The iconic MGM logo and the brisk-walk-and-shoot 007 James Bond logo are timeless and instantly recognizable. 50 years of James Bond gives you a lot of real estate to stretch your legs, and with the upcoming new movie Skyfall, this new game is timely. Opening with a scene from Skyfall that we’ve all seen in the trailers, Bond is accidentally shot in a struggle atop a train. Falling off the bridge to the water below, Bond awakes in a beautiful villa only to find Jill Masterson, Goldfinger’s dead secretary, painted in beautiful gold – a cell phone beckoning for our attention. In just this short sequence we get the premise of the game wrapped up in a nice package – Daniel Craig’s Bond is going to take a trip in his head spanning all 50 years of super-spy action, but with a modern twist. Coupled with a movie-like intro including an iconic fire and ice sequence and real actor names flashing across the screen, we are dropped into our own fictional Bond movie, dirty saxophone sound and all. The only question to ask at this point – would this be Never Say Never Again, or Casino Royale? (Calm down, we can argue about the #1 Bond movie in the forums)
007 Legends is told as a what-if but all of it is told from a what-if scenario where every movie was made by Daniel Craig and crew. Dame Judi Dench (M) joins the voice crew, as does Michael Lonsdale (Hugo Drax), Naomie Harris (Eve in Skyfall), Rory Kinnear (MI6 Chief of Staff Bill Tanner), Richard Kiel (Jaws), Toby Stephens (Gustav Graves), Diana Rigg (Tracy Draco), Tailsa Soto (Lupe Lamora), Carey Lowell (Pam Bouvier), Robert Davi (Franz Sanchez), Lois Chiles (Dr. Holly Goodhead), Rick Yune (Zao), and Gabriele Ferzetti (Marc Ange Draco). Veteran Bond composer David Arnold (Tomorrow Never Dies) and Kevin Kiner (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) bring their talents to the soundtrack, and GoldenEye / Tomorrow Never Dies / The World is Not Enough writer Richard Fierstein stitches the story that blends 50 years of Bond together for us. It is an all-star cast that pays homage to their Bond film legacies, filling in the pieces that couldn’t be culled from the movies themselves.
Picatinny for a game on rails
[singlepic id=8777 w=320 h=240 float=left]Developer Eurocom used the same engine that they developed for GoldenEye 007: Reloaded to bring 007 Legends to life. Upgrading it to fit the more modern Bond, they added a stealth system to the game, giving players the chance to sneak through environments instead of simply cutting down everyone they see. It wouldn’t be Bond without gadgets, so Eurocom gives you access to a few of them right from the start. They’ve also added an experience system that you can ‘spend’ to upgrade your gadgets, weapons, and skills. Despite modification of the engine, it is clearly the IW3.0 Engine that powered Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, with everything that implies.
Using the “Smartwall” you’ll upgrade your weapons, buy new attachments, gadget upgrades, and training modules. Training serves the same functions as Perks in Call of Duty – you can purchase and equip three of them at a time, giving you faster weapon swap, health increase and health regeneration boost, or decreased blast damage as examples. XP Challenges will also look familiar – eliminate a certain amount of enemies to go from Stage 1 to Stage 2 and so on for additional experience. As you trek through the levels of the game you’ll stumble upon MI-6 crates to equip attachments like ACOG Scopes, underbarrel attachments like grenade launchers, suppressors, or allowing full-auto. You can also bump up the reload time for your Bond pen that shoots electric darts or sleep darts (though they do the same thing, so I’m not sure when you’d use one over the other).
