This week's 007 Legends puts players into the iconic (stylish, expensive) shoes of Britain's most famous secret agent, Bond. James Bond.
A famous secret agent may be a puzzling concept, but more puzzling still is this pastiche of his most classic adventures, reviewers seem to find. Does 007 Legends leave players feeling like they have a licence to kill? Will players on Her Majesty's secret service feel like the world is not enough? Can I make any more terrible James Bond title puns in this paragraph?
The answers to these mysteries are for your eyes only. All right, enough with the puns. On with the reviews!
Its problems aren't any fault of the concept, which is novel if a bit nonsensical. In a scene showcased in the trailer for the film Skyfall, Daniel Craig, as 007, falls off a train. At the beginning of 007 Legends, this causes Bond's life to flash before his eyes, which plays out in the game's five missions (each based on a different Bond classic). If you get past the fact that this doesn't make any sense (considering Casino Royale effectively reset the franchise with Craig as a young Bond), it isn't a bad idea. The film franchise has so many memorable moments and villains, and paying tribute to them could pay off well in a video game. Except it doesn't.
Bond's latest shooter is barely kept afloat throughout the five-hour-long campaign, but while it has a smattering of good ideas, they're buried beneath concepts so tired, you'll have a hard time caring. It's a game filled with occasional highs and frequent lows — and you'll be thrown between them so quickly and haphazardly that you'll be lucky to make it through 007 Legends without whiplash.
In the end, 007 Legends is just that: a love letter to fans of James Bond films and games. It's just a little disappointing that it didn't turn out as cohesive or thrilling as I was hoping, but then again I can't fault Eurocom for daring to push their limits. I would prefer that they work on single movies or stories like they did with GoldenEye, as I just feel this plays to their strengths better, and if they focus and refine the new ideas they have in 007 Legends, they really have the potential to make the ultimate Bond game as opposed to one that is merely great.
My biggest complaint with 007 Legends is that it lets you see the best part of our favourite Bond movies, but doesn't let us play them. You are either shooting, hacking something to do more shooting, driving to where you'll do more shooting, or waiting to press buttons in the weak melee system so you can get to the next level of shooting. Bond has more depth than this, and 50 years of movies proves that. We want to stop Operation Grand Slam. We want to drive a tank through downtown Moscow. We want to BE Bond! 007 Legends lets us see Bond, but never actually be the suave, debonair, brash, and ultimately human British Secret Agent. Instead we are forced to watch as our generic agent shoots people in the face and then punches them in the sides for a few moments. Bond is the 2nd highest grossing film series of all time and I'd like to see the property get the love it deserves instead of a Call of Duty title with a Bond skin mod.
It really shouldn't be this hard to make a decent James Bond game, should it? As far as source material goes, 50 years of 007's big screen adventures should have provided the team at Eurocom with a wealth of blockbuster stunts, style and subterfuge to draw from. Unfortunately, it seems like the development team has merely skimmed the back covers of a few of the DVDs in the James Bond box set and then decided to interpret them in the form of a poor man's Call of Duty. As far as tributes go, this is like raising your champagne flute to toast someone and then using it to glass them in the eye.
Like the 007 film catalogue itself, 007 Legends' campaign missions are a bit of a hodgepodge. Though the opening moments are filled with explosions and scripted spectacle, the meat of play soon settles into a corridor-to-corridor run-and-gun grind. Oh, you can skulk around undetected and track enemy movements with your wristwatch, and try to come to terms with a simple stop-and-peek cover system where the actual peeking works about half the time. But stalking and subduing guards generates more tedium than tension, and bodies are stuck wherever they fall, so you'll want to abandon subtlety entirely whenever you're not railroaded into mandatory sneakfests.