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James Bond retrospective: A look back at 007 in video games

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GoldenEye N64 game

© Nintendo



Few fictional characters have captured the world's imagination like James Bond. Ian Fleming's iconic spy took literature by storm in the 1950s and 60s, and went on to feature in one of the most prolific film franchises of all time.

007 has also done his bit to help shape the world of video gaming, particularly the shooter genre on home consoles. N64 classic GoldenEye is often credited with popularising this sector outside of the bustling PC market and pioneering multiplayer gaming.

Bond fever has reached pandemic levels of late, with the film franchise turning 50 earlier this month and the impending release of Skyfall marking the character's 23rd cinematic outing.

Activision has even launched the series-spanning 007 Legends game to mark the property's landmark year, so there's never been a better time to be a Bond fan. With this in mind, we're taking a look back at the most memorable games to feature everyone's favourite 00 Agent.

Early James Bond games

Inducting Bond into the video gaming fold was something of a no-brainer, given the enduring popularity of the film franchise. Parker Brothers was the first studio to snap up the licence in 1983 and the result was James Bond 007 for 8-bit home computers.

The first official Bond game was a simple side-scroller, which placed players behind the wheel of the legendary super car and pitted them against stages inspired by Diamonds are Forever, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me.

The gameplay involved little besides jumping and shooting, archaic mechanics that hold up about as well as you would expect today, but there's still something gratifying about hearing an 8-bit rendition of that classic Bond theme.



James Bond 007 paved the way for more official 007 titles, adapted directly from the film series. A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights both inspired platformers from Domark, a studio that would later release a shameless Spy Hunter rip-off based on Roger Moore classic The Spy Who Loved Me.

Although the action genre was the obvious direction to take Bond down, some developers experimented with the property and sent it into uncharted territory. Mindscape published text adventure games based on A View to a Kill and Goldfinger, which did little beyond proving that action-based mechanics were a better fit for Bond.

Mindscape's text-only releases would not be the only adventure-themed Bond titles to see the light of day. Interplay's James Bond: The Stealth Affair is perhaps the most bizarre entry in the series. The game was based entirely upon Delphine Software's 1990 point-and-click adventure Operation Stealth, with 007 shoehorned in there in place of protagonist John Glames.

Operation Stealth was critically acclaimed at its time of release, but forcing the Bond license into the equation led to some inconsistencies. For starters, MI6 agent Bond appears to be taking orders from the CIA.

'Operation Stealth' screenshot


With the movie franchise going on hiatus after Timothy Dalton's License to Kill, Bond saw precious little action during the 16-bit era, but Domark had one bullet left to fire in its Walther PPK. James Bond: The Duel was released for Sega platforms in 1993, featuring an original story and a cursory attempt at capturing Dalton's likeness.

The Duel was a bog-standard action-platformer, but it was the first Bond game ever released that was not inspired by a movie or novel (unless you count The Stealth Affair). Although it wasn't exactly plot-driven, it attempted to tell an original tale featuring fan-favourite characters such as Jaws and Odd-Job, a step in the right direction.

The influence of GoldenEye

Bond had already seen countless memorable moments on the big screen, but would not make a truly definitive gaming outing until 1997 when GoldenEye arrived on Nintendo 64. Rare's masterpiece was a licensed first-person shooter and a truly groundbreaking one at that.

The game loosely followed the plot of the movie, which arrived in theatres two years earlier, embellishing certain scenes for gameplay and scope purposes. It was a triumphant mix of robust shooting mechanics, stealth segments and objective-based missions, with then-current Bond Pierce Brosnan lending his likeness to the game.

Not only did GoldenEye make great strides for the genre on the console front and pave the way for a generation of similar titles, it offered one of the best, and most addictive, multiplayer modes ever seen at the time.

Although Rare clearly had a firm grasp of what made an effective 007 game, they would go on to develop just one more, a Zelda-style title with gambling mini-games for the Nintendo Game Boy called James Bond 007. It was released in 1997 to little fanfare and the license soon changed hands.



After the resounding success that was GoldenEye, expectations among 007 fans were high, but when Electronic Arts took the reins the series floundered for a few years. The firm published adaptations of Brosnan's subsequent movie outings Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough, which were by no means terrible games, but a far cry from attaining classic status like their N64 predecessor.

In 2000, EA released 007 Racing - a driving title for PlayStation that placed players in the front seat of some of the iconic vehicles from the film series. The game had a solo campaign with its own storyline and used Brosnan's likeness, but not his voice.

After the turn of the millennium, EA took the series in a different direction, freeing it from the shackles of the movie tie-in. 007: Agent Under Fire, an original story featuring Brosnan's countenance, was released in 2001. The game was a first-person shooter that had much in common with GoldenEye, but failed to achieve the same level of acclaim.

007: Agent Under Fire at least attempted to innovate, and paved the way for more original Bond adventures such as 007: Nightfire and the critical smash 007: Everything or Nothing. The latter was a blockbuster release for PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube with a star-studded voice cast comprising Brosnan, Judi Dench, John Cleese and Richard Kiel.

'007: Everything or Nothing' screenshot


The game marked a move into third-person shooter territory, an equally good fit for the series, and provided the character's most essential gaming outing since GoldenEye. It was successful enough to warrant a spiritual sequel in the shape of 2006's 007: From Russia With Love, which featured the voice and likeness of the legendary Sean Connery.

Everyone loves a good Bond villain, and with this in mind, EA released GoldenEye: Rogue Agent in 2005. The game marked a return to the first-person perspective and saw players take on the role of a defected MI6 agent recruited by Auric Goldfinger to do his bidding.

It was set in an alternate version of the Bond universe and had nothing to do with the 1995 film or the 1997 game. Despite its unique premise, Rogue Agent failed to impress fans and critics with its lacklustre gameplay.

Bond in the current generation

Bond has featured in several video games since current 007 Daniel Craig first donned the tuxedo in 2006's Casino Royale. The movie was intended to debut alongside an official video game tie-in from EA, but the studio was unable to complete the project in time.

Activision had snapped up the licence by the time Craig's second outing - Quantum of Solace - came along, and their first crack of the whip was a third-person shooter following the events of the movie and its predecessor. Unfortunately, it was about as inspirational as its cinematic namesake.

'James Bond 007: Blood Stone ' screenshot


The gap-filling 007: Blood Stone followed in 2010, an original first-person shooter with voice acting from Craig, Dench and singer Joss Stone that received a lukewarm reception.

It was around this time that Bond fans had reason to rejoice as Activision lifted the lid on a current-generation remake of GoldenEye for Nintendo Wii. The game was loosely based on the original, with expanded missions, updated graphics and Craig replacing Brosnan.

It was hailed as a laudable attempt at capturing the magic of an all-time classic, an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish. The remake was, um, remade for Xbox 360 and PS3 last year under the moniker of GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, which once again garnered generally positive feedback.



October 5, 2012 marked 50 years since the release of Dr. No marked Bond's first on-screen appearance. To celebrate the occasion Activision released 007 Legends, a series-spanning shooter with missions and villains from numerous classic Bond films.

Unfortunately, it was a mixed bag of pillaged Call of Duty mechanics and poorly-executed stealth segments - at least on Xbox 360 and PS3. The game will be released for PC and the upcoming Wii U in the months to come.

Bond video games have been around since home computing has packed the technology to handle them. They haven't always captured the suaveness and adrenaline of their movie counterparts, but split-screen multiplayer on the original GoldenEye has never lost its appeal. Here's to another 50 years of Bond.

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