007 Legends Review
Game: 007 Legends
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3. PC and Wii U versions forthcoming
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
The James Bond series in general has a somewhat nostalgic factor about it. Harking back to Saturday afternoons on ITV, or bank holiday Monday movies with the family. The film franchise is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, and there are a lot of big things happening; most notably the release of the latest Bond adventure on the big screen, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig.
Games developer Eurocom also seem to appreciate a good helping of nostalgia, and it has served them well in the past. Indeed, their last James Bond game, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, was a re-imagining of the classic Nintendo 64 shooter that is held so close in the hearts and minds of many gamers as a classic retro title. So why not play off that nostalgic charm once more, especially if we are celebrating all things James Bond this year anyway? That seems to be the idea behind 007 Legends. A party, based on all incarnations of the character we have seen so far, and some new content which we haven’t.
STORY: The single player portion of the game manages to shoe-horn in memorable moments from some of James Bonds’ biggest adventures in the past. We are treated to levels based around one film from each actor who has portrayed Bond (yes, even George Lazenby); Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, Licence to Kill and Die Another Day, and the developers have even locked away a bonus sixth level from Skyfall, which will be released as downloadable content shortly after the theatrical release of the film.
The game is set up around the time where the new Skyfall film begins, Bond is on a mission which has led him to be engaged in a brawl atop a speeding train. He is being spotted by fellow MI6 field agent Eve and, in the heat of the moment he is accidentally shot, plummeting from the train to the river below. As his life ebbs away, his past begins to flash before his eyes, and suddenly we awake in the famous hotel room from Goldfinger, where Bond discovers the lady; killed by being painted gold from head to toe. Due to this, the game places Daniel Craig into all of the roles, and places the timeline somewhere between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.
This is a rather cliché idea – at least it isn’t all a dream sequence – but at least there is some sort of attempt to tie all the levels together, rather than a completely random assortment of levels from Bond’s history. The interesting thing about updating the game to the time of Craig, is that the sets and environments are also upscaled and made all the more impressive, to reflect the more modern setting. This does somewhat clash a little when the henchmen you are fighting are all wearing very sixties-styled outfits, and we are cavorting with Pussy Galore, but somehow it just about fits together, tenuously.
GRAPHICS: The in-game engine is the same as that which was used for Goldeneye, so the visuals are all very much the same. Everything is incredibly smooth and rendered in a very slick manner, making the often huge and impressive environments we can expect in a Bond film seem even more breathtaking. Levels are large and impressive, but the individual sections of them do seem generic and repetitive. Each room will look surprisingly similar to the last, and sometimes you will feel like you are not getting anywhere, as everything looks the same. This is a shame, and it is partially caused by the move to a modern setting from the old-fashioned ones of the films. The retro style charm is lost, and most of the locations could really be anywhere; not enough attention to detail has been paid, and the sets become flat and dull.
The characters are good likenesses of their film counterparts for the most part, as some modern actors are mixed with characters based on their classic counterparts. Some of these aren’t one hundred percent accurate but, of course, when the actor is deceased, or too old to be motion-captured, these are pretty good results. It must also be said that the character animations are incredibly smooth. Watching cutscenes, the player could easily be forgiven for thinking the whole thing was a real Bond film, some of the movements and actions seem that realistic.
SOUND: What can you say about the sound design? It has all the hallmarks of a classic Bond soundtrack. Bombastic main themes, quieter, more stealthy ones, and some impressive effects. The sound design mimics the high production values of the films, with the most interesting factor being the classic themes which have been lifted from each old film, then re-worked and re-interpreted a little to fit into the game better. With a cast made up of many of the old and new actors, the voicing is generally of a very high standard although, unfortunately, a Daniel Craig sound-a-like is used, and he seems to deliver most of his lines with the enthusiasm of a wet fish. With the high budget and seemingly great access to the film archive and its resources, it is a real shame that the voice of our hero is the one that really stands out as lacklustre over all of the others; it is, of course, one of the voices you will hear most often too.
