007 Legends: Existential Ennui, Shaken AND Stirred
For nigh five decades someone in an immaculate tuxedo has been taking in the grandeur of a world-class casino and, with a tip of his vodka martini to sex on legs, said, “Bond. James Bond.”
The iconically debonair secret agent was crafted by Ian Flemming, a WWII commando, Naval Intelligence Officer, and the closest thing to a double-oh spy to ever be declassified by MI5. In true style, Bond’s formulaic big budget films have kept on coming with swanky clothes, top-shelf booze, hot cars, hotter women, egotistical supervillains, murderous minibosses, and convoluted plots for world domination long after the franchise’s creator was declared KIA.
Longtime gamers will recall Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64, one of the precursors to the modern first-person shooter. With its attempts at three-dimensional modeling, evolving storylines, optional mission objectives, wealth of firearms, co-op play, and the first multiplayer deathmatches available for consoles, it and the Bond franchise as a whole are soft spots for those of us who remember our roots.
Perhaps that’s why we’ve been so forgiving of Bond game releases since. To date, there have been twelve Bond games since Goldeneye was released. And all of them in their own ways have fallen far short of the mark.
If we include Bond’s fifty year anniversary game, 007 Legends, that makes thirteen.
You start with an unknown sniper finding a position on a nearby hilltop. A train passes out from a tunnel, with Bond wrestling an assailant atop it. The sniper reports she has no shot, but the voice of M played by Dame Judi Dench orders her to fire regardless.
The shot is taken.
Bond stiffens. He plummets dozens of feet to strike the merciless surface of a raging river beneath the train. Bleeding, drowning, dying, Bond’s mind wanders.
And so do we have the justification to jump from one Bond film to the next, presumably allowing the player to live out the highlights of Bond’s illustrious career.
It is difficult to look at the game’s qualities objectively when my immediate reaction is of overwhelming disgust. Put in terms of constructive criticism, the game attempts to put the player into the action sequences of some of the Bond series’s most popular films. But the reason we as consumers enjoy action sequences is because we build up to them; they are placed into a greater context so the consumer gets the feeling that action is right, called for, and otherwise appropriate. 007 Legends cuts through all that and jumps right to the infiltration, investigation, and gunplay, disregarding the redeeming qualities that make up storytelling.
Whether you are familiar with the Bond movies and characters or not, all that happens when you start playing is you ask yourself: WHY? In other words, 007 Legends falls prey to what novelist Dorothy J. Hedyt calls The Eight Deadly Words. When the consumer speaks these words, you’re toast: I don’t care what happens to these people.
For the sake of argument, as it would be remiss to leave any stone unturned, let’s look at gameplay.
You regularly start out attempting stealth so as not to attract more enemies. You get extra rewards at the end of each level if you avoid being detected, but there is not really any penalty for being detected. If someone spots you, or a patrolling factory worker (they all seem to be factory workers) finds a dead body, the alarm is raised and more enemies come pouring in to attack you.
And I’m fine with that. These enemies are crack shots and can hit you at such a distance they’re practically pinpricks on your screen. But rather than being at a disadvantage, developers compensate in the fashion you would expect of Activision by giving you an auto-aim feature. Simply snap a weapon to your shoulder, squeeze off a shot, and you’re certain of a kill every time. I experimented by turning off my television. Turns out if you snap aim, fire, snap aim, and fire enough, you’ll make it through enemy encounters with close to 80% accuracy. Almost as if the game plays itself.
The only time snap aim and fire doesn’t work is when you’re mission objective is to escort or aid ally NPCs. In these cases enemies never stop spawning until you’ve shot the one guy you’re supposed to, which is delightfully reminiscent of Call of Duty back for the PlayStation 2. Please note at this time “delightfully” is a synonym for “depressingly.”
Attempts at innovation are made in the use of spy cameras to find hidden electronics, a watch that serves as a motion detector, and the option to upgrade your weapons by spending points earned from XP challenges. But they missed a fundamental when it comes to upgrades: Upgrades should be like a new computer; it’s used to keep incrementally ahead of software bloat. Since your enemies never bother to take cover, don’t employ group tactics, and can be dropped with one or two shots, there’s absolutely no point at jumping through hoops to earn upgrades.
Essentially, don’t play if you’re prone to bouts of existential anguish, as you will wonder what the point of such a game existing is.
Pros: Graphics are acceptable
Voices done by the real actors
Cons: Call of Duty without the charm
No point in stealth
Upgrade system is redundant
Game producer's website: Activision
Official website: 007 Legends
Game available at: