Retrospective: The Past, Present And Future Of Bond In Gaming!

A word of warning, some basic knowledge of bond history would be a big benefit to the reader.

Bond, James Bond, Mi6’s most sophisticated, charming, charismatic and suave secret agent. Agent 007 has achieved to date just over 50 years on the silver screen with a total of 23 blockbusters (and a few unofficial appearances). It is without a shadow of a doubt easily my favourite film franchise and my biggest man-crush.

I own them all and have seen them more times than I can count. I even recall spending an entire school holiday watching films one to twenty with my dear Nan in preparation for “Casino Royale” my favourite movie of all time. A movie that is so powerful, so definitive and captivating to me. If I had one wish in regards to movies. It would be to experience Casino Royale for the first time again, to experience those gripping, earth shattering plot twists, the suspense of the poker games, the beautiful Aston Martin and the heart pumping action scenes that had me glued to the edge of my seat.

Taking a closer look at it Bond has the formula and the potential to be one of the world’s strongest gaming franchises. It has fast cars, amazing action scenes located on beautiful exotic locations from all over the world (including space), explosions, plot twists and bond girls. All aspects that appeal to gamers, yet why has this gaming franchise been affiliated with so much drama, controversy and failure to become so successful?

Now, I know what you are thinking, Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64. A revolutionary step for first person shooters on gaming consoles. Yes, it was and still is amazing. It was my first FPS I ever experienced and certainly the key influence that got me hooked on the movies. Although releasing a couple of years after the movie, it flaunted an amazing original premise for multiplayer action which is still emulated in games today. It also featured a very strong single player campaign that held extremely true to the films. Some of my fondest and earliest gaming memories are tied in with this game, along with possibly the largest amount of hours sunk into a game and I am certain I am speaking on behalf of a lot of people in saying this.

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What happened after this though? Electronic Arts secured the licensing agreements for the games and whipped up a PlayStation edition for “Tomorrow Never Dies” which was set as a third person shooter, which was met with average reception. Following this another movie adaption followed for “The World is Not Enough” but it received two different entries one for the N64 developed by Eurocom and a PS1 version from Black Ops Entertainment. After the average reception of Tomorrow Never Dies, it was decided this entry would go back to its root and return to the first person setting. Unfortunately the PS1 version was once again received luke-warm favour whilst the N64 version was much more greatly appreciated.

A year had passed and a new generation of gaming had begun with the entry of the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Nintendo GameCube. With these new revolutionary gaming consoles so too came some new revolutionary 007 games, once again from EA and where I personally consider that they had hit their stride. Four non film related games were released and one based on an older movie “From Russia with Love” made appearances for that generation of gaming. Stepping away from a feature film adaptation and taking James on his own missions to save the world yet again.

Agent Under Fire and Nightfire (two games which Mama bought me, bless her) arrived in 2001 and 2002 respectively which stayed true to previous successes by staying as a first person shooter but also taking new risks in the gameplay with the addition of driving segment and rail shooters. Boasting original, gripping storylines, solid multiplayer featuring on both games and Nightfire even featured its own theme song. Both games were received well averaging around the 80% mark via Metacritic.

Another two years had passed and the gaming world was rocked by what many people call the “bond movie for the year”. Going back to the third person perspective the world was introduced to “Everything or Nothing” and it was amazing! If the two previous games of that gaming generation had made you feel like bond, then this game raised the bar 10-fold. An amazingly intricate plot with ties to Bond film “A View to a Kill”. It had it all ranging from sophisticated bond gadgets, bond girls, fast cars, exotic locations, evil conspiracies, emotion and an all-star cast. Bond was portrayed by Brosnan for the final time throughout all forms of media, reprising their roles from the film series were John Cleese as Q and Dame Judi Dench as M. Other actors included Willem Defoe as this games antagonist, bond girls Shannon Elizabeth, Heidi Klum and Mya (who also sung the games theme song, the second in the game franchise to feature a theme song). It certainly was the equivalent to a bond movie and most definitely a worthy entry to bridge the gap between films. Everything or Nothing was received very well by fans and critics among the gaming industry, in no surprise to me at all.

During that same year (2004) EA games threw in a sneaky game titled “GoldenEye: Rogue Agent” a game which funnily enough had little in common with the “GoldenEye” movie or game. The star of the game had lost his eye and got a golden replacement which enabled him various abilities during combat. It also featured a twisted storyline with appearances from characters from all over the Bond universe. A sequel was planned but that was the last anyone had herd of it due to poor sales and reception. Which I thought to be a shame, I found this to be a refreshing twist with an appealing variation on the gameplay.

