The history of James Bond and video games is quite the story of hits and misses. Most of us remember Goldeneye as one of the best Nintendo 64 games to arrive on the console, while it’s hard to find a big fan of 2012’s 007 Legends. So, given a chance to write up a Cypher 007 review, a new Bond game exclusive on Apple Arcade from developer Tilting Point, I was looking forward to finding out where it falls on the double-oh-spectrum.
This is one of those tricky reviews in which I can’t talk about the story too much without ruining the twists and turns that kick off just five minutes into the game. Still, I will say that this isn’t cookie-cutter Bond stuff, it’s actually quite a departure from the sort of thing I anticipated, and the game clearly benefits from that. It feels like a fresh Bond adventure, avoiding some of the overplayed tropes that previous big-budget 007 titles have shoe-horned into spy escapades with our old pal James.
The gameplay in Cypher 007 consists of much of what you might expect. You sneak through enemy areas, perform stealth attacks on unsuspecting henchmen, and generally try to avoid detection as you blast through short individual missions that slowly unfurl the overarching story. You can run and gun if you’re so inclined, but the game rewards you for taking the sneaky approach with weapon upgrades and a higher end-of-level score.
Admittedly, Bond does feel a little stiff to control. You can crouch and forward roll, which adds a little to 007’s movement, but walking regularly feels a little stilted with touch controls, and even in the mostly confined environments, I longed for a run button. It’s only occasionally you feel the need to sprint, but when you do, you really do, and it sometimes feels like Bond isn’t nearly as concerned as he should be with enemy agents breathing down his neck.
However, my real issue in terms of gameplay is with controlling James’ arsenal of weapons. It just doesn’t feel intuitive. I spent almost five minutes picking up and dropping a rocket launcher before I realized how to use the thing as intended. Then, when I finally got the hang of aiming and shooting, albeit with a less powerful stun gun type thing, it still didn’t feel quite right. More often than not, I’d opt to perform a stealth takedown or just allow James to let his fists do the talking to avoid using a weapon. It’s not ideal, but it doesn’t detract massively from the overall experience.
One of the more impressive areas of this Bond adventure is the environment design. There’s a real intricacy and detail, from the smoke that fills the room at the end of the tutorial level to the flickering fire in James’ bedroom. Cypher 007 uses light particularly well, gently guiding you in the direction you’re supposed to go, even if you’re not looking at the mini-map in the top corner. There are also some recognizable locations from real life, such as the London Underground, which are a solid bit of fun to adventure through as you sneak up on enemies and put them to sleep like a big glass of warm milk.
Sticking with the game’s design, the in-game UI is slick and suits the wider aesthetic of the game. It feels like a spy adventure, from the typography of the in-game menus to the greyscale silhouettes of individual weapons and actions. Aesthetically, you can’t ask for a more authentic Bond experience. Even James himself looks as suave as you would expect him to be, and this artistic direction is sure to appease Bond fans looking for a new 007 experience to bide the time until the next feature film installment.
There’s also a surprising depth to this game, considering it’s arriving on Apple Arcade as essentially a free-to-play title. From some of the secret costumes and weapons that call back to some of Bond’s most famous cinematic outings, to in-level Easter eggs and dialogue that shows a real awareness of the series from the developer, it feels like this is a 007 game made by 007 fans, and even if I’m not a massive Bond-man myself, I can appreciate that.
In saying that, Cypher 007 is so heavy in Bond lore that you can sometimes feel like you’re missing out if you don’t truly appreciate the series. It could perhaps do with a little more hand-holding for those of us who haven’t kept up with the series religiously, though I do appreciate it’s a delicate tightrope to walk when there is an army of 007 fans out there who need no reminding who Trevelyan.
Overall, Cypher 007 is a true-to-Bond title that fans of the series, and stealth games in general, are pretty likely to engage with. I do have a couple of issues with controlling the main man himself, but the fact that I usually opt for straight-up confrontation over sneaking through the dimly lit corridors and underground areas in these types of games may magnify that issue for me personally.
To return to my original point, Cypher 007 parachutes safely into the top half of the Bond games pantheon. It takes what works best from some of the better games from the series and adds a touch of mobile gaming innovation, offering an experience that feels fresher than revisiting Goldeneye for the fourteenth time.
While James might be a little stiff on his Apple Arcade debut, the experience and design of this game provide some authentic 007 hijinks in a world that true fans of the series are sure to appreciate. Considering it’s free to play for Apple Arcade users, it’s worth trying out if you’re a fan of stealthy titles like Metal Gear Solid or Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.