When i bought 007 Legends on Friday, the girl at the checkout asked if i was going to see Skyfall when it comes out. 'Of course' i told her. 'I'm not buying a James Bond game at 9am on its day of release because i'm a fan of second-rate Call of Duty clones'.
I don't like speaking for other people, but i'm fairly sure that no Bond fan does. We buy these games to play with Q's gadgets and to explore exotic locales and fantastical hidden bases... hoping to throw out some dry one-liners in the presence of a stunningly beautiful woman whilst foiling the mad schemes of a criminal mastermind (who probably suffers a physical deformity) along the way. You know, Bond stuff.
With 22 films worth of solid gold to draw inspiration from, it's shocking - positively shocking - that Eurocom failed to deliver on virtually every front. I will never get over how disappointed this game left me, but i have never been the sort of person to point out problems without having an idea or two on how to improve a situation, so would like to share my thoughts.
Films and games are obviously quite different, and you need to make changes in order for a FPS action game to be fun to play, but if you choose the right films you can do this while staying true to the source material. As an example:
Eurocom didn't fail completely. They built a game around the iconic Bond finales of the older films. The villain's personal army, usually in bright outfits, fighting ninjas or the US military or the loyal followers of a likeable Greek smuggler, in a bizarre hidden lair.
The final Moonraker mission was probably the highlight of the game. In zero gravity, Bond, Dr Goodhead and Jaws battle Drax's guard with lasers on a crumbling space station. Then the US army shows up. It was ridiculous, and not at all fitting with the current Bond, but at the same time kind of fantastic. Like much of Moore's tenure as 007.
The spectacular underwater finale of Thunderball, in which the US coast guard fight Largo's men with harpoon guns could work in much the same fashion.
Getting to this point would require drastically reworking parts of the film however. I would make the game's very first level a somewhat-faithful adaptation of the films pre-title sequence.
Bond and his french contact are attending the funeral of Jacques Boitier, A SPECTRE agent responsible for the death of two of James' colleagues. Similar to the opening of Dragon Age II, a short clip would play before the screen faded to black revealing a developer/publisher credit.
-Bond on a balcony overlooking the funeral service-
Contact: You sound disappointed you didn't kill him yourself.
Bond: I am, Jacques Boitier murdered two of my colleagues.
-fade- Activision presents -next shot-
-Bond is now on an outside balcony, overlooking Boitier's widow entering the funeral car-
Contact: Is there anything else the French station can help you with?
Bond: Later perhaps. -notices the widow open the car door and it drive off-
Bond: Like i said, later.
-fade- A Eurocom production -next shot-
-The widow is shown entering her estate. Shuts the door behind her as Bond's silhouette can be made out in a chair in the room-
-fade- 007 Legends -game begins-
James punches the widow, revealing he knows it's actually Boitier in drag, and then a quicktime event fight breaks out. It is important that it's the good kind of QTE, like in Shen Mue and Heavy Rain, where some failure is acceptable but will alter the way the scene plays out. After killing Boitier, his goons arrive and Bond flees, in the jetpack, naturally.
In the film this trip is rather short, but for the sake of gameplay i would make it sort of like the helicopter section of Black Ops. Bond's height is set, but you otherwise control his movements, and would be required to shoot at Boitier's men as you make your way to the Aston Martin. The level ends as the scene in the film did, with Bond using his car's water cannons to knock the goons over. Maybe this could be incorporated into gameplay as a sort of turret section.
I don't think that you can make a game that features Thunderball without including the scenes from the health clinic, but i'm also pretty sure that there isn't enough material to get a whole level out of it. This problem could be overcome with creative use of flashbacks.
The second level would start with James entering the MI6 building and running into Moneypenny, who asks how the health clinic was. Flashback of Pat Fearing strapping Bond onto the traction machine - and of course quipping 'there, first time i've felt safe all day' - which Count Lippe then turns up in an attempt to murder him. Bond then attends the emergency conference called to bring the double-0s up to speed on the stolen nuclear missiles. This would be like one of those cut-scene levels in Call of Duty almost.
At certain points of the conference Bond would flashback to the key moments in the health clinic (Bond's revenge when he locks Lippe in a steam bath, and when he unmasked the dead, bandaged man) until he realises that the events there are connected to the current crisis. He is then sent by M to investigate Domino, the sister of the man murdered at the health clinic.
I know. Not too exciting but all the best FPSs have moments like this to further the story. It is important to know what's going on and i'm a fan of 'playable cut-scenes'.
In the next level Bond spots Domino and follows her to Largo's compound, which he infiltrates. This one will play very much like the usual levels in Bond games, but with an emphasis on stealth. A key part of the level will have Bond sneak past Largo's pool, while he's berating Quist, one of his henchmen. In the film this was for failing to kill Bond, but there wont be time to explain that here. All we know is he messed up, and we witness Largo drop him into the pool which is full of sharks. It's rare for any Bond game to take the time to demonstrate how ruthless the villain is.
During the level Bond finds evidence of Largo's involvement in the stolen nuclear missiles, and at the end follows Domino once again as she leaves the compound and stops at a beach a (very) short way away. As she's preparing to go into the ocean James confronts her, informing her that Largo killed her brother and pleads with her to give him anything that can help locate the stolen missiles. She agrees, but gives a quick gasp at something behind the player. It's Vargas!
The player is given one shot to make sure Largo's man gets the point. A bit of a gimmicky mechanic, but the player needs to get to relive this moment.
With Domino on board, and the location of Largo's base, it's time for the final level. I've already spoken about the underwater battle between the US military frogmen and Emilio's private army, but before that part of the stage i think it important to include something that makes use of one of the films other memorable gadgets: the watch with the built-in Geiger counter. 007 is on the hunt for some stolen nuclear missiles after all.
Perhaps Bond needs to use it to traverse a maze-like warehouse, before being caught by Largo's men. Domino is then taken to Largo while Bond is tied up, though quickly freed by Felix Lieter and his men, who then gear up and dive into the ocean to take on Largo's army.
During the underwater battle Bond would have to make his way to Largo's vessel, the Disco Volante, and kill him. I see this encounter as another QTE, but again, the non-lame kind, like Heavy Rain. With multiple paths and differing outcomes - though if you hit the notes you'll win, just in different way. or example, one route to victory may end up with Domino making the kill with a spear gun, like in the film, but another may end with Bond taking the shot himself.
I don't like to rely on QTEs, but a big part of Connery's period as Bond was the ferocity of unarmed combat. The fight on the train in From Russia With Love was brutal, and there isn't really any other way to recreate that.
Other villains lend themselves to other methods of play. I think that The Man With the Golden Gun would be a fun one to include, for the climactic battle with Scaramanga in his funhouse. I see this as being a bit like Metal Gear Solid's The End battle, with a variety of ways offered to draw Bond's target out, but just as many to give away his position allowing Scaramanga to hit him with a golden bullet.
Anyway, i think that this is a pretty good way to break down one of the best 007 films into 3 and a half levels while conveying the plot, building the key characters and making sure Bond acts like Bond. It has the gadgets, interpretations of the iconic moments and couldn't possibly be any more difficult to make than what we got with Legends.