Back in the realm of stealth, the engine goes super-simplified. When enemies have line of sight on you at a distance you’ll see a white triangle marker appear. If they become suspicious (or see a body on a camera) they’ll move to investigate and their marker will become yellow, expanding until it turns red. When the marker is red, they’ll run to sound an alarm and call for reinforcements. Remaining quiet and remaining out of visual range as well as enemy line of sight by using shadow serves as the bulk of the stealth portion as there is no visual indicator of how ‘stealthed’ you actually are. Some portions of the game require stealth or you’ll fail, but these sections are short and fairly easy. Most of the time you’ll start out stealth, an enemy will see you (and true to the Call of Duty 4 engine, can shoot you with a pistol from an impossible range) and the fight will be on. At that point, the game very much shifts away from classic Bond and pushes deep into reckless forward-pushing action with monster closets that spawn enemies when you complete individual pieces of objectives. A good example of this comes from License to Kill when Bond discovers that Franz Sanchez is smuggling drugs and weapons from Afghanistan and Iraq (again, a more modern approach to these classic Bond titles) and Bond is asked to plant mines just in case a terrorist link to the villain is found. (I personally would have thought the drugs and weapons alone would be enough.) Even though I was sneaking through a vent I was impossibly spotted. I answered in kind and gunned down every single enemy in the two areas and leisurely strolled to the first bomb location. Placing the first bomb, I whipped around and saw an enemy spawn out of thin air. Were these guys on a Union-mandated break while I cut down their friends? Honestly, the biggest offense is to add stealth without the ability to drag a body. Thief: The Dark Project did it in 1998, and it’s high time that developers start adding this to games now nearly 13 years later – it’s just not logical or immersive otherwise.[singlepic id=8770 w=320 h=240 float=right]
No Mr. Bond – I expect you to die!
With the incredible voice cast in the game, it’s no shock that the audio is one of the highlights of this title. Every character does a great job delivering their lines with the same bravado as they did so many years prior, and the soundtrack delivered by David Arnold fits the world of Bond perfectly. It does sadden me that I do have two complaints. Rather than having a soundtrack that reacts to what’s going on on-screen like we’ve seen in many other shooters, the game instead interrupts the great music with an overwhelming WHOOOOSHHHH that signals that an enemy may have seen you. When you are sneaking around and it happens multiple times in 30 seconds, it just sticks out like Denise Richards pretending she’s smart scientist Dr. Christmas Jones. The other issue is that Eurocom didn’t bother to put subtitles in to the game. I know this seems like a minor complaint, but for those of us who rely on them it’s a bit of a big deal.
Bond of Duty
James (sporting a Sony Xperia phone in true product tie-in fashion, just like the recent movies) can hack objects and investigate biometric clues. Pressing Y cycles through the two filters and a camera on the phone. The Wi-Fi Hack (electromagnetic filter) asks you to match the modulating frequencies on the phone by slowing pressing the left and right triggers enough to stay in the designated band. Biometric scanning can detect subtle nerve toxins in the air or scan fingerprints on biometric locks. Toxin scanning is demonstrated in a straight hallway that you couldn’t mess up is only used one more time later in the game, so that felt a bit tacked on. The biometric locks are a good distraction, asking the player to pay attention to the most recent and the least recently pressed buttons, and then discerning the code from it. Most of the time you’ll use biometrics to find dossiers and classic clues that unlock biography information on the various villains in the game. This can be a fencing mask for Gustav Graves, or a cigar for Sanchez, as an example.
I can’t quite explain the logic, but you’ll also be able to hack fuse boxes. This is done by matching up the colors in a grid of 9 discs. Once you’ve matched them all, you’ll overload the grid which opens up various doors and such. In addition to killing off cameras with the built-in laser, or using a ping to track his enemies, Bond can also use his watch to crack safes. Using the left and right trigger you can move one of the three rings, adjusting them until all of the lines match up according to descending size.
[singlepic id=8772 w=320 h=240 float=left]Inevitably you’ll square off against the various Bond villains. If you are big fans of the movies you’ll remember that each foe met his glorious end in a vicious and unique way – for some reason that’s just not the cause here. Every single level, minus the final one, ends the same way – you’ll confront your bad guy dejour and then use the new melee system to punch them until they die like they perished in the movie. The problem is that this melee system isn’t free-form – it’s a poorly-disguised button pressing event.
