A brief (yet nightmarish) history of James Bond video game renders
Have you heard the news? Bond is back (opens in new tab), and this time he's going toe to bladed toe with his archenemies and full-on acronym fiends in S.P.E.C.T.R.E. With the Internet currently abuzz with Bond gossip, including such pressing questions as - 'will Christopher Waltz play uber villain Blofeld'?, and 'which mistress will Bond unceremoniously ditch post-credits?', - it's easy to forget that gamers are long overdue another top Bond title. While there arent any games currently announced, it likely won't be too long before players receive their next shot at agent status.
With that in mind I've decided to take a good old gander at the series' existing video games, before having a great big belly laugh at their expense - or rather, their oftentimes terrible translations of England's finest export. So come along won't you, as I malign over 30 years of odd looking Bonds, Bond by Bond. For Queen and Country, of course. Not just the LOLs.
Cinematic Bondage: Six movies + one unofficial appearance (Never Say Never Again)
Video game Bondage: One game
007: From Russia with Love
You mean to tell meesh, that Shir Shean Connery only headlined one meashly Bond game? Yesh, yesh he may have dishappeared long before gaming hit its apexsh, but that's shimply not good enough. For fans of a shertain age, this shmooth-talking Shcotsman practically ish James Bond! Ach well Released in 2005, EA's From Russia with Love married an above-average 3rd person shooter to a snappy retelling of Bond's sophomore movie outing. Oh, and he looked a little bit like a Telltale Games' creation.
Licensed to choose the 'smarmy bastard' response from every dialogue wheel.
Cinematic Bondage: One movie (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
Video game Bondage: Zero games
Cinematic Bondage: Seven movies
Video game Bondage: Four games
James Bond 007 (1983)
Bond's very first virtual outing took the form of a simplistic side-scroller, with players guiding a vehicle-bound Bond through four film-specific stages. Brilliantly, the game also opted to score performance on a scale of 1 to 7, or rather '001' to '007'. 'Q'-dos on that Despite its vehicular bent, players were treated to a brief glimpse of Roger (steady on now, ladies) as part of the game's end-of-level score screen. Decked out in 'excrement brown' and missing a fair chunk of skull, it's a wonder this international man of mystery ever bedded anyone.
Licensed to flop face-first into an open sewer.
A View to a Kill
The first of many direct tie-ins, this Domark-published title allowed players to relive three major moments from Moore's much-maligned swansong. Taking the form of a 2D action adventure, A View to a Kill tasked players with rescuing a trapped damsel, burning rubber across Paris, and successfully navigating a crumbling cave system. Of course, none of that mattered when compared to the utter, 1980s majesty of Bond's teal blue suit. Work it James. Bonus points if you spotted Jim's neckline being 100% identical to his face.
Licensed to be fabulous, darling.
James Bond: Live and Let Die
Hey, didn't you used to say 'live and let live'? I know you did, I know you did, I know you diiiiid! Anyhoo, this late-80s speedboat shooter was initially developed as 'Aquablast', a name so incredibly generic it immediately conjures up images of chlorine-soaked water parks and the many soggy plasters (i.e. band-aids) therein. Domark rebranded the title to cash in on Live & Let Die's similarly shooty/ floaty set piece and the rest, as they say is history - mediocre, uninteresting history. Sadly, old JB didn't receive a proper in-game avatar for this title but James Bond did return as a boat.
Licensed to vend 'Dr. Kananga's patented weight-gain formula' - now with even faster results!
James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me
Another Domark outing, and another vehicular shooter, this time featuring Bond's must-have 80s ride, the submersible Lotus Espirit. Played from the top-down perspective, gamers must race towards the upper edge of the screen, dodging obstacles, jumping trucks and lobbing bombs at the bad guys. Curiously, for an agent who never seems to do anything untoward himself, the Spy Who Loved Me regularly presents players with the opportunity to splatter ill-fated pedestrians beneath your wheels. Perhaps 'brilliant white' wasn't such a hot paint choice after all As with Live & Let Die, Bond didn't get the proper sprite treatment here, though that title screen alone begs some rather uncomfortable questions, namely - when did Jim get botox and why does he appear to be vigorously touching himself?
Licensed to exchange awkward glances at the car wash.
Cinematic Bondage: Two movies
Video game Bondage: Three games
James Bond: The Living Daylights
Altogether now! "Woaaaa-wahoh Li-ving Dayyylights!" No, just me, then? Never mind. Timothy Dalton's first foray into the wider Bond-verse was once heralded as a return to the franchise' darker, more realistic roots - or about as realistic as the late 1980s could handle anyway. Unsurprisingly, the film's official video game followed along in suit, granting Bond a long-overdue killing license, as well as a generous supply of ammo. Decked out in what appears to be a billowy white blouse, tight, flare-like trousers, and one superlative suntan, you might be forgiven for thinking you'd rented a copy of Antonio's Banderas' Desperado by mistake. Alas, that's Mr. Bond up there, jiving the night away with his Minecraft Creeper face and pipe cleaner appendages. Those were simpler times people.
