Since James Bond first appeared on the Commodore 64 back in 1983, his games have delighted and appalled fans in equal measure. Since its N64 heyday, and briefly successful turn on the PlayStation 2, the Bond videogame franchise has fallen into a rut of half-baked movie tie-ins and pedestrian shooters. EON's game franchise has lost its suave; on a scale of James Bond actors, it's David Niven.
Nevertheless, there are still good Bond games out there. Most have been forgotten in the midst of new console generations; one, in particular, reinvented the first-person shooter completely.
To mark the Commander's fiftieth anniversary, here are five essential James Bond games.
Agent Under Fire (PlayStation 2 - 2001)
Built using the Quake III Arena engine, this original Bond story sees 007 battling Malprave Industries, an insidious terrorist organisation that plans to assassinate the world's leaders and replace them with clones. Wonderfully hammy schlock lifted directly from 60s Batman, Agent Under Fire stars, appropriately, Andrew Bicknell, a little known British character actor who recently cameoed in The Dark Knight.
With its ear-popping gun noises, and gadget-packed mobile phone (a piton gun, a laser and a code decryptor are all at the player's disposable) Agent Under Fire set the bar for PS2 Bond games; 007: Nightfire, which came just a year later, would lower it again.
The World Is Not Enough (PlayStation, Nintendo 64 - 2000)
One of the last big-budget titles of the fifth console generation, The World Is Not Enough proved that, sometimes at least, tie-in games can work. Like every other Bond shooter, The World Is Not Enough featured plenty of gunplay, repackaging scenes from the Pierce Brosnan movie to suit first-person action.
But it also tried to capture Bond's suave; an extended section in a Russian casino had players put down the guns for a few hands of Blackjack. It wasn't much, but you won't find another game on this list that let players spend some downtime with Bond. Lounging by the pool, ordering up room service; checking his hotel suite for bugs - sequences like these are Bond movie staples, and The World Is Not Enough tried to capture their essence.
Goldeneye Source (PC, Mac - 2006)
A fan made reboot of the original Goldeneye's multiplayer mode, Goldeneye Source is built using the same engine that powered Half-Life 2. That means smoother animations, shinier graphics and more detailed textures: Classic maps like Archives and Facility look better than ever thanks to Source.
Since going through its beta stage in 2006, Goldeneye Source has been released in several versions, the latest of which, Version 4.2, was launched in August 2012. Allowing up to sixteen players to fight at once, as opposed to the original Goldeneye's four, Goldeneye Source also features several new multiplayer game modes.
Thanks to a dedicated fanbase, and regular updates from the development team, Goldeneye Source's servers continue to be filled. It's an essential free download for nostalgia fiends keen to relive the N64 classic.
Everything or Nothing (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube - 2003)
A hugely impressive return to form after the Nightfire car crash, Everything or Nothing featured star turns from Pierce Brosnan, Willem Defoe, John Cleese and Judi Dench; even Richard Kiel turned up, putting in an anachronistic cameo as iconic Bond villain Jaws.
Everything or Nothing (named for Cubby Broccoli's bespoke film studio) glistened with typical EA production value. Complete with a slick title sequence and theme song all of its own, EoN's chief selling point was 'Bond Moments', hidden trick shots that players could pull off for extra points. Things like using gadgets and sneaking past guards counted as 'Bond Moments', encouraging players to think and move like 007.
One standout sequence involved 007 base jumping off a cliff face, to catch love interest Serena Germaine after she is thrown out of a helicopter. Players had to steer the plummeting Bond past outcroppings and bad guys, all the while backed by John Barry's booming theme tune.
Tough, fun and gorgeous to look at, Everything or Nothing remains the best Bond game on PS2.
Goldeneye (Nintendo 64 - 1997)
The definitive Bond game, Goldeneye remains the best argument for movie tie-ins. Released two years after the eponymous film, and almost binned by the project leads, Goldeneye on the N64 went on to revolutionise single-player FPS games. Everything before it was gun-heavy; Wolfenstein and Doom asked players to get from one end of a level to the other, but gave them nothing to do except kill in between.
Goldeneye was smarter. The bad guys were there by the barracks load, sure, but missions were broken up by objectives. Plant the bug on the computer. Sabotage the helicopter. Rescue the hostages: Goldeneye was one of the first games to give mindless violence a purpose, and everything else has followed in its footsteps since.
It pioneered multiplayer gaming, too. A late addition to Goldeneye 64, the four man, split-screen versus mode was one of the first of its kind. Friends duked it out across maps inspired by the single-player game, and could customise the rules to make their own types of play. One shoot kills, melee weapons only; a pesky Oddjob character model was small and fast. All of these tweaks and touches made for a unique match every time.
It's no wonder Goldeneye Source is so successful; with its ground-breaking game mechanics, and instantly catchy soundtrack, the original Goldeneye 64 remains the epitome of Bond cool. In movie terms, this is Goldfinger. In actor terms, well, that should be obvious.
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