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Licence To Thrill – Was The Brosnan Era The Peak for 007 Video Games ?

4 min read
The cover of Goldeneye - a N64 video game. The text 'Goldeneye' is displayed at the bottom layered on top of a red '007'. Above is the black and white face of Pierce Brosnan holding a gun.

With James finally back on screens in and 's fifteen year stint in the tuxedo drawing to a close, it seems an apt time to revisit his iteration of 007's transition to gaming and how his games have held up relative to the highs of his predecessor .

Remarkably the last main entry in the canon of Bond video games came in 2012 with the poorly received Legends, which was released to tie into the series' 50th anniversary and the release of Sam Mendes' . The main selling point of this particular entry was affording players the opportunity to revisit some of the series most iconic moments through the eyes of Daniel Craig's Bond encountering iconic villains like Goldfinger and of course Blofeld along the way.

Given the huge critical and commercial success of Craig's tenure as Bond it is surprising that studios haven't pushed to translate the more gritty nature of these films to the gaming arena. Quantum Of Solace, developed by Treyarch (Eurocom and Vicarious Visions developed PS2 and Nintendo DS versions respectively) did this well for the most part, telling the story of Craig's second outing and recounting the events of through flashbacks. This game played through the events of both the films adding extra set pieces throughout making for an all action spectacle. Perhaps the muted response to the Quantum Of Solace film dampened the enthusiasm for Craig's first game in the role as it is one of the more straight up film adaptations in the series.

A video game version of Daniel Craig's James Bond hides behind cover whilst armed with a pistol, hiding from an armed man and an explosion in the distance.

While Pierce Brosnan's four film stint in the role has not always earnt stellar reviews, the games released during this period have largely earnt strong reviews and are certainly some of the best in the franchise. Goldeneye in particular has become the gold standard for Bond games and was even reworked to match Craig's likeness. While there were game adaptations of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough, Goldeneye's legacy far surpasses these, even earning a spin off in 2004's Rogue Agent that had players take the role of a character created specifically for the game.

The original stories released during this era earnt largely positive reviews and have held up well, arguably feeling more in line with the franchise than the latter two films starring Brosnan. 2001's Agent Under Fire boasts much of the iconography of the films with exotic locations, shootouts galore and an assortment of glamorous cars and gadgets. 2002's Nightfire also features many of the trademarks of the series and has become a fan favourite in the near 20 years since its release.

2004's Everything Or Nothing is a peculiar beast as it ended up being a farewell of sorts for Brosnan in the role of Bond, coming a year after the much derided Die Another Day and is in all honesty perhaps a more worthy send off. The game moved away from its first person shooter roots and provided the opportunity to drive the latest Aston Martin model in addition to bikes and a Porsche Cayenne in third person. Curiously Everything or Nothing saw the return of Richard Kiel's metal teethed Jaws, a reoccurring nemesis of Roger Moore's 007 in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

2010's Blood Stone was the first game since Everything Or Nothing to feature a wholly original story focusing on a conspiracy and attack on the G-20. Blood Stone suffered perhaps from being sandwiched between Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall when there was probably less of an appetite for Bond material. The ending also promised a continuation of the story, but fans were never treated to one. Whether or not Craig reprises the role for a final gaming appearance ala Brosnan will be interesting to see with No Time To Die marking a clear ending point for his on screen Bond.

A video game version of Sean Connery's James Bond hides behind a tree, clad in black and armed with a pistol.

It would be remiss not to mention 2005's which saw a septuagenarian return to the role that made him a star over 40 years before. This game marked the last Bond game released by EA and featured elements from later Connery films like Thunderball's jetpack and Goldfinger's DB5. While being a largely faithful adaptation of the 1963 film, this game adds a number of sequences including a new opening sequence to make it more action packed than the film's Hitchcockian opening.

It appears that the harder edged nature and less far-fetched nature of Craig's Bond translated to consoles with greater difficulty than Brosnan's, whose tenure boasted more aspects of traditional Bond fare like laser watches and rocket equipped cars. While these gradually came more into play in later Craig films, his first two films are almost gadget-less and boasting a different type of action. The lengthy gap between Craig's films and his well-documented relationship with the role has perhaps led to difficulties in capturing his iteration with the same frequency.

Many will be hoping that the announced Project 007 can help to recapture some of the success of the earlier gaming adventures for Mr Bond. Coming from IO, the developers of the Hitman series, the game seems set to be an original take on how Bond became the man we first encounter in Casino Royale and earnt his 00 status and licence to kill – opening up some interesting storytelling avenues that the films and games haven't touched on to date. As we move away from Daniel Craig's successful reinvention of the character on the big screen, the gaming arm of the franchise looks set to follow suit.

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