I know exactly what you're thinking from the headline. What is this guy on about!? I know, I know, but bear with me here. Having revisited the James Bond films over the past month in anticipation of No Time To Die, I can't help but think of Dishonored. I've spent weeks trying to articulate my thoughts on it all, which hasn't at all been helped by the launch of Deathloop, but I stand firm on my point - the Dishonored games are basically James Bond adventures in disguise.
So where do these comparisons lay? It's more than both simply being franchises based around stealth. I will warn you now, I will be digging into plot specifics of the Dishonored series, as well as the Daniel Craig set of James Bond films outside of No Time To Die, so you've been warned - spoilers ahead.
Still with me? Okay, let's tumble down the rabbit hole.
After rewatching Skyfall and experiencing the heartache of M's death and later seeing Bond fulfil her final wishes in the subsequent Spectre, Dishonored sprung into my mind. In the first game, you play as Corvo Attano, the bodyguard of the Empress. In the early moments, the Empress is killed, her daughter kidnapped and you're framed for it all. Cue the motivation and begin the similarities. Throughout Skyfall, seeing M and Bond's relationship as her temporary bodyguard in the film's later moments led my imagination to run wild with how Corvo's and the Empress' may have been before the events of the game. Add in the motivation to continue with the mission due to the bond they shared, it was hard for my mind to not start drawing references.
However, the plot is just the icing on the cake. The real meat of how Dishonored is a James Bond-esque title lies in its gameplay. Early on you're taken to the Hound Pits Pub, which is essentially MI5. Here you grab your gadgets, accept contracts and uncover the conspiracy relating to the settings nefarious leader Dunwall. What transpires is picking off member by member, as if they were a part of the villainous James Bond organisation Spectre. If the High Overseer and other targets were antagonists such as Casino Royale's Le Chiffre or Skyfall's Raoul Silva, then the Lord Regent would be Spectre's Blofeld.
Sure, many other games have run with conspiracies and had you dismantling entire governments, but there's something about Dishonored's layout that just strikes a chord with me. From the MI5 feeling of Hound Pits Pub to the villainous characters, it's all complemented with superb stealth that begs you to gain intel and take out your target as if you were the international man of mystery himself. I'm not saying I'm right, but Arkane Studios has built upon some of those inspirations in Deathloop, so it's hard to dismiss there's nothing there at all.
The first game even features a scene where you're betrayed and poisoned, harkening back to Casino Royale's now-infamous scene where Bond must revive himself. Unfortunately, it's not quite as epic of a comeback in Dishonored as when Bond does it, but it still cast my mind to the scene in question. Even an early mission where you visit High Overseer Campbell's abode has the striking resemblance of a villainous lair that wouldn't feel out of place in a Sean Connery or Roger Moore film, complete with its stark red carpet and drapes, backed against moody blacks to show that this baddie is really, really naughty.
If we're going to dig into a few levels that feel like Bond, then Lady Boyle's Last Party from the first game is a definite standout. In Hitman style fashion, you'll mingle with the party and gain intel on your target, while also learning more about the world at large. With its grand decor and larger-than-life party members, it makes me feel like Bond is on a mission, stalking his prey before cleanly and efficiently taking them out. Even if you don't manage to do it as conspicuously as you may hope, the all guns blazing approach still feels in line with Bond as you mercilessly take down guards upon guards, not feeling out of place in one of the franchises recent set-pieces such as the exhilarating Madagascar chase sequence in Casino Royale.
Other stand-out levels include the House of Pleasure and Dishonored 2's Clockwork Mansion, which is so ridiculous in its intricate design as it transforms around you, that I could just imagine Goldfinger appearing from behind a painting, strapping my character to a table, before firing a laser beam at his delicate area. The key fact is while it's perhaps not as in your face as you may expect, there are some core elements embedded into the series' DNA that it's hard not to draw some comparisons.
I think my main takeaway from all of this is that I would love to see Arkane Studios handle the James Bond franchise. While I'm confident IO Interactive will do a superb job with their upcoming title, Arkane has perfectly demonstrated it can handle the action set-pieces along with the slower stealth-based moments almost perfectly. IO has done a fantastic job with Hitman, but I'm not so sure it'll nail the all-guns-blazing moments that Bond often finds himself in.
If you come out of No Time To Die this weekend itching for some more Bond, maybe jump into the Dishonored series on Xbox Game Pass. I'm not as confident the second game will manage to replicate the magic, but I'm sure the first entry will pose some similarities you'll see with the idea in mind. The best thing about Dishonored is how you can play it any way you like, and much like Bond, you'll be forced to improvise often. With the gadgets, intrigue, stealth and plot points, you may just find a James Bond game that you never knew was a James Bond game.
Do you have any games that remind you of James Bond? Let us know in the comments below.