Bond is back! Activision has released 007 Legends to the masses. This latest game to bear the 007 insignia is based on five “classic” Bond films from the 50-year history of Bond movies. Having enjoyed previous Bond games such as Quantum of Solace, Blood Stone, and last year’s GoldenEye: Reloaded, I was intrigued when Activision announced that the latest Bond game would be a ‘collection’ of sorts. Well, I have had a chance to play 007 Legends, and while there are periods when the game is good, it just doesn’t do enough this time around and I ran into a few issues that took away from the overall experience.
The game’s narrative starts off with a bang. For those that have been following the trailers for the impending release of the next Bond movie Skyfall, you will recognize the opening in-game scene, which has Bond fighting another foe on top of a moving train, and a Mi6 agent takes “the shot”, hitting Bond. As he falls off the train and into the water the music starts, the opening credits roll, and the game then begins. Given that 007 Legends is based on five classic Bond films, I was somewhat confused as to what a scene from Skyfall was doing in the game. Regardless, the five classic Bond films are flashbacks that James is having as he sinks in the water. 007 in these five stories you play are based on Daniel Craig, so you won’t be playing as any classic 007 characters at this time.
The five movies that each story is based on are pretty diverse. You’ll find yourself in scenarios from Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, License to Kill, Die Another Day, and Moonraker. I don’t know how Eurocom decided on what movies to include in this game, but they are very different stories and have very different locales to change things up. You won’t find yourself reenacting the full story of each movie either as you end up playing key events in each one. I for one didn’t mind this aspect to the gameplay as I didn’t want to just reenact the each movie’s plot.
If there is one thing I really give 007 Legends credit for it is that the game does have variety. Eurocom has included different gameplay sequences as you try to relive the certain experiences from the five films. This includes hand-to-hand combat, skiing, driving, hacking into computers, and activating fuse boxes to name a few. I for one was amazed with how much diversity the game throws at you; however, this diversity is also a weakness.
The hand-to-hand combat is no more then quick time events (QTEs) and there are plenty of these to be found. You use the left and right analog sticks the most, while occasionally using the right and left triggers and a button or two. You will fight with your fists while avoiding your foes attacks. There are a couple of fights where you have to dodge a weapon (e.g. knife or pipe) and you may just get a chance to use one of these weapons for yourself. As for the other diversions, skiing is neat, but shooting and skiing at the same time can prove to be difficult now and then. The driving sequences are not bad at all, and I wished there were a few more of them. Finally, hacking into computers and fuse boxes is simple and does not provide that much of a challenge. All in all the inclusion of other gameplay aspects is noteworthy, but in the end people will find most of them tiresome as the game goes on.
If there was on thing that struck me during my play through it was that as an FPS 007 Legends is run and gun without much, if any, strategy. Sure, you will find yourself having to hide behind cover a lot, as the enemies can be plentiful, but in the end you’ll be popping your head out, taking pot shots at the hordes of enemy characters, and running to the next checkpoint. This is a double-edged sword to so speak. The simple run and gun FPS feel is reminiscent of when GoldenEye was released for the N64, and any people will appreciate the “throwback” feel of the game; however, in a world where FPS games have become more complex, many others will be turned off by this fact.
I also found that the enemy AI is not too smart. It is like Eurocom has taken the old COD approach as they throw as many enemies at you as they see fit. I was playing in Die Another Day and I was in an Aztec like temple. As I shot wave after wave of enemies I thought to myself “when is this going to end?” Enemies kept popping up out of hallways and from around corners; it was just pure carnage. It was not until I went another way that these enemies started to dissipate, although a few did come from behind to try to kill me. In regards to enemy AI as a whole, although the do try to hide behind cover and “pop up and shoot”, there were many occasions when they just tried to “bull-rush” me and I just opened fire with an automatic weapon. There was even a stage where I found myself chasing the last remaining enemy round a computer terminal area as he was trying to evade my fire. He just kept running. It was kind of funny, and sad, all at the same time. All in all the enemies put up a formidable fight, it is just not the smartest fight you’ll face in an FPS game.
007 Legends also give you a chance to play the game more “stealthy”. This encourages you to use your weapons less, crouch and move slowly a lot more, and if you have to use force you use silenced weapons, takedowns, as well as a gadget or two. Early on in the game you are given access to pen sized dart gun, which has three different types of darts in it including tranquilizer, shock and distraction. You can use these darts to take down enemies in new and interesting ways. There are also sections in the game where stealth is mandatory, so these darts, as well as silenced weapons, become integral to the gameplay. If anything, I found the mandatory stealth sections frustrating at times, as there was no rhyme or reason to what you had to do. These forced sections took away from the overall scope of the gameplay for me, as I had to experiment in order to get through many of these levels, as your path to the next checkpoint was not always clear.
As you venture through the game’s levels you earn in game XP from completing various challenges (e.g. head shots with specific weapons, from the hip shooting, etc.) and you can then apply this XP towards upgrades for your weapons as well as Mi6 training, which can loosely be compared to perks from Activision’s other big FPS series. You can equip three perks for your character such as quicker reload, faster aiming down your sights, or improved conditioning for quicker running and resistance to damage. I wasn’t too picky using these as I didn’t find it made too much of a difference, but I do admit that I could have experimented more.
