Cypher 007 - Player Preview
29th September 2023
MI6 got hands on the new 007 game available on Apple Arcade today
By MI6 Staff
‘Cypher 007’ is the newest James Bond game available today on Apple platforms. Earlier this week, MI6 received a preview play test of the stealth top-down adventure.
Mobile gaming is a medium to which developers have historically struggled to convert the highly cinematic EON property. So the stakes were high for Tilting Point, developers of the new offering. Indeed, the last largely forgettable ‘James Bond: World of Espionage’ survived little over a year between 2015 and 2016, before the developer switched off the servers. But, thanks to the publishing model for Apple Arcade (a subscription service from Apple granting access to a range of games that run on iPad, iPhone and Apple TV and Mac), where this new game premieres, ‘Cypher 007’ will be unlikely to have that issue. On this mission, Tilting Point were reportedly supported by EON’s own Gregg Wilson, who’s credited as an associate producer, and drew on the talents of the EON art department, including Neal Callow.
The first half of the story is largely told via earwig interactions between Bond, Moneypenny, and Q. We meet Bond in medias res, sneaking into a SPECTRE hideout in the alps. From there the player is taught to navigate through the world via a ‘digital d-pad’ with the left hand, and via an increasing array of action buttons under the right fingers. The game encourages a stealthy approach to getting around, and rewards points for the number of adversaries left unmolested, fewer points for silent takedowns and the fewest points for face-on confrontation. Still there comes a time when players are forced to ‘shoot’ their victims, who drop to the ground with three zeds/zees next to them before quietly fading away.
Eventually the stealthy approach in the alps fails, Bond is discovered, confronted by Blofeld and then… darkness. Bond wakes up in his apartment with Alec Trevelyan — in the short hands-on time, it didn’t become clear why 006 was chosen for this mission – banging down the door and threatening to apprehend Bond, who MI6 believes has betrayed it. Play continues through the basement of Bond’s apartment, where Q has stashed some gadgets, and onward into the Tube. Players navigate the underground system in low-lit levels, evoking elements of both 'Skyfall' and 'SPECTRE'. From there, players access MI6 headquarters via the detention area, familiar from Skyfall, and move onward into the offices of MI6 to rendezvous with Moneypenny.
But all is not as it seems. It turns out Bond is not actually in MI6 headquarters, but currently undergoing brainwashing at the hands of SPECTRE to turn him into the ultimate double agent. The second part of the game requires Bond and players to relive some of his classic missions, starting with 'You Only Live Twice', to fight off the brainwashing and regain his autonomy. At this point, it’s almost a shock to be out of the confined office cubicle, beige/grey world of the various preceeding basement/underground/office complex levels and into the vibrants of Japan.
As players progress through the game they unlock additional, largely pacifist gadgets like the Q-ball, that distracts villains away from an area for Bond to sneak through undetected; a tripwire hidden in a cufflink; or glasses that reveal a goon’s power and health, or the hidden location of ‘intelligence’ nearby. Collecting intelligence allows a player to upgrade the gadgets and guns. Guns are equally pacifist, firing ‘barbed’ bullets ‘to deliver an electrifying charge’. Despite this, sometimes the most effective way to dispatch with a goon is to simply start punching them.
While the world design is very much ‘from the makers of Skyfall and SPECTRE’, the character design mixes and matches a little - blending the likenesses of the actors, with a more comic strip look. M is still a woman (although not recognisably Judi Dench), Q and Moneypenny vaguely resemble Desmond Llewelyn and Naomie Harris, respectively, leaving us wondering where this fits in the timeline, if at all. Bond himself is certainly not Daniel Craig or Hoagy Carmichael, and perhaps most resembles a lean Sir Roger Moore. The graphics that help players, as Bond, make tactical decisions are nicely designed, detailed and rich. There are some nice affordances, for instance graphics showing the radiation of sound as Bond dashes too quickly past a goon. Or, each time players engage an adversary with the fists, that sound radiates out and could attract unwanted attention. If no action is taken for a second or two, Bond can be seen straightening his tie or adjusting his cuffs – a charming touch.
We did notice some quirks. One seems to come from being a rich mobile game without physical controls: when we played (on a 10.9” iPad), a mis-tap could be the difference between a silent takedown and Bond taking a barrel roll into the vision of a goon with a gun. Checkpoints are frequent, making it easy to keep the momentum and satify casual gamers, if you are unlucky enough to take damage and 'die'. However, on one occasion we respawned in a totally different location right in front of a goon and had to fight it out from the get go. Sometimes it may even be tactical to 'die'. In our experience, Bond respawns with full health, yet the goons you took down in the first attempt are all MIA, and the ones you partially damaged return with that partial damage taken. Of course, there are two other harder gameplay modes we have not tried, where this may not be true.
Overall though, the aesthetic is polished and exactly what we would expect from an official video game with creative links to the filmmakers and their recent films, the gameplay is accessible and solid – satisfying for a rainy afternoon on the couch – and the excuse to reimagine Bond locations as levels in this stealth format is welcome.