"_______, James Bond."
Anyone in the world could fill in that blank with the right words. When it comes to international playboy secret agents against a cadre of would be global terrorists, there's really only "Bond, James Bond." Dr. No, Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service—whether you've seen these classic films or not, they represent the decades of history that make up Albert R. Broccoli's timeless character. Of course, that hasn't stopped MGM from modernizing the character in a new era of films.
While a blond, Heineken-swilling James Bond may make sense on screen when the studio behind the series has run out of source material, 007 Legends tries to transplant Daniel Craig into a handful of classic films, from Goldfinger to Moonraker. Has Activision and developer Eurocom blown Bond's cover or does the hero live to die another day?
007 Legends opens with a scene from the upcoming Skyfall. When Bond is shot while fighting atop a speeding train, he falls into the water below and proceeds to suffer what I can only assume to be trauma-induced hallucinations. I know being a secret agent is stressful, but I hope Bond hasn't been experimenting with psychedelics to pass the time.
Flashbacks to classic Bond movies ensue, putting the player not necessarily in the same time or place… or even with the same objective. Missions set James down in sections of Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Moonraker, License to Kill and Die Another Day. With 50 years of movies under his belt, Bond's got a lot of ground to cover.
While Daniel Craig's delivery of… well, his character's name may be different from Bond's in the past, it's reprehensible that he can't be bothered to say the line right within the first few minutes of the Goldfinger mission. That's right, when Pussy Galore asks who this man of mystery is, Craig's voice over responds flatly "James Bond." With that test firmly in the fail column, it's up to the game itself to bring the project back on track.
Unfortunately, what the title amounts to is a cutting room floor's worth of rejected Call of Duty set pieces. Goldfinger opens with the naked, dead hench-woman but quickly devolves into a hodgepodge of misguided tutorials on shooting, crouching, sprinting, and cell-phone gadgetry. It's plain as day that very little has been altered from the Call of Duty engine to transform the title into a Bond game.
What's more, what little work Eurocom has put in to make players feel like 007 turns out to be an infuriating failure in stealth gameplay. No-alarm objectives are already the bane of gaming's existence (the lack of which propels Dishonored above the pack), but Eurocom has turned it into a controller-breaking science.
Bond must not allow guards to find the corpses he leaves behind, but he's left without the tools to do the job. Players cannot move bodies to hide their dirty deeds in the shade of an underground warhead or other supervillain trope. This means that if you shot a grunt in the head and another enemy mosies over on his predetermined path, you're screwed. More often than not I rolled my eyes in disgust and mowed down as many guards before the fail state triggered. Apparently, hell has a special place for James Bond, but I'm not sure why I had to suffer with him.
In fact, 007 Legends only really succeeds in delivering four-player splitscreen multiplayer, a novelty in the days of Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. These days, three friends and a case of beer often results in something other than video games at my house, but a small screen segmented into four sections made for a night of nostalgia.
In the end, 007 Legends only serves as a reminder of Goldeneye 007 Reloaded, last year's throwback to the Nintendo 64 classic. If these two games were released on the same day, I would have given Reloaded 7/5 stars by comparison. It almost seems as if last year's formula were left to settle after being shaken, not stirred.
I assume that double-Os 1 through 6 died horribly painful deaths and that Eurocom is trying to give me some sense of that misery in 007 Legends. While a tie-in to this November's new Bond movie was too good to resist, I'm disappointed that the franchise has to follow up a moderately successful remake like Reloaded with a shoddy patchwork of first-person shooter set pieces and broken stealth gameplay.