Review: 007 Legends

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007 Legends just as easily could have been released as a downloadable level pack for last year’s GoldenEye Reloaded. It’s built on the same engine and has the same general gameplay feel, yet it lacks the cohesion one would expect from a standalone video game. But of course, going the DLC route wouldn’t pull as much attention or consumer dollars as a separate retail release designed both as a shill for the latest Bond film as well as a cash in on the 50th anniversary of James Bond movie magic.

Although not without redeeming values, the overall experience feels exactly like a typical rushed movie tie-in.

The mishmash begins during the opening scene of the latest 007 flick, Skyfall, with Daniel Craig’s Bond getting shot off a moving train and plummeting to the river below. As he’s swirling around in the flowing water on the verge of death, flashbacks have him reliving some of his past assignments, a not-so-clever way to string together a slew of missions that have no direct continuity.

Legends loosely pieces together key moments, locales, and characters from five classic Bond films — Moonraker, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Die Another Day, License to Kill, and Goldfinger – into what feels like a series of five micro 007 games strung together in succession. A sixth downloadable chapter based on Skyfall only hammers this point home, tanking hard as a throwaway 30-minute movie promotion that adds little to the experience. But hey, at least it’s free. It wouldn’t have been a surprise for Activision to charge for such a worthless piece of expansionary content.

Each movie in this compilation of super spy first-person shooter missions gets roughly an hour or so of face time, with little in the way of plot background information to put the individual stories into proper context. If you haven’t seen all the movies, good luck making any sense of what’s going on. And even if you have, you’ll probably wish each movie was represented with a bit more depth and focus. You’re only getting the Cliffs Notes versions of these Bond stories.

Even sadder are the poorly implemented fist fight sequences that reduce Bond’s famous encounters with iconic henchmen such as Oddjob and Jaws to some of the weakest quick time event sequences ever developed. During these fights, a giant prompt flashes on the screen, telling you which direction to flick the left or right analog stick to punch high or low with the hand tethered to each limb based on the enemy’s telegraphed block animation. What is this, James Bond’s Punch-Out?

Story isn’t needed for the game to be fun to play, though. Whether you’re thwarting Operation Grand Slam in an assault on Fort Knox in Goldfinger, stopping Gustav Graves’ plans to use the Icarus satellite for evil in Die Another Day, or floating around Hugo Drax’s space station engaged in laser battles in Moonraker, Legends presents an enjoyable string of missions to shoot and sneak through. To call the game a cheap knock-off of Modern Warfare with a James Bond skin isn’t entirely inaccurate; however such a statement is overly flattering to Call of Duty and too dismissive of what this game has to offer.

Except for a few instances of frustrating forced stealth, in which being spotted results in immediate mission failure, the levels allow for multiple approaches. Legends has that classic GoldenEye feel to it with lots of optional objectives and hidden collectibles – and yes, there is an option for the old health system with med packs and body armor. There’s plenty of action and stealth of course, but side elements like vehicular missions, hacking and lock picking mini-games, and investigation scenarios that involve searching for fingerprints and cracking safes to gather intel, add enough diversity to keep the pace moving at a brisk rate.

It wouldn’t be a 007 game without gadgets either. While the developers didn’t push the boundaries of design ingenuity, Bond has some pretty sweet tech at his disposal. His wristwatch functions as a radar and also shoots a laser to short out security cameras; his smartphone has many uses as a camera, hacking device and environment scanner; and he has a handy pen dart gun that can be used to cause distractions or quietly sedate or shock enemies. New since GoldenEye Reloaded, Legends also incorporates a leveling system which rewards you with XP points for completing optional objectives and challenges. These points can then be used to unlock weapon mods, gadget upgrades, and perk-like Training Modules to enhance Bond’s spy skills with benefits like faster weapon reloads, quieter footsteps, increased health, and so on.

Since the N64 GoldenEye glory days, multiplayer has always been a main draw in any 007 game. Although a bit shallow compared to other modern FPS titles, the combination of offline and online competition continues the Bond multiplayer tradition with respectable results. Legends offers 12 match types and eight maps, and employs the genre-standard progression model of earning experience through performance to gradually increase in rank and unlock additional weapons, gadgets, upgrade attachments and loadout customizations. It’s too bad no one ever seems to care about participating in any mode but team deathmatch (on PSN at least), as it’s tough finding busy lobbies in the more interesting match types, such as Escalation, in which players win by scoring kills through an escalating sequence of weapons, and Legends, a deathmatch variant which puts players in the roles of famous Bond characters, each with unique abilities.

The community’s disinterest in certain modes is not the game’s fault; the spotty performance is however. While the multiplayer is fun when it works, unfortunately the developers failed to provide reliable servers. One match will run flawlessly, yet the next will be a mess of lag, networking errors, failed host migrations and various other connection issues that prevent you from being able to easily jump into and complete a map. If these multiplayer issues get you down, you can always hop offline and play locally in split-screen or take on the solo Challenge mode, a collection of 10 MI6 Ops style standalone missions which task you with completing different objectives in a time trial format.

I really do love the idea behind 007 Legends. A James Bond “Greatest Hits” video game certainly is a cool concept, but I just wish it weren’t so hurriedly cobbled together. Eurocom couldn’t even be bothered to carry over the well-designed PlayStation Move control scheme from the PS3 version of GoldenEye Reloaded (it was so hyped the game even got a special bundle with the Sharpshooter rifle!), which just goes to show how rushed and lazy this game feels. That said, Legends is more middle of the road than terrible, but it ultimately disappoints because it clearly could have been so much better. If you liked the GoldenEye remake, you’ll have a good time with this game too. Just don’t expect the same level of excellence.

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Pros:
+ James Bond “Greatest Hits” format is a great concept…
+ Gameplay is still GoldenEye fun
+ Good variety of weapons, gadgets, and objectives
+ Challenge missions and respectable multiplayer add replay
+ Looks and sounds like a Bond game should

Cons:
– …if only it weren’t so lazily pieced together
– Doesn’t provide enough context or background story for each movie section
– Iconic henchman encounters reduced to lame QTE fist fights
– Forced stealth segments slow the otherwise brisk pacing
– Online performance goes through fits of instability

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available for PC, Wii U and Xbox 360
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Eurocom
Release Date: PS3/360 – 10/16/2012, PC – 11/1/2012, Wii U – 12/11/2012
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-12 (1-4 offline, 2-12 online)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!