I played through the game on the medium skill level (Agent). When you first play you are asked if you want to play in Modern Mode, where your health regenerates, or you can play in Classic Mode, where you have to find health and armour packs to continue. The latter is a nod to the days of the original GoldenEye. It took me just over 6 hours to go through the game, so taking everything into consideration completion of 007 Legends can take anywhere from 5 to 7 hours for the single player campaign. Of course much of this is dependent on skill level as well as how much extra you do. There are also some planned Skyfall missions to be added to the game when the movie comes out, so you can come back and play those after the movies launch.
Within each level you can search for specific pieces of intel, including information about the evil organization you are fighting or specific character bio information. These are hidden throughout each level. There are also specific level trials including time, specialist, and stealth trials. There are even secondary objectives and bonus targets, the latter I never discovered given the game is not clear in telling you what they are, or I just missed it. Once you initially go through the game there is some incentive to play again as you try to find everything, open up bonus content, and earn more XP.
Mi6 Ops Missions make a return in 007 Legends. For the uninitiated these are single-player levels that span the varied environments from the campaign. Here you are challenged to complete different individual objectives on the various levels. What is enjoyable about the Mi6 mode is that you are in charge of everything that happens, from health modifiers, to the strength of the enemies, to certain weapons and the amount of ammo you have. Add to this the ability to turn on special game modifiers such at paintball mode (coloured spatters where the bullets hit) to ragdoll physics. In essence you can play for fun, or get more serious and try to hammer down a more sim-based experience. There is an online leader board lets you brag to the world, so to speak too. This is a nice change of pace and something a lot of people will enjoy.
What would an FPS game be without multiplayer modes? In 007 Legends you can play up to four players on one screen or head online to challenge up to 11 other people for online dominance. When I accessed the online menus the world was barren given that the game is yet to hit store shelves. There are 8 maps out of the box, or at least that is what I saw in the menu. For those wondering, there are your traditional deathmatch and team deathmatch type modes, as well as domination type and infiltration types too. Of course there is also the now famed “Man with the Golden Gun” mode too. All in all if you’ve played any online FPS games, including last years GoldenEye: Reloaded, then you know what to expect. My only fear is that the online may get lost with the other big games just around the corner, such as Halo 4, MOH: Warfighter and COD: Black Ops II.
Visually speaking, 007 Legends has flashes of goodness only to be hit with some mundane now and then. On the plus side, the presentation of the game is incredible. Cutscenes look good, as the attention to detail of the game’s characters is solid. Each character, from Daniel Craig as Bond, his supporting characters (Pam Bouvier, Jinx, Holly Goodhead, and Pussy Galore) to each and every boss (Goldfinger, Hugo Drax, Gustav Graves, Ernst Blofeld and Franz Sanchez) and their main henchmen (Oddjob, Zao, and Jaws) have been meticulously rendered and look great. As well, those cutscenes that push the plot along, but are not character focused, also look good. When the Space Shuttle in Moonraker launches and flies to the Spaceport high above the earth you will know what I am talking about.
I took a look at my random review notes I took as I played and saw that I noted how levels like the Ice Hotel look good, while the interior of Fort Knox, played earlier in the game, looks average at best. Some levels seem to get extra attention in the areas of lighting and geometry while others seemed simple and the lighting was not all that impressive. It is definitely a hit and miss experience. Technically speaking the game wasn’t too bad, as I only saw an issue or two. For example, when meleeing in an elevator in the launch facility during the Moonraker chapter my arm disappeared into the wall. In game animation was ok, but it was nothing outstanding. There was little too no clipping and I did not notice many, if any, areas of slowdown even when things got pretty crazy.
Like the visuals, the audio in 007 Legends shows periods of greatness, only to have periods of “meh”. In terms of where it shines, the voice acting is top notch. Eurocom and Activision made sure to keep many of the game’s voices authentic. Although Daniel Craig does not lend his voice (they use a really good sound-a-like), you will find Judy Dench voicing her respective role along with some original characters from the older movies such as Michael Lonsdale (Hugo Drax), Toby Stephens (Gustov Graves), Carey Lowell (Pam Bouvier) and Richard Kiel (Jaws). As for the music, it is very Bond-like, from the opening credits through gameplay right up to the ending credits. Of course like most FPS games that include music, it amps up at just the right times to add to the intensity. Finally, as for the sound effects, I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed. As the game starts, and Bond fires out of the screen, a solid boom of the gun and great surround sound effects put a grin on my face; however, once the gameplay started, and I started to play the impact is not the same. Guns don’t sound forceful and the explosions and other effects lack oomph. Although surround sound is used well, the majority of the sound effects that make up all the gameplay just seem to lack that audio punch that makes a game of this nature sound so good.
I really wanted to love 007 Legends, given the source material they had to rely on, as well as how I had enjoyed the previous Bond games; however, at the end of the day I am left underwhelmed by the whole experience having played what I view as a average game at best. Sure, there are signs of a good game, but there are issues that become prevalent, such as heavy use of QTEs, basic enemy AI, frustrating gameplay, as well as inconsistent visuals and sound, and these hurt this title in the long run. 007 Legends is best left for those true Bond fans as it gives some great fan service, they just have to be leery of some of its shortcomings before they start to play.