Some of my earliest gaming memories were on Nintendo consoles. I vaguely remember playing Gamecube, but my first true console was the Wii. After splitting an Xbox 360 with my brother, the next console I truly called my own was a Wii-U. While I did play some of the highlights of those consoles like Super Mario Galaxy, I remember being just old enough to be some edgy kid trying to play shooters. I was only allowed to own one M-rated game at a time, so I instead opted more for T-rated shooters. Two of earliest shooters I remember playing at this time was the Conduit series and the two most recent James Bond games: Goldeneye 007 and 007 Legends. I remember playing and loving Goldeneye 007, and that ultimately prompted me to get 007 Legends for the Wii-U despite its terrible reviews. I recently found the game at a Gamestop for the PS3, so I decided to take a trip down memory lane and see whether or not I was an idiot back then for loving this game.
For those who are unaware, 007 Legends is a first-person shooter that spans over five James Bond films: Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, License to Kill, and Die Another Day. Skyfall is used as a way to connect all of these films together as well as add a few extra levels at the end as the campaign’s proper story ending, but I wasn’t able to access these levels, so I had to stick with the five. Daniel Craig’s likeness is used through all five games despite each film being part of a different Bond era, and a few of the actors of the film voiced their characters in the game. The game released to poor reviews, resulting in developing studio Eurocom shutting down. Shortly after, Activision’s publishing license with the James Bond series expired.
One of the first things I tried to do when booting up this game was launch multiplayer because of how much fun I remembered having with both this game and the last. I didn’t expect anything other than dead servers, but there were no more servers at all, so multiplayer was sadly a no-go outside of local play. So, onto the campaign I went. After a brief Skyfall cutscene where Bond gets shot while on a train and plummets into the river below, the game launches into the first movie: Goldfinger.
I’m not going to walk through each movie and its story, but all of these movies put together into one package does bring up an issue. Each film takes place in a different era of Bond and even in different decades, yet the game tries to tie all of it together under Craig’s Bond. I think jumping between different films is neat, but I also think each movie needs to have its own Bond and take place in its own era. As someone who has seen some of these films, this game trying to convince me modern Bond in the modern day with modern guns while fighting enemies in tacky uniforms and outdated interior building design feels wrong. On top of that, the ways this game tries to connect each film is super flimsy, so I think just having no connection and embracing the different Bonds and bond eras would’ve made this campaign a lot smoother.
Is this James Bond or Austin Powers?
As for the movies themselves, they aren’t great either. I haven’t seen the Bond films in a long time so my memories of the film are scarce, but watching them or not it’s pretty obvious that a lot of stuff was cut. Each film is trimmed down in such a way that a lot of the context, dialogue, exposition, and important story elements are cut. In its place are the fun action bits of the movie with a few cutscenes offering the bare minimum of the story in between. From what I remember of the movies (at least of Goldfinger anyway), I want to say the bits they do have are pretty accurate to the film, but I think having memory of the film makes it worse considering I know just how much is missing. The story bits that are there, though, aren’t much better because of how stiff the dialogue is. At best, I think Bond’s voice work is okay, but a lot of the lines overall sound terrible. The cherry on top of all this is the ending. The final Skyfall segment didn’t ship with the game, instead coming out as free DLC shortly after release. I tried to get the Skyfall campaign segment, but it was unavailable to download, so I instead ended the campaign flying away on a ship in Moonraker instead of experiencing the proper ending. I understand wanting to focus on the action bits to make a more fun experience, but I also think too much was left out, and I would rather have more time with each film even if that means stuffing the campaign with cutscenes.
While character and story are things that matter to the Bond franchise, this game is basically Call of Duty but with tuxedos, so I at least hoped gameplay could carry the experience. Unfortunately, while I think the gameplay is better than the story and it does have its moments, it ultimately falls short due to its repetition and poor combat.
While each film is different in story, setting, characters, and so on, the gameplay loop is largely the same. most of the films contain one or two main levels, an on-rail segment, multiple fist fights including one with either the main antagonist or his side kick, and a room investigation part. There are a few segments here and there that are unique like a skiing segment in On her Majesty’s Secret Service or shooting at the core in the moon base in Moonraker, but they couldn’t save each film from feeling like different skins over the same levels.
Ooh, a chopper gunner segment. How original.
The main meat of the game are the traditional shooter levels, which is where I believe the game is at its best. There are a few large scale action moments like storming Fort Knox and storming Blofeld’s base where the game’s surprisingly solid music kicks up and the fighting feels like a true battle. This is the most fun I had with the campaign, even when the framerate would dip. There are also some other neat mechanics and moments in the game outside of big battle scenes. The campaign features a challenge system where completing challenges and optional objectives nets xp that can be used to buy weapon attachment and character abilities, which I found fun to work on while chugging through the campaign. While floating around in space isn’t anything new for me in first-person shooters, I still think the zero gravity gameplay of Moonraker is neat. Finally, I think this game does a good job at keeping weapons somewhat fresh through each film, even though a lot of them sound strikingly similar to one another. The gameplay of 007 Legends isn’t without merit, though it only really goes downhill from here.
