Ultimately what sets 007 Legends apart… wait, that’s not right. You see how annoying it is to start something out of order? Welcome to the world of 007 Legends, a game released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, but may do more damage than Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The game brings together 5 “classic” James Bond movies including Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, License to Kill and Die Another Day. Skyfall will be a part of the package, but more on that later. For the most hardcore Bond fans, two of those films aren’t what many would consider “classic” but all could be forgiven if they were incorporated into the game properly.
What clever device did the game come up with to tie all these movies together anyhow? Nothing. Honestly, they don’t even attempt to explain why you are going through these films at all. I thought they were attempting it with the pre-Goldfinger sequence, but that is quickly dropped in-between other missions. I’m not asking for an elaborate set-up that proves the multiple Bond theory or something, but anything to tie together missions would have been nice.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the game does a terrible job of setting up the individual movie missions. Goldfinger attempts to condense the entire movie into a single mission while jettisoning most the plot and butchering key exchanges. Even worse, the game assumes the audience actively remembers these films. As a giant Bond fan, i’ve been re-watching the films for its 50th celebration so fresh in my mind, but for the average person? I really doubt it.
The rest of the collection is just as bad, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starts during a key scene between Bond and Tracey. License to Kill kind of retro-fits the climax of the film, Die Another Day attempts to do what Goldfinger does and Moonraker is basically an extended climax. None of these offer any greater context than what is presented in your mission. It expects you to be cool with the settings and the throwbacks even though it doesn’t give you anything. Even including the original movie trailers would have been a nice bone.
While we are on the quality of its recreation, it should be pointed out that most actors don’t reprise their roles. The most shocking though is every film features Daniel Craig as James Bond, which isn’t so bad since he is the current actor, but they couldn’t even get him to voice the character! Not only is it not Craig, but the voice actor sounds like he phones in the few lines he does speak. Most of the rest of the cast are imitators as well, who really hurt key scenes for me. The two that stand out most is the iconic exchange between Bond and Goldfinger in Goldfinger, and the tender exchange between Bond and Tracey from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
It was nice to see some old hands return to their roles including Richard Kiel as Jaws (who we all know was big on the chatter), Judi Dench as M, Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier (Bond girl from License to Kill) and Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax (from Moonraker). They all seem to have fun returning to these old roles, and it was nice that they all loaned their likeness to the film.
On the subject of likeness, not all characters carry over from their films. Most notable is both Felix Leiter and Jinx (from Die Another Day). Felix is a bit of an oddball situation though since he has been portrayed by 6 or 7 different actors by now. I can understand just playing it safe and going with someone else, but Jinx was in a single movie and played by Halle Berry. I can understand why getting Halle’s likeness may not have been cost efficient, but I don’t understand why Jinx went from an African American female to a Caucasian one. It seems like an unnecessary change.
The music is a bright spot in the presentation. Mostly using remixed versions of the mission’s movie theme it works out well for the most part. They really kick it up during key moments throughout the game. The title song is just a remixed version of Goldfinger’s theme, but it makes great visual use of all of the movies included in the package.
Boy that’s a lot of words on how this game fails at fan-service, which at the end of the day, was the game’s ultimate goal, but how does it actually play? Is there a solid shooter hidden beneath all the dropped balls in presentation?
The answer is a resounding maybe! Strip away the Bond license and you are left with a very safe and very generic shooter. If you have played any Call of Duty or games of its irk, you have a firm basis of what to expect from 007 Legends. The major difference, at least in my experience, is this game’s aiming mechanics are a lot more considerate to the player. Granted, you can turn off the “snap” ability, but it is still very generous in lining up shoots for you.
To add some level of depth, or the illusion of it at least, the game also features an “upgrade system” of sorts. As Bond goes through the levels completing his objectives, some side missions and random tasks and challenges, he acquires XP. You use this XP at certain MI6 weapon caches to upgrade Bond and his tools of the trade. You can upgrade weapons with various gear such as silencer, larger clips and scopes. These only carry over to weapons in which you actually equip them to. So even if you buy an upgrade for an Assault rifle, randomly picking one up won’t give you the grenade launcher attachment you bought. Aside from that, you are able to buy stuff for Bond as well. These include more health, faster reload times, better quick scoping abilities and several others. I found most of these kind of pointless, but I guess they help out a little bit. The game isn’t challenging enough to really warrant the need for any of them!
