I’m an avid James Bond fan…in fact I had to take a break from my newly acquired 50-year box set of Bond movies to play and write this review, but that was okay because last year Eurocom released one of the best Bond games ever; GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, so my expectations where justifiably high. Sadly; those expectations where shattered mere moments after the game started.
007 Legends is a compilation of five Bond adventures from past movies; Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, License to Kill, Die Another Day and Moonraker, obviously not played out in their proper theatrical release order, but that is the least of our worries. Rather than merely presenting these as selectable chapters, Eurocom wraps them in the premise of having Bond getting shot off a speeding train by a sniper in his newest movie, Skyfall. He falls into the river below and is seen sinking to his presumed demise. As he gurgles his last breath his life flashes before his eyes (and ours) in the form of five missions, usually consisting of 2-3 levels each.
My first and most significant complaint is the removal of the original Bonds and their replacement with Daniel Craig. Not since the digital remastering of Star Wars have fans been so violated. Obviously this is a licensing issue, but how hard is it to secure at least the “likenesses” of Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Sean Connery, especially when they were able to get the participation of supporting characters like Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax and Richard Kiel as the infamous Jaws, as well as a actors from Quantum of Solace and the upcoming Skyfall.
Not only have all these classic stories been rewritten for the Craig incarnation of Bond, they have also been modernized to include the all-powerful cell phone gadget used to hack computers, capture bio readings like fingerprints and DNA, as well as snap a few vacation photos along the way. Despite all of Bond's high-tech gadgets over his 50-year career, cell phones were not available in any of these films, even the futuristically ambitious Moonraker. Throw in some inappropriate-for-the-time weapons and vehicles and you have a major breech of the space-time continuum.
I would be happy to overlook any or all of these superficial complaints if there were any sort of respectable game lurking beneath the liberal rewrite of the Bond legacy, but sadly, our suave and sophisticated spy has traded in his spy training for combat training. Despite the attempt to add crouching, moving silently, and even hiding in shadows, 007 Legacy is never about stealth and always about killing. Case in point – you cannot stash bodies after a stealth takedown. Instead, you must wait for the enemy to move to a point where they “might not” be discovered and knock them out there. Huh? With games like Dishonored and the new Hitman, you certainly won’t be playing 007 Legacy for any sort of stealth fix.
Even more atrocious in its flawed design, once you break your stealth cover every enemy in the immediately area will descend upon your location. With the exception of stationary snipers, nobody stops to take cover or tries to realistically flank you. They come straight at you like mindless zombies, so often I would back myself into a corner and kill rooms full of enemies without ever taking a single step, then be left to explore the deserted levels at my leisure. The maps themselves are far from impressive, often lacking realistic décor or convincing textures. One level early in the game had the audacity to replicate the same bedroom over and over in some sort of night vision maze haze. And even when you venture into the depths of Fort Knox, the labyrinth of vaults and security rooms were excruciatingly repetitive. I could never shake the feeling that these levels were designed as pure shooting gallery experiences rather than real world locales populated with intelligent enemies.
Numerous scripting glitches would often prevent key events, forcing me to restart from the last checkpoint and hope it triggered the next time so I could advance the story. On the second mission you are thrust onto a pair of skis and instructions flash on the screen. Unless you are Evelyn Wood (look it up) chances are you didn't catch how to “ski faster”, and since there is no way to get those instructions to display a second time I was forced to seek assistance in an online FAQ after a dozen failed attempts at keeping up with my target.
There are other oddities like the variety of puzzles and mini-games you’ll have to do when hacking or accessing special devices. These have no bearing on real-life or even the object you are trying to interact with. Most of the hacking is applying various pressure on the triggers to simultaneously keep two lines within a shaded region for a time, but you may also be tasked with spinning concentric rings to create channels or spinning wheels to match colors. You also have horrible driving segments and periodic boxing matches where you punch high and low with the left and right sticks and occasionally guard against their attacks if you somehow miss the pattern. All of these random elements only take you out of the moment…whatever moment you might be having.
007 Legends has multiplayer support for up to 12 people online (down from the 16 in GoldenEye Reloaded) as well as 4-player split-screen support that hearkens back to the glory days of GoldenEye on the N64. But unless you are interested in the meager offering of new multiplayer maps you’re better off sticking with Reloaded.
007 Legacy is a huge disappointment, partly because of the high expectations I had after GoldenEye 007 Reloaded last year as well as all of the pre-release hype since E3 this year. This game could have been so amazing if handled properly and kept authentic, but sadly we are left with the results of what happens when you forget to defrag the hard drive that contains both Call of Duty and GoldenEye. And even more tragic (or perhaps not, at this point) is that there will be no standalone Skyfall game; only a sixth mission coming to this title as DLC, presumably after the movie debuts to avoid potential spoilers.
I’m going to put this time-traveling, flashback, disaster behind me and return to my James Bond Blu-ray box set where I can enjoy these five adventures in their original and untarnished presentation. I highly recommend you do the same.