From Activision with Love
Happy birthday, James! The James Bond film franchise turns half a ton this year. With Skyfall taking in over one hundred million dollars in box office sales so far, the five decades don’t seem to have slowed the genre-defining spy movie series down at all and given the that our favourite British Spy has enjoyed over three generations of avid fans it it is absolutely fitting for Activision to want to create a game to commemorate some of James Bond’s most memorable action moments.
007 Legends has been developed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary celebrations and incorporates one film from each Bond actor’s series of films with an overarching narrative that will bring these films together, telling the progression of James Bond as a fledgling agent through to becoming the ultimate super spy 007.
The five movie gems incorporated into 007 Legends are Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, License to Kill, and Die Another Day, with Skyfall being made available post-launch as DLC. As all James Bond gaming fans know, diamonds are forever, and putting together a compilation of these gems as a series of interconnected campaigns in a shooter is a surefire winner.
A questionable move by Activision is their decision to ‘revitalise’ the old movies with Daniel Craig being the one-and-only James Bond in these modern re-tellings. Sadly, this means there is no more hope of old James saying “Do you exshpect me to tok?”. The only question remaining is, will this modernising of Sean, George, Roger, Timothy and Pierce pull off the timeless splendour that all Bond fans appreciate?
The short answer that hits you like a rolling thunderball is no.
The long answer is, besides the obvious butchering of classic Bond movie moments and movie lines for fans, there are many other reasons why 007 Legends doesn’t work. From a poorly implemented gaming engine, to dull and lifeless dialogue, through to uninspiring music and gameplay, there’s not much to be said about Activision’s title except maybe that it should be left to die another day.
As often as I try to avoid falling into the old cynical mindset that a movie tie-in is only rushed to market to grab a piece of the hype surrounding a Hollywood movie release, I have to say the whole time I played through 007 Legends, I couldn’t shake off this feeling. And as far as three generations of millions of global fans want to relive their favourite Bond memories in a game, Activision has failed to realise that the global fan base of the world is not enough to guarantee a game’s success. For a game to succeed, you need it do more than just ride on the coat-tails of a successful movie franchise. You need a game that is a fun experience too.
A Sound to a Kill
From the moment 007 Legends loads up its title screen it’s evident that either the developers or the publishers (or both parties) are disconnected from what makes the Bond franchise successful. The title screen features several well-rendered age-old Bond characters, such as Oddjob and Sanchez, but they’re floating about in slow-motion while a dreary, seriously lacking rendition of the Bond music is being beaten out of a weary fifty year old synthesiser. Not a good start and I still have no idea what in the living daylights they were thinking by going with a mellow slow-dance theme for James Bond. An opportunity to create what should have been a spectacular shooter does not start off well from the get go.
007 Legends attempts to incorporate several aspects of gameplay that, had it been pulled off properly, could easily have been the next big shooter franchise. With equal emphasis on stealth and combat, gadgets and guns, 007 Legends requires players to employ every spy resource at their disposal. The stealth aspects include distracting enemy soldiers with a wristwatch laser or hacking electrical equipment in order to sneak past their position undetected, silent judo-kills, and hiding in shadows.
Combat is meant to be more of the usual fare in shooters while players can earn experience points to upgrade their weaponry, physical training, or their gadgets. In certain areas of the campaign, players will also be required to pass through insta-fail stealth sections and plenty of mini-games for hacking electronics or picking locks with the ultimate spy gadgets.
Not quite a Gadget Royale
Speaking of gadgets, James’ best friend will be his Sony Xperia Smartphone, designed to scan for biometrics and snap photographs, and even includes an MI-6 ‘hack the planet’ app for free. A Smartphone of tomorrow! Sadly, the sentiment that tomorrow never dies is wasted because despite the innovative approach to a jack-of-all-trades solution against all super villains, it’s a bit far-fetched to expect every super villain to buy their hardware from the same Radio Shack outlet and be Android hacking-app compatible.
