007 in San Diego: Inside Blood Stone and GoldenEye
Written by: Dave Pinto & Chris Wright
CommanderBond.net recently sent two of its best field agents on an assignment in San Diego, California to investigate the two upcoming Bond video games produced by Activision. When they weren’t utilizing the open bar or sampling the fancy hors d’oeuvres, they were interviewing members of the creative team behind Activision’s highly anticipated holiday releases, GoldenEye 007 and Blood Stone. Here is their report.
James Bond may have been absent from the Activision booth during the four-day-long San Diego Comic-Con (22-25 July) but he was certainly not forgotten. On Wednesday evening (21 July), CommanderBond.net had the opportunity to attend an exclusive hands-on preview event in San Diego, California hosted by Activision. Despite featuring Stan Lee as the event’s special guest, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was not the night’s focal point. Instead, Stingaree, the posh Bond-esque nightclub at which the event was held was adorned with GoldenEye 007 and Blood Stone imagery. While James Bond’s return to the silver screen may be in limbo, the event reassured us that Daniel Craig’s 007 is alive and well. Many online news outlets were invited to this event but we were there exclusively for the two Bond titles and therefore the details outlined in this report are intended to be more thorough than any other report you may find online.
First off, we would like to say how thoroughly impressed we are with Activision’s handling of the Bond franchise. After talking with several members of the creative team involved in the production of these games, it became quite clear that all of them are truly passionate about giving fans quality James Bond video games. This passion is evident in the fact that they have been working very closely with cast and crew from the film series to ensure that the games have a cinematic feel to them. By now it’s no secret that veteran Bond film and video game scribe, Bruce Feirstein, has penned both GoldenEye 007 and Blood Stone. Both feature the voice and likeness of Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench. GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo Wii and DS also features Rory Kinnear reprising his role as Chief of Staff Bill Tanner (we’re not sure if he also did voice work for Blood Stone). Blood Stone sees Joss Stone doubling as both the Bond girl (a wealthy socialite named Nicole Hunter) and the game’s title song singer (“I’ll Take It All”). Other Bond crewmembers involved in the games include composer David Arnold (GoldenEye 007 only), Daniel Craig’s stunt double, Ben Cooke, as the games’ stunt coordinator, and Lindsay Pugh, a costume supervisor that worked on the film, Quantum of Solace. Because Activision is trying to capture the essence and tone of the Daniel Craig era, Q will be absent from both games as will the presence of his trademark gadgets. By the looks of this impressive cast and crew, it appears that Activision is determined to make these two video game experiences as cinematic in quality as possible, which is fantastic news considering the current opaque state of the Bond 23 production.
As you’re probably aware, rights issues have prevented a remake of the Nintendo 64 version of GoldenEye 007 for many years since various parties (Nintendo, Rareware/Microsoft, Activision, and EON Productions/Danjaq) would have had to be involved. When asked how these issues were resolved, Senior Producer Brian Pass explained to us that the upcoming GoldenEye 007 is not a remake of the Nintendo game but an adaptation of the 1995 film, GoldenEye, for which Activision currently has the license. When asked why they chose to re-imagine a game based on a fifteen year-old film, the producer answered that GoldenEye 007 is by far the most recognizable first-person shooter of all time, evident by countless focus groups which all but unanimously concluded that the game was their favorite. “GoldenEye hit that moment when video games and movies collided,” said Brand Manager Eric Spielman. However, the game’s namesake isn’t a guaranteed goldmine. The 2004 Electronic Arts-produced GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, which bore little to no similarity to the Nintendo 64 original was largely rejected by fans and widely considered a cheap attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the GoldenEye brand. Senior Producer Brian Pass told us that the game’s creative team was aware of the potential stigma associated with the GoldenEye name post-Rogue Agent and assured us that the new game will not be “gimmicky” in the slightest.
