James Bond’s illustrious video game career has had its ups and downs, and unfortunately this is one of the downs. 007 Legends takes players on a journey through the history of Bond movies, one for each actor who portrayed the famous spy, all with familiar FPS gameplay that ranges from wild, explosive battle scenes to more delicate stealth areas. The developers seem to have overreached, though; the wide variety in gameplay only means each element is weaker, which dilutes the overall experience.
The game begins with the opening scene of Bond’s latest film, Skyfall, before delving into Bond’s memories of his past adventures, including Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, License to Kill, Die Another Day, and Moonraker. A unique choice of movies to be sure, though they have plenty of iconic elements such as Oddjob and the familiar laser gun which should please Bond afficionados. The downside is that the game makes virtually no effort to remind players about the plots of these movies; iconic though they may be, a summary about the stories would have been helpful. The motivations of FPS games are typically dry anyway, but the story elements are even further reduced here, which doesn’t seem to do service to Bond’s career, particularly in regards to Bond’s wife.
007 Legends tries to combine the typical explosive action of other modern FPS games with the more careful, stealthy approach that gave past Bond games a certain depth and element of strategy, but the effect is quite poorly emulated here. The run-and-gun action is already grown stale in other games like Call of Duty, and seeing James Bond charge through wave after wave of enemies with a group of soldiers behind him is frankly dull and far too derivative. The stealth gameplay, which includes using a few gadget functions on Bond’s smartphone–a little anachronistic for these older movies but oh well–suffers from clunky and restrictive elements that make stealth harder but for all the wrong reasons. The environments are far too linear for the freedom that a stealthy approach should offer, while Bond’s gadgets and minimal stealth kill options lack the smooth efficiency that would ideally allow you to move rapidly around enemies. These two gameplay elements are fighting each other throughout the game, and neither comes out the better for it.
In a nod to past games, you can choose either a modern regenerating health system or a classic one which includes a finite health bar which you can replenish or boost with health packs and body armor, respectively. For older gamers this is a nice touch, but the downside is the gameplay is so obviously geared toward the regenerating health system that playing on classic is not just more difficult, it’s downright brutal at times–i.e. some sections provide zero cover, so you’ll be soaking up damage no matter how quick you are on the trigger. The enemy AI, meanwhile, has some serious ups and downs. Sometimes it’s smart enough to pin you down and flank you, other times it continuously fires at a wall or runs into a flaming inferno in an attempt to reach you. Combined with the fact that many areas just throw hordes of enemies at you, the inconsistent AI makes some already underwhelming gameplay all the more mindless and disappointing.
Another area where the developers overreached was in incorporating fist-fight sequences. The effort is appreciated, certainly–after all, James Bond tends to use fisticuffs just as much as guns in the movies–but the final result is so incredibly bland and half-assed that it’s one of the most embarrassing elements of the game, and it crops up in just about every mission. The fist-fights play like some sort of pathetic flash game, prompting you to punch wherever your opponent is not currently blocking. It’s the world’s most boring quick time event, made all the worse because it’s the same for every opponent, from some nameless lackey to the recognizable villains–it’s as if every boxer in Punch-Out was Glass Joe. There are a couple more quick complaints I can levy here toward the poorly outlined secondary objectives and the terribly tedious final boss, but in short the gameplay tries to do too much without getting any one element down right.
It wouldn’t be an FPS game without multiplayer, though 007 Legends might as well not have it since no one is play it. Plenty of online games have small communities that can be difficult to break into, but multiple times I would wait for as long as ten minutes searching for someone to play with. If I was lucky I’d find one or two others, but the minimum requirement of four players meant we were still out of luck. The few times I did manage to play a match proved to be as awkwardly designed as the main game. Some of the absolute worst spawning plagues the game–at one point I spawned on top of a grenade while other times I would just appear next to an enemy or two. The game can’t even boast a smooth online connection: half the games I played were jittery, especially the few with more than six players, while one just flat out crashed. Online connections will inevitably vary from player to player, but this one was notably bad, and the perfect cherry on top of a poorly constructed game.
The controls hit all the basic elements of FPS games relatively well, though when aiming down the sight the controls seem much more stiff, which makes sense but still takes some getting used to. You can only adjust the aim sensitivity of normal aiming, so that lack of customization may well annoy some players. There’s not much interesting use of the Gamepad’s screen but that’s not entirely unexpected in a mulitplatform title. The lack of Wii remote support and off-screen play is disappointing but likely would not have improved much about this game.
The graphics don’t fare much better than the gameplay–there’s a distinct sense of incomplete design here, an overall lack of real detail or smooth rendering. To be fair the visuals aren’t terrible but they certainly are nowhere on par with other current games, not in technical capabilities nor in art design as enemies and environments are composed of the most bland and generic elements you could think of for an FPS. Furthermore, glitches aren’t uncommon, ranging from disappearing enemies to bullets managing to damage you through walls. The soundtrack matches the lack of imagination and enthusiasm found in the graphics–surprisingly there’s no good use of the 007 theme song. The voice acting, while decent in some areas, dips into laughably bad territory as well. And hearing Daniel Craig–or rather, a voice actor impersonating Daniel Craig–deliver some of Bond’s memorable lines just seems wrong.
Despite covering five movies as well as some scenes in Skyfall, the single-player campaign is surprisingly short. About eight hours will see you through the whole thing; each movie only has a couple of levels, but they can be quite long. Too long, arguably, as many of them just seem to drone on. The online multiplayer would be a nice replay incentive if there was anyone to play with, but at least the game also has local multiplayer. Finally the game includes special challenge levels which essentially challenge you to earn a high score on variable difficulty levels which you can customize–for example you can give yourself less health or the enemies more. All the same gameplay problems plague the challenges as well but the option is nice for quick bursts of action.
007 Legends is a collection of good ideas and good intentions gone completely awry. Revisiting classic James Bond scenarios seems like a clever hook, but the lack of story emphasis makes the varied settings seem superfluous. The multiple gameplay elements crash into one another in a complete mess, and there isn’t even a strong online community to draw players into playing frequently. The developers tried to throw together interesting and successful FPS aspects, but the final result in 007 Legends is a tedious and dull adventure with virtually no redeeming qualities.