The mini games may serve as a necessary distraction from the tedium every now and then but they make the game feel more of a child-like romp than a spy shooter and only end up making things worse. The interface for controlling the gadgets is equally bad, with you not being able to switch between a gadget and a weapon without first un-equipping the gadget in hand – a totally unlikely thought process when an enemy is found right on top of you!
The campaign is made worse by the free license taken by the developers to ‘update’ the story lines to fit into a storyline for old Danny boy (Daniel Craig, in case you didn’t catch that). Unfortunately, the developers free license has degenerated into a license to kill any hopes of a quality Bond game, with many famous encounters being rendered instead into trivial engagements. One prime example of this is the first time Bond meets Pussy Galore – “Hey, lady who’s working for a crazy billionaire raising a private army to invade the United States… take me to his office” … “I don’t know who you are, but okay, let’s go.” It is as bad as it sounds!
The 007 Legends campaign is a totally bizarre and disastrous rush through any plot development most notably based on the assumption that everyone playing 007 Legends is fully familiar with the actual Bond storyline for each movie. One telling experience from the aforementioned encounter with Pussy Galore that summarises just how seriously the game (doesn’t) takes its James Bond responsibilities is when James introduces himself for the first time in the game:
Pussy Galore: “What’s your name?” … wait for it… James Bond: “James Bond.” Say what? You’re not James Bond! You’re ‘Bond, James Bond!’ Who is this James Bond? We all know Agent 007’s full name is ‘Bond, James Bond!’ What sacrilege is this? Why couldn’t we all just agree to let Bond James Bond live and not let die!
Activision is just pulling our goldfinger…
In fairness, not every good idea has been lost in 007 Legends, and in the multiplayer modes, 007 Legends gives us hope it may manage to live twice. There are plenty of exciting modes to play with very interesting modifications to the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag modes. In fact, there is plenty of diversity in the way these modes can be played that manages to save 007 Legends from being a total waste of time. Before we take that small degree of comfort and make it our quantum of solace, however, let’s be fully understanding of how these multiplayer modes actually play out.
Online multiplayer is based on the premise of up to twelve super secret agent spies and villains facing off in a myriad of challenge modes. The only problem is, everyone online is just being too good at the ‘secret’ part and it’s almost impossible to find anyone online to play with, so you’ll be stuck most often playing in a map for your eyes only. The real appeal to 007 Legends as far as multiplayer goes is the local split-screen for up to four players because then at least you’re guaranteed to get a game and in this mode, for what the game is worth, it is highly recommended.
The additional offline solo mode is the challenge section which actually is the best singleplayer experience in 007 Legends. Unfortunately to unlock all of the challenges you will need to complete the campaign, and the campaign is a serious no. So serious in fact, I’d give it a PhD and call it Dr. No.
A Moneypenny for my thoughts…
For all that 007 Legends could have been, it has been butchered by its horribly dated implementation and feels more like a Call of Duty mod than it does a standalone game released in 2012. Perhaps it would have been well received in 2007 but by today’s standards it’s a dull shooter that is made worse by the fact that it is going to upset a well-established fan base.
The music never lives up to the flair of the cinema and the action is muted and spoiled by frustrating mini-games. There is no cover system to speak of and despite how the game emphasises stealth it won’t let you hide the bodies of people you’ve dispatched meaning your mission will invariably be reduced to a firefight once the victims of your judo chop have been discovered.
007 Legends could have been pulled off really well but in the end, despite a brief respite with the multiplayer modes, it pulls off more like a hairy scab. Say it with me in your best James Bond theme voice… dumb dumb dumb-dumb!
The Good: Refreshing multiplayer modes; You get to use Oddjobs hat; Challenge mode is mildly entertaining
The Bad: Graphics aren’t keeping up with the times; Checkpoint corruption; James Bond, not ‘Bond, James Bond’; James Bond using a minigun to infiltrate Blofeld’s lair.