Developer: Eurocom / Publisher: Activision / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Teen [Blood, Drug Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence]
I’ve always contested that James Bond lost his way when Daniel Craig took over the part. They’re good actions movies – on the most part – but they’re not Bond movies. Suave sophistication, mature charm and enjoyably cheesy wit have been replaced with Craig’s Donkey Kong-like brute strength, and shoot-first-think-later mentality. It’s Rambo with a nice car.
I can enjoy that, but I miss old Bond.
007 Legends may revisit Bond movies of old, but it certainly does nothing to revive his traditional sophistication. Quite the opposite, it takes the all-action approach of the new movies to heart and presents you with a run-and-gun shooter with even less intelligence. It’s Donkey Kong’s brain-dead cousin in a nice suit.
The premise is simple, you like Bond movies right? Well why have a game based on just one of his movies when you can have one on six of them: Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Die Another Day, License to Kill, and Moonraker (and the Skyfall level, oddly releasing as free DLC in November) – all mashed together into one bundle of Bond-ness?
Sounds interesting, but there’s a slight hitch: Daniel Craig is ‘Bond’ throughout the game, instantly destroying any chance of a faithful recreation of those old favorites. It’s all modernized too, so not only is 1964 Sean Connery absent, but new Bond is equipped with a smartphone full of lovely spy-related apps. Fans will find this an awkward combination, it’s like Romeo and Juliet retold with their love unfolding on Facebook.
Also, how do you feature six movies in one campaign? You slice small chunks of each one and slap them all together, of course. But as a result, the game’s plot comes across like an unwieldy mish-mash of unconnected, incoherent segments. Almost nothing ties one scene to another, and the lack of depth also translates to a lack of clarity; many scenes will make little sense to anyone but long-time Bond fans (a gold-plated dead girl on a bed? What?).
007 Legends starts off fairly enjoyable. It appeals to your average gamers’ most basic of needs: it slaps a gun in your hands and sets you loose in facilities full of bad guys to fill with holes. Its inspiration is clear, Call of Duty is the king of the FPS castle right now and this game does little to disguise its mimicry.
You pull the gun up to aim with one trigger and shoot with the other. It’s got the temporary spring and the jolting melee. It even ‘borrows’ from CoD’s multiplayer perk system for its campaign, serving up XP as you kill people and complete mini challenges related to accuracy, which can be exchanged for minor improvements to reload or aim speeds, health charge rates as well as upgrades and attachments. Without CoD’s big-budget bravado, however, 007 Legends’ comparatively flat shooting action amounts to little more than an average run-and-gun romp.
It attempts to excel itself with ‘spy’-like sections that have you using a combination of Bond’s snazzy smartphone and laser-firing watch to track down fingerprints on keypads and secret doors, following electric lines and hacking terminals. Do it once though and you’ve seen it all, it’s simply a repetitive grind.
There are stealth sections too. These are the parts where you actually try to be Bond, and not Rambo, thinking your way through a set piece instead of bombing in blazing an AK-47.
Here’s the thing, I found it near impossible to stay hidden despite my love of the stealth genre and my OCD-like commitment to doing ‘stealth’ sections… stealthily. Guards handily face their backs to you in some cases, but in many others they see you from angles you never expect and instantly summon an army to take you out. Funnily enough, it’s actually far quicker and easier to just ignore stealth and blast away. The soldiers are fairly dim and with rapidly recharging health, Bond is like a Doom-boss bullet-sponge.
This is a Bond game, so you allow yourself to accept a certain level of nonsense: head honchos who insist on killing Bond in convoluted ways rather than simply putting a bullet through his head, a four-foot man with deadly strength and a hat that cuts through concrete, a watch that can shoot lasers and emit an EMP blast powerful enough to wipe out an entire military base, a woman named Pussy Galore, etc. This is all absolutely fine in the Bond world.
And yet even in this state of bonkers-friendly open-mindedness, this game still finds a way to have you frowning at its questionable mechanics. Like how one guard spots you and instantly the entire base knows your pin-point location regardless of unseen movements. And how a sniper takes ages to line up a shot, but a soldier with an RPG can put one square in your face from miles away. Then there’s how a man can take three to the chest and run off like it was nothing, but snowmobiles and helicopters spontaneously combust when seemingly grazed with a single shot. Bond is ‘Her Majesty’s Finest’ but is completely incapable of moving a dead body.
It’s not a complete travesty, but it’s clearly lacking polish.
Outside of the convoluted campaign, you’ve got a Challenge mode that sets you compact tasks – Call of Duty Spec-Ops style – comprised mostly of sections swiped from the campaign. They’re a temporary excursion but not particularly compelling.
The multiplayer mode is one of the game’s redeeming features, if only because it unashamedly attempts to rekindle some of the love we all have for that legendary classic, GoldenEye, with some reminiscent features and options.
Among the playable characters are iconic faces with their own special powers, such as Odd Job’s one-hit-kill projectile hat, and Jaws’ bullet-blocking teeth. You can of course play online (although I had hard time finding populated matches) but the real nostalgia is in the four-player split-screen play. There are even gameplay modifiers such as paintball mode and others that will remind you of the Nintendo 64 glory days.
The maps provide decent levels of chaos with enough players to populate them, and although they don’t seem as well designed as a more established series like Halo, they do a decent enough job of hosting frantic shoot-outs.
007 Legends isn’t completely terrible; Bond fans could even enjoy it. But for every step forwards it takes two steps back.
Visually, it looks pretty good in places but the world is distinctly lacking in believable physics – books, computers and cups are as impervious as the tables they’re sitting on. The shooting action is solid enough, but a negligible perk system and lack of all-round polish fail to lift it above the run-of-the-mill shooter. It tries its hand at Call of Duty-style cutscene set pieces but never reaches the same level of Hollywood class, and without warning throws in button-mashing quick-time events that the game would be better off without.
It’s got several classic Bond moments, but any love you have of the old films is tainted by the fact that it’s the wrong Bond.
The lack of a coherent plot is also a shame. Iconic Bond villains are rolled out seemingly only to utter a few quotes that’ll make fans say “ooh, I remember that bit,” before failing to kill Bond in a ridiculous way and resorting to fisticuffs in a frankly poor and unfortunately reoccurring ‘boxing’ mechanic. At least the multiplayer’s enjoyable, with some nostalgic nods to the heydays of N64 GoldenEye, but don’t count on there being a thriving online community to keep it running (and there are no bots either).
Bond lost his way when Rare lost the license and Daniel Craig took over in the movies. You can revive him, but not with this game. Do it properly. Break out the N64.
+ Passable shooting and decent multiplayer
- Convoluted, incoherent campaign
- Some poorly-designed mechanics, lacks polish
6 / 10