Aside from the shooting mechanics, stealth plays a part in this game. Unlike Goldeneye (Reloaded if you bought the HD versions) where I felt stealth was encouraged, this game kind of forces it on you without really being well-designed for it. For instance, the game equips your watch with a radar system which allows you to get a read for enemy placement in the environment, but as far as I could tell it doesn’t actually tell you vital information. You know basic stuff like which direction the enemy is facing and what is their general range of vision. Sometimes enemies would spot me from across the room while other times I could literally walk to a dude from his peripheral vision and he wouldn’t see me until I engaged. It isn’t fun, and it isn’t engaging here.
To make matter worse, there are “Critical Stealth Segments” throughout the game which are portions of the level where you must not be detected or you fail the mission. Now these type of missions tend to be a pain in the ass in general, but again the game doesn’t give you the tools to deal with these situations. Say you use a tranq dart to knock out an unsuspecting guard. Then what? For some reason, the game didn’t think to give you the ability to hide the bodies or anything so you’re stuck having to try and navigate these sections before other people discover the body or something.
Making matters even worse, at least for me, is the game has some of the worst load times I’ve seen this generation. Sometimes taking upwards of 30 seconds to get you back into the action. It makes failing these mandatory stealth sections all the more frustrating.
Oh, but it isn’t just the stealth sections that suffer from this either. The game REALLY wanted to highlight Bond’s ability at hand to hand combat. It carries over his takedown abilities from Goldeneye, which works well even if it’s kind of cheap that a single hit KO. It also helps that he doesn’t take damage during these long animations so you can run up to a room full of goons and take them out like this most of the time. That isn’t the problem since it’s a minor portion of the game, the problem comes in the hand to hand boss battles that the game loves to use. On paper, the idea of Bond going mano e mano with the likes of Jaws and Oddjob and Sanchez sounds exciting on paper, but what they managed to do is something else entirely.
The game goes into a closed combat scenario with the foe facing Bond arms ready to attack. Bond for whatever reason is disarmed, and you have to punch with the right and left analog stick. Now, the problem here is the game SHOWS you every single prompt you have to make. There’s no strategy involved here and most of these fights can be done in like 10-15 seconds, and they are repeated throughout the ENTIRE game! The game mixes it up from time to time either giving the enemy a weapon, which means Bond simply has to block once before knocking it out of their hand, or giving Bond a weapon, which offers no strategy other than hitting your opponent randomly. These segments should have been cut. They aren’t fun. They don’t differ, and they add nothing to the experience.
The game attempts to mix up the formula from time to time with varying degrees of success. The first is a downhill skiing section in the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service mission, which I imagine is one of the reasons they picked the film in the first place. Now, I think the idea of a skiing section sounds great on paper, and given time and polish, this could have been a ton of fun. But due to a combination of unclear directions (I even watched a friend play to similar frustrations) and long load times in-between re-tries it just tests a person’s patience.
Now the other attempts at this shows true promise, and makes me wish that the developers had focused more on a single movie than trying to squeeze 5 different ones in. In the License to Kill mission, there is a segment near the end when you are chasing down Sanchez’s tanker in your truck and you are dodging missile and other vehicles and it’s fun but over too quickly. Next up was Die Another Day, and much like I predicted when the game was announced, there’s a fun chase sequence on the ice which makes for a fun and challenging mission. But it also does a lot more clever stuff like the start of the mission focusing on Bond gathering intel like snapping pictures of key players in Graves’ organization to send back to MI 6.
Finally, and perhaps most promising of all the missions, was Moonraker. The mission adds a lot of cool little touches to the game including the introduction of a space-based weapon and some nifty 0G sections. It was a fun little diversion, and honestly made me hope for a full on Moonraker game. Trust me, as a Bond fan, that is a VERY tall order.
Moonraker also serves as the final mission in the game… for now… as I mentioned earlier Skyfall is supposed to bookend the game, but the movie isn’t out yet. So instead of risking spoiling the movie for anyone, the developers have decided to hold out on the content until after the movie is out. I will give them this much, at least it is free. What that means for the current product though is it lacks a true conclusion. Like not even a to be continued or a cliffhanger as much as I would have hated those options it would have been something. The game just kind of ends and sends you back to the main menu. That’s it!
Ultimately where 007 Legends fails is being fanservice. As a celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary, it does nothing for fans who could probably forgive the lackluster presentation and fairly generic shooting mechanics, but it does nothing special. There are other ways to countdown to Skyfall in just a few weeks. And if you really want to play a Bond game, there is the far superior Goldeneye game from the same company. I do hope that developers go back to the drawing board with the next Bond title.