Friday, November 9, 2012

Die Another Day: 007 Games In The 90s

The 007 franchise would seem very ripe for video game adaptations. Of course, saying this now is pretty much an ignorant statement considering that there have been many games based upon the series. But up until one important title that used the license, the James Bond series saw very little appearances on home consoles until 1997. If you owned a PC, however, the chances of playing a game based upon the 007 franchise were much better. But things turned around in the 90s for the series on gaming platforms, and not only changed the way we view material based upon licensed material, but the way we play games as a whole.
Domark was namely responsible for the 007 games on PC, and in 1993, finally created a game based upon the franchise for the Sega Genesis under the name “James Bond: The Duel”. The game really wasn't based upon any particular movie, but used Timothy Dalton's likeness for the game cover and in game graphics. The game was designed as a side scrolling shooter, and had James Bond running through enemy bases rescuing female hostages while deploying explosives to destroy their bases. It wasn't a very significant offering for the 16-bit era, and wasn't very satisfying for fans of the series.
 However, that would change years later. In 1995, Nintendo had announced that Rare (which at the time was doing work for Nintendo) was basing a game upon the upcoming 007 film at the time, GoldenEye. The game was to be something similar to Sega's Virtua Cop series. Thankfully, things didn't turn out that way. Rather than release the original intended version of GoldenEye, Rare worked on a version for the Nintendo 64, which we all know became a first-person shooter. GoldenEye 007 is one of the most celebrated games of that generation for many reasons. For one, it proved a video game based upon a film didn't have to suck. Secondly, it ushered in the fact that first-person shooters can work on a console. Sure, Doom and Turok had hit the N64 months prior, but GoldenEye 007 had a design that was adapted by many developers from that point forward. The final reason for GoldenEye 007's success was the multiplayer feature, which allowed up to four players to engage in deathmatch gameplay. GoldenEye 007 was a real turning point for console shooters, even if it doesn't quite hold up to modern FPS conventions. GoldenEye 007 did so many things right for the franchise, which makes EA's first entry in the 007 series so disappointing.
After the success of GoldenEye 007, Rare passed on the chance to make a sequel based upon Tomorrow Never Dies, and instead work on GoldenEye's spiritual successor, Perfect Dark. EA took publishing duties for the 007 series after Rare's entry, and in 1999 dumped Black-Ops “effort” Tomorrow Never Dies on the public, exclusively of the PlayStation. TND was a complete 180 from GoldenEye, and was considered a real slap in the face from anyone who enjoyed the previous game. It wasn't because the game was designed as a third-person shooter. 2004's Everything Or Nothing (which was by EA as well) proved that the game can work very well in third-person perspective. Tomorrow Never Dies was a rushed product, which was evident by the poor graphic quality (even for a PS1 game) and hideous control scheme. Seriously, how was there no camera control?

Black Ops wanted this to be the “complete Bond experience” (which actually was a quote on the back of the case), with everything from driving sequences to even a skiing section. But it was so sloppily slapped together that it became just one big mess. Not only that, the game was incredibly short and lacked any sort of multiplayer mode (which was one of the big draws of the N64 game). Rare definitely set the bar very high for those who made a game based upon the license, and not until 2004 with EA's Everything Or Nothing did that happen.
Last, let us not forget the appearance of 007 on the Game Boy, under the title James Bond 007. Released on 1998, the game was an adventure game that had the same overhead perspective as the older Legend Of Zelda games. Clearly, the Game Boy couldn't handle what Rare had done on the N64 with GoldenEye, but Saffire did what they could when Nintendo contracted them to do a game based upon the license. It wasn't an awful game, but it wasn't very great, either. After all, it WAS a Game Boy game.

The 007 franchise would continue to see many more games based upon it's material in the future, with varying degrees of quality. EA's hold of the license ended after 2005's From Russia With Love, and then picked up by Activision a couple years later.

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