When Daniel Craig took over as James Bond, work began on a tie-in videogame to his first movie as 007, Casino Royale – but it didn’t go to plan.
Certain images from the brilliant MI6-HQ.
The James Bond film franchise underwent a gritty reboot when new lead actor Daniel Craig taking over for 2006’s Casino Royale, the movie going back to the Ian Fleming source novel that had previously been explored in the unofficial 60s film of the same name. What’s more, there were plans for a tie-in videogame for the new movie too. Electronic Arts had the rights to make one, but it never came to pass.
Not, as it happens, for the want of trying.
The long history of licensed Bond games started with Parker Brothers, creating the 1983 videogame James Bond 007 (its action based on four 1970s films). British publishers Domark took over the rights afterwards, creating new games for Roger Moore (A View To A Kill) and then Timothy Dalton as he settled into the role of 007 (The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill). There was also a revisit of older films (The Spy Who Loved Me). Still, it was under another publisher that one of the very best movie tie-in games of all time came along: GoldenEye, on the Nintendo 64, put together by Rare. A game famous for its multiplayer mode, that had been added late in development.
MGM Interactive, a software label within the film company MGM, would take over the videogame rights until Electronic Arts came calling. Work on a game based on Tomorrow Never Dies had already started in 1998, and this would ultimately be published by EA. A game of The World Is Not Enough featuring the likeness of Pierce Brosnan followed, and then a new series of Bond-themed titles not directly related to any movie. The last of these, Everything Or Nothing, did have a script by screenwriter Bruce Feierstein that tied the game’s plot into the film A View To A Kill. The mediocre Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, intended as a follow-up to the classic N64 title, spoiled the legacy and was followed by the terrible 007 Racing (a driving game with Bond-inspired vehicles and very poor handling) – a poor way to mark the 40th anniversary of the first official James Bond film.
2005 saw EA delve into the past with a game based on From Russia With Love, recreating the likeness of Sean Connery as Bond and other cast characters. However, legal problems saw crime syndicate SPECTRE changed to OCTOPUS. And while that game was in development, EA started recruiting staff for a game based on the forthcoming Casino Royale film. In its job advertisements, EA mentioned that applicants could find themselves working alongside film stars.
A key part of the build-up to this Casino Royale game would be its release date. Not only would the game need to be released on the same day as the film, it would also be a launch title for the next-generation (at the time) PlayStation 3 console from Sony.
Anticipation for the new console and its rival – the Xbox 360 – was high, and EA was targeting the next-generation machines as well as the previous generation of Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2. Nintendo’s new console Revolution, later to be known as the Wii, would also get a version of Casino Royale.
The plan was set, nothing could go wrong.
The game would have used a similar third-person perspective to EA’s earlier Everything Or Nothing title. With Daniel Craig set to film his first scenes as James Bond in early 2006, the level designers and graphic artists were working on 3D scenes based on the script – including a level based in Venice. Members of the development team would travel to Pinewood Studios to gather material and take 3D photos of the cast. EA had access to the scripts, production drawings and more to help it achieve a realistic look in-game.
But in January 2006, a leak revealed that the next-generation versions of the game were being cancelled. Speculation at the time was that the extra work of creating full high-definition graphics and working with unfamiliar new hardware was delaying the development, which was estimated to be about 15% complete (and only nine months until the film was arriving).
Although more gamers were now aware the title was in development, a bombshell arrived just a few months later.
In May 2006, MGM announced that rival software publisher Activision was taking over the James Bond license, reportedly paying up to $50 million for multi-year rights.
This left EA in a difficult position. Although Activision’s rights would not become exclusive until 2007, the delays to the Casino Royale game would mean a massive loss of revenue for MGM from such a lucrative game missing its release date (and the hype surrounding the film itself). The decision was taken almost immediately to halt development of Casino Royale as a separate game. It would have needed to arrive in 2006 for EA to be able to publish it, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen.
Instead, Quantum Of Solace would be the first Bond title published by Activision under the new license deal, arriving in October and November 2008 to coincide with the film’s cinema release. Developed predominantly in America by the developer Treyarch – best known for its work on the Call Of Duty series – it featured the voice and likeness of Daniel Craig for the first time, along with other cast members including Judi Dench as M, Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen.
The title sequence was inspired by the Italian driving sequence during the opening of the film, but came with a different theme song. ‘When Nobody Loves You’, performed by Kerli and written by the Estonian singer with guitarist Richard Fortus, was exclusive to the game. For the film Jack White and Alicia Keys had collaborated on ‘Another Way To Die’, the first duet used as a Bond theme.
Casino Royale would nonetheless live on in videogame form. A large section of the Quantum Of Solace game became a flashback. After Bond crash-lands in the Bolivian desert, the next few levels of the game play out as a recap of what happened in Casino Royale (spoiler alert): Bond chasing Mollaka through Madagascar, Bond infiltrating the Science Center, saving Skyfleet from Carlos, killing Bliss en route to Montenegro, meeting Vesper, saving Le Chiffre from Steven Obanno, saving Vesper from Le Chiffre, and finally confronting Vesper and Gettler in Venice, right down to the flooded building.
UK developers would then take over the Bond games after this one. Eurocom worked with EA on GoldenEye: 007, a more accomplished remake of the N64 title on the Nintendo Wii – sold with a special golden Classic Controller.
The same year, 2010, saw Bizarre Creations deliver Blood Stone, an original game and storyline featuring Daniel Craig’s Bond. Joss Stone would appear as Nicole Hunter in the game and sing the theme tune. That song was an original track called ‘I’ll Take It All’, performed with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Bond films in 2012, 007 Legends saw players take on missions as Craig’s Bond once more. The storyline took players on a journey through Bond’s history from a rookie agent to the chiselled, seasoned veteran he had become. It drew on six films representing the six actors who had played the role of James Bond on the big screen – Goldfinger (Sean Connery), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (George Lazenby), Moonraker (Roger Moore), Licence To Kill (Timothy Dalton), Die Another Day (Pierce Brosnan), and finally Skyfall (Daniel Craig). The opening mission was inspired by Skyfall, and a second mission from the film was available as DLC (downloadable content), released on the same day as the film.
The critical response to 007 Legends was poor though, and Activision let the Bond license lapse in 2014.
All of which brings us up to the present and the delayed release of the next Daniel Craig film as Bond, No Time To Die. There is currently no official tie-in game to that film. Instead, developers IO Interactive – the team behind the best-selling Hitman franchise – is working on Project 007. This will be the first ever official Bond origin story, as players attempt to secure that coveted 00 licence to kill. Removed from the need to hit a firm deadline of a film’s release date, that might just be the most promising way forward…
You can read more on Daniel Craig’s gaming adventures as James Bond here.
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