While Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 is likely the first title to pop to mind when someone brings up James Bond video games, it’s far from the first game to make use of the license. And while A View to a Kill doesn’t hold this distinction either (that goes to the more simply-named James Bond 007 on the Atari 2600), it does hold the title for earliest home computer version of a Bond adventure. Starting on June 7th, 1985 ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 owners in the UK could don the tuxedo of Ian Flemming’s infamous secret agent for the first time. And surprisingly enough, for a licensed title it’s not that bad.
A View to a Kill opens with the familiar film clip of a gun barrel tracking Bond’s movement across the screen until the agent draws his weapon, pivots, and picks off the would-be sniper causing blood to drip down the screen. A voice sample which sounds like a man gargling with salt water and razor blades in the midst of a tornado then declares, “My name’s Bond. James Bond.” Hey, in 1985 on a computer cassette, this was cutting edge–give us some slack. We didn’t know any better.
The nefarious Max Zorin has set up explosives in an abandoned mining complex beneath Silicon Valley. In a scheme obviously cribbed from some notes Lex Luthor left behind after the first Superman film, Zorin’s plan is to detonate the bombs which will activate the San Andreas fault and cause most of western California to slide into the ocean. This will not only kill millions of innocent people, but also bring the tech sector of the 1980s to its knees in the process. Guess who gets to sort this mess out?
Domark’s adaptation goes straight for the three major action set pieces of the film and ignores all the extraneous humping and exposition on the assumption that you’ve seen the movie and can fill in the blanks for yourself. The first scene takes place in Paris: assassin May Day (played by Grace Jones in the film) has just murdered your informant and parachuted off the Eiffel Tower to escape. Bond commandeers a taxi and speeds through the Paris streets, dodging roadblocks and police cars in his efforts to apprehend her.
Scene two finds you in San Francisco’s City Hall, where Zorin has turned the tables and trapped you and your blonde bombshell companion Stacey in the burning building. Bond must explore City Hall, acquire the parts he’ll need for his upcoming mission, and rescue Stacey from the lift where she is trapped. Better hope your skills at hunt-and-find are top of the line, as there are over seventy rooms in City Hall, and that fire isn’t getting any smaller.
Should you manage to snatch victory in this scenario, your final task involves convincing May Day that she’s playing for the wrong side, then navigating the maze-like mines to locate the tools you need to defuse the bomb. Which is counting down its fifteen minute time limit as we speak, so there’s really no time to waste here, James.
A View to a Kill won’t keep you on the edge of your seat, but it will drive perfectionists crazy as the only way to see the game’s real ending is to perform throughout the three scenes as well as Bond himself does in the movie. This means an awful lot of practice, especially with the first scene which is extremely difficult to pass without getting into at least one major accident. All told though, the game’s honest attempt to recreate the pace of the film’s major action sequences is much appreciated. They even licensed Duran Duran’s performance from the film’s title credits (you can toggle between it, the classic Bond theme, or no music at all during play). If only all licensed titles went this route instead of the designers thinking they knew better than the source material…
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