"It’s difficult to say which side of this battle is the more feebleminded; it’s a close race. Enemy henchmen run on-screen and fire a shot at you within a second of appearing. Because they are unbelievably stupid, they can fire only on a line – they don’t duck down or aim upwards or diagonally – just straight ahead."
Your megalomaniacal, physically deformed leader has placed you, a half-witted, nameless sailor henchman, and many more like you, aboard a senselessly overcomplicated supply ship, where you run back and forth moronically across a small area designated for your patrol. One of your peers, in fact, earnestly guards a ten-foot speedboat suspended on the side of the vessel. Just back and forth, across this little boat. He’s that dumb. Your position has significance: renowned British secret agent James Bond is setting out to halt the nefarious plans for world domination that you and your organization are putting into motion in the Caribbean. Bond has been a thorn in the side of large-scale criminal operations for years; put an end to him by putting a bullet in his head.
In fact, an intruder has just boarded this massive ship. His goofy jog and frogman-like jump belie his true identity -- it’s him, attired in his trademark tuxedo. He’s approaching your thirty yards worth of patrol zone – he’s walking right into grim death! You dash towards him and stop, aiming your firearm. You’re about to become a hero of the underworld. ”Goodbye, Mr. Bo---”
Not so fast! Bond vanishes from your line of sight and unhurriedly shoots you in the kneecap. You’re dead.
How did it happen?
Well, Bond probably ducked.
This is the only real possibility, because
a) James Bond’s entire physical repertoire evidently consists of jogging, frogman-jumping, firing a gun and ducking down, and
b) You and your fellow henchmen cannot see world-saving heroes who are in a crouched position. You typically jog past them as if they’re not really there, which proves to be a significant weakness.
Welcome to James Bond: The Duel, an outrageous contest of foolishness between the most utterly incapable incarnation of the superspy ever devised, and a wearisome, misbalanced enemy force, consisting entirely of mindless, pattern-running henchmen and a handful of unspectacular cameos by arch villains of the 007 saga. Although it’s vaguely reminiscent of Rolling Thunder and its superior sequels, The Duel can’t even get straightforward, no-frills running and gunning right – deplorable, inconsistent programming undermine the exploration and action that Bond’s solitary Genesis outing attempts to offer. The secret agent wields no aplomb here; just a propensity for moving about awkwardly and falling from great heights at incredibly inopportune times.
There are only four levels, but I suppose that is a blessing more than a deficiency because when they’re executed with this caliber of distinguished imbecility, less is more. One stage can only be differentiated from another on the most cosmetic level – they’re all made from the same basic mold in terms of task and context:
1.) Explore the fairly vast environments, which always means not simply moving from left to right, but climbing to precarious heights, where, inevitably, guards with guns pace back and forth across small platforms that you need access to.
2.) Rescue all of the “Bond girls” (if you can even call them that), poofy blond-haired dames that are tied, gagged and left in the strangest of places (in cargo on the ship, up in the trees in the jungle).
3.) Find the bomb within each stage (which, unsurprisingly, is generally conveniently located near the exit).
4.) Discover that you’ve missed one of the Bond girls tucked away somewhere, because when there’s SEVEN of them spread out through a jungle where you’re jumping through trees, you’re going to miss at least one.
5.) Navigate the level until you’ve finally happened upon the girl and found your way back to the exit.
These simplistic missions don’t doom themselves – there’s nothing wrong with a little search-and-rescue lending circumstance to exploration in an otherwise straightforward action platformer. It’s the rules that we’re forced to play by that render the experience inconsistent and irritating.
BOND VS. THE ENEMY: A DUTY DANCE OF STUPIDITY!
It’s difficult to say which side of this battle is the more feebleminded; it’s a close race. Enemy henchmen run on-screen and fire a shot at you within a second of appearing. Because they are unbelievably stupid, they can fire only on a line – they don’t duck down or aim upwards or diagonally – just straight ahead. Always cunning in moments of extreme duress, 007 is capable of taking advantage of his foes’ shortcomings by ducking down. Not only is Bond now out of harm’s way as far as firearms are concerned, but enemies seem to completely stop caring that he’s there: they’ll fire three shots that whiz over the head of the crouching protagonist and then they’ll run right past him, continuing on their route. For some reason, a dangerous secret agent in a kneeling position warrants only warning shots.
The playing field is leveled, though, in what must be the only way developer Domark knew how. Controlling Bond proves to be a vexing affair. In a most notable move of complete senselessness, Bond has the capability to fire diagonally upward and downward. The problem is that in order to point the gun downward-diagonally, you must fire a shot and then hold down on the control pad. Let that sink in. Firing straight ahead and then pressing down causes Bond to point is gun downward while standing up (as opposed to ducking).
Now imagine how significantly such a mechanism interferes when you’re in a gunfight with charging enemies. You’re probably firing your gun while trying to quickly duck under their response shots. Half the time, our suave hero will fire his gun and then stand there, grinning like an idiot, his chest fully exposed for incoming bullets. He’s not ducking because he’s aiming downward.
This truly inspired instance of absurdity is probably the defining element of The Duel – a staggering weakness of the enemy is partially covered up by the fact that James Bond can’t even consistently kneel down when needed.
And, as if these forms of retardation plaguing both sides of the war weren’t enough to cope with, the programming is inexplicably changed in level three’s volcano lair: bullets can no longer be crouched under. It wouldn’t seem that there’s anything terribly unfair about not being able to duck bullets, but when this rendition of Bond already jumps like a puma-man and features no other physical acrobatics, the result is that there is no longer a viable way of dealing with enemies. The only recourse is to resort to inching along the stages, firing a shot every few steps in hopes of picking off enemies before they even get on-screen to kill the now-defenseless 007. Not that bullets are even the biggest threat here – Bond can take five bullets, but will perish when falling from heights greater than fifteen feet. The result is an adventure that’s exceptionally difficult for all the wrong reasons.
Not even the rare, unannounced appearances of the trademark Bond villains such as Jaws and Oddjob make this clunker worthwhile; the supposedly super-deadly villains suffer from the same diseases as the many no-name flunkies. The ordinarily menacing presence of Jaws, the enormous metal-mouth, is rendered pointless as the giant marches back and forth across one platform – he can be picked off by standing on stairs six inches outside of his patrol zone. The deadliest enemy on this quest isn’t an eight-foot giant with teeth of steel – it’s the good guy’s own awkwardness.
James Bond is inarguably a preposterous character, but The Duel makes him preposterous in all the wrong ways. The title screen, featuring Timothy Dalton’s gigantic, bulbous head, serves as a foreboding indication of the mangled, clumsy version of Bond that lies within. The villains aren’t devious, the hero isn’t cunning, the adventure isn't daring -- this isn’t Bond. It’s just an awkward lanky guy, fighting opposing urges to duck and point his firearm downward.
Staff review by K T (June 28, 2005)
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