007 Legends ReviewJoe Shaffer
Despite cinematic dissimilarities, I was still in awe when I started 007 Legends and experienced the iconic scene from Goldfinger. It was satisfying to witness it again, depicting Shirley Eaton's deceased character covered in gold paint, even if it was through a different medium. Right as I thought that I would enjoy my stay with the game, a cell phone rang next to the woman's body. It was then that I also noticed that James Bond was the likeness of Daniel Craig and not Sean Connery. BAM! The enchantment the game had cast over me shattered. I was no longer playing a loving trip down memory lane, but a ham-fisted viewing into the past. This scene was significant, as it set the stage for the rest of the game. From narrative to mechanics, everything about 007 Legends screamed "clumsy, dull throwback."
You're probably wondering why Craig took Connery's place. The likeliest explanation that I can provide, without researching, is that including the likenesses of every Bond actor would have skyrocketed the game's budget beyond a reasonable amount. Instead of footing the ridiculous bill, the developers decided to tie together all five films revisited--Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Moonraker, License to Kill, and Die Another Day--by explaining that they are the memories of a drowning Daniel Craig. Unfortunately, his memories are a string of random reimagined events, each one deprived of its narrative context and "modernized" to the point that it's barely recognizable. For instance, the Die Another Day segment fails to utilize the invisible car, while On Her Majesty's...'s ski chase scene now includes an infuriating tailing objective and minions firing RPGs. Instead of revisiting familiar scenes from beloved movies, the experience is more akin to watching clips from five unwarranted remakes. There's really no point in reminiscing if you're not going to do so properly.
As you advance you'll be transported back to various eras of gaming, likewise stripped of their enjoyment. Your first stop on the tour is 1998, when basic stealth concepts were still relevant. We're talking archaic stuff here: crouching off to the side, waiting several minutes for a guard to walk past you, and then either sneaking past him or eliminating him with a silenced weapon or a stealth kill. While karate chopping foes' throats or quietly breaking their necks is devilish fun at first, the experience grows wearisome when you realize how easy it is to be spotted, especially since you can't move bodies. Instead, you have to use a gadget on Bond's wristwatch to lure your opponent to a desired area, wait a few more minutes for him to mosey on over, stealth kill him, and then hope that no one notices his fly-swarmed corpse. Because of this drawn out method, stealth sections take a looooooong time to get through; so long that you'll lose interest and just start shooting everyone instead. Sadly, this can lead to failure in some stealth missions, requiring you to start the lengthy process over.
This isn't the case with every stealth mission, though. Many of them hearken back to 2000's Deus Ex by giving you a choice between brute force and sneaking. Should you pick the former, though, the game will inundate you with guards, overwhelming you and turning you into Swiss cheese. In most such moments, even the Call of Duty-ish cover system provides little respite, as you'll take fire no matter where you hide. It becomes apparent at these points that the missions were not designed to take shootouts into account, as though the game is punishing you for not choosing to sneak. The thing with giving people a choice, though, is that you're not supposed to chide them for selecting an option that you provided.
This isn't to say that 007 Legends's gunplay is entirely unenjoyable, as some of the best parts of the game involve gunning down minions whilst running amok through a villain's compound. I'll admit that I found a quantum of entertainment engaging in an epic shootout at Fort Knox alongside Felix Leiter or scoring headshots with a laser gun while floating through space. What kills these scenes, though, is the combination of dull level designs and a lack in regards to enemy types. Most stages are straightforward environments with few obstructions or set-pieces that promote strategy or interactivity, featuring maybe two different types of foes who require little thought or skill to eliminate. For the most part, you aim, shoot, then duck for cover as you take damage. We've been down this avenue many times and it never gets any fresher, except that here it takes on a blander incarnation lacking difficulty or clever design. This represents a huge missed opportunity on Eurocom's part. Where they should have delivered well-tailored scenarios that require fast action, thought and skill to win, we instead go to war with thousands of Goombas inhabiting a few stock stages.
It's not as though the developers didn't try, and they should at least be applauded for attempting to add variety the experience in the form of driving and brawling segments. Sadly, neither particular event adds enough to the game to matter. With the former, the developers stuck with simple driving mechanics similar to Grand Theft Auto. The whopping two scenes featured aren't half bad, including one where you carefully dodge rockets while tearing down a winding road in an armored vehicle, but they aren't anything special. I wish I could say the same about the quick-time fist-fights, events which evoke the spirit of the '80s and the Punch-Out!! franchise. These scenes will ignite your passion for fisticuffs at first, but they eventually fizzle out as you realize how dull they are. You aren't given the freedom to attack whenever you want, as the game prompts you when to do so (hence "quick-time"). On top of that, your commands are limited to a few basic punches and occasionally disarming an opponent with a wide window of opportunity to input your command. Instead of an actual one-on-one altercation, each fight feels more like a very basic interactive movie. Worse, the game never tosses new constraints or challenges your way, resulting in a collection of scraps that capture the feel of repeatedly challenging Glass Joe.
Even RPG elements add little to the game. Yeah, it's nice to obtain training modules (read: perks) and weapon modifications, but the advantages they grant is unnoticeable. Also, the pickings for weapon mods are slim, consisting mostly of silencers, sight upgrades, increased magazines, and compensators. While these sound useful, most of them grant a negligible advantage and do little to spice up the game. More than anything, the RPG elements are half-hearted and tacked on out of obligation.
Put it all together and 007 Legends is quite baffling. Here's a game with brawling, shooting, driving, a ski chase, a couple rail shooter scenes, plenty of explosions, RPG elements, and James Bond, and yet it struggles to entertain. Ordinarily, I would eat this stuff up and regurgitate my experiences here while staving off the temptation to resort to constant hyperboles. Instead, dictating this banal trip to you feels more like a tour through dated genre elements that have been better implemented elsewhere. What should have been a game to remember, a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of an outstanding and thrilling film franchise, is instead a lifeless Call of Duty clone with half-baked stealth elements. Oh, and it stars James Bond! The main attraction of a game shouldn't seem like an afterthought or that it was tacked on to a genre exercise. That's the last thing any fan of a license or IP would want in a video game, and that's precisely what you get from 007 Legends.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.