Ask any seasoned gamer for a shortlist of the most influential, medium-changing titles of all time and you can bet the majority of them are likely to include 1997’s landmark GoldenEye 007. The Nintendo 64 title can still, 15 years later, hold its own against the multiplayer modes of today’s most respected first-person shooters in terms of pure, unadulterated fun factor. Regretfully, the James Bond video-game franchise took a drastically steep nose dive in the following years, never again eclipsing the monumental heights of GoldenEye 007 (the 2010 Wii remake is notable for its dedication to the original’s triumphant format, but the 2011 Reloaded variation, also developed by Eurocom, mucked things up to an irreparable degree). Now we have 007 Legends, a game with a concept so inherently ludicrous that, if placed in the hands of the appropriate developer, could possibly amount to something more than a tossed-off, unpolished novelty.
007 Legends frustratingly drops the player right in the middle of a random scene from Sam Mendes’s Skyfall, in which Daniel Craig’s Bond is engaged in fisticuffs atop a speeding train barreling across an above-water bridge. An allied sniper accidentally pops a cap in Bond, and he tumbles into the area’s rapidly surging waters. Cue a whole mess of sketchy flashbacks that act as poorly constructed transitions between 007 Legend’s five primary single-player campaign missions, each corresponding to a previous 007 cinematic outing. Having recently spent some time with one of the year’s must-own Blu-ray box sets, Bond 50, I was admittedly interested in playing through Bond’s classic (and not-so classic) adventures straight out of Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, License to Kill, Die Another Day, and Moonraker (yes, this is the chronology as presented in the game). What would have been a treat is if each of these passages actually stayed true to the film that inspired them, but no, Eurocom opts to set their storylines in the present day, chocking them full of nonsense action sequences that weren’t in the movies, and replacing the Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Roger Moore with Craig. In doing this, nothing about 007 Legends comes off as legendary, and you never feel like you’re really in Bond’s shoes, cleverly and forcefully navigating your way to each section’s draggy big-bad encounter. Everything about the game, from the mechanics to the visuals, is sloppily constructed and obviously a poor man’s version of today’s first-person touchstone, the Call of Duty series. Given this, it’s perplexing as to how an experienced, capable publisher such as Activision, who also handles Call of Duty, allowed 007 Legends, a disappointment in every sense of the word, to be released in its current state.
The fact is that there’s not an ounce of narrative or gameplay originality in 007 Legends, which could have been forgiven if its influences were held in high regard, but unfortunately it takes an unforgivable misstep at every opportunity. The various objectives are dull and overwhelmingly linear, sending the player from point A to point B, shooting anything that moves by way of an embarrassingly broken aiming system or taking the sneaky route by knocking out enemies from behind (laughably, they go down hard with not so much as a stiff jab to the back of the knee). These stealth operations are, quite simply, an absolute joke. With no way to relocate collapsed bodies around, Solid Snake-style, it’s as if Eurocom said to themselves, “Eh, let’s just put in a couple of stealth elements to shut people up and we’ll call it a day.” Shameful. Useless. A trigger-less pistol. There’s also several botched mini-game-type activities that jump out at Bond from time to time. Half-assed and lackluster, such mundane tasks as hacking CPUs, snapping reconnaissance photos, driving fast cars with substandard steering control, and duking it out with bosses in a routine, lifeless QTE fashion are but another set of holes drilled into an already expeditiously sinking vessel.
Sure, a marginally enjoyable split-screen multiplayer that pays homage to GoldenEye 007’s signature design, as well as the promise of some additional Skyfall content to become available later via DLC are nice perks, but they comprise a very miniscule portion of 007 Legends. The bulk of the game is an unsightly, nearly unplayable misfire that comes far too close to devaluing one of cinema’s greatest franchises.