James Bond 007 Legends Review (Xbox360)

All we want Mr Games Publisher is a Bond game that has a bit of time and thought put into it. Skyfall is raking up the box office, but the reason the Bond games never do that well is because they’re always crap (and are always released in the most crowded time of year, right now). It also doesn’t help that they get just a few months’ development time and a studio that’s fearing for its life trying to churn out a title that’s Call of Duty with a couple of extraneous gadgets. So, does the latest James Bond game, 007 Legends, break the mold? Does it hell. I don’t think I’m spoiling things by saying right away in the first paragraph that this is the worst Bond game since Tomorrow Never Dies on the PS1.

The narrative, such as it is, is set around Skyfall. Bond’s just been shot and fallen into deep water, and his life (or in this case, previous Bond films) starts flashing before his eyes. And that’s the story ladies and gentlemen, along with cut-down versions of five Bond films. I don’t know if they intended it or not but after having seen Skyfall (very minor spoiler here) having Daniel Craig take the place of all previous Bonds here kind of makes sense, since while Craig’s first two were at the start of Bond’s 007 career Skyfall seems to be set after all the other Bond films.

Yes, Jaws is in it. Here he is making the letter ‘U’.

Unfortunately even in this good fortune Eurocom make a hash out of it. A lot of the complaints I will come to can be explained away by a short development schedule, but not in the story. They have Judi Dench’s M, Roy Kinnear’s Tanner, Daniel Craig’s Bond (although not on voice duty, sigh), making it perfectly in tune with the new 007 set up by Casino Royale… so why the hell is Felix Leiter a skinny white guy? Where’s Jeffrey Wright, or at least a lookalike? The beginning of Goldfinger is also bizarre, since Tanner clearly states that Bond is there to investigate Goldfinger’s smuggling operation… but he seems to have an airfield and an aircraft production facility, which Bond blows up immediately for no adequately explored reason.

The further levels, set around On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Licence To Kill, Die Another Day and Moonraker (one for each Bond), at least do a better job of retelling the story of each sensibly. As you might tell Eurocom seem to have gone for films that haven’t been made into games yet, meaning we’re left with several of the worst Bond movies to play through. Still, at least Die Another Day and Moonraker are conceivable as interesting games.

Pretty much everything about 007 Legends has something critically wrong with it. There are two major gameplay states that the title flips between: action and stealth. If the game designates that you’re in a shooting section, there is absolutely no opportunity to get out of it. Enemies know where you are from across the map and will hunt you down. The AI, to be fair, is competent. Enemies take cover, react or fall when shot, aren’t absolutely perfect shots and at least have some opportunity to be taken by surprise. They’ll offer a challenge, and the range of guns on offer (all of which having optional upgrades) seem to find the mark with challenge and seldom frustration. It’s all occasionally enjoyable but distinctly average. It never threatens to actually ‘wow’ you with anything.

General level design is good, particularly the mostly-fun Moonraker segment that finishes the game (probably why it was left until last, DLC permitting), but the short development time infects everything. There are plenty of impressive areas, like the Moonraker shuttle launching pad or Gustav Graves’ biodome, but there are an abundance of cut-and-pasted areas ranging from rooms to entire hangars. Licence To Kill particularly takes the piss by forcing you to stealthily clear two huge identical warehouses, and then shortly afterwards forces you to shoot your way back through both areas. Not that stealth won’t end in a shootout of course, in fact you’ll be lucky if it doesn’t.

Guys shoot at you. You shoot back. Originality is Bond’s middle name. If it wasn’t “Danger”.

Yes, the second gameplay state, stealth, is pretty damn borked. You can’t move bodies but enemies and cameras can spot them, unless they just randomly disappear. Your “Distraction” gadget often doesn’t work. Your radar watch shows pretty much everything in the environment and is supremely confusing. If someone raises an alarm enemies will pour in from all sides and you’ll be lucky to escape alive. The first damn stealth section, the tutorial, took me a sodding hour to get through.

