Practically no one will deny that developer Rare got it right with GoldenEye 007 for N64. Since then, there have been myriad attempts at making a Bond game work, with no single game (including the GoldenEye remakes) living up to the original glory. If you’re wondering whether or not the most recent effort meets or exceeds the greatness of the N64 classic, wonder no longer; it does not.
Conceptually, 007 Legends works great, and its timing couldn’t be better. Released on the year of James Bond’s 50th birthday, 007 Legends looked to chronicle some of the superspy’s most critical missions in one game. See? You’re a little enticed. Alas, somewhere between its early design phase and its release, the newest title in the litany of Bond games took a nosedive.
The very first flaw I noticed in the game was that the horizontal camera movement was much more sensitive than the vertical movement. Normally, that’s not a big issue; just go into the settings and bump up the “Y sensitivity” a bit. In Legends, though, this is impossible, as there is only one sensitivity slider. This, of course, is not a huge issue, but in the modern era of gaming this is a throwback we could certainly do without.
Other minor issues include strange checkpoint locations (oftentimes before a period of non-playability), unnecessarily lengthy melee sequences, and unimpressive cutscenes.
The biggest problem with 007 Legends, though, is that we’ve seen it all before and, worse, it has been done better. It’s hard to play this game and avoid comparing it (negatively) to the dominant first-person shooters of this generation, especially the Call of Duty series. Even the first Modern Warfare looks and feels smoother than Legends, the polish of which makes it seem like a seventh-generation-console-launch release. Yes, it plays in HD, and some environments (the Biodome, for instance) look impressive, but it doesn’t act like a game made for the PS3 and Xbox 360. In fact, its choppy textures and much of the overall style is strikingly reminiscent of the original GoldenEye, an homage the folks at Eurocom surely weren’t hoping to present.
Appearances aside, Bond the game tries to be relevant by mixing up periods of action with stealth and investigation sequences. Much like the blockbuster-flop Alpha Protocol, Legends misses the point of the stealth/action genre. While in some cases, the game allows you to move through areas however you please, in others you’re forced to sneak around, conversely, mow down waves of enemies. Though these NPCs aren’t particularly smart (they will rush your position, but they do so pretty blindly and if you corner yourself you’ll have a solid upper hand), they have an uncanny sense of where you are once they’ve located you once. For example, if you alert one enemy to his fullest capacity—as shown by a meter on your screen—an alarm immediately goes off and all enemies in the area know exactly where you are, even if you’ve escaped their sight entirely.
Fortunately, at least with the modern, regenerating health system enabled, it’s pretty easy to survive a firefight. Aim-lock is effective and if you’ve got a shotgun—drastically overpowered in Legends, to the point where enemies fly across the room when shot—clearing any room is easy-peezy. The only time you might have trouble with adversaries is when hoards appear and overwhelm you. Because the cover system is unreliable, these can be a little bit tricky.
One plus side of Legends is the guns. For the most part, they feel really nice, and the game gives you ample opportunity to use them, loading you up with hundreds of bullets from the start of each mission. You’re also equipped with a few gadgets: the infamous laser watch, a pen that shoots various kinds of darts, and a smartphone with three screen settings. Though these, at times, seem useless—included in the game, perhaps, so that it seemed more like a Bond game—they can be fun and they do add to the 007 experience.
Other parts of Legends, too, give it an unbalanced difficulty. For instance, investigating a room during one of the detective segments can be frustrating. This actually works for these situations—otherwise they’d be far too easy—but there are some hair-pulling moments of confusion, as the smartphone’s detective screen certainly doesn’t spoon feed you information. On the contrary, hand-to-hand combat sequences are annoyingly dull. Enemies block three out of four potential hit zones (left head, right head, left body, right body) and the player, with the aid of an on-screen prompt, must hit the unblocked zone. You do this dance for a little while, inevitably your enemy will grab a weapon, you disarm him, and then you do the dance again. It’s like clockwork, and the game would be better off without them.
With a Bond game—even with a bad one, the saving grace should be the story. After all, the adventures of 007 have been drawing in fans for fifty years. While Legends started out with a good formula, it seems to have spread itself too thin. Trying to cram five story arcs into one game is a tall order, and developer Eurocom came up short. Instead of delving into the often-complex tales, the game presents snippets of stories they think the player already knows, giving just enough detail for the uninformed not to be completely in the dark, but not enough to provide an engrossing experience by any means.
In the game’s first mission “Goldfinger,” Bond (who looks like Daniel Craig but is voiced by Timothy Watson) begins by infiltrating Goldfinger’s plant and uncovering his plan to rob Fort Knox. He is then caught, delivered to Fort Knox, and greeted by a field of unconscious American soldiers. The soldiers wake up after what is later revealed to be a tactical ploy, but by this point Goldfinger’s mercenaries have already taken Fort Knox. All of this makes sense in the film, but with two scenes to represent the entire movie, the uninitiated player is left out of the loop. If you’re still clinging to a bit of hope, I regret to inform you that the other four missions follow this same confusing method of storytelling. The whole thing, too, is bookended by an original sequence where Bond is shot and falls into a river, with the various operations playing out as flashbacks.
Is the multiplayer redeeming at least? I can hear some of you asking. In short, no. Once again, the game’s online and offline multiplayer modes present a case of “been there, seen that.” There are a variety of game modes that you’ve assuredly played before in other games, including (by their generic names) team deathmatch, zones, bomb defuse, and VIP. The one somewhat unique game mode, “Legends,” gives players the chance to select a character from the Bond universe and eliminate the competition. Some of these players have specialized weapons, gadgets, and moves, but in order to unlock the cooler characters, you’ve got to endure the leveling-up process of playing as their less exciting counterparts. As for the overall feel of the multiplayer, it’s a bit laggy, the maps are mostly uninspired, and, from my experience, most of the game modes are completely vacant at times.
There is one game mode that rises above the rest, though to call it a multiplayer feature is a stretch. In “Challenges,” players take on mini-missions in stealth, assault, elimination, and defense modes. These are timed exercises with simple objectives and, after completion, players’ scores are posted on online leaderboards. This is pretty much it for the replay value of Legends, and if you own the game, chances are that’s how you’re spending a good chunk of your time with it.
If you are a James Bond superfan, you might want to buy 007 Legends. The gameplay isn’t horrendous, and “Challenges” can be fun and, well, challenging. At the very least, it’s a nice collectible to keep in your basement with your model PPK and your GoldenEye pinball machine. If you’re simply a fan of first person shooters, however, you’ll probably be better off waiting for this year’s fall gaming rush to spend your money.
007 Legends was developed by Eurocom and published by Activision. A PlayStation 3 copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.