By Nicholas Simonovski
Despite the general success that the James Bond films have enjoyed over the past five decades, it seems that the video game tie-ins have never really done as well. Apart from GoldenEye 007, which was released a decade and a half ago for the Nintendo 64, you never really hear gamers talk about past Bond titles in a positive light. Recently, tying-in with the 50th anniversary of the first ever Bond film, Eurocom and Activision have released 007 Legends. The question is, does this game break free from the mould and avoid the same fate that the past Bond games have fallen victim to?
As the title suggests, 007 Legends pays homage to the Bond franchise. Rather than include its own full-length storyline, the game combines together five iconic Bond films – Moonraker, Goldfinger, Die Another Day, License to Kill and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In addition, 007 Legends also features missions for the recently released Skyfall, which are available to download in the form of free DLC. While this variety isn’t a bad thing, there is a major downfall that I’ll discuss later on in the review.
Handled by the same developers behind GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, there are a lot of similarities that gamers can expect to see between the last game and 007 Legends. To begin with, this title features a very similar gameplay style to Reloaded. For example, throughout the game you’ll be spending most of your time either sneaking around avoiding detection or getting involved in intense fire-fights. This is then broken up at various points along most missions where you’ll need to use your gadgets to interact with the environment – either using your wristwatch or mobile phone to disable electronic devices or take photos, hack computers and detect fingerprints, toxic gases, etc., respectively. The game also provides you with a dart-pen about half-way through the campaign, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out the need for it.
A strong point of 007 Legends certainly lies in its variety. Each of the thirteen or so missions (excluding the "Skyfall" levels that I’ve yet to play) are set in their own unique location – to name a few, one will see you making your way through ancient ruins, another will see you skiing down the side of a mountain while shooting at enemies on snow-mobiles and another will involve you driving through the jungle, all of which keep the game from feeling repetitive or boring. I mentioned earlier that the game features both stealth and shoot-out sections and this too is completely up to the player – you can choose to avoid being detected and take your time planning your route through the level or just go in all guns blazing (the game does reward stealth though as re-enforcements are called in once you’ve been detected by your enemies). In addition, 007 Legends also features collectables that you can find throughout each level, that provides the player with additional background information on the characters as well as concept art. It’s nothing spectacular, but it adds to the replay value and pushes the gamer to explore every nook and cranny of each level.
As said above, 007 Legends doesn’t feature a full-length storyline (but rather five separate storylines) and it’s here that the cracks in this game begin to show. It should be noted that there are only two to three levels per movie, and while these cover the main scenes in each film, it sadly doesn’t provide enough information or context to immerse the player in the story or even explain why these events are taking place to begin with. Each movie begins with a short cut-scene, but I found myself scratching my head cluelessly almost each time trying to figure out what was being said or even what was even going on! This lack of any real backstory continues to be a problem as you’ll find characters sometimes referring to the names of people don’t know, and this just makes it more difficult to have any sort of interest in what is going on around you. Relationships with characters form (and sometimes end) far too quickly for you to form any sort of bond (see what I did there) or connection with. Contrast this with Reloaded where you had the whole game to see the relationship between Bond and the girl develop (or even the chase between Bond and his villain). In short, you’re better off watching the movies first.
Another issue with 007 Legends is that it feels like an old game. Unlike GoldenEye 007: Reloaded which can be excused for playing like an old title (since it was a remake), the same logic cannot be extended for Legends. The first issue is the voice-acting. While Eurocom have done well to get a lot of the original characters to provide the voice-overs, for all the other non-key characters, they sound pretty poor (stereotypical Asian and European accents – comical to begin with but eventually become somewhat cringe-worthy). I also had the constant problem of dealing with inconsiderate AI, where your allies would sometimes push you out of cover or even be oblivious to enemies that were shooting right next to them. In addition, the graphics are far from cutting-edge and the game suffers from constant frame-rate issues.
007 Legends also introduces a hand-to-hand combat system that requires you to use the analogue sticks to punch your enemies. Usually taking place at the end of a mission, the only thing these sequences achieved was breaking-up the action and acting as a cheap and easy way to kill the main villain in each of the movies. Combined with the fact that each character you fought during these fights made the same noise whenever you hit them, it couldn’t have felt more tacked on.
To answer the question I put forward at the beginning of the review, while 007 Legends features scenes from some of the most well-known movies in the franchise, it does little in the way of putting together a truly memorable and immersive Bond experience. While I had fun with the simplistic gameplay (not being a massive fan of the FPS genre), the game really does feel more like a remake of decade-plus year old shooter – and for that reason, 007 Legends is average at best, especially in comparison to the other games of this era. Fans of the Bond franchise may find some enjoyment out of this and it’s still a fun game that I would recommend to others, but in all honesty, it’s nothing better than what you’d get out of the Perfect Dark remake that’s available on the Xbox LIVE Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points... actually, strike that – the Perfect Dark remake offers you more.