In a time when everything is being rebooted, movies and games have been cashing in on safe bets and taking advantage of nostalgia and optimism. Unfortunately, iterations often fail to improve upon the past, either being unsuccessful at the delicate balancing act of old and new features or changing the games into something entirely different. Even worse than being converted into a different genre is the constant comparison to a favorite game from generations past. The worst offender is GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64. Not only has it prevented the Bond games from resembling the movies in any way, but it has turned the clever spy with the coolest gadget cache on the planet into an all-too-replaceable super soldier with an itchy trigger finger.
There have been plenty of games since, but the comparisons were inescapable. Games that strayed from the first-person perspective or that stuck too closely to the movie’s narrative were often viewed as steps backward from the greatness of GoldenEye. A third-person game based on the film Tomorrow Never Dies was developed after GoldenEye. Critics trampled on the game. It was different from its predecessor in every way, and didn’t even include a multiplayer mode. After the ratings for the next three first-person shooters had started to fall, developers attempted another third-person game in 2004.
As the movies filled with set pieces and explosions, so did the games, but the movies still kept Bond’s kill count low. Unfortunately, in the games the option to run or use ingenuity and a watch laser don’t seem as broadly appealing as tight corridors and gunplay. The games always rewarded the player for finding sneaky ways into buildings or using your gadgets to evade sentries, but these were in the quiet moments between things going boom. James becomes less of a super spy and more like a super soldier. Even in the N64 classic, gamers could kill more enemies in a single mission than Bond does in the entire film.
What the franchise needs is change. A different change. It’s shifted too far toward the bombastic firefights of Call of Duty and Battlefield. In order to create a more authentic experience, 007 games should be modeled after Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex and Dishonored. The players are given the same amount of tools as any other action game, but create scenarios in which an entire game can be completed without a single kill. Not only does it more closely resemble what Bond actually does, but it increases replayability far more than a tacked on multiplayer mode. Developers need to turn their back on nostalgia and whatever sales guarantee comes with a Call of Duty clone and make an engrossing game that does the Bond brand justice.
GoldenEye showed us that movie games don’t have to be terrible. It brought great multiplayer shooting to our couches and made us feel like an MI6 agent through its incredible single player mode. The remakes ended up disappointing us and the original stories like “GoldenEye from the enemy’s perspective” from Rogue Agent fell short of their potential. So long as 007 games give us a machine gun and tons of nameless soldiers to shoot, the less Bond-like the players become. Exciting stealth games have been developed since and allow the player to use guns or knives as a backup when they are spotted. It is not like that developers don’t know how to make a good spy game. Plenty do, but they lack the popularity that FPS games enjoy because stealth games are often more difficult and feature slower gameplay. As long as consumers keep buying the imitations, developers won’t make the Bond game that is deserving of the 007 title.