Licensed to kill everything.
007: License to Kill
Aka 'the one where Bond went rogue for a bit', License to Kill marked Dalton's second and final appearance as the famed super-sleuth. It also inspired yet another so-so shooting title, this time mixing up on-foot and vehicular sections for a tad more variety. Viewed from above, Bond's avatar isn't all that interesting here, looking more like a shelled out Eastern European homestead than the cocktail raising, female appraising agent we know and love.
Licensed to use your best bud as shark bait.
James Bond 007: The Duel
An uber colourful action-sidescroller, James Bond: The Duel appeared on various SEGA machines in the early 1990s. The title marked the end of Domark's long association with the license, as well as the final usage of Dalton's image. Sadly, there wouldn't be another Bond game for four years, the longest hiatus in franchise history. Known as '007 Shitou' in Japan - *prolonged Brian Blessed-esque laughter* The Duel continued to make us laugh with its off-kilter depiction of Bond as some sort of Spandau Ballet tribute act. Pure Gold.
Licensed to follow you around the room 'Mona Lisa'-style.
Cinematic Bondage: Four movies
Video game Bondage: Six games
Ah, GoldenEye 007, the N64 classic that had us memorising maps, punching our buds, and screaming 'No Oddjobs' like a set of high class escorts. Good times. Rare's spectacular title not only changed the way in which we perceived console shooting, it also gave the James Bond franchise some series gaming cred. Gone were the days of barely recognisable sprites, dead eyed dullards and bland, repetitive action. No, this was to be the age of the barely recognisable cardboard cut-out, the dead eyed dullard IN 3D!!! and of course, some of the very best shooting around. The game also marked the debut of one Pierce Brosnan, part-time Irish bloke and lead actor in TV's Remington Steele, which judging by the name alone was some kind of filthy, filthy porno. Mr Brosnan had the unique honour of becoming the basis for Bond's first fully 3D avatar, a horrifying mass of textures and then-cutting edge tech that some folks say was once a man.
Licensed to say Pierce Brosnan in the mirror three times without dying.
007: Tomorrow Never Dies
Despite the monumental multimedia success of GoldenEye, it wasn't long before the resurgent Bond franchise began to falter on all fronts. Its follow-up - the safe, if largely unspectacular Tomorrow Never Dies exchanged compelling villains for bland media men and an on-form Rare Studios for the license grinders at Black Ops Entertainment. Sure, you could chuck people into paper machines and watch them print blood, but the rest of the game - a generic 3rd person shooting gallery - was somewhat less impressive. Bond's character model was similarly poor, having been changed relatively little since his previous adventure. That's probably a good thing however, judging by the studio's attempts at a higher quality render (pictured above - right). It's like Tommy Lee Jones had a love child with Steven Seagal and asked Luke Perry to donate the hair. *shudders*
Licensed to line dance with Mr. Stamper.
The World is Not Enough
Following the disappointment of Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond returned to the tried-and-tested FPS genre for The World is Not Enough. While not as honed as the right honourable Goldeneye, the game's N64 edition did prove to be a strong title in its own right. Sadly, for PlayStation owners, their PS port wasn't nearly so accomplished, with Sony's own Bond appearing particularly pained to be there. If the above character model doesn't scream "kill me Q, I can't go on like this", then I don't know what does.
Licensed to end it all.
Now you're talking! An entire racing game dedicated to Bond's most iconic vehicles, from the DB5 to the Z8. Count me in! and then count me right back out again after playing this god-awful mess of a game. Still, at least the cutscenes are alright, what with all the action, and the romance and the suitably silly puns. What do you mean - 'looks like a young Ted Bundy'? Well, yes I suppose he does have that sort of look about him. The kind that says "you might want to use that passenger's side ejector seat yourself, darling".
Licensed to hit and run.
James Bond 007: Nightfire
Having sat out Bond's first appearance on 6th generation hardware (more on that later), Brosnan's likeness returned to active duty in 007: Nightfire. Considered by many commentators to be the second best Bond shooter after GoldenEye, Nightfire was lauded for its strong narrative focus and pleasing multiplayer contingent, but roundly critiqued for its short, unfulfilling length - a criticism Bond responded to directly, stating "it was just really, really cold, alright?". Speaking of Jimbo, Nightfire also featured the most recognisable version of Bond's face to date - even going so far as to render some vaguely recognisable human beings - a first for the series.
Licensed to let the Bond girl die? Yeesh.
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing
Is that The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3, James? My my, you do get around No matter, this is after all one of the best Bond games in living memory, uniting elements of EA's Need for Speed franchise with the sharp 3rd person gunplay of Freedom Fighters. Everything Or Nothing is a big budget spectacular with plenty to recommend it. As for Bond's avatar, developer EA Redwood undid some of the good work of its predecessors by choosing to de-age James, losing a small measure of realism as a result.
