Release Dates: November 17, 2003, December 5, 2003, February 17 and 27 2004
Formats: Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2
When it comes to my favourite Bond actors, it takes me no time to answer. For better or worse, it is and will always be Pierce Brosnan. He embodied all the positive qualities of Bond past in the charm, looking dangerous and wearing the best suits rather than simply letting them wear him. He also consistently was the best part of his films, from the excellent Goldeneye onwards. So even though he was still every positive listed above in it, it is an eternal shame (rhymes with that Bangles song) that his last outing (Die Another Day) was woefully uneven, making it an overall low for the series’ quality and even put in danger of no return after its triumphant comeback in just 1999.
Having said that, in the 4 years between Die Another Day and Casino Royale was this oft overlooked (to borrow a phrase from Marc O’ Connell) ‘Bond Bullet’. Spoilers for the remainder of the review but frankly, even though I hated Die Another Day and the game is closer in tone to that film than its immediate successor, I think it is a large mercy that thanks to this game, Pierce is not relegated to the ‘hell of a hand’ of Bonds, but the rarefied atmosphere of the S - Tier.
Like the following game, From Russia with Love (also reviewed on the site) it takes the third person approach to piloting 007. Even though it is basically sacrilegious to suggest so, I prefer this approach to the oft copied FPS approach which Goldeneye took. It sounds foolish to say, but it feels you are more directly in control of Bond, James Bond throughout the game. Also, in an era where any first-person shooter immediately draws comparisons to the Call of Duty series, it is an excellent and effective way to distance the two series. As stated in the previous article about IO Interactive now taking the Bond gaming helm, James Bond was never a one-man army. Any attempt to portray him as so is just missing the point.
The game features a nice variety of levels. From short stealth focused sneak abouts, momentum-based jumps with a sheer number of fun obstacles to dodge to a level based on racing. While the latter would never give any of the greats such as Forza Motorsport 7 or Diddy Kong Racing much of a reason to worry about, the sheer variety is a welcome addition. It just adds immensely to a game which has not got the longest running time and not only brings you back for more every time, but neatly avoids the argument where certain games can live and die on your appreciation for a certain genre.
It also neatly links this game to From Russia with Love which also takes the third person approach. It dovetails neatly into my main criticism of both games in that with their similarities (to be expected as they were made by largely the same people and in close proximity), some sort of linked narrative would have been greatly appreciated. Alas, that was not to be.
Side note, if like me you love stealth based games as well as shooters, the 5 Metal Gear Solid games are an obvious recommendation.
Though the Bond games often target the largest actors of the day, (I cannot get over enough how FRWL getting Sir Sean Connery was a revolution on the level of the October Revolution), but this game takes that to never bested standards. Alongside the Bond of the day Pierce Brosnan, we get Heidi Klum, long time Bond legend Richard Kiel reprising his 1977 and 1979 role as Jaws complete with his look from 27 years before this game was released and some little known actor called Wilam Dafoe (who references 1985’s ‘A View To A Kill’, effectively single handedly quashing that ‘James Bond is a codename’ theory which my old housemate liked to bug me with).
Talking of a heavily stacked list of people in the game, the composer? Sean Callery. If that name is not too familiar to you, that is the composer for the show 24 which ran from 2001 - 2010 with additional television movies to boot. The show was huge at the time (particularly with kid me) and if you haven’t heard of it: wow I wish I was as young as you.
Simply put, this is a big addition to the game and the soundtrack feels all the better for it. It helps an already good game edge toward greatness. Like the movie series changing composer from Eric Serra to David Arnold, a composer who does not quite fit has a huge role and thus, could easily torpedo an otherwise great entry in the series. I’m thankful to say Sean Callery’s score is a welcome addition and only adds to how solid the overall game is and solidifies its atmosphere.
The games’ ending is a bit very similar to the next year’s From Russia with Love. I’d guess it is something of a well-trodden trope of the James Bond video game series of the time. But given the large pivot towards a more hyper reality science fiction setting of the film series in Die Another Day and how that gels better in the universe of video games than motion pictures, it is certainly a welcome addition.
Overall, just an excellent game. While not a huge AAA Release, it certainly understands the James Bond character and what’s more, provides him with a story which would not feel out of place in the series as a whole. While it does embrace aspects which were regrettable in the films, it is certainly more fitting here.
Finally on a personal note, the game gives my personal favourite Bond with the fitting swan song his own tenure deserves more than his final film. An excellent game with variety and what’s more, fun throughout.
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