With the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and the release of Skyfall, Eurocom and Activision have teamed up for 007 Legends, a first person shooter that puts players in familiar, yet heavily altered, situations from five Bond movies. Cool idea, let's see how it holds up.
The opening cinematic shows Daniel Craig cruising along a bridge when he's suddenly taken out and forced over the side, falling into the water below. As he fades deeper into black, flashbacks appear, starting with the infamous Operation Grandslam. Legends contains playable sequences from areas based upon Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, License To Kill, Die Another Day, and Moonraker. Each of these main levels are segmented into multiple stages, and Bond experts will recognize much of the environment, voice acting, dialogue, and scripted events. It's not important at all that you are familiar with the Bond movies. In fact, as someone who hasn't seen several of these five, I have the advantage of not being disappointed by the differences between the game and the movies. However, those nuances that were taken directly from the movie will go unnoticed by me.
The nod to nostalgia and faithfulness, or lack thereof, to the films aside, 007 Legends plays like a typical "arcade" first person shooter. There are gadgets, XP and upgrades, simple puzzles, and times where you have to be stealthy, but for the most part this is a heavy action game that plays like any run-and-gun clone from the last decade. Expect to mow down hundreds of enemies, handle multiple weapons (you can carry up to three), get rewarded for headshots, and have the ability to instantly reload and switch weapons. One pretty interesting detail that pops up when you first start the game is that you can choose between Modern and Classic health systems. In Modern, health regenerates while you are in cover or moving slowly. The Classic system requires that you find armor and health packs. I chose to play with Classic and on the hardest difficulty setting, and health packs were non-existent. Still, moderate shooter skills can get one through this game, but for as fun as some parts are, there is a lot of issues -- some bigger than others -- that make it an 'okay' experience as opposed to a 'good one.'
I may as well start with the first mission, which is a lone-wolf assault by Bond on Auric Enterprises. Running and gunning through the airfield, I noticed several things right away that gave him pause for concern right away, and that would come up often in the hours ahead. First, most of the enemies look exactly the same; they're just fodder for you to shoot down and there's a silly amount of enemies at that. At no point in any Bond lore does he take on this many bad guys, but hey, it's just a game right? The cover system, which is a must (at least on the 007 difficulty), is kind of flaky, but at least crouch is responsive. There is no dedicated 'take cover' button, understandably as this is an FPS, but Bond doesn't utilize cover mechanics at walls, or well, corners. In my experience, you can peek and shoot when you are crouched behind crates or fences, but not for corners. To deal with those, you have to stick your neck out, which is odd. Bond does have a watch that can 'ping' for nearby enemies, but this doesn't always work because there are times where enemies 'spawn in' just out of your view as you cross a certain unseen threshold.
Clipping issues are fairly common, I haven't had anything game-breaking, but you will see your weapon clip through a box while you're hiding behind it or an image on a wall disappear as you walk closer to it. Something I could not believe when I saw was the American flags at Ft. Knox in the Goldfinger level -- they were literally static images of a flag flying, no motion to them at all. Suffice it to say that there is a noticeable lack of polish in multiple aspects of the game, including AI, enemy and friendly. I can't recall the last game I saw this in, but I saw one of Goldfinger's henchmen literally running at full speed, in place, facing a wall. Without a doubt, AI depend on quantity rather than skill, although it was nice to see them run and slide into cover at times.
So a huge part of Legends is full assault shooting action. Bond carries with him a pistol at all times, and you can pick up other weapons in the field as you go. A good variety of weapons exists, from pump and full auto shotguns, AK-47s, SMGs, sniper rifles and even rocket launchers. These weapons have numerous upgrades that you can purchase with the XP you earn from completing primary and secondary objectives, finding hidden intelligence items, or completing numerous challenges (kill fifty enemies with an AK-47, that type of thing). Upgrades include the standard goods like reflex sights, extended mags, silencers, lasers, recoil reduction, and so forth. Ammo is fortunately never a problem, given the steady waves of enemies.
However another significant part of playing Legends is the spy stuff, the gadgets and the puzzle solving. Bond carries with him a watch that acts as both a radar as I previously mentioned, and it can also be used to fry certain electronics with its built in laser. The smartphone is actually quite a bit more useful, allowing Bond to hack into wi-fi nodes, locate power conduits behind walls and floors, and detect biology residue such as fingerprints. These functions pop up regularly in primary and secondary objectives, to figure out keypad codes, get into computer systems, open doors, and so on. They also make being stealthy more fun and rewarding. A small icon appears in the HUD when an object in the area can be manipulated by your smartphone too, so you're not constantly switching to it -- which does lower your weapon -- for no reason.
A few other points about Legends are the lengthy load times, even on checkpoints that just happened. There was one part in the Goldfinger level where the game introduces the scripted boxing or fighting events. Turns out, this is a QTE, although I didn't know it was for ten minutes or so. Anyway, I kept dying within like ten seconds, and even though the game just dropped in a checkpoint ten seconds before this event takes place, the load time was nearly thirty seconds. Unfortunately, 20-30 seconds is what you can expect for every checkpoint restart. It took me numerous times to get through the awful snowmobile part at the very beginning of the Majesty's level. What made it extra bad was having to wait so long between opportunties to take another crack at it. Frankly, there's just no excuse for load times that long these days; were it not something moderately common, I wouldn't harp about it, but for me (on that 007 difficulty), they came up enough that it became highly annoying.
In addition to the campaign, there is a Challenges mode from the main menu where you attempt to earn all fifty stars against a variety of different mission types and conditions. You can also download other challenges made by players, but I haven't tried this. Multiplayer, including support for four player split screen which is rare but welcomed, is also included. Many characters from the Bond universe are available to choose from as your character, and loadouts can be saved too. A variety of modifiers can be set, and there are eight game modes (although some are minor variations on others), and eight maps from the five different Bond movies included. I haven't played much of the multiplayer, and what I have was on split screen, and it's not bad. By itself, it's not good or bad enough to justify the purchase, but there is more to it in terms of quantity and quality of content than I was expecting.
Whether in single or multiplayer, it's hard not to notice the shortcomings in the presentation. Legends runs in 720p like a lot of games, but the graphics are poor and look very dated. Detailed textures, lighting, and smooth animations aren't on the menu, but there are invisible walls, clipping, and bland textures. You could go as far as to say as this is very close to coming off as last-gen graphics and you would not be far off. The audio benefits from some classic tracks and voice acting, but effects and dialogue aren't special. Also, I was surprised by the lack of subtitles, especially given the amount of dialogue between Bond and MI-6 or between other NPCs. It's not something a lot of gamers will notice, but I tend to have those on so I don't miss anything. It's also something I do simply out of what I'm used to from playing a lot of old PC adventure games.
Let's get to the summary...