Instead of coming across as a love letter to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise, 007 Legends comes across as a soulless and poorly conceived game. A familiar presence may be felt through the inclusion of classic Bond films, but everything that made those films memorable is either missing or has been trimmed in a barely recognizable or cohesive form. With gameplay that feels archaic and like it was merely trying to meet its assuredly short development deadline, 007 Legends is a huge missed opportunity and is yet another example of how future Bond games need to go in a different direction, specifically one that isn’t influenced by Call of Duty.
+ It’s possible to play the game without any annoying technical hiccups.
+ Aiming at the countless goons of Auric Goldfinger or Hugo Drax is easy thanks to the responsive controls.
+ The fact that Eurocom created this whole game with a short dev cycle is commendable, despite the obvious shortcomings it has.
- The retelling of the classic Bond films is horrible since its missing the character that defined those films.
- A constant shoot-em-up approach results in an experience that quickly becomes tiresome due to the uninspired level design.
- Graphics are ok but are nothing that screams of the high-production values and sleek presentation people associate with the 007 franchise.
- Multiplayer modes featured some noticeable lag alongside the rather tepid gameplay and predictability of everything.
- The voice over replacement for Daniel Craig works in some instances but sounds incredibly stiff at times.
- The ending is flaccid to say the least.
For the last 50 years we’ve seen James Bond defeat massive crime organizations, save the world from the brink of WWIII, escape otherwise deadly situations, and of course make countless women fall in love with him in less than a week. The character of James Bond may be legendary due to his extraordinaire feats as a master spy, but what’s more impressive is that the franchise itself has lasted as long as it has.
First starting out as a series of novels from Ian Fleming, James Bond has managed to adapt to the ever changing times while still appealing to a new audience without changing too much of its essence. However, as indicative by its latest foray into the world of interactive entertainment, the biggest challenge for James Bond is finding a video game that does him justice as 007 Legends fails to ignite any of the things the legendary agent is known for.
As a huge James Bond fan I had my hopes up for 007 Legends. Maybe I was immediately setting myself up for disappointment feeling such a thing, but the Bond fan within me was simply excited to see what Eurocom and Activision would bring to the table for the 50th anniversary of Bond. The premise of the game seemed like it was a nice mixture of paying homage to the franchise while keeping things fresh as the premise of updating classic Bond movies for the Daniel Craig era seemed like a match made in heaven. The mere prospect of seeing a revamped Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service almost seemed too good to be true but I don’t think I was ever prepared to experience a game that is as poorly executed as 007 Legends is.
Without going on a fanboy laced rant about the game I’ll do my best to keep to the basics of what makes 007 Legends failure. Starting off with an element that will make both Bond fans upset and potentially make those unfamiliar with 007’s earlier exploits completely lost, the story and structure of the game is an absolute mess and is one step away from being complete sacrilege to the legacy of the character and franchise. Basically, each of the five movies included in 007 Legends is a separate entity that is comprised of two to three missions. I’ll admit that how these past adventures were worked in rather cleverly as Bond is recounting his past exploits after a mission gone awry, as depicted in the forthcoming Bond flick Skyfall. That may sound good and all but the train wreck begins once each Bond mission/movie starts as it seems like care and attention to detail was immediately thrown out the window.
Imagine each Bond movie, or any movie for that matter, truncated into a brief plot summary and the core experience being retrofitted to fit the final act. That’s basically the outline that 007 Legends follows as each movie finds itself updated of course to fit the modern times but at the same time sees integral plot elements completely discarded or explained in a mere sentence that can be quickly forgotten about. It’s understandable that developer Eurocom, who also handled GoldenEye: Reloaded, couldn’t fully adapt each Bond movie as that would be tantamount to making five individual games, but in the end it just seems lazy and cohesive. Iconic moments from each Bond movie are included in 007 Legends such as the famous gold dipped dead girl from Goldfinger or the assault on Piz Gloria from OHMSS, but despite the cool factor of seeing or experiencing such things the context of why everything is happening is completely lost or seems too sudden.
What really destroys the experience of 007 Legends is that it almost seems too built around pleasing longtime fans of the franchise since things aren’t explained or hinted at; basically resulting in a feeling that those playing the game already know everything. That may be true of a certain portion of the audience, though such an assumption results in two problems: 1. you’re pissing off the core fans by doing a half-assed adaptation, and 2. those who haven’t seen License To Kill will likely have no clue what’s going on even if a thin plot/explanation is given.
As a Bond fan I really can’t express how disappointing each film adaptation is within the game since things progressively get worse. Seeing things altered slightly didn’t annoy me too much, but having characters merely there for the sake of it such as Oddjob, whose hat throwing technique is never mentioned in the game thus he may come across as a silly ex-Sumo wrestler, is simply a disservice to the franchise. There’s not even a connective strand of elements within each Bond mission/movie either as it’s a self-contained exploit that doesn’t even have a proper ending to cap things off. What was that, Auric Goldfinger just flew out the window of a plane? Oh well, time to move onto the next mission since the Mission Complete page is up. The narrative flow of the game is just annoying and I’m sure Ian Fleming is looking down at the game wondering who the hell is ruining his legacy.
