007 Legends (PlayStation 3) review
"Sigh Another Day"
If you're an old school James Bond fan, you'll start to feel right at home--at least at first--with one of the game's opening scenes of 007 Legends. You kick off in a hotel room where 007 has obviously just gotten lucky, and recognize right off the bat that you're playing the iconic segment from "Goldfinger." You know with just a few more steps you're going to stumble upon Jill Masterson's lifeless body, covered entirely in gold paint. And that's when a cell phone rings.
Wait, a cell phone? Wasn't "Goldfinger" shot in the '60s? Mobiles wouldn't be available for another two decades, and even then they weren't so ubiquitous. Regardless, this one small event shatters the game's enchantment. It only becomes worse when you realize you're playing as Daniel Craig and not Sean Connery, and suddenly the whole idea of this game presenting itself as a loving throwback to retro Bond films seems like an odd choice. I get the reasons why they went this route, which likely stem from issues like royalties and the need to maintain one likeness for Bond. However, these updates only serve as distractions rather than pleasant memories. You don't feel like you're really reliving moments like "On Her Majesty's..." ski chase properly, especially not when your foes fire rockets at you and a clumsy tailing mission crops up.
And it isn't enough that this title utilizes dated film references, but it also plays like an archaic mess...
As expected, Legends revolves around basic stealth mechanics: crouching off to the side, waiting several minutes for a guard to walk past you, and then either sneaking past him or eliminating him with a silenced weapon or a stealth kill. While karate chopping foes' throats or quietly breaking their necks is devilish fun at first, the experience grows wearisome when you realize how easy it is to be spotted, especially since you can't move bodies. Instead, you must use a gadget on Bond's wristwatch to lure your opponent to a desired area, wait a few more minutes for him to mosey on over, stealth kill him, and then hope that no one notices his fly-swarmed corpse. Because of this drawn out method, stealth sections take a looooooong time to get through; so long that you'll lose interest and just start gunning the opposition down with reckless abandon. Unfortunately, this decision can also lead to a game over, all depending upon the constraints a particular stealth mission places upon you.
This isn't the case with every sneaky scene, thankfully. Many of them hark back to 2000's Deus Ex by giving you a choice between brute force and snooping. Should you pick the former, though, the game will inundate you with guards to the point that you can't possibly keep up. Even this title's Call of Duty-ish cover system provides little respite, as you'll take fire no matter where you hide. It becomes apparent at these points most levels were not designed to take shootouts into account, as though the game is punishing you for not choosing the silent method. The thing with giving people a choice is that you're not supposed to penalize them for selecting an option that you provided.
This isn't to say that Legends's gunplay is entirely terrible, as some of the best parts involve gunning down minions while running amok through a villain's compound. I'll admit that I found a bit of entertainment engaging in the epic fire fight at Fort Knox alongside Felix Leiter or scoring headshots with a laser gun while floating through space during the "Moonraker" chapter of the campaign. Unfortunately, a lack of enemy types hold back these outstanding encounters. Most stages offer straightforward environments with few obstructions or set-pieces that promote strategy or interactivity, featuring maybe two different types of adversaries who require little thought or skill to eliminate. For the most part, you aim, shoot, then duck for cover as you take damage. We've been down this avenue many times with scores of shooters--even before this one was released in 2012--and it never gets any fresher. Rather than providing sequences that could've made up for the game's other flaws, these sections come across as careless rehash.
Even RPG elements bring little to the finished product. Yeah, it's nice to obtain training modules (read: perks) and weapon modifications, but the advantages they grant are unnoticeable. Also, the pickings for weapon mods are slim, consisting mostly of silencers, sight upgrades, increased magazines, and compensators. While these sound useful, most of them grant negligible boosts and do little to bolster combat. More than anything, the RPG elements feel tacked on out of obligation.
It's not as though the developers didn't think this project through, and they should at least be applauded for attempting to add variety to the experience in the form of driving and brawling segments. Sadly, neither particular event adds enough substance to matter. With the former, the the mechanics draw from open world drivers like Grand Theft Auto. The whopping two scenes featured aren't half bad, including one where you carefully dodge rockets while tearing down a winding road in an armored vehicle. However, that one scene doesn't make up for the aforementioned flaws.
I wish I could say the quick-time fist-fights stand out as entertaining pinnacles, as they evoke the spirit of the '80s and the Punch-Out!! franchise. These scenes will ignite your passion for fisticuffs at first, but they eventually fizzle out as you realize they're quite tiresome. You don't get the freedom to attack whenever you want, as the game prompts you when to do so (hence "quick-time"). On top of that, your commands are limited to a few basic punches and occasionally disarming an opponent with a wide window of opportunity to input your command. Instead of an actual one-on-one altercation, each battle plays out like a ham-fisted interactive movie. Worse, the challenge factor on these segments remains thoroughly flat, resulting in a collection of scraps that capture the feel of repeatedly challenging Glass Joe.
Put it all together and 007 Legends is quite baffling. Here's a game with brawling, shooting, driving, a ski chase, a couple rail shooter scenes, plenty of explosions, RPG elements, and James Bond, and yet it struggles to entertain. Ordinarily, I would eat this stuff up and gleefully regurgitate my experiences here while staving off the temptation to resort to constant hyperboles. Instead, dictating this banal trip to you feels more like a tour through dated genre tropes that have been better implemented in superior titles released long before this one. What should have been a game to remember, a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of an outstanding and thrilling film franchise, is instead a tedious Call of Duty clone with some halfhearted mini-games tossed in for mediocre measure.
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (July 31, 2021)
Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.
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