Saturday, 31 October 2015

A little bit of light Bondage for the weekend, Sir?

With the recent release of Spectre in the cinema’s, I thought it time to have a bit of a retrospection on the more recent James Bond videogames, more specifically, the Daniel Craig era of electronic entertainment. So, taking a weekend, I loaded up each of the four games in turn to remind myself of what Bond games could be capable in the previous generation.

An aside: There is the traditional view that most, if not all, games of films are bad, if not terrible or worse. Yet it was the N64 hit Goldeneye 007 that proved that a film could be adapted into a good, nay fantastic (at the time) game. And despite some hiccups along the way (Tomorrow Never Dies and 007 Racing), the standard has never really dropped too low since then.

After the Brosnan years that coincided with the original X-Box and PS2, it was all change in the world of licensed Bond games as Daniel Craig took over the acting duties, and EA relinquished the licence to Activision. What follows is a look at four Bond games released between 2008 and 2013, from three separate studios, each to varying degrees of success. And for reasons that will become clear later, I shall start at the end and work my way chronologically backwards.

So, first up, 007 Legends. Released in 2012, just prior to the film Skyfall, this must have looked like a cracking idea on paper. Using Skyfall as the framework, drop Daniel Craig in previous bond adventures, grab a few of the actual actors for the voicework and “Boosh!”, sales gold. Well, no, not quite. Where to begin… The game isn’t terrible, so there is that. It is, however, deeply mediocre, with generic enemies, really iffy driving/skiing sections, and what I consider to be the worst packaging decision in recent memory. The didn’t include the last level. Yup, boldly proclaiming that you can play missions based on Goldfinger (Call of Duty bank raid), Moonraker (dodgy stealth sections ahoy!), Die Another Day (Meh!), Licence to Kill (scary Benicio Del Torro face present and correct) and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (horrible, horrible skiing section), the game also includes the option to download the final mission based on Skyfall. Except that is no longer available on X-Box Live, so you can’t play it. At all. Ever again. Okay, so I picked up the game for a couple of quid but the fact that they released the game before the film meant that to avoid spoilers, the couldn’t have the last level included. What a silly idea. For the game, I would have expected more from Eurocom, the game’s developer, but they closed shortly after the release of the game. This pattern is repeated further down the list. Overall, a disappointment but a time filler if you’re bored.

Next up, Goldeneye Reloaded 007. Released in 2011, developed by the aforementioned Eurocom, this was a next gen update of the Wii title released in 2010, and it’s not half bad, with great presentation and a genuinely decent first person shooting experience. You get the impression that they threw everything they could at this. The voice acting is some of the best of the four games, and the revised story brings the concept of Goldeneye smack bang into the 21st century. Even the slightly dodgy re-vamp of the Tina Turner theme kind of hits the right notes. Although it does try to hang of the nostalgia of the original Goldeneye 007, Reloaded is well worth a play through.
Then we have Bloodstone. Well, you can see what they were trying to do. Developed by one of my favourite developers of all time, Bizarre Creations (their track record of Metropolis Street Racer, the Project Gotham Racing series, the frankly superb Fur Fighters and The Club, they had good form), Bloodstone has all the ingredients of a great Bond game. With an established Bond writer providing the story, a reasonable theme song by Joss Stone and the film series voice cast, my hopes were high when I first played the game. Ok, it’s a third person shooter, and shares a great deal with The Club, but that is no bad thing. It does fall down, however, in a few key areas. Firstly, the driving sections are loose and at times grossly unfair, unless you memorise the path from previous attempts. Secondly, although Joss Stone isn’t a bad singer, her voice acting in the game is flat and far too plummy. In fact, it’s annoying. And then there is the ending, a cliffhanger waiting for a reveal that never came. Bloodstone didn’t sell that well and Bizarre Creations closed it’s doors shortly after release. It’s almost as if there is a Bond curse for studios developing games for Activision to release. Overall though, I wanted to like this game and despite its shortcomings, it is also worth a go.

Finally, we have Quantum of Solace. Now to be honest, they kind of cheated here. Although the only one of the games named after a Bond film, it actually uses QoS to bookend Casino Royale. Having said that, Treyarch (they are CoD fame), fashioned a really good Bond game that mirrors the artistic design from the aforementioned films and have also created a fun shooter. Ok, it’s effectively a CoD re-skin (using the original Modern Warfare engine) with a few stealth sections, but it’s well done and it is my favourite of the four. The shooting is more refined than any of the other games, despite the fact that some of the weapons have suspiciously bouncy recoil, and even the quick time events don’t feel too tacked on. Whilst the other three will probably get a trip to CEX in the near future, QoS will be staying in the collection for some time to come.

