That bit where you see Bond down the barrel of a gun. That bit where Bond walks along like he doesn’t see you. That bit where he turns with his Walter PPK and points it at you. That bit where he shoots and blood runs down the screen. That bit where the Bond theme kicks in…..
Wait? Why is it not playing the Bond theme? The first of many puzzling omissions, the lack of the Bond theme is a sign of things to come. With 007 Legends, Eurocom have created a puzzling, confusing Bond game that lacks a great deal of traditional Bond tropes, and completely changes others. It’s a game that I genuinely enjoyed at times, but from start to finish I was genuinely shocked at some of the choices the developers made. Several times I had to sick back, suck air in sharply through my teeth and say, “Oh Eurocom, that’s really gonna piss people off”. I wanted to be on this games side, but there are times where you simply can’t believe what you’re seeing on screen. The strange thing is that the disregard for the franchise is combined with a game that is often fun, and when it succeeds in making you feel like Bond its almost in spite of what the developers have set up. It’s a schizophrenic affair. Let me explain.
Pitched as a kind of “greatest hits” of Bond movie moments, instead of making a full game from one entry in the series this game spans five (and a half) films. Even at this early stage, this is where things get weird. If you picked five Bond films to make a game from, it’s unlikely you would choose these (with maybe one exception). They are Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, Licence to Kill and Die Another Day. So that’s the last Brosnan entry where the series was running out of steam, a forgettable Dalton one, the much-loathed “Star Wars Bond” and the one and only Lazenby film, which almost killed the franchise dead. I know that MGM are in serious financial trouble and this selection of movies, including the curious choices of voice talent and soundtrack therein, really underline this.
Now Goldfinger is a classic. Its full of so many iconic Bond moments (“No Mr Bond, I expect you to die”) that are brilliant to experience in a game context. Its the backbone of this package and the Goldfinger theme is fantastic and memorable, and its used as a place holder where you would expect the traditional Bond theme to be. Many of the game finest moments occur in the Goldfinger section. Do you remember that part in Goldfinger where he used a Sony Experia phone? No? Well he did. I just saw him do it. Just there.
Yes, the game really does “remix” the content of the movies quite a lot. Flat screen monitors in the control room in Moonraker. USB pen drives in the 80’s. Ubiquitous Wi-Fi and 3G networks for your multi-purpose smart phone. Classic cars replaced by modern versions. It seems that everything about these movies can be modernised. The biggest change is the recasting of all those classic Bonds to Daniel Craig. Well, I say Daniel Craig, but he obviously wasn’t available (or was too expensive) so only his likeness was used while his voice is provided by Timothy Watson.
I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. I’m not a massive fan of the movies so I’m not as protective as some, but I can imagine many fans would be aggrieved with this retconning. While its strange to see Craig in these classic movie moment, it’s all the more curious when parts of the movie, including characters, are changed wholesale. In Die Another Day Halle Berry is replaced wholesale by a completely different character with the same name, leading me confusedly wonder for the first five minutes of her screen time, “Who the fuck is this and why don’t I remember her at all?”.
The setting for the game is that Bond is reliving the moments from these classic movies in a kind of “life flashing before your eyes” manner. In a scene from the upcoming Skyfall movie, Bond is mistakenly shot and falls into a river. As he struggles to survive, you play these classic Bond movie moments as a series of flashbacks. The idea is that the Skyfall scenes bookend this game. This raises one of the biggest problems of the game, but we’ll come back to this…
So what kind of game is 007 Legends? Well its COD essentially. Left trigger/right trigger. It’s a cinematic, tightly scripted FPS with huge explosions, thrilling set pieces, turret sections, slow motion breaches and RPG-lite unlockable perks. It feels very comfortable and at the same time is strangely compelling. The set pieces are often bombastic and percussive enough to wake you out of the comfortable (but slightly soporific) rhythm of the gameplay. There are little frustrations but they never linger too long, and the steady stream of enemies and the fast paced nature of the story impels you forward. There are even some driving sections to break up the first person action
Its ironic that 007 Legends resembles COD, when the events and action of the COD games have come to resemble James Bond so much. Its been a long time since COD has been focused on squad based combat and large scale military conflicts. Instead, COD has more and more of the secret agents, super-villainous plots, skydives and snowspeeder chases, all of which would seem like scenes you would see in a Bond movie. As such it shouldn’t be a surprise that big action scenes in 007 Legends feel like the kind of thing you’d see in COD. That’s not to diminish them either. I (mostly) liked MW3 and 007 Legends compares favourably with the best moments of that game. An early section with a whole runway full of harriers exploding is a highlight. Meanwhile, later scenes where you fight Odd Job while dodging his deadly hat or escape a blast chamber to board a space shuttle or explore an ice palace are all iconic Bond moments that you can’t help but get excited to play through. These are brilliant scenes from the movies, and playing through them in game-form is thrilling.
