Review by horror_spooky

"50 years of Bond. And this is what we get."

2012 marks 50 years of the world's favorite spy, James Bond. The character is synonymous with spy fiction. His 20 plus films have been massive financial successes. His books launched the spy fiction genre to the stratosphere. And GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64 is hailed as one of the greatest FPS games of all time. 50 years of Bond is being celebrated with a massive film collection and a new movie in the form of Skyfall, and Activision has decided to join in on the festivities with 007 Legends. Unfortunately, their attempt at paying tribute to Bond is outright insulting and pathetic.

The concept of 007 Legends is to stitch together the plots of five (originally advertised as “six”, but I'll get to that later) of the older Bond films and essentially create Call of Duty in a tuxedo. Instead of the actors that portrayed Bond in the films the game is copying, they've replaced everyone with Daniel Craig. I like Daniel Craig, but this seems unnecessary. I can't be certain, but I'm almost positive that Daniel Craig did not even provide the voice work for the game, and if he did, he must've been incredibly bored during those sessions because Bond sounds uninterested every single time he speaks.

However, the overarching storyline is laughably thin. Characters are introduced and then killed off in the next cut-scene like I'm supposed to care. The movies are shortened drastically to basically contain the beginning and ends of each film. Of course, huge liberties have been taken with the plots and what transpires during these scenes. Everything is more bombastic and explosive, but the only purpose it serves is to set up set-pieces and to force uninspired QTEs on the player.

Introducing a new primary antagonist in each mission is a horrible idea. None of these villains are connected in any way and the battles with them boil down to repetitive and easy melee sequences. The melee battles in the game amount to pushing the left and right analog sticks either up or down when prompted by on-screen indicators. That's it. On occasion, a wrench will be thrown into the mix that requires mashing a button or something, but for the most part, the scripted hand-to-hand combat scenes are forgettable and almost impossible to lose.

This would've been forgivable had these fights changed it up a bit or if they didn't occur so frequently. Actually, the rest of the gameplay is just as repetitive. Nearly every mission follows a basic formula. Bond sneaks through area. Bond meets Bond girl. Bond investigates bad guy's office. Bond sprints backwards through level and shoots his way through a bunch of incompetent enemies. Playing this game is a frustrating chore because of how unbelievably repetitive it is.

What's even worse is that there is little that differentiates this game from Call of Duty. Guns are the same, controls are the same, and the game even suffers from the same “follow me” syndrome that makes the recent Call of Duty games so mind numbing — but at least Call of Duty has smart enough AI so that NPCs aren't telling you to follow them straight into a wall. Enemy AI is just as bad, as I witnessed enemies become trapped behind doors and fire down hallways like madmen for seemingly no reason.

Little elements exist to help make this abomination feel like it is a James Bond game instead of just a Call of Duty spinoff. Bond can use his wrist watch laser to disable cameras, for example. I used this feature exactly three times throughout the course of the game, but at least it's there. Other Bond gadgets include a smartphone that can scan for fingerprints, hack consoles, and take pictures. At this point, there is probably an “app for that” in regards to all of these features, so Bond with a smartphone isn't exactly very super spy impressive. A dart gun he acquires later in the game shakes things up a bit, but not enough.

The smartphone is used to investigate the offices of the villains in what becomes routine work. Scan for fingerprints. Find hidden buttons. Yawn. The hacking mini-games are a nice distraction, however, and a wonderful change of pace from the rest of the game. My favorite requires the player to turn a sequence of nine color-coded segmented circles so that all the colors match with each other. Not exactly a brain teaser, but it's better than the rest of the game.

Actually, that's not all true. Stealth segments tend to be a bit more engaging than the mindless gun play, but they are few and far between. A few instances in the game require absolute stealth or else the mission fails, and I loved these sections compared to the little consequence I encountered when caught by enemy guards at other points.

Admittedly, there are missions that try to bring something fresh to the table in the form of vehicular levels that are shoehorned into most FPS games for the same purpose. Throughout this game, I witnessed Bond take part in a helicopter sequence using a mounted turret, ski down a snowy mountain in a segment that was painfully reminiscent of the snowmobile mission in Modern Warfare 2, drive a jeep, and drive a car that was invisible in the movie it appeared in, but entirely visible in 007 Legends. There's nothing special about these levels and in fact, they are just short exercises in trial and error, adding no substance to the game, and in the case of the skis, giving the game a decisively dorky feel.

Speaking of the skiing segment, it brings up a major issue I encountered with the game. Right before this skiing segment starts, a brief explanation on the new controls flashes on the screen and then disappears, never to be seen again. There's no way to see the control explanation in the tutorial menus or by replaying the mission. Because of this, I had no idea how to, er, “accelerate” on the skis for the longest time in order to keep up with the Bond girl for that particular level. The secret was that I had to hold LB. I can't think of any other video game where LB equates to acceleration. Poor game design at its finest.

Surely a Call of Duty clone would at the very least be good looking. Well, yes and no. Environments are bland and boring. The framerate is fairly bad, with screen tearing occurring every few minutes very noticeably. Character models, while ridiculously untrue to the multiple movies the game is based on, are at least well done, and the facial animation is especially impressive.

Another element one would expect from a Call of Duty clone is good multiplayer. 007 Legends has multiplayer that is essentially a carbon copy of Call of Duty multiplayer, except with fewer features and Bond characters. However, I have to admit that the four player split-screen option was a nice touch, and the ability to play the multiplayer and campaign with health packs as opposed to regenerating health invoked a bit of nostalgia.

Multiplayer is nothing to get crazy about, as it's likely a multiplayer experience that nearly everyone has had with the Call of Duty games already, and in a superior form (plus, the maps are bad). The campaign is very short and can be beaten in three to five hours. Higher difficulties add new mission objectives, but they fail to expand the game in the same way GoldenEye on the N64 did. Achievements are uninspired and generic, but the game does have a tacked-on XP progression system for the campaign that I used once and never felt the need to use again. So there's that.

Yes, I mostly hated 007 Legends for the myriad of reasons listed above. However, the most insulting aspect of the game comes at the end. Originally, Activision advertised 007 Legends as covering six Bond films, but the final product mysteriously only features five. Guess what happens when you beat the game? This message pops up:

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. PURCHASE SKYFALL DLC IN NOVEMBER!

It seems to me that the ending to 007 Legends was axed for the purpose of selling it as DLC at a later date. Even if that wasn't the case, the ending is incredibly weak, featuring no resolution to anything that has happened in the game. It feels like a gigantic slap to the face. If more games continue this trend, then the industry is heading down a very dark road indeed.

Looking back on my time with 007 Legends, I can only think of one real emotion. I feel annoyed. I feel like the game essentially “trolled” me. As a fan of the franchise, 007 Legends tried its best to infuriate me in each level, and the ending was certainly the straw that broke the camel's back. My recommendation is that we all just pretend this game doesn't exist, dig out the Nintendo 64, plug it in, and enjoy GoldenEye 007, because it is still the best James Bond game. And if Activision keeps the license, it probably always will be.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 10/24/12

Game Release: 007 Legends (US, 10/16/12)


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