While I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the developers’ original intention, 007 Legends plays like an intricate love-letter to the golden age of gaming. With graphics that wouldn’t feel out of place in 2002’s Brosnan-inspired 007 Nightfire, some woeful combat that survives only on its charm and some trademark humour than would split the sides of a few expert TimeSplitters aficionados – 007 Legends feels like something we played a decade ago that still feels relevant to today’s audience thanks to the games’ fantastic concept and Bond’s 50th anniversary.
In an opening borrowed from the first few minutes of latest 007 flick, Skyfall, Bond finds himself plummeting to the depths of the ocean after being accidentally shot by his colleague while on duty. While this really has no bearing on the game (aside from being a clever framing device that allows Bond to relive some of his “iconic” past missions while sinking to the ocean bed) I have heard that Activision plan to release some Skyfall “legends” as DLC later on in the year. As an open-minded Bond/Videogame fan I can appreciate that having each mission played as a flashback is a lot more intuitive than having the player select missions from a menu – however in regards to the chronology of the Bond universe this doesn’t work at all. Daniel Craig’s Bond is a prequel Bond (cast your minds back to Casino Royale) fresh out of spy academy with a 00 status – he hasn’t lived through any of these missions yet. Unless Activision meant for these to be “flash-forwards” it would have made far more sense for the game to begin at Die Another Day (technically the most recent Bond mission) and have Bond relive these flashbacks whilst being tortured in North Korea by Madonna’s music… I digress.
The main campaign is split into three difficulties and from what I was able to divulge from my experiences with the game, Agent (medium) difficulty offers the player an extremely worthwhile challenge – making me fear just how tricky the elite mode actually is! This is due, in part, to the sheer number of AI who seem to respawn frequently and use cover effectively – but also due to the games’ flawed cover system. There’s no way to automatically snap to chest-high-walls so your best bet in most firefights is to crouch (you can’t lie on the floor) and stand behind the tallest thing you can find. Even when you’re confident that no one could possibly hit you from where they’re stood, chances are you’ll still get shot. Don’t let the constant deaths frustrate you though; progress through some of the tricky set pieces and you’ll often be rewarded by some entertaining (albeit completely bizarre) punch-ups with some of Bond’s arch nemeses. Slap Oddjob in the chops, kick Jaws in the cahoonies – what’s not to like? From a controls perspective, 007 Legends plays almost identically to the contemporary Call of Duty titles. While the aiming does feel slightly slacker and the movement is significantly floaty, the shooting is pretty standard fare and does well to pace the game accordingly in certain situations.
Despite him putting in a good shift vocally, the option to keep Craig as the central protagonist feels surprisingly betraying. A lot of the dialogue execution fails to touch the originals and certain iconic scenes (one of which happens early on in the game during the Goldfinger missions) just don’t feel right. In a similar vein, the gadgets Bond uses in all his various outings (spanning from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service right through to Die Another Day) are slightly naff compared to what you’d come to expect. A multi-faceted mobile phone will make up the bulk of your gadgetry utility belt, as it comes with built-in night vision goggles, radioactive elements spotter, heat sensing etc. To break up the firefights, you’ll occasionally have to point either your watch or your phone at walls, safes and keypads and complete a badly explained mini-game in order to proceed.
The game feels as basic as they come, yet surprisingly the charm of the characters and the legendary Bond iconography makes the game fantastically addictive. Couple that with the fact that the game sports some fantastic on and offline multiplayer modes and suddenly 007 Legends, against all odds, is on to a secret winning formula. This really is no surprise though given Bond’s multiplayer gaming heritage (who can forget the legendary Goldeneye?) It also supports local split-screen and offers a multitude of online game types reminiscent of 2008’s Casino Royale (Xbox 360, PS3). Again this is all well and good, although sadly it seems that the majority of the people who play online only really are doing so for Team Deathmatch. While that’s no bad thing, it would be nice to break the gunfights up once in a while with some crazy espionage hijinks.
All in all, 007 Legends is a pretty mediocre game that doesn’t quite live up to the standards of contemporary shooters. It’s a sort of “popcorn” game; a game which allows you to completely switch off and enjoy stress-free without really testing you along the way. If Call of Duty is Skyfall, then this is The Expendables. If Battlefield is The Bourne Identity, then this is RoboCop 3. I think you get the picture. With a great multiplayer and some neat Bond moments that’ll appease most fans, this isn’t by any means a game to avoid – but perhaps one to wait for until it hits the bargain bin. It’s shaken, not stirred…