lauantai 1. joulukuuta 2012

REVIEW - 007: Licence to Kill | PC | 1989

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: April 20, 1989

Licence to Kill was the 16th canonical Bond film, the second and last one to star Timothy Dalton as a dark, serious counterpart to Roger Moore's loose and light-hearted 007. The quality of Dalton's short stint as 007 has been a subject of debate to this day, but Licence to Kill is still recognized as an outstanding film that broke the usual mold of the film series a little. Licence to Kill the home computer game really didn't go on to break any molds. It's a faintly entertaining arcade-style action game, though, and after my recent plunge into the depths of text adventures, it's definitely a refreshing change. Bad controls and all.

Licence to stay alive, revoked

Franz Sanchez, a drug lord captured by James Bond and his best friend Felix Leiter, escapes from custody by bribing Leiter's fellow DEA agent and arranges an ambush. Leiter is critically wounded and his wife is killed. M suspends Bond due to his emotional investment in the case, which only feeds his hunger for revenge.

M gives 007 a random mission to carry out. 007 meets a good girl, and gets laid. Then a second girl gets involved, a bad one. 007 might get laid again. 007 shoots bad guy, then gets laid for the second/third time, and the no-life hacks back at MI6 have to settle with jerking off. The end. This was the synopsis for just about every Bond flick from the 60's to the mid-80's - of course it varied just enough every time to not be confused with the last one. After Licence to Kill, the Bond series returned to this basic formula, but what's important to note is that Licence to Kill WAS different, and although I never really appreciated Timothy Dalton's brief time as 007, in script alone Licence to Kill is one of my favourite Bond films, and a standout action movie in general.

Seriously. Some shadowing beyond large buildings
would be nice. We can see those just fine.
As per usual, shifting my attention from the film to the licensed game ain't no comfortable feat. Licence to Kill. Let's look at the facts, first. It was released at a time LJN "flourished" on the console market with their licensed "classics" such as Friday the 13th, The Karate Kid and A Nightmare on Elm Street - all of which were several years late, to go with their natural tendency to suck sacks. One reason possibly being that home computer games weren't taken that seriously, and of course the fact that home computers were more common average household items than consoles, licensed games were very common for home computers. No matter what the games were like - they made money, and they were well-advertised in well-chosen mediums. Domark, founded by Dominic Wheatley and Mark Strachan in 1984 - and later merged with Eidos Technologies to form Eidos Interactive - was a "fairly respected" publisher, who ironically had made another game based on the Friday the 13th movies in 1985. That game was not received any better than LJN's NES title. They had a couple of 007 games under their belts by 1989; the side-scrolling action game The Living Daylights and Live and Let Die, which was an odd variation of boat racing (actually the first Bond game I ever played, on my friend's Commodore 64... yeah!!).

The Living Daylights was made by Sculptured Software, Live and Let Die was designed by Elite Systems, and Licence to Kill was designed by Domark's own development team, dubbed Quixel, which meant this was going to be yet another different game. What it turned out was an arcade-style action game with a constant top-down view, but with different gameplay modes: shooting shit up while controlling a chopper in the vein of the soon-to-be-super-successful Strike series (well, not quite!), shooting shit up while on waterskis (!), shooting shit up while flying a Cessna (can't come up with anything clever), and shooting shit up while on the ground as James Bond in the vein of Ikari Warriors (I'm just buffing better games here, I admit it). The result beyond the end result: a madly, truly, deeply frustrating game, but actually one with some semblance of decent arcade action. I thought I'd absolutely loathe it, but I don't. At least it changes some in each level. The controls and the graphics remain loathsome, though.

Where's Waldo? - The 007 Edition.
For once, I find the visual output of the game very important to mention. It's horrible, and not just in a "oh dear Lord, it's ugly" kind of way, but the game is much more difficult than it should be, based on its visual output alone. Everything looks so flat that while you're flying a chopper, it's extremely hard to make out what kills you and what doesn't - yeah, one collision equals death, even if it's by a quarter of a pixel - and when you're on the ground, you might get stuck running against a wall you can't properly see without squinting, or putting a few (too many) bullets in it. You have five points of health, just a few lives to spare, and limited ammo, which you simply cannot collect if you run all out of it (the invisible wall is a piece of shit, but it doesn't deserve your bullets). It's either a breakaway through the enemy hordes to the goal (worth a shot), or ultimate death, which - not so surprisingly - places you back to the beginning of the first level. Luckily there are only five of them levels altogether. ...The music? Well, don't expect to hear the James Bond theme, or any variation of Gladys Knight's "Licence to Kill", or any of the late Michael Kamen's stuff. All you get is an annoying title tune that doesn't remind me of much of anything, much less anything related to the franchise, and the usual, steady "POP-POP-POP" sound effects of an old DOS shooter.

You know, I started to talk about the graphics and sound, and ended up explaining the whole variety of downs to the game already, so I see no reason to not wrap this up right now. Get a controller working for this one in DOSBox (assuming you don't have a functional old home computer with an old-school joystick, that's the best choice) and you might beat the game if you're determined enough to bear its bullshit; the game is impossible to play using the keyboard, as the flight controls are oversensitive. You'll hit a wall or tree seconds into the first level, and aiming your gun on the ground is extremely hard due to the 360 degree aim. Licence to Kill might be a soddy game, but it's a notable improvement over the Bond games I reviewed prior. It's enter-frustrating retro arcade for those who appreciate it, a bundle of bad mixing.

+ Arcade meets old school DOS; take it or leave it
+ Each level has a different theme

- Flat visual output meets a top-down view; take it or leave it...
- Doesn't really connect with the 007 franchise; which is the same as some critics would say about the movie, those bastards
- Sensitive controls, one-hit kills... not a good mix

< 5.9 >

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