I remember a time – and in the grand scheme of things it really wasn’t all that long ago – when the James Bond video game franchise was one of the hottest properties on the FPS market. Goldeneye for N64 was probably one of the daddies of the entire modern FPS genre; it quite palpably changed the game for the better. So what the hell has happened?
The mighty really have fallen. I mean, how difficult can it really be to pilfer Bond’s mighty back catalogue of adventures, how much is there to choose from? The answer of course is lots. Lots and lots. And so it should have been all but impossible to balls up. But where we were marketed a comprehensive reimagining of the moments that made the James Bond franchise great, what we were actually delivered with 007 Legends is a short selection of poorly remembered, barely recognisable set pieces designed to run more like Call of Duty’s much less impressive cousin than companion to the great Spy franchise.
007 Legends begins during the Daniel Craig Bond era and in an opening cutscene which mirrors Skyfall, Bond is shot by a sniper while atop a speeding train. He takes a rather nasty spill, landing in a nearby lake. As he fights for his survival, a series of flashbacks overcome him; flashbacks of his previous exploits throughout his lengthy career. And the stage is set. The problem is, in his half dead delirium, Bond seems to be remembering these previous cases all wrong; I don’t remember, for example, Bond having access to a computer terminal hacking smartphone in Goldfinger, but here he certainly seems to.
All we ever really get to revisit are the locations. The familiar set pieces you’ll encounter along the way are recognisable sure, but they’ve been surgically removed and altered to fit Daniel Craig’s face, voice and image. Maybe there’s some novelty to be found in rolling through Goldfinger’s factory at first but said novelty quickly wears off once you realise that all you’ve got to really look forward to is an endless repetition of the same combat scenario: shoot one guy, more guys come, shoot more guys, look around for the objective. Oh, you can also use stealth, as is probably customary in a James Bond title, but the problem here is that the entire stealth mechanic is basically broken. I mean it works to a degree, but it’s so difficult to implement, so impossible to use effectively, that you’ll forget about it in the first five minutes and resort to noisy fire fights every single time.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are significant Bond moments peppered throughout 007 Legends that, provided you’re a Bond fan, you will remember. The problem is that with Daniel Craig starring as the only Bond present throughout, these moments seem stilted and arbitrary. And without a proper plot, 007 Legends usage of its Bond franchise references seems wholly gratuitous. You’ll discover Jill Masterson, the gold-painted Bond girl from Goldfinger for example, but there’s no story to explain why she’s present; there’s no further explanation or usage, she’s just there, then afterwards, your back to the same copy/paste Call of Duty shootout for the next hour of play time.
The real problem I had with 007 Legends was that it felt so safe. I’d have really enjoyed revisiting those classic Bond movies if there was something a little unique and interesting about each seperate reference; if the weaponry and hardware I got to use echoed the limitations of the period ad the movie the level was set. But no, we’re current-gen Daniel Craig every step of the way in what can only really be described as a samey, by-the-numbers shooter which fails almost entirely to capitalise on the incredible property it has in its hands.
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