From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random obscure games back into the light. This week, one of James Bond’s PC adventures. More or less his, anyway…
The name’s Glames. John Glames. At least, in Europe. It’s not too hard to spot the… ah… inspiration for Delphine’s hero in Operation Stealth, what with his tuxedo and face slightly squashed from being shoved into a photocopier. In the US, Interplay didn’t even bother. What was originally a mere Bond rip-off was handed the official license to kill, and became James Bond: The Stealth Affair. Both games are identical, aside from five minutes worth of cut-and-paste on the script to swap round a few names, but did the pretender turn out to have what it took to finally be the Bond game the world deserved?
You may be surprised! If you’re easily surprised by hearing the word ‘no’.
As often happens with big licenses, it’s hard to work out why James Bond games are usually so terrible. They are though, and while I’m told that Goldeneye on the N64 is an exception to that rule, five minutes with the torture device that Nintendo shipped as a controller for that thing was enough for me. The only more awkward Bond related thing I can imagine is the look on Tina Turner’s face at the Goldeneye premiere when she realised she’d sung a love song to an orbital EMP satellite. That is quite a specific fetish, lady, and that’s before we get to the bits about lace and leather.
(On the plus side, it’s still a slightly less ridiculous song than The World Is Not Enough So With This Oil Pipeline You’re Frankly Taking The Piss, or the way the singer of The Man With The Golden Gun seemed mindblown by the concept of an assassin for hire taking money to kill people.)
Operation Stealth at least manages to get vaguely close to being a ‘proper’ Bond adventure, simply by being interested enough to rip it off instead of handed the license and told to do something with it. It’s not a perfect 1:1 though, and The Stealth Affair barely bothers covering that up. In the original, John Glames is a CIA agent. In The Stealth Affair, Bond is on loan to the CIA from MI5—apparently part of a game of Espionage Pass The Parcel, since he actually works for MI6. Just to clarify, MI5 is internal security, with MI6 handling international stuff. Actually, even that’s not true. After what we have to assume was a lost bet, they’re actually called SIS, and you just know other agencies have a field day over that!
Which is the better game name? It’s tough, since they’re both pretty boring, so instead of picking a winner, I’ll call Operation Stealth the loser. Aside from being pretty tautological, there’s no mystery there. A stealth jet goes missing. John Glames is sent to find it. He probably will.
Conversely, James Bond: The Stealth Affair smacks of something that might be interesting. Personally, I was hoping it would be the long-awaited reveal that Bond and Moneypenny have in fact been having a steamy, rock-and-roll office romance all this time, and cleverly covering it up with a co-ordinated mix of teasing, innuendo, and at one point, a conveniently short marriage. It might seem a little one-sided, with Bond travelling the world and repeatedly banging supermodels, while Moneypenny has to endure being seen as the naive, overlooked office girl. In reality, that’s just to help cover the fact that she’s into stuff so sick that Bond considered actually letting Goldfinger laser his balls off that one time.
Anyway, it’s a theory. Not one that comes out in this game though.
That’s enough blathering about differences though. For the rest of this, we’re just going to look at The Stealth Affair on the grounds that even with both of the important licenses on his side, I keep expecting lawyers to swoop in and shoot “John Glames” in his rip-off face. Should you happen to… acquire … a copy of this game however, it’ll almost certainly be Operation Stealth instead. There are also a couple of different versions for EGA and VGA, but that’s not remotely interesting, so let’s just move on.
As The Stealth Affair is, if only by contractual marriage, an official James Bond game, it seems only fair to judge it as one. So, what should a Bond adventure feature? I’ve broken it down into the following categories: Guns, or at the very least fists, gadgets, witty back and forths, sexy adventures with ladies whose names are probably not the ones on their birth certificates, at least one toe-curlingly poor attempt at innuendo, and at least one villain worthy of Bond’s time. I’d add a cool music video intro to that, but it’s a little unfair to expect one of those in a game that first came out in 1990, when even the films can’t always be bothered. Looking at you, Quantum of Solace. Looking at you.
To cut a long story short, it fails at pretty much all of them. They couldn’t even be bothered to come up with an eye-rolling name for Bond’s technical love-interest, who’s just called “Julia Manigua”. Tsk. You may as well shoot a snuff film with rubber bullets. Standards, people! Standards!
Things doesn’t start out well. By lazily leaving the plot exactly the same, there’s no snark with M, no flirting with Moneypenny in advance of a long night with three kebab skewers and a greased up guinea pig, and no trip to Q Branch for toys. Instead, the CIA Director just puts on a quick slideshow, which includes a few pixels of naked lady as a hilarious joke that is hilarious, and the following dialogue.
“Hello, Mr. Bond.”
“Hello, Mr. Director. How can I be of service?”