I Hope IO Interactive Can Actually Make James Bond Cool

Project 007

I have loved IO Interactive’s games for decades now. 2003’s Freedom Fighters was one of my favorite action titles from the PS2 era, and, although a hard pill to swallow for some, I found the Kane & Lynch titles to be fun, gritty experiences unto themselves. For most folks, though, IO Interactive might be best known for their long running Hitman series. Especially now — with the admittedly shaky release of Hitman 3 in January of 2021, they cemented a 21-year legacy for everyone’s favorite numerically named bald assassin.

So, when IO Interactive announced that they would hanging up their Silverballers and Fiber Wires to work on a new James Bond game (of all things), I think it left some people scratching their heads. To be fair, I do not think this is completely outside their wheelhouse — I mean, what is James Bond if not a cold, calculated, often curt, dapperly dressed psychopath at heart with an affinity for clever kills and even cleverer quips? However, this does give me pause, because I don’t think James Bond is nearly as cool or interesting as most people think he is.

Before you set ablaze my home or call for my public beheading, let me just say that I have seen every James Bond movie. Every single one. And I realize this is my own personal taste, but there are only a handful that I found watchable — and really, it’s only the Daniel Craig movies that I consider mostly rewatchable. Maybe it’s just me, but James Bond is a boring, boorish, problematic, partially inept goof. He’s far more Johnny English than super-sexy secret agent.

007: No Time to Die

His gadgets are idiotic and so ridiculously specific that they remove any sense of danger or any need for him to be clever. They’re as transparent as someone dropping a banana peel — first comes the gadget, then comes the scenario that it creates. And don’t even get me started on the long list of ridiculous set pieces and action-spectacle stunts that don’t at all resemble what I would call spycraft.

But I didn’t come here to poopoo all over the James Bond series (as I already mentioned, I do for the most part enjoy the Daniel Craig vehicles, despite the fact that I have a real hard time watching that man’s face). What I was trying to get at is that for a character that spans multiple, multiple decades, you pretty much know exactly what you are going to get with a new James Bond movie — I’d even argue that all a James Bond film can hope to be at this point is a list of recognizable tropes.

I mean, there’s a list of bullet points that must be included in any Bond film:

  • Bond orders a martini “shaken not stirred.”
  • Promiscuous sex which results in the women most likely eventually dying.
  • A cool foreign car.
  • A bunch of gadgets, running the gamut from practical to farcical.
  • A handful of fight scenes.
  • A good car chase or two.

If a Bond movie hits all these bullet points, people can leave the theater feeling like they got their money’s worth. It’s the action movie equivalent of going to see The Eagles — you know “Witchy Woman” and “Hotel California” are coming; the only surprises are when and in what order.

All that said, I have no doubt that IO Interactive will nail the espionage, world-building, level design, and even gadgetry. Simply grow a little bit of hair on Agent 47’s head and you pretty much already have a Bond template ready to roll. But I don’t think IO is the kind of studio to cut corners like that, nor would I want them to.

But it’s the moment-to-moment gameplay of their previous titles, most notably the Hitman games, that isn’t quite executed in a way I would expect from a James Bond game.

Hitman - GOTY outfits

I don’t think anyone would want to see James Bond hiding in a laundry bin waiting for the right moment to slip past a guard, or changing into a clown suit to gain access to a secured facility. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that I hope to goodness the level of trial and error intrinsic to the Hitman experience would not be incorporated into a James Bond game.

Now, I can’t imagine any of these would be the case, but looking at IO’s portfolio, and the frustratingly vague teaser for their Bond game, it’s hard to speculate what is on or off the table.

And this leads me to another concern: vehicles and car chases. I can’t recall an IO Interactive game that has any sort of behind-the-wheel vehicular action at all. And it’s hard for me to imagine that you’d leave the vehicular element out of a Bond game in this day and age.

There is also the troubling element that, aside from Freedom Fighters and to a lesser extent Kane & Lynch, IO hasn’t been known as a shooter-centric studio. Although most James Bond movies don’t encompass the level of violence that, say, an Uncharted game provides, Bond games don’t come without a massive helping of shooting and killing. Even the mostly decent From Russia With Love, game, based on a movie with maybe half a dozen deaths from gunshots, added a ton of the old shooty shooty bang bang.

Look, I know this has been a relatively bleak and negative diatribe up to this point. All that aside, I am legitimately interested to see what IO Interactive pulls off, and even more interested to play the final game myself, whatever that game might ultimately be.

I guess I’m just hoping that a consistently stellar development studio like IO Interactive is able to make this work to their advantage and deliver a home run. I hope this not only cements James Bond as a legitimately cool character, but also allows IO to branch out from just making new Hitman titles, perhaps giving them a huge revenue stream that will make possible another new IP down the road. If any development studio deserves as much, it is certainly IO Interactive.

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