Replacing Daniel Craig is a tough thing to do.
Plowing through each mission within the game is somewhat painful to endure since Bond fans will likely be groaning over the changes made or how loosely things were adapted. But what is truly the icing on the cake is that Daniel Craig doesn’t even voice Bond in the game. After cashing a check for the three previous Bond games, Craig either couldn’t be bought or didn’t care anymore so another actor was brought in to mimic him. In some spots the new voice actor does a serviceable job, but in others he sounds like Ace Rimmer so it was hard for me to take scenes such as the Goldfinger laser scene serious without snickering throughout.
It took some time for me to realize just how bad the narrative and adaption of 007 Legends was since such a thing wasn’t fully obvious until the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but playing the first half of Goldfinger, the first movie featured in the game, was more than enough to show just how broken and ancient the gameplay was. 007 Legends follows the same control methodology featured in GoldenEye: Reloaded, specifically that of a light Call of Duty clone, but it’s far much worse than what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the last few years.
Some elements are thrown into 007 Legends in an attempt to spice things up such as pure stealth elements, which are brutally slow and annoying, forgettable driving stages, and a few puzzle elements which make use of Bond’s phone – which just so happens to be a Sony Xperia since the Sony brand synergy needs to be the video games as well. With those attempts at variety aside, 007 Legends plays like an old-school FPS minus the fun or even hint of nostalgia. With countless corridors and linear paths which feel like glowing arrows should be on the ground ala Perfect Dark Zero, 007 Legends is simply a soulless shooter that forgoes any real skill in favor of pure shoot-em-up action. Sure, the game may have been judging how accurate I was within a mission for a forgettable XP gaining meta-game which allowed me to upgrade my weapons, which really don’t need upgrading to be honest, but it’s simply a straight up shooter in which I could turn my brain off and not have to think about anything.
I’m fine with playing a simple FPS game, but in the case of a James Bond experience I would expect more than that. A few stages did allow me to take a more tactically sound alternative by going the stealth route utilizing weapons outfitted with a silencer or Bond’s dart pen, so the game offers a bit of thinking once in a while. But even then the action quickly degrades into a standard shoot-em-up experience with lackluster action that features constantly spawning enemies just like the CoD games, that’s of course unless you just run to the trigger marker and suddenly the vast clone henchmen army suddenly disperses or forgets that you’re there.
When I say that 007 Legends is truly a forgettable FPS game I mean that since there’s no real personality in any elements of the game. The different settings of each movie may present aesthetic variety but it’s completely superficial since it doesn’t play into how each mission can be played out. It all feels the same – the definition of generic gameplay from a generation that hasn’t matured or evolved. Worse of all, the game doesn’t have any moments that make for iconic Bond action. This may not be the first 007 game which has gone the FPS route, but the past efforts have attempted to allow action that mirror that of the films – even if such a thing required a massive 007 symbol to float above an object you can shoot to result in henchman going boom in a funny but cool way. It seems like the only skill 007 has in the game is shooting people, unlocking safes, and destroying security cameras with a laser watch since that’s all he can do throughout the game. Maybe it’s just me, but such a situation had me crying on the inside whilst playing 007 Legends.
Even though 007 Legends is supposed to celebrate the anniversary of Bond it’s truly a sub-mediocre product. The game looks middle-of-the-road graphically as nothing really stands out aside from the accurate facial models – except for that of Daniel Craig as his eyes look completely soulless and blank; kind of like how Geoff Keighley looked in the now famous Halo 4 Doritos/Mountain Dew tie-in picture. This may be the second time Eurocom has made a 007 game utilizing the same graphics engine, but I guess they didn’t feel like they needed to push anything since the scope is barely there as are secondary effects that are passable or will please the senses of gamers.
The gameplay of 007 Legends likely won't get your adrenaline pumping.
The action of 007 Legends merely becomes worse when taking the action online in a series of derivative modes which feature a collection of re-used single-play maps in conjunction with uninspired original creations. All the expected FPS multiplayer features are there such as different weapon load-outs, which can’t be accessed until you’re level 6, so the game is at least staying modern in that sense. However, 007 Legends likely won’t gain a loyal community thanks to action that features notable lag and design flaws such as questionable spawn points. Once again some classic Bond elements are shoe-horned in via the Legends mode which allowed me to play Bond characters such as Jaws or Pussy Galore. I thought Legends mode would provide a nice twist since each character has a different set of skills and weapons, but the initial charm wore off fast since it had absolutely no personality aside from being a cheap gimmick.
Looking at everything I guess the below average quality of 007 Legends shouldn’t come across as too much of a shock since this is an Activision published licensed game. After giving us, or allowing the game to hit retail, game version of Battleship: The Movie it’s clear that anything is good enough for good old Activision to publish no matter how much it destroys the legacy of the property it’s based upon. The one true thing that 007 Legends does in a positive way is that it proves that future James Bond games should no longer be FPS titles. I know gamers may think it should be considering the status of FPS games or the classic GoldenEye from Rare, but the true spirit of Bond doesn’t work in a FPS setting even if classic elements are forced into it and 007 Legends is obvious and painful truth of such a thing.