I have a confession to make. I don’t know anything about Bond. I’ve seen one Bond movie (Thunderball, dubbed in French which I’m not really that good at so in fact that counts for only half a movie) and I have read one of Ian Fleming’s books (Goldfinger). So don’t ask me to provide you with much background on Bond.
First of all, on starting the game, there is music. Godawful PC speaker bleeping. I think it is designed to sound like a James Bond theme but I couldn’t hear anything in it. To my joy, however, I found I could control the playback speed (and thus the pitch) by throttling DOSBox’ speed. The result, well…
I call it “Postmodern Bond Theme in absolutely no key”. Honestly, I have no idea at what tempo it should play. I searched for the License To Kill theme on YouTube but it sounds nothing like this. Oh well.
Right, on to the game. 007: License To Kill was released by Domark in 1989 alongside the movie with the same name. The game puts you in a few different scenes that I suppose come from the movie. To avoid spoilers I’ll just describe what happens and perhaps you can fill in the details about the plot for yourself, this way everyone can be happy. Okay, actually I have absolutely no idea on the backstory of the movie, but the spoiler explanation sounds better.
In a first scene, you fly in a helicopter giving chase to a car. Bad guys are shooting at you and you can shoot back or just avoid them. You also better stay above the road, because every tiny insignificant tree is able to make your helicopter explode in a fiery explosion without as much as moving. At first I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but apparently if you fly faster, you also fly lower, which makes every little shrubbery a deadly trap. Better take it slow, thus. When you have followed the road to the end, Bond jump out and the next level starts.
This next level is really the most interesting of the game. Here, you have to walk around and shoot the evil henchmen. You can aim your pistol independently from your moving direction, so you can finish off the baddies with a run from cover – shoot – hide into cover pattern. Also interesting is that the level contains explosive barrels that explode when you shoot them enough, taking out nearby enemies. To my slight disappointment, there are no chain reaction of exploding barrels though. Still, this level tickles both the strategic and the action bones and is quite fun to play.
From there on it gets a bit more boring. In the next level Bond is dangling on a rope attached to a helicopter, and he has to catch on to a plane that keeps avoiding you. The level after that puts you in the water. You can kill other divers to steal their harpoons, you have to avoid being mangled by speedboats and perforated by bullets, and to finish the level you have to shoot the tail of a plane you manage to catch up with every now and then (I’m sure it makes sense in the movie). After that you have to catch up with the plane while basically waterskiing behind it, avoiding rocks while you get closer to the plane. In the last level you capture a truck and go all Carmageddon on other trucks and squishy rocket-shooting cars.
And by pushing all those trucks off the road, you suddenly have destroyed a drug empire. An evil one even. One playthrough takes roughly 10 minutes and you might have to restart a few times but I got it on my fourth try. Once you beat it, I see no reason to come back. Well, you can increase your score, but I think gamers have matured a bit beyond that. I approve of the second stage but the rest is not really worth your time. Then again, you have to spend not much time at it, so might just as well play it through entirely. It kept me amused while it lasted and it’s not like you have to pay retail price these days. 6 out of 10.