James Bond: 007 Legends (XBOX 360) Review
This week saw the premier of Skyfall, the new James Bond movie and we started off the release period with a look at his latest phone, the Xperia T
. Bond isn't all about movies and tech nowadays though, the franchise branches out into fragrances and of course the tried and trusted gaming market. We most recently saw Bond in the Wii version of Goldeneye, a remake of the N64 classic, and enjoyed the experience when going down the old school route of med packs and a decent difficulty. These made it an entirely different and more satisfying game to play than easy with regenerative health.
Despite being based on greatness (Goldeneye N64 is one of the best games of all time) the updated version was by no means perfect and so the quest for a modern day successor has continued. Now Activision hope to achieve that same level of success with 007 Legends, out now, and featuring many of the franchises key scenes and characters for a celebration of all things Bond.
007 Legends celebrates 50 years of Bond by taking parts of some key movies and translating them into a scenario that flows in terms of gameplay. We travel through Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Moonraker, Licence to Kill and Die Another Day with a little of Skyfall thrown in for good measure and in each "timeline" just as it was in Goldeneye Reloaded, we play as Daniel Craig's Bond rather than the original from each movie.
While it was possible to play the previous Bond game as a run and gun shooter, completing levels in minutes and with ease, this game is much more about stealth as the early tutorials show us. Enemy AI has been improved to act more naturally about our tactics and we must rely on skill to work past various sections rather than blast our way through.
Available to us are a wide range of guns (and mods) which can be cycled using the Y button with X performing actions and A jumping. Left stick moves and we can use the d-pad to access devices, generally firing off a puzzle/mini game to hack safes. Firing lasers from our watch is included too and the in-game Xperia T has the ability to scan via various add ons as well as go all spy, taking and sending pictures to mission HQ.
XP makes an appearance (as do achievements) and we can spend our XP on powering up our abilities, tailoring them to the mission as required. Need faster firing, no problem. Better zoom on the scope, thats there too. The need to score points/XP continues on into multi-player where we get a wide range of solo and team modes. The classic Golden Gun mode is available as is Legends were we play as key Bond characters and hero mode see's the usual important player on each team gameplay style. As we play through the online modes, which also include bomb defusal team games we level up, eventually unlocking Licence to Kill mode for advanced players and rounding things off is local spilt screen action.
Unlockable aspects are also key to single player games too as accessible from the main menu is "Challenges" mode. In here we play for stars in customisable missions and can download other players custom content to attempt to beat their score.
One of the things which is immediately noticeable about 007 Legends is that it is keen to offer players plenty of options. Right from the start we are offered either modern or classic health modes which is great to see and then our challenge and objectives change drastically depending on the difficulty level selected. The developers, Eurocom, also try to offer plenty of in game options too such as the (almost essential on consoles) aim assist. The game also looks, at least initially, to move away from single button press action sequences dropping playing our most joining scenes rather than making them interactive. That said, after the action starts taking off there are some key set pieces which see us move into a more restrictive hit left to dodge, right to dodge again type gameplay...or basic hand to hand combat where we must hit our enemy in uncovered areas by tapping the appropriate button.
As mentioned earlier this game looks to push us down a stealth route, tutoring us in the various key skills required to avoid detection (silencers, line of sight, suspicion meter, noise etc... stealth light basically) but also takes time to point out that we can take a more action approach if we wish to risk a stream of enemy fighters coming our way. As well as the stealth/action gameplay (which also includes vehicle based scenes) we get the aforementioned mini games which are used to break up the gameplay. Never too taxing they can initially take a bit of guesswork but overall are a small distraction more than anything else.
Overall the game controls well, sticking with a familiar controller layout and being based around the now very optimised Goldeneye Reloaded engine has clearly had benefits as the graphics, while not class leading are detailed enough and very rarely suffer from any slowdown. Audio features voice acting from key Bond cast members with Judy Dench being a modern inclusion and the original actors for Drax and Jaws (Michael Lonsdale and Richard Kiel) also present. Somewhat surprisingly Daniel Craig does not voice his likeness. Staying with the audio side of things the score is also suitably Bond-ish with the likes of David Arnold who scored multiple movies lending his hand to the theme.
Where things start to get slightly ropey is in the script which is surprising given that Bruce Fernstein, a Bond movie and game writer for some time, was involved here. Essentially the dialogue can be vague and boring, just there to get us from one point in the level/plot to the next and given that the overall story isn't that great anyway there is little to watch between gameplay sections.
The gameplay also suffers a little in places due to lack of quality checking. An early example being a section of level where we are told to stay away from nerve gas or die. No problem there... except half way along the stream a cut scene kicks in where our character walks into the stream of gas automatically without any impact. When we cut back to having control we are still in the gas with no change in our health or skills. Elsewhere key items can appear too soon, for example onscreen prompts lead us to an area and then instead of continuing on to the objective the display changes to a point showing we need to take a picture. Except its not, the point is showing through a wall and we needed to walk round the corner to see the actual item that was to be photographed. There are also sections of gameplay that are not intuitive, for example when we have larger guns in our hand, walking up to another and holding X swaps. Try to do the same holding a pistol and it doesn't work and isn't explained that this is not possible.
Load times are another particular low, not so much between levels, but when we die which can be often in some of the bigger battles, it can take up to 30 seconds to reset to the checkpoint even if we have only moved a step or two. And those checkpoints can be rather far apart which only makes the load times more annoying. Strangely load times are not an issue in online play, we reset almost instantly.
Speaking of multiplayer, it doesn't offer much new to those who are veterans of first person shooters but the modes are plentiful and varied enough. That said the game could benefit from some level capping as it is possible as a low level player to be in against extremely high level opponents which is never fun. A real bonus is local split screen though as this is all too often overlooked in modern shooters. There is a lot to be said for playing against a friend or family member in the same room, it is never dull so full credit to Eurocom for adding it in here.
Taking key moments from 50 years of Bond is a bold move, and for the most part the sections chosen by Eurocom and worked into the game suit the stealth/action mix. Would we have chosen the same sections? Not all of them. However there are so many to choose from that it would be hard for anyone to agree with all of the choices. There is also fun to be had playing as Bond, everyone wants to be 007, right? With core gameplay which is solid enough, if basic and lacking variation, that aspect keeps us playing through to the end... or close to it because the Skyfall section of the game is being added as free DLC after the films release in various territories.