So it's being rumoured that Raven Software, the Activision-owned developer of the criminally under-promoted Singularity, is hard at work on a unannounced Bond game that had previously been stalled by MGM's financial troubles. I don't know whether to happy about this story or not. Reasons I should be: Raven have previously been said to be reduced to Call of Duty DLC monkeys since Activision ensured that their excellent time-travelling FPS didn't sell. Reasons I shouldn't be: A Bond game tends to be the kiss of death, however good your studio is.
Seriously, Activision giving you the Bond license is like being given a massive cake for your birthday, only to realise it's your 30th and you're in Logan's Run.
Above: The screens on this page come from a showreel by Raven animator Hanjin Song. Intriguing, no?
There's just something about that license that honks "Danger, Will Robinson!", alongside a couple of slashing red lights and the occasional klaxon for emphasis. Let's look at the historical evidence. Treyarch had long been lambasted as the poor relation to Infinity Ward, written off as the second-tier developer who made the 'fake' Call of Duty games that gave the big-boy team the time to make the real ones. As such, it was saddled with the Quantum of Solace license. And despite Treyarch actually being a decent team, said tie-in turned out to be completely average, and the studio didn't gain wide-spread respect until things all went tits-up at Infinity Ward.
Then Bizarre Creations, developer of such gems as Geometry Wars and the Project Gotham series, had an Activision bomb in the shape of Blur. And Activision responded by sticking it on the Bond License. It made Blood Stone. Which sucked. Now Bizarre Creations is up for sale or closure.
And now Raven, with its lengthy history of great PC and console development, has been handed what seems increasingly to be a poison chalice, following a great but vastly under-selling game. You can probably see why I'm worried.
Of course, this could turn out fantastically well, if indeed this rumour is true at all. Of all film licenses, Bond has the greatest potential for a great video game. A Bond title should be Metal Gear with Martinis, Gears of War with gadgets and Burnout with bazookas. And Raven has more than enough talent to make it work. Let's face it, everyone was dubious when Nintendo picked up the Bond license and gave it to Rare, and look how that turned out. Fingers, eyes, and legs crossed, people.
But just what is it about Bond that has led to such a string of failures, despite all the potential and the creativity involved? Has it just been a case of otherwise great teams working with too many constraints as a result of dealing with a licensed property? Is the Bond movie-going demographic out of step with the triple-A game-buying demographic? Or is this all just a string of unfortunate coincidences interpreted by a supersticious games journalist? Let me know what you think.
Also, buy Singularity.