We can confirm that Quantum, the mysterious criminal organization featured in both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace will NOT be appearing in this year’s GoldenEye re-imagining. However, Lead Designer Brendan McLeod of n-Space, the company responsible for the game’s Nintendo DS incarnation, assured us that the GoldenEye storyline has been updated to the Daniel Craig era’s 21st century setting, showing how the world has progressed during the fifteen year interim since the release of the 1995 film. The game’s display menus all feature design cues based on MK12’s computer/cell phone graphics and M’s revolutionary “Smart Wall” introduced in Quantum of Solace. In-game mission briefings, narrated by Bill Tanner, display enemy dossiers on the “Smart Wall.” In the Nintendo 64 version, players could access the main menu and complete tasks via Bond’s wristwatch. In Activision’s version, the antiquated wristwatch will be replaced with Bond’s sleek and modern smartphone, which can be used to take critical reconnaissance photos during missions and to perform other important functions.
Although the pre-title sequence of the original film occurred in 1986, the entirety of this new game will take place in the present day. Since the only Bond-related voice talents brought on for this game are Craig, Dench, and Kinnear, the supporting cast of characters from GoldenEye (including Alec Trevelyan, Natalya Simonova, Xenia Onatopp, General Ourumov and even Valentin Zukovsky) have all been re-imagined both visually as well as with regard to their roles in the story. For instance, 006 now looks more like Carter from the pre-title sequence in Casino Royale than Sean Bean. Some hardcore fans of the film may be put off by these slight differences in appearance and role, but just remember that James Bond looked nothing like Pierce Brosnan in the Nintendo 64 original!
Much of the gameplay throughout the game’s pre-title sequence/first level finds Bond and 006 negotiating their way from a Russian base while under heavy gunfire amidst a torrential storm, a moody new touch. The climax of the sequence has Bond at the precipice of the dam where we first see him in the film, this time surrounded by a detachment of gun-wielding Russian soldiers. Thinking fast, Bond unstraps his parachute pack and deploys it toward the Russians thus causing a distraction that allows him to escape into the murky abyss at the base of the dam. The demo ends there so it is unclear how Bond survives the freefall without a parachute (Moonraker, anyone?). We were told that the bungee sequence from the original film was eschewed because it was more or less a product of its time when bungee jumping was still a popular sport. The restructured pre-title sequence called for a more swift and practical stunt, which will segue into a brand new main title sequence, although everyone was tight-lipped when asked if Tina Turner will return or whether there will be an entirely new song for the game.
Once the opening presentation (which included trailers for the two Bond titles as well as three other forthcoming Activision titles) concluded, we were allowed to walk around and interact with the demos playing on various television monitors throughout the nightclub. The Blood Stone demo featured most of the cut scenes during the pre-title sequence. Set in Athens, Greece, we first see M discussing a man named Greco (the pre-title sequence’s villain, not the game’s main villain) with a Greek general. She claims he’s an international arms dealer hell-bent on disrupting a G-20 Summit by murdering world leaders whereas the general claims Greco is a man of good intentions. In a moment reminiscent of the pre-titles sequence to 1987’s The Living Daylights, Bond parachutes onto Greco’s yacht to foil his plans before they are put into motion. What ensues is a non-stop, wall-to-wall action sequence that follows Bond from air, to sea and finally, to land. A split-second glimpse of the scene immediately following the main title sequence showed what appeared to be an envoy from the G-20 Summit clad in sexy lingerie and writhing in delight after what was certainly an unforgettable roll in bed with 007.
In conclusion, GoldenEye 007 and Blood Stone are “fully loaded,” as Q would say. We had a blast getting a sneak peak at these two new video games and we hope that you found this report enjoyable. We were told that Daniel Craig enjoys doing these games and that recently while in the studio recording voice work, he mentioned that these products are important because they are essentially the Bond film for this year. When asked whether Activision has any plans to adapt any other past Bond films into video games, Senior Producer Brian Pass told us to stay tuned because the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series is right around the corner in 2012…
We would like to thank Activision very much for the invitation to this exclusive hands-on preview event as well as the GoldenEye 007 and Blood Stone creative teams for taking the time to show us the games and answer our questions.