The Best James Bond Games That Aren’t Goldeneye

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As Bond mashup 007 Legends hits consoles and we await the release of Sam Mendes’ cinematic take on Bond with Skyfall, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to look back on the 007 video game franchise.

The MI6 agent has had a varied relationship with video games, with Goldeneye still being the golden example to beat. Arguably no game since has been quite as popular or highly regarded, but some have been great all the same. So rather than retread ground and tell you why Goldeneye is the best Bond game – cause let’s face it, you already know why – I thought I’d talk about the other good Bond games. Presented in order of release, here are the Bond games you should play which are not Goldeneye.

Agent Under Fire

When EA took over the Bond license it stumbled a little, with the movie tie-ins Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough being average at best. And the less said about 007 Racing, the better. Upon moving into the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era, however, developers stepped up their game, the first result of which was 007: Agent Under Fire.

Despite the success Goldeneye had, the first-person shooter has never quite seemed like the right fit for Bond. Yet, it does seem to be consistently successful, even if it does mean the action quota is often raised a little higher than in the movies. AUF continued that tradition by being a solid FPS with some fantastic action, sprinkled with that trademark Bond charm, wit and whimsy.

Thanks to the new consoles, the varied and exotic locations Bond visited (China, Switzerland and Romania feature) were far more detailed and impressive than they’d ever been before. That translated to the gameplay, too, with plenty of guns and gadgets to use in missions. Driving sections were also a well-executed and welcome addition introduced to break up the pace.

AUF also saw the introduction of some on-rails shooting segments, which were a great way to put you right at the center of some of the big action set-pieces that have been so prominent in the movies. Add an over-the-top story involving a plot to take over the world by cloning prominent world leaders, and it’s not hard to see why AUF is such a great addition to the franchise.

Nightfire

Agent Under Fire veered into the action side of things, but with 007: Nightfire, we got something that was much more distinctly Bond. While action was still high and rightly so, Nightfire brought the idea of being a spy to the forefront. Stealth was encouraged on many missions, with the option to add a silencer to 007’s trademark PPK being just a button press away.

Your inventory was also often filled with more gadgets than you’d actually need for your current objective, allowing for plenty of experimentation. This was further encouraged by the fact many levels had several methods with which to complete missions. Need to sneak into a part at an Austrian castle? Well, you could be especially brazen and creep past the guards patrolling the front door, or you could take the more elaborate route which involved shuffling along window ledges. Each method was challenging in its own way and could be accomplished with as much or as little combat as you wanted.

Nightfire is also notable for its great multiplayer mode. Here, the variety of weapons and surprisingly good (most of the time) bots made for an extremely fun experience. Now four-player splitscreen had that little bit extra when you were all also on the look out for equally dangerous AI players.

The story in Nightfire felt like it could easily have been a Brosnan-era film, admittedly that could be because it borrows some aspects from Goldeneye (and the driving sections are ripped straight from Die Another Day). It stands well on its own all the same, with lots of intrigue and surprise double crosses. Pierce Brosnan only lends his likeness, not his voice, to the proceedings, which is a tad disappointing. His replacement does a great job, though; perfectly capturing the cheeky, never too serious nature of Bond.

Everything or Nothing

Speaking of not being too serious, 007: Everything or Nothing went a bit nuts. To be fair, the film series had done the same with the abysmal Die Another Day. Thankfully, EoN‘s craziness paid off and made for an incredibly fun action game – one of the best of the generation, in fact.

EA went all out with this one. Brosnan was on board (his last appearance as Bond in a game or film), lending both his likeness and voice this time round. He was joined by the rest of the regular film cast, with Judi Dench and John Cleese reprising their roles as M and Q respectively. Some other big names were thrown into the mix, with Willem Defoe playing a wonderfully over-the-top villain while Heidi Klum, Shannon Elizabeth and Mya (who also sung the game’s theme) joined the Bond girl ranks. Jaws even makes an appearance, because, why not?

You’d be forgiven for thinking EoN is all style and no substance, but the impressive celebrity roster was backed up by fantastic gameplay and action. Bond returned to third person, EA having abandoned the genre after Tomorrow Never Dies, which is arguably more suited to the 007 style of action. There was something for everyone here, with a bit of stealth, plenty of shooting and a much bigger variety of driving/vehicle sequences.

Pierce Brosnan should be thankful this was his last appearance as Bond, as it can be much more fondly remembered than his final cinematic outing. Whereas Die Another Day took the franchise in a direction no one wanted it to, EoN continued down the path of the previous Brosnan films and the result is something that can stand proudly with the best 007 has to offer.

Blood Stone

The last original Bond game, Blood Stone, once again went back to third person after Quantum of Solace and the Goldeneye remake went down the FPS route. While those two games did a good job of being Call of Duty knock-offs, they were pretty rubbish Bond games.

Blood Stone used Daniel Craig’s Bond to great effect, his more grounded style being a far cry from the over-the-top insanity of Everything or Nothing. But it still remains distinctly Bond. There’s still some outrageous action set pieces and plenty of shooting, it’s just that this time around, there was a bit more focus on quick and efficient melee takedowns. 007 clearly took some notes from Sam Fisher, too, as he gained a mark and execute-esque feature. Though there were still bigger shootouts and some driving sections, this style did a good job of capturing the deadly efficiency of modern Bond.

Admittedly, Blood Stone had enough issues that it doesn’t quite hit the highs of a Nightfire or Everything or Nothing, but it’s still a solid action game and one which portrays the new style of Bond almost perfectly.

So what have we learned from this list? Well, Bond seems to do his best work from the third-person perspective, and he is definitely better served by a unique story not based on a specific movie. Most of all, a certain balance has to be found between stealth, gunplay and action. James Bond is a spy, but he also lives in a world where riding a motorbike off a cliff to catch a plane is just another day at the office. It’s difficult for a movie to pull that juggling act off, let alone a game. I think the games above have managed to do just that, and here’s hoping we get some more like them in the future.

A gamer for almost 20 years, a fan of podcasts, podcasts about games and maybe one day games about podcasts?