Developer IO Interactive shocked the world today by releasing a teaser trailer for a new James Bond game known simply as Project 007. I highly recommend you check out the teaser trailer for this Bond origin story project if you haven’t already done so.
It has been eight long years since the release of the last James Bond game. If you’re wondering why it feels like it’s been even longer than that, it’s probably because 2012’s 007 Legends was a poor attempt at not only recapturing the glory days of Bond himself (its gimmick was that you got to play as every major film version of Bond) but the glory days of Bond video games. Its failure to do so was the sadly appropriate end of Activision’s run with the James Bone license which failed to produce a single title that felt worthy of legendary Bond games such as GoldenEye 007, Everything or Nothing, or the late Sean Connery’s farewell to the Bond franchise, From Russia With Love.
That’s what makes this announcement so exciting. If you had told me that Activision was producing another Bond game, I’d have rolled my eyes and made peace with being modestly happy to play it on Game Pass one day. Instead, IO Interactive secured the rights to the franchise. That’s not just a better case scenario: it’s the best-case scenario. On paper, there’s no studio better equipped to do James Bond justice.
Why? Well, with their work on the Hitman franchise, the IO team has shown that they’re not only capable of making a great James Bond game but that they’re capable of giving James Bond the proper spy game that he’s never really had.
If you think back on some of those great Bond games I mentioned before (as well as many others like The World is Not Enough and Agent Under Fire) you may realize that the vast majority of them have been action-heavy experiences. While latter titles such as Everything or Nothing tried to incorporate a bit more espionage in an attempt to replicate the variety of a James Bond movie, most levels ultimately resulted in Bond needing to dispatch waves of enemies. Honestly, 1998’s James Bond 007 for Game Boy is one of the few worthwhile Bond games that at least tried to make you feel like the world’s greatest spy rather than a trained killer that occasionally ducks behind a box and presents forged credentials.
You could make the argument that Bond was originally written to be that “blunt instrument” that Dame Judi Dench so callously referred to him as in Casino Royale, but I can’t help but think back on how Sean Connery’s Bond used underground passages and hidden contacts more than a gun in arguably the best Bond movie ever, From Russia With Love. I wonder what would have happened if George Lazenby’s more measured version of the character hadn’t been replaced with the wacky Roger Moore era and the action-focused adventures of Timothy Dalton. Being a spy is very much part of Bond’s resume, but it’s the aspect of the character that has often been pushed aside in the films and often downright ignored in games.
Maybe there was a time when the limitations of video game technology essentially forced developers to make more action-heavy Bond titles, but we should be well beyond that point now. I’ll never say that GoldenEye 007 should have been anything more than the revolutionary FPS that it was, but there’s a part of me that can’t help but feel robbed that a developer never looked at Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell and thought “Something like that, but with James Bond.” If they did, then they certainly never got the chance to make it.
IO Interactive has that chance. With the Hitman franchise, they’ve proven that they’re one of the few modern studios that seem to have figured out how to make compelling stealth-based experiences exciting at a time when so many major developers have all but abandoned the genre. How did they pull that off? There’s no one quality that makes the Hitman games succeed where others have failed, but the one thing that IO does better than almost anyone is find ways to make stealth in video games feel like an opportunity rather than a punishment.
Hitman games (especially the modern entries) are all about exploring the possibilities. Can you drop that chandelier on the target? Is it possible to disguise yourself as a waiter and poison their drink? If all else fails, what are the odds you can store a cache of weapons in just the right spot and use them to blast your way to the exit? Whereas even some of the best stealth games of all time rely on avoiding danger, Hitman is more about flirting with danger in such a way that it never even realizes you were the operative until you’ve sidestepped it.
It’s that philosophy that makes IO the dream team for a James Bond game. 007 has never really been great at by the books spy work, but he excels at finding creative ways to think on his feet. He remains cool under pressure. Whereas other spies may see a civilian on the arm of their target, Bond sees someone who is a glass of Dom Pérignon and a taste of Beluga caviar away from becoming a double agent.
We’ve played Bond games that have let us be nearly every version of James Bond except the James Bond who dynamically decides what he is going to be based on what the scenario calls for him to be and, perhaps, his own imaginative whims. Through their work on the Hitman franchise, IO has proven that’s exactly the kind of game they can deliver. At the very least, they’re the studio best equipped to let us recreate Bond moments such as this one using just the mechanics of the Hitman titles:
We don’t know exactly what Project 007 is, but for the first time in years, I’m excited about what a James Bond game can be.