The debate over which actor is the greatest James Bond is a mostly friendly one that will (and should) continue. After all, it's sad to think that there won't be a future James Bond who will compete against the likes of Connery, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig, and yes, Lazenby (a disrespected Bond if there ever was one) for that honor. It's a trend that will hopefully continue until new Bond films are released.
Typically, the debate over the best James Bond is limited to those films. When it comes to video games, nobody has done it better than Pierce Brosnan.
To Kill Licensed Games
Brosnan is the definitive video game Bond because of the sheer number of Bond games he has been featured in relative to his closest competitors, Moore and Dalton. Every other Bond actor is likely to be stuck at zero, one, or two video games that match their appearance.
Brosnan's Bond games benefited from the actor's specific role as the character. Not only were licensed games becoming more popular (and better) by the time Brosnan played Bond, but new Bond games became much rarer in the post-Brosnan era.
Brosnan's video game Bond legacy would be diluted in quantity and circumstances. After all, if Pierce Brosnan had only ever appeared in 1997's GoldenEye 007 for N64, there's no doubt that he would always hold a special place in gamer's hearts. That is the power of that revolutionary console first-person shooter that has surpassed all expectations.
Elements of GoldenEye 007 may have been equally popular without the Bond license, but there was something special about it being a Bond game. Everyone else got to enjoy a truly fantastic game that was subsequently amplified by its association with an extremely popular (and fairly recent) blockbuster.
Brosnan's Bond games aren't just adaptations of Brosnan's real Bond adventures, they're also a crucial part of his Bond tenure.
Only for Gamers' Eyes
Tomorrow Never Dies, released in 1999, wasn't quite the GoldenEye 007 substitute that PS1 users hoped for. What it was, though, was a solid third-person spy shooter suitable for the Syphon Filter crowd. 2000's The World is Not Enough also fell short of GoldenEye's high FPS standard, but it gave PS1 gamers a much-needed notable entry into the genre.
Even Brosnan's Bond games were not immune from a few bucks in 2000's 007 Racing. From there, Brosnan's Bond game legacy became somewhat more complicated and fascinating.
Agent Under Fire was initially planned as a next-gen adaptation of The World Is Not Enough. However, delays in the development led EA to turn it into a standalone game with an original narrative. While Brosnan and other Bond cast members did not appear in the game, there's little doubt that Agent Under Fire's in-game Bond was intended to resemble Brosnan as closely as possible.
Agent Under Fire's FPS gameplay did nothing to replicate GoldenEye's impact, but the game was a breakthrough in its own way. Rather than attempting to enact established film scenes in full swing, the team was able to construct unique missions that reflected James Bond's personality.
The feather in their cap (or the olive in their martini) was the clever placement of special "Bond Moves" in each level, which allowed experimental players to complete optional tasks that made them feel like Bond. In a truly inspired piece of game design, completing those Bond Moves activated a small portion of that classic Bond theme that punctuated the moment like only it can.
If that sounds simple...well, it is. However, the entire Bond concept has always possessed a subtle pleasure that bordered on guilty pleasure. For as good as previous Bond games were, they couldn't quite match the thrill of using one of Q's gadgets at the perfect time, wiping out an incoming squadron of soldiers, and hearing a few key beats of that iconic theme.
What does this have to do with Brosnan? Well, James Bond 007: Nightfire was not just a spiritual follow-up to Agent Under Fire, it was also the first Bond game to feature an original narrative and a Bond actor's appearance (that award would go to 1992's Dalton-led James Bond 007: The Duel), but it was the first Bond game that felt like it was a Bond film at its own time.
Nightfire was a crucial turning point in Brosnan's career as the definitive gaming Bond. Previous notable Bond games may have been based on Brosnan Bond films, but this was a Brosnan Bond adventure that belonged to gamers. The fact that the game was actually quite enjoyable only strengthened a generation of gamers' bond to Brosnan.
Everything or Nothing, a 2004 James Bond 007 film, reflected an original Bond story. This time, however, Brosnan lent his voice to the game, as well as appropriately cast newcomers Willem Dafoe, Heidi Klum, and Shannon Elizabeth.
Everything or Nothing will always be my ultimate Bond gaming experience. The third-person gameplay has aged much better than earlier first-person games, and the soundtrack is unparalleled among Bond games. (How did Willem Dafoe never appear as a Bond villain in the movies? ), and the game even includes a banger of an original Bond song performed by Mya.
The most remarkable aspect of Everything or Nothing may be the fact that Brosnan was the last original Bond story to appear on the big screen. It may seem like relegation for the actor that brought Bond to a new life, but I've always seen it as more of a testament to the ways in which Brosnan was uniquely qualified to be the game's greatest James Bond.
The Man With The Golden Controller
The only thing more intense than the best Bond actor is the debate over the best Bond film. On many occasions, we've shared our opinions on that topic. However, Brosnan's films tend to fall somewhere between the middle and the bottom of such lists.
It's a curious legacy for an actor who started off his Bond career with such a huge success. It's a curious legacy for someone who was long thought to be quite the right person to play James Bond. What should have been a dream run of Bond movies was ruined by a general lack of creative vision, a vexing desire to keep up with certain trends, and perhaps even a lack of comprehension of what Brosnan brought to the table.
Brosnan's Bond games were not necessarily superior to the movies, but rather that they often felt like a more natural fit for Brosnan's Bond era. During the early days of 3D graphics, sharp edges were practically a requirement when attempting to recreate things that looked remotely human. His distinctive voice carried a lot of weight at a time when video game voiceovers were rare and often limited to a small amount of dialogue.
Even Brosnan's Bond movies felt more at home in an era of gaming that often demanded as many absurd set pieces from its source materials/inspirations in order to justify a campaign. Many have pointed out that Brosnan's Bond films suffered from some poor CGI (even for their time), but it must be noted that some of those rough CGI film sequences often inspired fantastic video game levels.
The bond age defined by that aforementioned promise that a new generation of gaming would finally allow you to fully experience what it was like to be Bond. What better avatar for that sensation than the guy who sometimes felt like he was created in a lab to be James Bond?
Post-Brosnan games such as From Russia With Love, which was led by Craig, offered compelling arguments that Bond games died (relatively speaking) sooner than they should have. Unfortunately, declining sales and declining critical reception have pushed us into a prolonged Bond game drought that Hitman developer IO Interactive is hoping to end with Project 007. It's hard to imagine that the original Bond they will need to create for that title will ever surpass Brosnan in the minds of many gamers.
Some say your favorite Bond is the one you grew up with. As a Connery/Dalton fan, I'd have to disagree with that assertion at least somewhat. Yet, I know there is some truth in Pierce Brosnan and those incredible games I grew up with that allowed me to explore his adventures, new adventures, and, in some cases, the adventures of a character I'd always wanted to see in a truly fantastic game.
Brosnan was a Bond who had the distinct honor of assisting the franchise's legacy and his own legacy through experiences that seemed to be more suitable for our split-screen CRT TVs than the largest screen possible. Bond often relies on a collection of gadgets, but Brosnan was the only Bond who used the N64, Playstation, and Xbox to reach a new generation of fans in ways that no Bond before could and will never do.