007 Legends is a Bond retrospective that looks back in more ways than one. A tribute to the history of the world’s most famous and enduring super spy, 007 Legends is also a love letter to previous-generation game mechanics. The game begins with Bond being accidently sniped by another British Secret Service agent and plummeting from the rooftop of a train into a river. From there, levels that somewhat resemble scenes from Goldfinger, OHMSS, Licence To Kill, Die Another Day, and Moonraker are presented as death’s door flashbacks, with a free Skyfall DLC level due out this week.
Legends’ gameplay flits between mindless military FPS and stealth title, with a few thin attempts at modern mechanics such as the extremely limited weapon upgrade system serving only to emphasise the game’s antiquity and, presumably, meagre budget. It simply cannot compete on a presentation or gameplay level with the highly-polished blockbuster shooting galleries it aspires to emulate, but it fails for a number of other reasons too.
Enemies are hyperactive, cover-averse dunces with the kind of shooting prowess that allows the player to be similarly cavalier about presenting themselves as a target. This is just as well, as while crouched behind a wall Bond often refuses to even aim his weapon let alone fire it despite a supposed cover mechanic being in place.
That Bond is invincible while performing a melee attack animation is the other good reason not to bother adopting a conservative approach, and this oversight allows him to murder rooms full of enemies by dashing between them like a lethal pinball. This oversight at least makes the game’s wildly unpredictable melee animation durations more forgivable though – sometimes a melee attack will consist of a single quick punch, sometimes it comprises a lengthy takedown and strangulation combo that jeopardises Bond’s chances of remaining undetected in stealth missions.
Speaking of which, most levels may be tackled in a covert fashion to prevent the arrival of small handfuls reinforcements. However, such an approach is actively discouraged by the game as it is slower, Bond cannot move bodies, and the related AI behaviours and overall implementation is utterly basic. Enemy peripheral vision is poor, their hearing worse, and their robotic statements regarding their next destination or action make remaining undetected a thoroughly dull affair. Unfortunately, during some sections of the 007 Legends the player is forced to adopt such an approach, and will instantly fail a level if detected – another signifier of some truly archaic design.
One modern mechanic – a detective mode of sorts – is accessed via Bond’s smartphone, and highlights things that may be hacked, or other points of general interest. But again the implementation here is fumbled, and smart players will only bother with the phone at the points the game absolutely insists they must – to solve the puzzles that reliably pop up every time Bond finds himself poking about in the office of an arch-enemy, for example.
Mandatory vehicle sections are equally poor. Whether skiing downhill and shooting baddies from snowmobiles or avoiding orbital lasers while driving, the controls are terrible. They represent such a dip in quality it’s astonishing they even made it into the game. Fist fight sequences that are little more than inanely simple quick-time events offer the only other gameplay variety, and all play out in the exact same tedious fashion at the exact same points in each level.
While 007 Legends’ gameplay for the five hours its campaign drags on for is certainly bad, its treatment of the Bond franchise is downright offensive. That it rewrites the series’ films using Daniel Craig’s smartphone-toting 007 can be overlooked, but that it ignores his iconic introductory line and replays movie scenes in a stilted fashion using poor stand-in voice actors (only Judie Dench’s “M” escapes with any dignity) will make even the biggest Bond fans’ skin crawl. It’s an embarrassment, no two ways about it.
Beyond the campaign are challenge and multiplayer modes. The former number ten, and are split up into infiltration, escape, survival, and assault missions – five of which are played using Bond, the rest using legends from the series such as Oddjob and Franz Sanchez. Tweaks may be applied to player and enemy health, enemy accuracy, radar modes, and more, with all settings determining how quickly other rooms are unlocked. The mode fares marginally better overall than the campaign until the infiltration missions bring everything to a screeching halt.
Multiplayer is the best mode on offer 007 Legends, thanks largely to four player split screen functionality and the absence of AI foes. It features a number of options for spicing up fire fights – the best of which is revenge, which grants a damage boost to a player every time they killed are killed without having fragged anyone themselves – but it’ll still only briefly distract from what is a truly abysmal title.
A clear attempt to cash in on 49 years of Bond goodwill and the gaming ignorance of many of the Christmas-present-buying public, 007 Legends is a game that belongs in the previous generation, but even then it would have been tough to recommend.