In almost thirty years of James Bond games, only two titles have truly proven themselves worthy of the namesake: Everything or Nothing and Goldeneye. It’s amazing that a series so ripe for video game adaptions like 007 has produced such poor results. It’s not as though these are hastily rushed movie tie-ins; the majority of Bond adaptions have been standalone games unaffiliated with the latest big screen action flick, so there’s really no excuse. Keeping with that trend, instead of hastily adapting Skyfall, Activision decided to put some of the most memorable James Bond action sequences into a single game. As there’s no way “Moonraker” or “License to Kill” would ever get a standalone release, 007 Legends would have been a great way to pay homage to the classic films of the series if only it didn’t go so horribly wrong.
007 Legends is a generic shooter in every sense of the term. The majority of the game takes place in enormous secret lairs, where players venture from giant room to giant room to…giant room…eliminating everyone that stands in their way. It’s the kind of mechanics experienced in the late ’90s that would now beg the question “Why did I think this was fun?” after playing. And it’s not fun; it seems tired the minute the game begins with the first of many identical action sequences. After firing away aimlessly (meant almost literally) through thirty rooms, the hardest aspect of the game is summoning the courage to continue onwards. This is the kind of game where generic guards, wearing whatever suits the environment, come piling out of nowhere with superhuman abilities (firing through doors) until the objective is completed. There’s rarely a spark of creativity and nothing unique enough to separate it from other shooters.
Believe it or not, the uninspired combat isn’t the biggest problem; it’s hard to say what is, but the “smartphone” is in the running. Pushing right on the D-pad pulls out a SONY EXPERIA smartphone, but this is no ordinary SONY EXPERIA smartphone; it contains multiple spy-approved modes to collect intel. Hacking is the first experience, where two frequencies are displayed on-screen that correspond to a different trigger. As they move at different speeds, varied levels of pressure must be applied to keep them even. While there’s nothing difficult about it, something about squeezing both triggers at a different rate feels unnatural and uncomfortable. Based on how many instances both triggers are used simultaneously (such as bursting through doors), the developers must have assumed they stumbled onto something great.
Hacking isn’t even the worst part of the smartphone; the “Biometric Filter”, which when activated makes things like fingerprints and smoke visible, holds that distinction. Its primary use is to view fingerprints on keypads which must then be memorized and inputed in the right order. While it would have been a fine addition under normal circumstances, 007 Legends isn’t normal circumstances. Activating the filter turns the screen an unpleasant hazy purple color, obscuring the numbers on the keypad. Not only must the correct order of the numbers be memorized, but also what number is where on the keypad, rendering the ordeal needlessly frustrating. Worse yet, the game was designed to constantly utilize the poorly-conceived device, making its occurrence incredibly annoying.
Apparently the smartphone wasn’t enough, as a wrist watch must also be dealt with. The watch can do a multitude of things, none of which come as any help. Perhaps its most common use is that of a radar, displaying enemies as red dots and friendlies as green dots. Instead of being functional, it amounts to a jumble of blips with no indication of the location they represent. Another use of the watch is to crack safes. While safecracking generally proves a good excuse for a mini-game, here it’s a poorly explained excuse to stretch the game. For instructions, you’re left with “rotate and change dials to solve”. I spent about ten minutes attempting to crack my first safe with absolutely no idea what to do. After finally figuring it out based on pure guessing, it turns out it’s not complicated, just poorly-designed enough to make the solution too asinine to consider.
When not gunning through generic environments or becoming frustrated using a gadget, melee combat sequences often occur. Even though hundreds of enemies have just been blasted through with no physical contact, an enemy can somehow manage to grab hold of you. The melee sequences consist only of moving either analog stick up or down — again a very awkward control scheme. If the enemy dodges left, you punch right; if he dodges right, you punch left. Pressing either trigger starts a dodge of your own. It proves only an unnecessary addition to a game already full of unnecessary additions.
For whatever reason, stealth mechanics are included. When maneuvering through a complex outside of a firefight, most rooms are entered with the security detail unaware of an outsiders presence, encouraging players to sneak around to avoid detection. It’s an oddly tacked on feature that does not fit in with the level design. For instance, while a guard can be subdued, instead of being able to drag him away for hiding, the game instead suggests to “make sure to not knock guards unconscious where they may be found by others.” How is that possible in a wide open area with fifteen enemies walking around? Even if you do manage to sneak through, doing so takes longer than going in guns blazing; but hey, at least you avoided more dated shooting mechanics.
The only saving grace of 007 Legends could have been the story, so the fact that a game tasked with summoning feelings of nostalgia could be unfaithful is mind-boggling. The most glaring issue is that Daniel Craig is the only playable Bond. Seeing him placed in a scene made famous by Sean Connery feels unnatural — bordering on disrespectful. Sure, maybe ‘ol Sean would have been too much to swing, but George Lazenby? He may have done it for free. It’s bad enough seeing Craig placed in roles before he was born, but the rights to his voice couldn’t even be secured, instead using soundalike Timothy Watson. Not only do they modernize the actor, but the environments as well. Levels based on Goldfinger (1964), for instance, feature modern technology and super cars. Adding insult to injury, the level design isn’t an accurate representation of any of the film’s locations.
007 Legends is the product of those who think the only appeal of the franchise is when James Bond shoots people. With no style to speak of, the entire affair plays out like a generic thirty-minute action climax stretched to a ten hour game, where the best motivation for avoiding death is having to suffer through the same area again. Not only does it fail to inspire nostalgia, but sours the franchise as a whole. Lacking a single inspired trait, 007 Legends is the kind of game released simply to bilk $60 out of uninformed gamers before a swift trip to the bargain bin.
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360