Incidentally, do not choose the ‘Classic’ health option your first time through, it must’ve been an afterthought since Eurocom frequently forget to put down health or armour. Stick with the ‘Modern’ regenerating health option, it’s the only way you’ll survive when the alarm goes off, which it often will. Dishonored’s currently proving that first-person stealth works (as does the Thief games), so it’s frustrating Bond can’t get the same treatment.

Then just to add variety, like rotting marzipan on a stale cake, there are vehicle sections. Yes. Driving moments consist of accelerating forward and avoiding stuff, and despite the best efforts of Eurocom to shout exciting things during these scenes they are actually very boring.

It is however worse when the developer attempts something more ambitious, culminating in the likes of OHMSS’s ski chase. Skiing down a mountainside, shooting goons while keeping up with Tracy sounds quite fun, and probably would be if it wasn’t for the fact that every single mistake makes you fail the mission – and not immediately either. Hit just one tree (and there are many) and you’ll watch Tracy slowly get further and further away until the game informs you that you’ve failed. It’s incredibly frustrating and I spent so long trying and failing I thought I was going to have to write an apology instead of a review. Thankfully the checkpoints in this scene were forgivable, unlike elsewhere in the game.

To make matters worse, not only is the game about 5-6 hours long (even with the many replays and fails) it’s also missing an ending. We didn’t get the Skyfall DLC with our review copy, but I can’t imagine that it’s game-saving. The problem is that each chapter begins with the previous chapter’s ending, so 007 Legends as it stands has Bond floating in a mist of poison gas at the end of ‘Moonraker’… and then credits. No ending for that chapter, no tease of what the ‘Skyfall’ chapter will be, just fade to black and the Main Menu. I don’t care if the DLC’s free, it’s not here and it was clearly yanked out of the game at the last minute. Shoddy.

Just like the Moonraker knows/His dream will come true someday/When someone takes this game away.

There are difficulty modes, ‘Classic’ health to make things even harder, and an array of hidden character unlocks to add replay value, but honestly I can’t imagine ever playing the single-player again. There’s the multiplayer of course, with an array of Bond-centred versions of classic online modes. ‘Icarus’ for example takes the usual “Capture The Checkpoint” mode and allows the winning team to strike the losing team’s base with the Icarus laser satellite, or the classic ‘Golden Gun’ with the one-hit killing weapon of Mr Scaramanga. Trouble is you don’t need a Golden Gun, since death comes frequently and immediately.

You often have no idea where the person who killed you shot from, as even a basic weapon will kill seemingly instantly. Shotguns are the utter worst though, as they really are one-shot kill weapons already. The maps are okay, although occasionally descend into sniper fests. It’s just no fun really, and I can’t imagine anyone will be hanging around in the servers a month from now. I’d rather stick with GoldenEye: Reloaded, thanks. Or more likely Source.

And so the Bond licence takes another hit. Maybe the day is coming soon that the Bond games will be such chart poison that Activision will sell it to a publisher/developer combo that actually wants to make a great game out of it (like what happened with GoldenEye, or more recently to the Batman licence with Batman: Arkham Asylum), but until that time we have to put up with dross like this.

007 Legends is rushed, short, frustrating, and wastes several interesting scenarios. It’s at best slightly above average (several bits in Moonraker), but largely painfully average or excruciatingly below average. And then it ends with a sudden stop and a blast of late DLC. No thanks, I’ve got a new film to watch for the third time.

Top Gaming Moment: The zero-gravity battle in Moonraker. Shades of No One Lives Forever there. God I miss that series.



By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Nov 15, 2012
With a 'white' Felix Leiter and the blowing up of Goldfinger's airfield, it sounds like some Dev was borrowing too much from "Licence To Kill" instead of "Casino Royale". In the novel, Bond does infiltrate and wreak havoc in Golfinger's main manufacturing plant in Europe, but that's as close as it gets (great car chase, though, that never made it into the film).
Well overall a bitter disappointment for anyone hankering for a new "Goldeneye" or at least something reasonably good to go along with the release of the excellent "Skyfall" (got to see that in a special preview screening...ripper!).
At 5-6 hours short, I don't see any point other than to make a buck/quid/euro or three from the release of the "50th Anniversary Collection" on DVD/Blu-ray, and less so the new film, of course.
Thanks for the review, Chris.