I know that this is going to make me sound like a psychopath, but, it feels weird that none of the guards makes a noise when you kill them. There are no grunts of pain or yelps of fright like there are in other titles. Which makes the combat feel like it is lacking in feedback. I will grant you however that seeing the enemy NPCs react to your shots and combat roll around corners gives the title a more realistic feel to it. But given how bloodless the game is it makes me hope this is just another aspect that isn’t in the game yet.
This preview features video from Replicant D6.