GAMEPLAY: As previously mentioned, the engine for 007 Legends is the same one that we saw in GoldenEye 007: Reloaded last year, so as well as looking the same, the gameplay is also very similar. It still plays largely like your basic first person shooter title, and feels much the same as one of those games, with a simple crouch and stand cover system, and snap-to-aim assist, that will pop and lock onto the nearest enemy when you tap aim. Or it should do at least, but it is somewhat temperamental and sometimes players will have to tap the aim button a few times before it actually snaps to an enemy. Due to this, much of the gunfighting feels unsatisfying, and a little on-rails. Auto-assist makes things feel a little easy at times, and the action does get fairly repetitive, with none of the weapons you have at your disposal being particularly unique or exciting. This is a shame, but there just isn’t enough in the engine that makes the game stand out from the crowd. It feels too lightweight and there is little feedback or satisfaction in the actions you will find yourself performing.
The most significant thing that marks the game out from the likes of Modern Warfare and its kin is that – as in the last Bond FPS – there is a greater focus on stealth-based play. Not only that, but the artificial intelligence of the henchmen has been tweaked and improved so that it will be a lot harder for you to sneak up on them and snap their neck, without someone noticing. In fact, in the game, Eurocom provide a short tutorial to show gamers the ins and outs of the new system, with players needing to walk softly and slowly, use cover and move in the shadows in order to avoid suspicion. A bit like Metal Gear Solid, guards now have an indicator to show how alert they are to your actions. A white bar being minimal, yellow is suspicious and red being fully alerted. This new system really gives gamers the chance to try and play the real secret agent – only opening fire when need be and, if so, using silencers. Of course, for those who prefer their action a little more hardcore, most situations will still be able to be handled with more forthright run and gun action, so you get to choose how you want to tackle the game, and what sort of hero you want to be.
To help your stealth and your investigative moments, you will have access to some traditional Q-type gadgets, which include; the smartphone (used heavily in the last Bond game), which has been equipped with zoom and biometric software, for fingerprint scanning etc; a new dart pen that allows Bond to fire four different types of dart, such as distraction, shock and tranquillizer darts; and a more traditional wristwatch that can – as you would expect from James Bond – fire a laser, as well as being able to ping enemies and fry security cameras. Unfortunately though, some of the issues from GoldenEye remain during the sections where you have to use your smartphone to decode computer terminals, hack certain machines and to capture certain pieces of intel, for example. When this happens, and something nearby can be interacted with, a small phone logo will appear on-screen. However, as it did last time out, this often appears in a misleading place, even when the object is through a wall or on an entirely different level to the one you are currently on, and you will end up struggling to track down where the hotspot really is. This also happens with optional objectives on the radar, which aren’t always easy to locate, and it is a shame that the team didn’t implement some sort of simple map system in the pause menu, for example, which just could have made things a little clearer for players.
Other additions to the gameplay overall are an XP levelling system, where players amass points through kills, hacks and grabbing items, and can then spend them on both physical upgrades and weapon mods. For instance, you can buy a range of different scopes for your guns, choosing which type you prefer and which gun you wish to improve (you can carry three different types of weapon at once; pistol, automatic weapon and heavy weapon. These mods can then be equipped and disabled as you wish, whenever you find an ammo crate on a level. You could also choose to spend XP points on health and accuracy upgrades instead, or a host of other physical attributes that could speed Bond up, or make him even more deadly. This is a nice progression system, but surely the Bond we know and love from these classic films can perform all of these impressive skills already? You may need to suspend your disbelief a little.
Players can collect files and items as they go through levels for extra XP, as well as unlocking case files and extras in the main menu that you can peruse at your leisure. These are small touches, but big fans of the series may appreciate them. Another new point is the inclusion of a series of vehicle-based missions that occur more or less once in each campaign, but these are not especially fulfilling, and the controls often feels awkward and you feel these levels were added more as an after-thought, or as filler, than being core missions. You can even enter extended hand-to-hand combat with some of the tougher enemies in the game, where you use the left and right analog sticks to throw punches and the triggers to dodge, trying to knock down your opponent before they floor you. This functions much like a boxing game, and is a welcome change of pace, but these fights are so few and far between that it seems like a rather wasted feature.
