It’s 50 years since the first film, Dr No; Daniel Craig returns to the big screen in Skyfall; and there’s another game in the Bond franchise from Activision. 007 has witnessed a few tricky missions in his videogame portfolio, so let’s look back at some of the successes – as well as the failures that should have been sent to storage at the MI5 base in Siberia.
The first Bond game was the imaginatively titled James Bond 007 by the famous Parker Brothers, which appeared on the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Commodore 64 and
ColecoVision. The sideways-scrolling gameplay consisted of steering Bond’s amphibious vehicle through four levels, shooting at enemies while dodging their attacks and avoiding obstacles. It was released around the time of the movie The Spy Who Loved Me, but bizarrely contained levels named after an older film, Diamonds Are Forever.
A View To A Kill, released by Domark in 1985, was much better. It featured a range of levels, each with its own distinctive style of gameplay – something Ocean Software would later replicate in its own film-licenced blockbusters. Exploiting the licence, Domark went on to release The Living Daylights, Live and Let Die, Licence to Kill and The Spy Who Loved Me. Of these titles, perhaps the most memorable was Live and Let Die, a blatant reworking of an existing speedboat game that Domark had acquired from developers Elite. Roger Moore would have raised a famous eyebrow at less-than-faithful scenes such as a pyramid chase through Egypt and a battle in the Arctic.
As consoles took over from home computers, Bond moved with the times, and the 90s were dominated by SEGA and Nintendo. The Timothy Dalton-inspired The Duel in 1991 was a Rolling Thunder-style, side-scrolling platform shooter in which Bond battled a swath of recognisable villains, rescuing obligatory tied-up girls and killing hordes of bad guys. Though the control system was flawed, The Duel was graphically adept, with cracking pieces of sampled sound and a few nice gameplay touches such as an unphased Bond falling and swimming in the ocean, and a variety of great vehicles.
It all was a little quiet after that for the first half of the 90s, coinciding with a delay in a new movie appearing. Perhaps developers had run out of ideas after the appalling James Bond Jr by THQ.
All was not lost though. The arrival of Pierce Brosnan as 007 (starring alongside Sheffield’s very own Sean Bean) heralded a new age for both the film and videogame franchise. Released nine months too late to feature in the Nintendo 64’s launch lineup, and two years after the movie on which it was based, GoldenEye 007 was a first-person shooter on console – at a time when Quake was king, and mouse and keyboard were considered the only real way to run and gun. But it worked – brilliantly. Fuelled by the appeal of the licence, the game sold a reputed 8 million copies in all. The small development team at Britain’s Rare, led by Martin Hollis and Karl Hilton, showered love and affection (and a huge dose of innovation and creativity) on the game – and it showed. GoldenEye boasted varied action that included elements of stealth, and extensive multiplayer modes (with full split-screen four-person deathmatch). It become one of the most beloved titles in videogame history and one of the most influential shooters ever made.
Electronic Arts grabbed the Golden Gun next and released Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, 007 Racing, Agent Under Fire, Nightfire, Rogue Agent and finally From Russia With Love.
Quantum Of Solace in 1998 was Activision’s first effort, and sent Bond back into the first-person fray, with Daniel Craig’s likeness. Gameplay was switched back to third-person in Blood Stone, featuring Joss Stone as Bond’s sidekick. Sadly, Blood Stone was the final game developed by Bizarre Creations before it closed its doors in 2011.
For Bond’s most recent missions, there was only one Secret Agent development house that Activision could trust: Eurocom. Having developed 007 games in the past, the Derby-based studio caused a stir at the 2010 E3 conference with their reimagining of the 1997 Rare masterpiece for the Wii console. A year later, GoldenEye: Reloaded upgraded the game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with enhanced graphics, a 16-player online mode, and PlayStation Move compatibility.
Now Activision has announced 007 Legends, a Eurocom-developed celebration of the Bond franchise’s 50th anniversary for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Due in the autumn, Legends boasts an all-new storyline with missions based on six Bond films. Only one has been specified so far: Skyfall, the new 007 outing that’s hitting cinemas this October.
First published as part of the Games Britannia festival in 2012.