You might think that mowing down thousands upon thousands of enemies is more Rambo than Bond, and to offset this Eurocom have a number of different gameplay styles they bring in to break these sections up. First, and worst, are the stealth sections. While not terrible, these sections have a few issues, not least of which is the existence of Dishonored which handles stealth much better. There are a number of issues here, but the biggest is that you cannot move the bodies of enemies. As a result, when you eliminate an enemy you need to make sure they are in a place where they cannot be seen. This will require a great deal of patience as you examine everyone’s movement patterns for long minutes. It kills the pace of the game, and enemies very effectively spot dead bodies from far away so you really need to take time to do this.
You’re given a variety of half-working gadgets, but they never help as much as they should. A radar thingy on your watch lets you track enemies, but only when you can already see them. Stun darts are useful, but shock and distraction darts are pointless. A laser on your watch lets you melt cameras which is weird (you can melt them from very, very far away) but useful I guess.
These stealth sections are generally optional and you can often just shoot your way through. In other titles I would painstakingly inch forward using stealth, but here its just not worth it and its almost always better, easier and more fun to go in all guns blazing. The occasional moments of mandatory stealth are the very worst parts of the game and are probably the only times you will want to drop the controller, pop the disk out and play something else.
As well as the stealth sections there are a range of other styles of gameplay that achieve varying degrees of success. There are sections where you explore a super villains office, often looking for secret documents or files. Typically this involves opening a safe in a safe cracking mini game or using your camera phone to scan the area in an X-ray viewing mode looking for secret panels or switches in the walls. These areas feel like the detective sections in the Arkham games, and are simple but kind of fun. You feel (vaguely) like Bond as your doing spy-stuff instead of just shooting waves of enemies. These sections are more successful than the genuinely bizarre hand to hand fighting sections. These play out like a simplified(?!?) version of Punch Out where you have to hit enemies in their undefended areas. Simplistic in the extreme, these sections are completely formulaic and genuinely strange in their inclusion. It would have been better to have these fight scenes play out as a series of quicktime events. More often than not, after running the enemies energy bar down you then go into a cut scene where much cooler fisticuffs take place, so why not just let us play those sections, even if only as quicktime events?
Eurocom may have made their name with the rebooted Goldeneye games on Wii, but 007 Legends isn’t a bad looking game and they seem to have a good handle on the technology they are using. While there’s the occasional low res texture here and there (and a lot of jaggies generally) it’s a bright and clear game with a realistic visual style. Many modern games attempt to hide ageing console hardware capabilities behind visual filters or an esoteric art style but 007 Legends just tries to look good and it often succeeds. There are missteps along the way, but in a game with so much globe trotting and so many different environments it does a good job. Fire effects and explosions are particularly well done, and its a good job as there is a lot of both.
The visuals are well matched with good audio. Weapons are satisfying and beefy and sound effects are the kind of thing you would want to hear in a big Bond movie in the cinema. While the soundtrack obviously has big omissions as discussed before, the Gold Finger theme is bombastically brilliant, and the lower-key background music you hear when the pace slows is definitely Bond and is evocatively effective. At these times it sounds and feels like Goldeneye (the N64 one) and this is obviously a good thing.
As well as the singleplayer campaign there’s a diverting but basic multiplayer. There are a variety of modes, but at its core its best when played with simple rules. It may be the hundreds of hours I spent playing multiplayer Goldeneye on the N64, but the split-screen option here is great and the gameplay reminded me of that classic so much I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.
If we can go back to the main campaign though, it would be remiss of me to not mention the ending to the game. I’ll avoid spoilers, but if you are really worried skip this paragraph and the next. Still here? Ok, so when you complete the last movie (Moonraker) the game simply ends. I mean the titles roll. That’s it. The scene that starts the game and acts as the narrative framing device is never resolved. Remember Bond was drowning? Well yeah, apparently he’s dead. Ok, so he’s not, but we don’t know what happened to him. It doesn’t help that the Moonraker section is the worst of the game, and the end is extremely underwhelming. I have never been so shocked by an ending. I sat, mouth wide open in shock, unable to believe what I was seeing.
Now the game says the last chapter will be available as DLC. Presumably it couldn’t be released now as it might spoil Skyfall, but what the actual fuck? Can anyone think of another game that has come without an ending? You could say Asura’s Wrath, but at least that game had a conclusion. In the case off 007 Legends the WHOLE POINT of the game is whether Bond will survive or not, then it tells you that you can download the last part of the game in a month to find out what happens. That’s pretty rich guys.
If 007 Legends was a terrible game it wouldn’t matter so much, but the truth is I actually enjoyed this. Sure, it’s not revolutionary, but there are sections of the game that are thoroughly enjoyable, and there are some great moments in here that rival the best action scenes in the best Bond movies. I WANT to be fair to 007 Legends. I WANT to tell you its worth picking up. The truth is that it’s a fun and solid FPS. Eurocom make it hard though.
If there was another Legends game it could be great. This could have been great too. As it is, its a half finished game. Maybe the free Skyfall DLC will round it out and make it easier to recommend. For now though, its a decent but flawed shooter. It’s not Lazenby bad, but its not even close to Connery good.
6 Roger Moore’s out of 10