|System: Xbox 360*, PS3|
|Release: October 16, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Drug Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Shelby Reiches
Bond games have a tumultuous history. While GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 was one of the console's seminal titles, played to this day in college dorm rooms across the country (usually between rounds of Mario Kart 64), subsequent attempts at shooters in the Bond universe have been above-average at best, whether they went the first-person or the third-person route.
With his fiftieth anniversary and twenty-third movie coming up, though, Activision (which currently holds the Bond license) has decided that it's time to try again, releasing 007 Legends as something of a playable love letter to the super-spy's oeuvre. As such, rather than create an original story for the game, or adapt one of the past Bond movies, 007 Legends draws inspiration from the agent's entire history, with levels representing Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Licence to Kill, Die Another Day, and Moonraker.
A sixth chapter, corresponding to the upcoming film, Skyfall, is slated for release after the movie hits theaters, as free DLC.
The eagle-eyed Bond fan, or those with good memories, might have noticed that there are six chapters (if we include the DLC), corresponding to the six different actors who've played James Bond. In fact, each actor is represented by one of their films (in Lazenby's case, his only film) in the level list, with Daniel Craig to join his predecessors when the Skyfall DLC touches down. That isn't to say that you're switching between Sean Connery Bond and Pierce Brosnan Bond, though.
007 Legends makes an effort to tie the entire Bond narrative together by inserting the current actor, Daniel Craig, into each of the previous movies (it's worth noting that he doesn't represent the only casting change, the most obvious of the rest being the white-washing of Die Another Day with a Caucasian Jinx, in lieu of Halle Berry). He brings with him his grittier, more grounded take on Bond, with a pervasive "serious business" feel throughout the game. This is likely due, in part, to the framing story of the campaign, which involves Bond flashing back over key moments in his life as he floats underwater, shot and drowning.
It's for this reason that the campaign seems to hit only on the high-action notes of most of the films it tackles. Gone is almost all downtime, rarely is Bond's voice actually heard doing anything other than giving orders or insulting a villain. He's snappy and bitter, his no-nonsense attitude runs dry by the third film. This is one of the downsides to such a sprawling, disconnected story. It's like a picaresque novel in audio-visual form, mostly unattached stories linked together by the protagonist and some of the other characters who appear within, graced with that bare hint of a bigger tale told by the framing story, left unfinished with the promise of more come the Skyfall DLC.
Yes, the game ends without resolving its original conceit. Does Bond survive? Is the scene in which he is shot and drowning excerpted from the upcoming film? I don't feel that it's spoiling it to tell you that the expected resolution hasn't yet arrived and is promised in weeks following the film's release, but now buyer beware: By definition, you're getting an incomplete game.
So the levels are disjointed and provide little in the way of context, but those to whom this game is going to most strongly appeal—the die-hard Bondians—will know how each tale goes. They're fairly iconic movies for the most part. It's disappointing to get only snippets of the moments that truly differentiate Bond from the shooter heroes to which gamers have grown accustomed, but that doesn't change the greatest positive element to arise from 007 Legends' structure: level variety.
There's something to be said for the level design, actually. It's mostly linear, but offers the player more of an opportunity to explore than in most modern shooters, which allows the player to feel as though they have a bit more agency in how things go about. Perhaps Bond being mostly solo or in a pair, rather than saddled with a full retinue of soldiers, also contributes to this sensation.
With five completely different plot-lines, Bond finds himself in the jungles of South America, in the vault of Fort Knox, amid ice caps and space stations alike. It makes for a visually distinctive title, with each movie handily possessed of its own feel. The plots of them escalate as well, growing from financial terrorism to full-scale genocide.
It's perhaps a bit unfortunate, then, that the means to stopping them, and progressing through each of the distinct levels, is generally so similar. The vast majority of the game is centered around its shooting action and its stealth mechanics, the former being pulled almost untouched from Call of Duty while the latter is enjoyable, but suffers from the standard pitfalls of first-person stealth.
Gunplay is as responsive and fast-paced as you'd expect in a Call of Duty title, but this is actually a bit disappointing. Bond movies are all about the drama, not the protracted gun battles. Even when there is an action sequence, though, they skew toward the dramatic rather than the realistic (yes, even in the Daniel Craig films), and swarms of enemies combined with that all-too-familiar quick-scoping play-style makes for an experience that's out of place in a Bond game. Melee, at least, has been altered in a way that makes it distinctly more cinematic, with most melee attempts resulting in one of a few quick disarm and takedown animations, but the tone of these—typically just knocking out an enemy on the spot—clashes with a game that offers sprays of blood when bullets strike enemies and some extremely pointed and violent deaths for major villains (though, honestly, what is it with Bond tossing people out of airborne things? Of the five chapters, four involve the main villain being thrown or forcibly ejected from a flying or suspended vehicle).
In the end, though, the combat makes for an all-too-easy time slaughtering waves of enemy forces, which are sure to come when you inevitably fail a stealth section.