Licensed to thrill
Cinematic Bondage: Three movies
Video game Bondage: Four games
007: Quantum of Solace
Remember when Daniel Craig, the big blonde Bond, first strolled out of the ocean, flexing his pecs and setting a thousand female hearts a-fluttering? Yes well, it appears Craig's been hitting the bottle - and the meat pie emporium - a little hard since then. If 007: Quantum of Solace is any indication, Danny boy turned up to his first ever tie-in title looking like a sad-eyed Adrian Chiles. Oh right, Americans Adrian Chiles is the bane of British television, a man who looks - and oftentimes acts - much like a potato. Got it? Good. Suffice to say that Activision's first attempt at a Bond title wasn't all that well done. Judging by the sight of Craig's doughy doppelganger, the whole thing could've used another few months in the oven.
Licensed to bleat like an idiot on TV.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone
Activision filled out its Bond game bingo card good and early with 007 Blood Stone, another ropey action title that laboured over an all-new story instead of a proper movie tie-in. To its credit, Blood Stone's Bond did look slightly sharper than Quantum's, even if one or two of the new outfits were a bit less super spy and a bit more 'PGA clubhouse'.
Licensed to hand me that 9 iron, would you?
GoldenEye 007: Reloaded
As anyone who's played a yearly sports titles will tell you, sometimes choosing to 'update' a character model can have the complete opposite effect. Having already rebooted the classic GoldenEye 007 - a move seen as sacrilege by some fans - Activision clearly had no qualms about redoing their newly improved Craig face. The result was a bizarrely good/not good avatar, that at times utterly convinced and at others seemed to be made out of pure putty.
Licensed to pout.
That's more like it! Legends' version of Bond may look like he's calling up his exes to announce a serious spot of Chlamydia but damnit if it isn't the most detailed depiction of Bond to date. The game itself may be naff, but hey, at least 007 looks better than ever.
Licensed to hit the free clinic.
Video game Bondage: Three games
007: Agent Under Fire
Is that you Billy Zane? No, no of course not, he'd be far too busy err well I don't know exactly - presumably just re-watching his bits from Titanic over and over again? The point is that this new breed of Bond had double-0-nothing to do to do with the Hollywood machine. There was no Brosnan, no Connery, not a whole lot of anyone - hell, even Judy Dench's M failed to appear in person, and even then the good Dame didn't do any voice work. Agent Under Fire represented EA's first big attempt to create a solid standalone Bond. In keeping with this fresh approach, Bond became something of a non-descript stand-in, fusing bits of his former contributors like a mad explosion at Madam Tussauds.
License to attend every fancy dress outing as Bond.
James Bond 007: The Stealth Affair
If Never Say Never Again is movie Bond's illegitimate offspring - and let's face it, with a libido like that, there's bound to be some - then James Bond: The Stealth Affair is the series' gaming mistake. Known outside the US as 'Operation Stealth', this opportunistic re-brand is riddled with glitches, frustrating gameplay and the occasionally embarrassing gaffe. Notable errors include Bond's CIA superiors (as oppose to MI6) and a synthesized voice over that could conceivably crash the game. As for main man himself, Stealth Affair's version of Bond is notable for looking more like a monkey butler/ young Prince Charles than the death defying super sleuth of Fleming's fiction.
Licensed to fling the royal faeces.
James Bond 007 (1998)
This Zelda-esque action title debuted just nine months prior to the release of the Game Boy Color. As such, it remains one of the final Game Boy games ever to be released on the ol' black and white. Unfortunately, this small crumb of historical significance did nothing to elevate the game itself. Set within a small Chinese village, James Bond 007 tasked players with unravelling a vast conspiracy by way of chasing down door keys, gambling mini-games and fending off henchmen via karate. Squint and you can almost pretend youre a wild-eyed Sean Connery neck chopping his way out of a baccarat game gone bad. As for that avatar, I'd say it looks more like Mario, or rather a Mario who takes his style advice from the average nightclub bouncer
License to gamble away all of her majesty's money
For England, James...
Well that's just about everything from the Bond back catalogue. You've experienced the uncanny highs and the pixellated lows, the stunning likenesses the err dis-likenesses As usual, you can stick your angry rants and helpful suggestions in the comments box below. Just don't ask about Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, because a) you don't play Bond in that one, and b) by rights we should all refuse to accept its existence on principle. As for me, I think it's high time I made like Bond at a paternity test and ran away giggling. Ciao.
If you're lingering though - and you definitely should - check out some of our related features. In for some puzzling and pondering? Then have a go at our Bond movie quiz (opens in new tab). And if you want to keep it weird and gamey, why not peruse The 9 weirdest video game uses of perfectly sensible licenses (opens in new tab)?