Far from legendary, Mr. Bond
After it turned out that the new GoldenEye game didn't suck and Activision simultaneously published a new third-person Bond adventure in the form of Blood Stone (seriously flawed, but showed promise) I actually had the audacity to hope that the publisher was doing something interesting with the license. When 007 Legends was announced I foolishly perked up. Eurocom, the guys behind GoldenEye, were developing this new Bond FPS and going back and revisiting old Bond films is one of my favorite pastimes.
What is not one of my favorite pastimes is playing through a rushed game whose quality is an insult to one of the greatest franchises in the history of media. You hear that Activision? This is James Bond, not some license you picked up off a one shot movie deal. You're dealing with an icon and this is how you treat him? The post GoldenEye 007 games may not have been revolutionary, but at least they tried. Bond deserves better and so do the people who buy this game expecting to receive even an iota of quality because the number 007 is on it.
I suppose that pretty much gives you the gist of it already, but if you want to see a massive Bond fan release all his anger at 007 Legends in a single review please read on.
007 Legends (Playstation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360)
I can't stay mad at developer Eurocome for too long, because given time they can clearly make a fun Bond game. 007 Legends was obviously rushed to meet three deadlines: (1) the release of Skyfall; (2) a release date before CoD landed; (3) the 50th Anniversary of James Bond in film. The first and second reasons actually mean you're not even getting the full game right off the bat. One of the levels is based on Skyfall and will be released as free DLC once the movie hits theaters in the U.S. so as not to spoil the plot. Why not just release the entire game after the film then? Because Activision wouldn't want this going up against their newest edition of Call of Duty -- not that it poses much of a threat. Considering the game feels short even if you take into account you'll be getting another level it's hard to say your even get a delayed bang for your buck here.
Since it is Bond's 50th anniversary in film the game is not a straight Skyfall game. Legends takes you through five classic Bond films, which are Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, License to Kill, Die Another Day and Moonraker. All the stories have been updated to current day and star Daniel Craig's Bond -- if we can even call the creepy, monotone, non-Craig-voiced, mannequin that stars in the game Bond. The updates mean that any charm of going through the older films is sucked right out and the look of these classic films is obliterated too. The stories are also rushed through carelessly, and for the most part don't even hit the best one-liners. The advertising claimed that they had seamlessly integrated the stories into the Skyfall plot, but what that really amounts to is Bond having a bunch of disconnected dream sequences. Not to mention the fact that if these are supposed to be adventures Craig's Bond has been on in the past it completely obliterates the new canon established by the current films. For a game supposedly celebrating Bond's 50th anniversary they sure didn't care much about his history. I felt more care for the franchise playing through the bait-and-switch that was GoldenEye: Rogue Agent or even, dare I say it, From Russia with Love.
But maybe you aren't a big Bond fan and the careless use of your favorite film character doesn't make you want to punch small puppies in the face. I understand that not everyone is quite as obsessed with Bond. Even if you aren't, 007 Legends still shows all the telltale faults of a game not given enough development time. You've got shoddy AI, repetitive level design, horrific load times, very little ingenuity, a busted cover system, almost completely non-destructible environments, poor controls, second thought multiplayer, and the annoying use of horrible and repetitive NPC voices. It's a bunch of stuff that simply screams that there wasn't time to pay attention to details.
You can play through the game with either regenerative health or classic life mode, but neither makes it anymore fun. The films are broken up into two types of gameplay. The first is longer first-person shooter sections, which almost always involve charging through the level to the bad guy's office and then charging back out through the exact same rooms you just shot your way through. The other is an action sequence where you're either driving or an playing an FPS variant. For instance the gimmick level in OHMSS is some down hill skiing FPS action with terrible controls while Die Another Day gets some driving action with horrible controls.
The game also features hand-to-hand combat, which is how you take care of a lot of bosses. This is basically a bunch of quick time events where you have to flick the joystick in the right direction to punch your enemy in an unguarded spot and hit the triggers to dodge his punches. Let me tell you how incredibly fulfilling fighting Oddjob in a crappy QTE event is. Not at all, and even less so because it's the same way you fight every boss and even a few random henchman. On top of this the game had to be in first-person (thank you for sucking and not selling well Blood Stone) so the action sequences you really want to play through from the films are done in first-person cinematic. You basically have to watch the best parts of each movie. I know that we're never going to get the likes of Uncharted quality here, but it can obviously be done and Bond would be so amazing in a game even remotely close to that ilk.
