With the new James Bond film Skyfall out next month, you might expect this year's 007 game to be all about the present — instead, Eurocom digs into the franchise's rich legacy, updating some of Bond's more memorable moments for the modern era. With the successful reimagining of GoldenEye, Eurocom proved that they know their way around a Bond movie or two. But can they manage six of them at once in 007 Legends?
Not like this, they can't. By stripping these films of their era and charm, cramming them under Craig's gritty and glum interpretation of Bond, and homogenizing them into a by-the-numbers Call of Duty clone, 007 Legends isn't so much kiss kiss, bang bang as it is ho-hum, rat-tat-tat.
007 Legends opens with a moment from Skyfall, with our curmudgeon hero locked in combat with a man on top of a speeding train. A sniper, under MI-6 boss M's urging, takes a shot and hits 007, sending him plummeting into a body of water. With death seeming imminent, some of Bond's prior missions flash before his eyes — Sean Connery's Goldfinger, George Lazenby's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Roger Moore's Moonraker, Timothy Dalton's License to Kill, and Pierce Brosnan's Die Another Day. It's something of a forced setup for a strange pick of flicks — although we suppose the flashbacks do fulfil their narrative purpose — hampered by a seeming reluctance to revisit Bond films that already received a dedicated game, wiping out potentially more appropriate entries from the rest of Brosnan's era and Connery's From Russia With Love.
The core problem with 007 Legends is that it feels forced and disjointed, with no element meshing particularly well with another. By going down the hard shooter path, Legends largely ignores the core of these films in favour of "reimagining" ridiculously huge set pieces based on their events, and sometimes don't even get the memorable parts right — Bond's car in Die Another Day doesn't ever go invisible here, Goldfinger's Fort Knox is a war zone, and Moonraker goes batty with zero gravity. Gameplay is virtually indistinguishable from any other modern military shooter and rudimentary in execution, which puts Bond more often than not in the role of soldier rather than super spy. Stealthy bits try to fill this gap, but are poorly implemented and without incentive to be quiet except when you're forced to be. These instances tend to frustrate more than anything.
However, Legends does take a few stabs at innovation and honouring past Bond tropes but to little fanfare. Extending the multiplayer's XP challenges into the campaign is perhaps Legends' most notable attempt at branching out but proves unnecessary — the core gameplay is resistant to superfluous weapon attachments (that can be found on weapons littered around anyway) and health boosts. And options like non-regenerating health and additional objectives on higher difficulties prove stubbornly throw-away — there is no penalty for failing a secondary objective other than going without the XP rewards.
That isn't to say everything is terrible — when 007 Legends comes together it can be impressive indeed, like in the zero-gravity space laser battle madness of Moonraker, but the problem is that the game so seldom hits these highs. And between all the memorable Bond moments the game depicts, Eurocom always yanks back the controller — instead of letting players square off against Oddjob in Fort Knox, trading blows and dodging hats, players get in a weird QTE fist-fight and then watch the second most memorable part of the movie pantomimed by digital puppets. Why can't we fling the hat into the metal gate?
Eurocom managed to scrounge together likeness rights for nearly every notable character of these films — and the number of which feature shows a commendable attempt at remaining faithful to the franchise's legacy — but the ones who bear no resemblance to their on-screen actor shatter much of the greater illusion, standing out like a sore thumb. Felix Leiter looks disturbingly nothing like Jeffrey Wright, who has depicted the character in the Craig films, and Die Another Day's Jinx replaces Halle Berry with a dull white lady.
Speaking of dull characters, the voice work is dreary through and through, with Craig's sound-alike putting in an incredibly flat performance that undermines any sort of narrative tension — you'd expect someone strapped to a table with a laser creeping toward their crouch to sound a little more alarmed than if they were reading a sign in a parking garage, but alas. At least Judi Dench puts in a serviceable performance as M.
Bizarrely, the Skyfall episode itself isn't even available to play until mid-November when it'll be released as free DLC. Without it, the game abruptly ends after the last mission, and that mission isn't even dignified with a closing cinematic — Bond kills the bad guy and the credits roll, the whole thing audaciously lacking narrative closure. Perhaps Eurocom didn't want (or weren't allowed) to spoil the new movie until it's out, but this is an absolutely terrible and baffling way to go about it.
GoldenEye Reloaded's local and online multiplayer suite returns virtually unchanged, with little to persuade anyone away from their shooter of choice. While plenty of fun can be had running around flinging hats as Oddjob, the maps aren't as fun as before and there is not much here to elevate Legends above last year's outing.
007 Legends' greatest failing is that it cherry picks moments from Bond's illustrious history but fails to show why the character has engaged and fascinated for so long, all the while lacking self-generated value as its own game. Die-hard Bond fans will leave underwhelmed — if not peeved — by its treatment of these films, and the lowest-common-denominator approach to gameplay is downright bland. Thunderbore.