MULTIPLAYER: The game still supports the retro four-player split-screen multiplayer that Eurocom brought back for GoldenEye Reloaded, as well as online play for up to twelve agents. The game modes are all more or less the same as those seen in that game too, including ‘Conflict’ (a basic Deathmatch, both solo or team-based), ‘Detonator’ (like pass the bomb), ‘Escalation’ (where you cycle through ever more powerful guns), as well as some inspired by the famous GoldenEye multiplayer, such as ‘You only Live Twice’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’.
As you play the different multiplayer modes, the player will amass experience, with an XP counter, so you can progress through a series of different agent rankings. Play more and more and become successful, and even you might become a 00 Agent. These different levels may unlock extra gadgets and accessories that help upgrade your abilities a little, such as improving reload times. Character skins and maps are based around the single player experience, and some of the classic Bond multiplayer skins such as Jaws and Oddjob make an inevitable return. Whilst the whole thing can be fun, and the levels are well-structured, they all look fairly similar and uninspired. Indeed, the whole mode seems to be sitting on its laurels a little after GoldenEye, and nothing much has progressed since then. We could have expected a little more ambition and something different from the mode, to really personalise it to the Bond series, rather than it sometimes feeling like another Call of Duty clone.
LONGEVITY: In the same manner as the MI6 Ops did in GoldenEye Reloaded, in Legends we are presented with a series of Challenges. Named simply Challenges, they are more or less the same as last time out, with modes that concentrate on assault, elimination, stealth and defence-based objectives. They all have customisable difficulty and sliders, which means you can set your own challenge and make it as hard or as easy as you would like. Made a particularly tricky one? Why not upload it and challenge friends to beat it? This could create some good rivalries as players try to one-up each other, but it remains to be seen if this will catch on or not, as it is very much a social activity, so the game-makers have little control over it. On top of that, we get the chance to play some challenges as the bad guys and Bond girls, which is a nice touch, but these probably won’t keep you distracted for long.
The single-player experience is extended by the addition of bonus objectives and mini-targets throughout each level. Like in the very first GoldenEye, some level achievements are optional, but all must be completed to score the best end of level rating. Also, to get the best judgement at the end of a stage, players must fulfil time and accuracy targets, so you will have to be a real secret agent and certainly re-play some levels, if you want to come out on top on every stage. The Skyfall DLC will be coming out in several weeks, which will extend the game, however, by that time surely most players will have had their fill of the game, and it seems like a strange marketing ploy to hold back a level that was so clearly intended to book-end the core levels in the game.
VERDICT: 007 Legends isn’t a bad game by any means, it just suffers from being a fairly mediocre one. There is little it does to differentiate itself from other first person shooters and it hasn’t done enough to make it stand head and shoulders above its predecessor that would make you want to upgrade to the latest model. It does suffer from feeling like it is simply the Bond license squeezed into some Call of Duty-shaped boots. It does make some concessions toward the spy genre and the stealth aspects certainly make a good attempt at mixing the two styles of gameplay, but perhaps the freedom that allows players to tackle levels however they like – be it action or stealth – means that the stealth aspects could easily be lost or over-looked. It is basically a run-of-the-mill shooter with some optional stealth added into the mix afterwards.
The game has been slickly executed and the movie-style presentation makes everything seem like a neat package, but there just isn’t enough substance within; especially with the decision to make everything Daniel Craig-centric and stripping away almost all of the character and fun from the scenes. The idea of being able to play through the old films in high definition on a modern console sounded great, but these aren’t the old films you will remember and look fondly back upon, these are some entirely new levels, with some old names and characters tacked onto them. The Bond series may have evolved in its theatrical version but, in its fiftieth year, nostalgia still runs through its veins, and fans still respond to the old charm, however, that is sadly lost in the sanitised, modern re-vamp.