I used to be fascinated with James Bond in my teenage years and would play pretty much every game of the famous spy I could get my hands on. It’s a period of my life I wanted to look back on, but as is tradition for this site, I wanted to see how far I could truly go back. I had no intention of playing the text adventure games and The Living Daylights was just not going to work, so today I am reviewing License to Kill for the Commodore 64.
The Wild Goose Chase
License to Kill covers the story of the movie, but cuts out much of the beginning and context to immediately skip to the later action sequences. James Bond is chasing down the drugs baron Sanchez in order to avenge his friend’s wife. The game is cut up into 5 action sequences, starting with a helicopter chase, then a shoot-out on the ground, and even a swimming section where you dodge boats and try to hit an airplane with a harpoon before it takes off.
The scenes themselves all feel unique, with different objectives to them and approaches to take. However, the game isn’t too good at communicating these objectives to you. The level just starts and assumes you’ll figure it out. Both level 1 & 2 simply have you reach the end of a stage, but level 3 is kind of terrible. You are in a helicopter and have to lower Bond unto a biplane flying underneath, so he can grab the tail and cause it to fall. There are no obstacles, no hints, just a tiny animation and sound-effect when you are in the right position.
Levels 1, 2, and 5 work well as straight-up action sequences with novel twists. Especially level 2 makes for a fun, top-down shooter where left & right angles the gun, allowing you to line up a shot before stepping into the enemy line-of-sight. Level 3 is incredibly short when you figure out the positioning and level 4 would be fun if it weren’t for the unreasonably large hitboxes. Level 4 was so unclear that I was never quite sure if the loading screen would send me to the next stage or if a last-minute obstacle killed me before it actually appeared on screen.
The game is actually quite short if you know what to do, but enemies are plenty and very aggressive. Trying to complete an objective is made difficult due to all the bullets flying around, as well as physical obstacles that can spell instant game-over if you crash into them. You have limited lives, limited time, and limited bullets, all of which can go quickly on your first few attempts at any stage. Fortunately, you do have a healthbar, so not every hit will instantly spell your doom.
As a tie-in game to a big movie franchise, License to Kill offers some solid action and lots of diversity. It’s not the most refined and it has a few cheap obstacles in there, but the better top-down shooter games on the ol’ C64 don’t generally let you pilot biplanes and helicopters, so I give it a passing grade.
Gameplay score: 7.3/10
Timothy Dalton has never looked better
The visuals of License to Kill are pretty good. The levels do loop quite obviously, but every sprite is very recognizable and clear, and they even went the extra mile of giving obstacles like boats and goons different colors to diversify them a bit. Each level also has some exclusive elements to it, even if levels 2 and 4 recycle a fair bit from the stages before them.
The game’s title screen features a neat adaptation of the famous James Bond theme and also mimics the animation, but it has to be said that the rest of the sound-design and even the visuals, don’t really feel much likes James Bond. As you may have noticed from the screenshots, it does kind of look like any generic action game.
Presentation score: 7.5/10
I don’t usually play around with the Commodore much, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that License to Kill is not just a fine action game, but a good tie-in title as well. Its visuals are nice and it takes you through several, interesting setpieces that all feature fun mechanics and unique challenges. It’s not a must play by any means, yet anybody looking into C64 action titles should consider it.