The last entry from Publishers EA was “From Russia with Love” based on the book and the film, although some variations were forced due to legal reason. Sticking with the third person formula and even getting the original Bond, Sean Connery to voice the game after nearly 20 years. It was a great game and a solid effort of portraying a classic.

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Signaling the end for not only Bond games for that gaming generation but also the end of Bond from EA. Releasing the publishing rights to Activision in 2006. The reason for releasing the rights was to allow EA to focus solely on their IP’s.

Amongst all the licensing dilemmas there were plans for a dedicated “Casino Royale” game which unfortunately fell through. It would have been amazing seeing as it is my favorite film but seemingly was not meant to be.

Activision’s first game to be released on current gen systems was “Quantum of Solace” in 2008. Focusing on the upcoming Bond film of the same name, as well as small segments from the most recent “Casino Royale” which introduced Daniel Craig as Bond. I found it to be a consistent game, however very short in length but sufficed as the drought of Bond games had surely broken. Although too my embarrassment I got too caught up in playing that I spoilt the movie for myself which released a week after the game here in Australia.

Blood Stone, what I feel was Activision’s equivalent of “Everything or Nothing” and it was an amazing game. A third person shooter free from the ties of being a movie tie in and acquiring a stellar cast, including Daniel Craig as Bond and Joss Stone who also sung the games theme song. Not to mention all the bells and whistles that a dominant James Bond game does. It released to above average reviews, which seems to be the trend for Bond games. Plans were also in the pipeline for a direct sequel which I could not wait for and frankly I thought Blood Stone deserved, but other projects were pushed ahead over this. Sadly enough and a trend that appears quite frequently throughout the Bond gaming universe, developers Bizarre Creations closed its doors on February 18, 2011.

One of those other projects previously mentioned was what I felt to be an unnecessary re-imagining of the classic that I know everyone holds near and dear to their heart “GoldenEye”. Developed by Eurocom I felt that it aimed for the stars and fell ridiculously short. Changing a lot of the story details to suit the modern times but still ‘if it is not broken then don’t fix it’. The production of this game was no doubt to an un-agreeable issue between Nintendo (who originally released Goldeneye) and Microsoft the current owners of company that developed it. Releasing to positive reviews it was a sign that perhaps Bond games were on the up and up, either that or Eurocom had done an amazing job pulling the wool over every gamer’s eyes with a nostalgic hit. Time would tell.

Moving on to the most recent of the Bond games, 007 Legends released just last year. A noble idea at heart to celebrate 50 years of the amazing James Bond film franchise by taking 6 movie titles, one for each actor who has portrayed Bond and turning it them into a single mission for the game. To my disappointment and gamers around the world this noble idea couldn’t come to fruition. I began playing this game and couldn’t stomach it after the second mission. (I am now on my own mission to complete this game after having written this article). Some controversy regard its reception however, some people thought highly of it, some thought the opposite.

Like I said earlier a trend had occurred in the Bond gaming franchise of developers closing their doors. Just like Bizarre Creations after Blood Stone, Eurocom whom developed the two most recent Bond games, Nightfire and Quantum of Solace on the PS2 ceased trading as of December 2012. Even though this is very late, I would like to wish all those affected by lay-offs the best of luck in securing future employment.

Throughout all those brief glimpses of James Bond Interactive history I’ve just mentioned, beginning with the original GoldeneEye. Why is it that a game released in 1997 is still billed generally as the all-time favorite and best Bond experience? Could it be that this was the game to give gamers hope that licensed games have the potential to be amazing? Are developers unable to capture the essence of a film and transfer it to the gaming media? Quite simply do franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield have the monopoly on shooters? What if the issue lies in the problem that people would rather watch bond than be him? It is so much easier to fully immerse yourself in the Bond experience via a movie rather than playing those experiences out in a game due to what can end up being a lack of trait Bond elements witty one liners and his charismatic charm for example.

With the future of 007 in terms of gaming still in question, and perhaps even more problematic after Activision have relinquished the rights and stealth fully pulled all digital download options of games from vendors. No new word on what company will take the lead and re-introduce Bond into the gaming arena he certainly is well equipped for. Until then I’ve recently repurchased a PS2 to bask in what I felt were some of the glory days in Nightfire and Everything or Nothing. Perhaps I am being nostalgic or even living out some of my glory days of my gaming past (I also have a functioning Nintendo 64 with Goldeneye) but with the next generation of gaming set to arrive in just a few short months. Any James Bond fan is certainly wondering what to expect from the future?

What are your thoughts? In your opinion has the quality of Bond gaming experiences been below par? Would you just rather watch Bond than play out his missions. I would love to hear your thoughts!