Ian Fleming’s James Bond returns in Project 007, a newfangled iteration of the iconic British spy. James Bond games have disappeared into abyss since the ill-conceived 007 Legends lodged a bullet into the franchise’s gaming potential. But with Hitman creators IO Interactive taking the reigns over from Activision, there is a chance to explore a side of James Bond rarely seen on the big screen and never seen before in his gaming forays.
Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007 gave audiences a look into James Bond’s past, not just how he earned his license to kill. The critically acclaimed Skyfall delved into Bond’s heritage, unearthing deep seeded trauma from his childhood, which led him on his path to Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Derived from the home of his youth, Skyfall was the Bond family home, falling into James’s possession after his parents died in a mountain climbing accident. Combined with the divisive familial ties that Spectre delved into, all of these elements merge together to form an integral part of Bond’s psyche.
In comparison to past James Bond actors, Craig offers a considerably vulnerable version of the character – and we need to see this approach reflected in Project 007. Yes, James Bond games have been expected to provide popcorn action with nonsense espionage fodder narratives, but the games need to evolve just like Bond’s cinematic adventures. IO Interactive specifies that Project 007 is an origin story, which will see “players will step into the shoes of the world’s favourite secret agent to earn their 00 status in the very first James Bond origin story.”
What sticks out here is that this version of 007 doesn’t possess his license to kill yet, which opens him up to exponentially exciting narrative beats. Ian Fleming’s works have been reinterpreted to varying degrees of success by different authors such as Sebastian Faulks, John Gardner, William Boyd, and Charlie Higson. It is Higson’s works that I believe should serve as an influence for Bond’s backstory here. Let’s get to know more about Bond’s upbringing. Higson uses keystrokes from Fleming’s writing to excellent effect, exploring Bond’s brief education at Eton in novels like Silverfin and Bloodfever. Later novels like By Royal Command see the stirrings of his spy career begin to gain traction.
IO Interactive can dissect Bond’s ascension to the character we all know and love, which would deliver a thoroughly dense version of Bond as opposed to the perhaps more generic archetype that we’ve come to expect of him. Games like Goldeneye 007 nail the adventurism of the franchise, and while the James Bond series is pure escapism, we’ve all seen a fair share of problematic flirtations with femme fatales, dated humour and two-dimensional villains across various movies.
Contrariwise, the Hitman games have seen IO Interactive craft new depths to Agent 47’s lore, especially with games such as Hitman 2 Silent Assassin and 2016’s Hitman soft reboot acting as important milestones in that regard. Silent Assassin reveals a compassionate, emotional quality to Agent 47 – a trait lore-wise that his creators sought to eliminate scientifically. The 2016 entry mirrors Bond’s acceptance into Mi6, though Agent 47’s ghost-like existence raises eyebrows within the International Contract Agency.
However, the format of Project 007, which is yet to be determined, will decide how effectively IO Interactive’s depiction of Bond is perceived. While we can speculate that a sandbox approach akin to Hitman will be implemented, it is entirely possible that Project 007 could lean into the far more conventional storytelling seen in Hitman Absolution – albeit to hopefully much better effect. The thought of an inexperienced 007 roaming around exotic sandbox biomes is a glorious prospect, especially as the experience could complement our own journey to understand this deadly new world.
There will undoubtedly be a new audience arriving on the scene too, as Daniel Craig’s outings as James Bond brought a level of cultural significance to the character, arguably only equalled by original actor Sean Connery. That isn’t to say the other actors aren’t as iconic, because I unabashedly adore movies like The World Is Not Enough and A View To A Kill, but recency bias could factor in for younger players joining in on the fun.
If IO Interactive is dead set on giving us “the very first James Bond origin story”, then let’s get bold and run with it. It is time we got to know more just Omega watches and incredible Aston Martin cars. Here’s a chance to do what legendary producer duo Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, and Daniel Craig did with Casino Royale back in 2006. Reinvent James Bond for a whole new generation.