Goldeneye 64 is a classic. It’s a game that deserves a remake. It’s one you can’t go back to, yet nostalgia would drive many back to it. It’s easy to be cynical about Activision’s remake, especially since it’s so clearly made from the same template as Call of Duty, but developer Eurocom made an impressive effort to createa game that’s referential, reverential, yet capable of standing on its own. While they got a lot right, the updated story succeeds because of one decision: the decision to update the character of Bond along with the rest of the story because in many ways Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond is the perfect FPS protagonist, and that’s not a good thing.
Craig’s Bond is a far grittier and more violent character than Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was. This violent trait fits with the Call of Duty-style shooter that Eurocom made. Like any given Call of Duty game, Goldeneye 007 has a lot of scripted action sequences with very little downtime in between. It’s an action game that never wants to slow down, again, like Call of Duty. This kind of breathless pace would feel forced with Brosnan’s Bond, a character that’s more subdued and thoughtful than Craig’s Bond, who is more reactionary and commonly shoots before thinking through the consequences. The result is a rare case of ludic harmony; the constant need to put the player in violent situations reinforces our perception of Bond as a violent and effective killer.
Craig’s Bond also doesn’t use gadgets. The original Goldeneye story involved a wrist watch with a laser and an exploding pen as major plot devices, but in this updated story, Bond only uses his smart phone and gun to solves problems: When he’s trapped in a train, he uses a watch laser to cut loose a hatch and his gun to shoot loose a hatch. When he has to plant a tracking device, map the face of a contact, or detonate some explosives, instead of using three different gadgets he just uses a smart phone. This limited but versatile inventory means the developer doesn’t have to introduce a new mechanic for each new problem Bond faces in Goldeneye 007. Plus, solving problems with a gun instead of a gadget only further strengthens our image of a gun crazy Bond.
But the most interesting result of the new direction for the character is his relative lack of sex. James Bond has always been known for his suave charm or, put more negatively, his womanizing ways. This attitude was present in Goldeneye. While Natalya was a capable and strong character, she was also just another “Bond Girl”, a love interest for a single movie, never to be mentioned again, and the movie even fails the Bechdel Test. Craig’s Bond is not as caviler about sex. Over the course of two movies he only sleeps with two women and falls madly in love with one of them. Craig’s Bond is always more focused on the mission, and this narrow mind set is intact in Goldeneye 007. For most of the game Natalya is captured by the bad guy, leaving Bond to fight alone. Only at the very end, after the mission is done and the bad guys are dead, is there any hint of flirting between them. Sex is not a part of his character, which is why he works so well as an FPS protagonist. For Craig’s Bond and indeed any FPS protagonist, violence always takes priority over sex.
Craig’s Bond is a mercilessly violent, nearly asexual secret agent. Replace the last two words of that description and you could describe any hero from any FPS game ever made. It’s sad that such a narrow, unimaginative character type typifies an entire genre. At least in the movies, we get an excuse for his violent behavior. He’s out for revenge against the secret society that killed his love. The hateful Bond that sprang from that anger is the perfect FPS hero, but given the obvious lack of thought given to most shooters, it raises the question that if Casino Royal had been a game instead of a movie, would Bond even have gotten that back story? Probably not, so while Craig’s Bond makes a great FPS hero, it’s sad to realize that everything that makes him so appropriate for the shooter genre stems from his characterization in another medium.