So there we have it, a (very brief) tour of the Craig era games, a collection of which may never be expanded, depending on if he reprises the role and if anyone thinks they can make money from a Bond licensed game. It must be said that whilst QoS did reasonably well at retail, the others were less well received, (QoS: 2.61 million across X360/PS3, Bloodstone 1.15 million, Goldeneye Reloaded 1.18 million and 007 Legends 0.6 million - all figures from ) and having seen the demise of two studios, it may be too much to ask for another Bond game soon.

Oh, and for some strange reason, none of the studio’s managed to get Craig’s likeness just right. Honestly, it’s varying degrees of Simian for all of them. Just saying.

I am now off to get ready for an all-day wargame with the TWATS, with good beer, good food and good conversation. Oh, and maybe playing a game...

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Why do that Voodoo that you do...

During a recent evening of drinks with friends, the subject of hobbies came up. This sparked not a little leg pulling about yours truly's past times. So, to expand a little on the first post, I thought it would be a good time to explain why I have the hobbies I do.

Firstly, video games. This is an easy one. They're games, so present a mental challenge. Then there is the story telling aspect, from the modern day military gung ho of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (but the less said about MW 2's hodge podge the better - that may be a future post), to the frankly brilliant Uncharted series (Among Thieves the pinnacle of the series so far - roll on March 2016!!!). That's basically that for video gaming. There is some crossover with the military history interest, especially the time sink that is Harpoon.

Military history. Hmmm, that one started off as "Look at the shiny jets and big guns", and to be honest, my preferred period remains post 1945. I have the start of a decent modern day micro armour collection that time and space conspire to prevent me from expanding. However, there is a fondness for Victorian military history, where "with one final leap, our heroes were free" type of daring do, whilst kind of stereotypical, adds a certain panache to the period.

This brings me to wargaming. Now, you may think that it is a combination of the above hobbies, and you may be right, although it is not as clear cut as you may think.

Firstly, I do not subscribe to what seems to be the current vogue of "It's the game, innit". If I wanted to play a dice rolling game with small counters and a resource management system, I would play Monopoly. Dice rolling per se is pretty boring. Nope, the gaming side of wargaming is about representing what actually happened, with as near as dammit accurate orders of battle, tactics, strategy and outcomes. This is important. The current popularity of boutique games - the best example of the style was a two by two foot boardgame of the Western Front seen at the recent Derby World Wargames show, which struck me a both pointless and a tad tasteless - doesn't capture the period or historical fact. Similarly, army lists are not something I really have time for. I re-call reading a set of army lists (another topic to be covered in depth later) that couldn't give 2 Para their correct OOB at Goose Green. By sticking to that list, we are pretty much completely in games territory. Some people like that, but it's not for me.

Secondly, it's about the people you partake in the gaming with. The TWATS is a small scale club that meets semi-regularly in a local pub where beer is drunk, beef butties are eaten and occasionally, just occasionally, a game is played. These are umpire ran, rule sets can be amended as per the umpire's twisted mind, and good fun is had. That makes it a social event as well as part of the hobby. And that does for me.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

An Introduction

Well, after months of threatening to do so, here I am. My own blog. So in time honoured fashion (and to follow the format of every stereotypical blog), the first post will be an introduction.

Firstly, the handle. Andrew the Tekkie. A name I have been referred to in another blog (, it seemed apt as it's a name and mixes references to me, a technically minded guy and a Star Trek fan (more on that in a future post). So it fits.

Secondly, the name of the blog. It has the name of the little ex-mining village I spent my formative (and not so formative) years in, and it is a lovely little place I still visit weekly despite having moved away from it several months ago. It also follows the very childish naming convention that will become clear below.

Thirdly, the purpose of the blog. Well, think of it as a diary, where I shall vent forth opinions and thoughts on topics as diverse as video gaming, wargaming (as a member of the Tantobie Wargaming And Tactical Society - that naming convention I mentioned), history, modern defence policy and a general mix of whatever else takes my fancy. As always, it shall be said that the opinions stated are my own, that no offence is intended but what you think is rightly up to you, and I welcome feedback, comment and good old fashioned discussion.

The first post proper will be up n a couple of days, so here we go...