As someone who primarily plays on PC, I struggle a bit with a controller in regards to first-person shooters. Even with that struggle, however, I could tell the controls were bad. The main issue is with the aiming, which was either too fast or too slow for me. While this normally means the game would be harder than usual for me, I actually found it to be quite the opposite. I played on normal difficulty, but the game was quite easy for me because of how generous the assisted aiming is and how much health Bond has compared to how little health enemies have as well as how dumb they are. I was a walking tank, holding down left trigger to snap to enemies and pressing right trigger to kill with relative ease, and the only time they challenged me was with high quantity instead of smarts. While I do enjoy a good challenge, there is a hidden benefit to the easiness of combat, and that is not dealing with the game’s terrible cover system. If crouched behind cover, you can press the aim button, and it will pop you over cover. I’m usually not against this mechanic in games, but to do it in this game, the harder you press on the button, the higher your head will go above cover, and only at the top will your gun be usable. For me, this meant mashing down super hard on the button just to shoot above cover, which I didn’t like because a PS3 controller is already super flimsy as is and letting go even slightly would mean going back into cover. There are some other issues around combat like bad load times and a funny bug in one of the levels where being inside a helipad structure resulted in infinite enemy spawns, but the main issue plaguing combat is how dumb and generic it feels.
A one man killing machine…though to be fair the enemies aren’t the brightest.
A game about a secret agent wouldn’t be complete without stealth, but while this game certainly has stealth, I don’t think it’s great even compared to other non-stealth game with stealth mechanics. Like other games of similar nature, there are moments when you can sneak around and dispatch enemies quietly, but this game is missing out on some key features. Bodies can’t be moved, enemies will know where you are immediately if the alarm is raised instead of trying to look for you, and I had moments where I got spotted through walls. While the basic stealth mechanics aren’t great, there are at least some neat gadgets to play around with. Your watch can be used as a radar, and it’s equipped with an electromagnetic beam that fries electronics, which in-turn distracts guards. There is also a pen gadget with three different ammo types: one that distracts guards, one that tranquilizes singular guards, and one that shocks a group of guards. Ultimately, stealth can be mostly ignored because it’s easier and less time-consuming to just shoot through each level, but it’s there for those who want it and not much else.
To break up the main levels, there are occasional investigation levels, but there really isn’t much to say about them. You get locked into a room (usually the villain’s office) and “investigate” the room by searching for clues using your phone as both a camera, which has different filter options for scanning fingerprints and electrical wires, as well as a hacking tool, which leads to the game’s simple phone puzzles. I guess these segments are a nice little change of pace, but they aren’t really great or terrible in any meaningful way, so they feel like a waste of time more than anything.
The worst part of the campaign are the surprisingly high amounts of fist fights. Whether they are against common guards or notable characters like Jaws and Gustav Graves, they litter the game, never change, and are simply no fun. You stand in front of your opponent and wait for a prompt to move the left or right stick up or down to hit the target in a clearly unprotected part of his body until their health bar drains. It’s braindead easy and rather pointless, especially considering most of these fights with the main villain just lead into cutscenes where the fight didn’t really affect anything anyways. The fist fights in this game are bad filler, and I don’t really see any reason for them to exist.
Everyone I fist fight has the same exact fighting style, and it’s terrible.
Outside of the main campaign are challenge levels. There are four types of challenge levels: escape levels where you try to, well, escape a facility using either stealth or action, infiltration (stealth only) levels, assault (action only) levels, and defense levels. Normally I don’t really care about challenge levels, but I actually enjoyed them more than the main campaign. In a lot of these levels, you play as either the villain or a side character in a segment that leads up to moments in the main story, and having that different perspective is neat. Also, some of the characters have unique weapons and abilities, like Oddjob with his cap as a throwable. Each mission has a five-star rating to achieve and a bunch of modifiers to toy around with, but even without them I think the challenge levels are more fun than the main game, and I wish the campaign had multiple perspectives similar to the challenges.
So, with everything said, is this a bad game? Yeah, it kind of is. It isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played (Recore still holds that spot), but it certainly isn’t good. At best, it’s a generic shooter with decent action moments, and at worst its scattered story and dull gameplay sacrifices what makes Bond great for the sake of chasing Call of Duty money. While this game has a myriad of flaws that I can look at and criticize, the ultimate question I was left with was how I ultimately feel about the game. Do I now dislike this game? I honestly don’t know. That’s the funny thing about the nostalgia I had for this game: on one hand, this nostalgia is now shattered, so adding that on top of the game’s overall poor quality leaves me disliking it a little more, but it’s this same nostalgia that’s keeping me from really hating the game. Even with all of its faults, I had some fun with the game, and the little bits and pieces I remembered from years ago like gun names and certain levels left me thinking about the days when I didn’t think about games as critically as I do now. As much fun as I have writing these blogs, one of the things I miss is the ability to just play a game without racking up the positives and negatives of the experience, even if I’m not going to write about the game. 007 Legends reminded me of those days, and while I have basically no more nostalgia for the game, I do have nostalgia for that.
As of writing this, 007 Legends released almost nine years ago, and since then there hasn’t been a single James Bond video game. Just when all hope was lost on a new game, however, IO Interactive announced Project 007, and just about everything we know from the developer to the character and story sounds promising. Britain’s favorite spy still lives on in movies and games, but it was fun revisiting the game that almost killed James Bond video games.