However, what we do have is an FPS and it could have been fun. A lot of the flaws really don't make sense considering Eurocom had a fully functioning game engine when they made GoldenEye: Reloaded and Legends is based on that engine. What it comes down to is that you've got the same crappy graphics, but now things that worked before are completely busted. The cover system for instance is ruined because Bond seems to have lost the ability to detect when he's crouched behind something. Instead of easily being able to pop up from behind many items to take out bad guys you now have about a 50/50 chance to be put into cover mode when crouching behind something. Lazy design also means that walls are often too high for you to pop over anyway, and when you are able to hop easily into cover it's pretty much not worth it thanks to the game's shoddy AI.
The AI had enemies running headlong at me sometimes despite me shooting them in the face. On other occasions they'd simply walk straight into something and get stuck there often repeating over and over that they were "Going to check something out." I almost felt kind shooting them in the head and putting them out of the eternal loop of misery they had somehow locked themselves into. Even worse was when an enemy would charge randomly in one direction and then his AI would kick in and he'd realize he needed cover so he'd stop dead then jerk in another direction and charge that way (that is of course if I hadn't easily shot him to death by then). These things do happen in games every so often, but all of these issues arose on multiple occasions.
What's really fun is when you combine shoddy AI with poorly designed levels and then ask the player to perform stealth missions. A good stealth mission works like a puzzle where you can figure out the pieces and make your moves accordingly. A bad stealth mission is based mostly on luck and puts you in a randomly designed room with enemies that seem to be able to see out of the back of their heads. I'm all for challenging stealth, but when you've got AI that isn't working it just becomes unfair stealth. Bond does get a crafty tool on his watch, which functions as a radar and in a better designed game it would have been a really cool mechanic. Here it's pretty useless.
As are Bond's other gadgets including a cell phone and a dart pen. The cell phone has three settings. The camera setting isn't used except when they make you take pictures of things like that's still an interesting gameplay mechanic. The EMF setting lets you see electrical wiring and to hack into computers. It actually could be a nifty piece of gameplay, but is never really used to its full potential except for once near the end of the game. And the final scanning mode, which I called purple mode, basically lets you see fingerprints and was really just around so they could make it seem like they had more gameplay options. The pen is pretty dumb as well. It probably came about because of the heavier focus on stealth in this game, but the sleeping dart and the electrocution dart are exactly the same and the distraction dart, meant to pull an enemy away from another so you can take them out more easily, rarely works or distracts both enemies so that the point is moot.
There's a new XP system in place now that lets you upgrade your weapons with new attachments and buy upgrades to Bond as well. It would be an interesting addition if it wasn't actually not interesting at all. While many of the upgrades do make life easier they are by no means something you need to think about or even use to beat the game. You also get XP points for doing almost anything (seriously, shooting a guy with any gun will get you points). If you're into easy gratification this is your game, but taking all the challenge out of earning points takes all the fun out of it too. You can earn even more points by completing secondary objectives, but considering that the primary objectives are lackluster at best you can guess how much fun the secondary ones are.
This all sounds pretty horrendous, but what is really aggravating is the fact that the entire game doesn't suck. The first four films are completely worthless in almost every way, but then you get to Moonraker (the level the conveniently demoed for press) and suddenly you're playing a game that's at least fun. There's an entire stealth section that works, a well designed escape sequence, a less annoying female sidekick and a pretty damn clever zero gravity gun battle. It's like they designed this level then looked up at the calendar, realized they had to release in a week and decided that they'd just take a dump on the rest of the disk. I'm not sure if I should be happy that the game has a saving grace or pissed off because now I know it could have been that much better had someone tried.
I should mention the challenge modes, where you are tasked with completing a certain challenge in order to be the bestest ever, that are included with the game, but they aren't really that much fun thanks to the new found flaws riddled throughout. The multiplayer on the other hand actually functions. While the level designs aren't anything too special the insane amount of gameplay customization returns and is once again welcome in a world where mutliplayer gameplay is often taken way too seriously. Plus any game that gives me four-player split-screen gets at least a silent nod of approval. My biggest issue was not really being able to find a lot of people to play with online, which I would assume will become even more of an issue as the holiday gaming season rolls in.
007 Legends is a game made to trick people into playing it by leveraging the incredibly strong brand that is James Bond. It's a disjointed and senseless game that has about as much to do with James Bond as an ill fitting suit. To add insult to injury it shows no care towards the classic stories it is ripping off and even less care towards the character of Bond. It then takes this lack of care and combines it with lazy game making and rushed development. The end result is something that will simply have you asking why the game can't just be a good boy and die.
THE VERDICT - 007 Legends
Reviewed by Matthew Razak
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