The recent disappearance of the 007 titles from Steam and Activision’s online store has made me wax poetic in a way about games with the 007 license. The film series has always been one of the more fun ones around and the evolution of them over the years has really been something to marvel at. Of course, when it comes to games it hasn’t always been that way, but there was a bit of an anomaly in the way of N64’s GoldenEye. GoldenEye really did something on a console that no shooter had been able to successfully do before and that game has lived on in the hearts and minds of gamers for years after the fact, even if you try to play it now it plays like a giant mess.
This was one of the rare cases when a game with a major license actually turned out to be a quality product and did not disappoint fans. There has been a lot of talk about the concept of “cash grabs” lately, especially involving War Z, a hastily-put-together zombie survival title that many are snickering at for being a cash grab due to the success of the ArmA II mod, Day Z. If you look back at licensed titles in gaming history, it really is a dark and sad part of gaming history that has yet to disappear yet. When a major motion picture is coming out in the summer, you know that some major publisher has acquired the rights to publish a game about it and that they are cracking the whip to deliver it, even if the title is completely awful.
The truth is, that stuff will sell no matter what. You put something cool on the cover and have a game that is loosely-involved with a film that is raking in millions at the box office and people will probably buy it. Sadly, the 007 series has fallen off big time, even when there have been promises to return to that “GoldenEye-style of gameplay” it will usually fall flat on its face because gamers remember the memories they had with GoldenEye and how it was unrivaled on the market at the time, when shooters being released now have to rival with every other major shooter franchise, ones that are probably a whole lot better and have more time spent developing it.
Not all hope is lost for licensed games, though, as we saw in 2012 when Telltale released the pretty awesome adaptation of The Walking Dead. Sure, there is an AMC series of the same name, but it was a comic first and Telltale’s game follows the comic more than it does the television series and the game has lived up to the praise that the comic has received, which is rare.
I think that the big takeaway from this is that not all licensed games are doomed to be horrible, but the reality is that most will probably not be very good. When a game can come out and utilize a license properly, though, that is a beautiful thing and we need more of that.