Remaining fully attached to the rails, there are two vehicle sections in the game – namely the jeep chase in License to Kill, and the Icarus-dodging run in the invisible Vanquish (ugh) in Die Another Day. Goldfinger, On Her Magesty’s Secret Service, License to Kill, Die Another Day, Moonraker, and I’m certain, Skyfall feature some fantastic vehicle moments – the sequences in 007 Legends feel like bowling with the kiddie-bumpers up to keep you out of the gutters.
One of the biggest reminders that I was playing a Bond title built on the Call of Duty platform came when I shot a Humvee tire and watched the entire vehicle explode. This is a bit incongruous since you have to shoot an enemy wearing no more than a T-shirt in the chest six times (I counted). Similarly, James “Shaken, not stirred” Bond somehow turned into James “Eeeeyyyyy” Fonzarelli from Happy Days, bashing everything with his fist. Bond is a man who drinks from a Martini glass – he isn’t chugging PBR and putting barbed-wire tattoos on his arms – he’s more suave than this.
At the end of each of the 5 missions (Skyfall rounds out six as free DLC several weeks after the movie hits – thanks for not spoiling it!) you’ll be graded on the number of primary and secondary objectives you’ve accomplished. You’ll also see how you did on level trials (accuracy, number of targets killed, stealth, etc.) as well as any intel, biographies, and bonus targets you may have hit or missed. The whole thing rounds out to a “percent complete” value and awards you experience as well as a completion time. You can continue from there or restart the mission, but I’d be more interested to know how many times you were knocked on your ass and then picked up by a friend, or how many helicopters were shown and then immediately shot out of the sky – this is the Call of Duty engine, after all.[singlepic id=8773 w=320 h=240 float=right]
Beyond The Legend
After you complete the single player game (it’ll take about five or so hours) you’ll likely move onto to Challenges. The Challenge mode is split into two sections – MI6 and Legends. Both sets of missions are split into escape, Defense, Infiltration, and Assault. These modes allow you to tweak the game a bit, adjusting player health, whether you use the “Classic” health method (floating health packs and armor rather than regeneration) or not, Enemy health and accuracy, how (or if) your radar functions, whether the suspicion HUD is on, “Marksman” mode which makes enemies immune to everything but headshots, time limits, and two odd but fun modifiers – Paintball (like it sounds) and Ragdoll which launches enemies when they are killed. You can upload your results and score to the Leaderboard, unless you use Paintball or Ragdoll – that’s not allowed for some mysterious reason. Using those two modes also, arbitrarily, doesn’t allow you to unlock the next map.
[singlepic id=8771 w=320 h=240 float=left]The multiplayer modes in the game are 4-player split-screen and online 6 on 6. Set up exactly as it is in Call of Duty’s system, the game ranks players from 1 to 50, letting players use characters from the single player game. There are 8 maps shipping with the game, with promise of more. In multiplayer you can turn on a ridiculous amount of modifiers. Unlimited ammo, singularity (players die if they touch one another), Nick Nack (players are shrunk to half their size and can’t climb), Invisibility (for a few seconds at the cost of sprint), and many more. There are also 12 game modes including License to Kill (Deathmatch), Team License to Kill (Team Deathmatch), Bomb Defuse (not unlike CounterStrike), Data Miner (steal data, the other side tries to stop you), Icarus (capture and hold), and Escalation (each kill gives you a better weapon, melee kills demote the killed player) just to name a few. The cool part is that you can play as 10 classic characters from the series. If you want to throw hats as Oddjob, this is the place to do it. The problem is that most people won’t. Put simply, the modes are cool, the effort is commendable, but Halo 4, Far Cry 3, Borderlands 2, Medal of Honor Warfighter, and Activision’s own Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will consume the shooter audience entirely.
Dryden: “True. How did he die?” Bond: “Your contact? Not well.”
My biggest complaint with 007 Legends is that it lets you see the best part of our favorite Bond movies, but doesn’t let us play them. You are either shooting, hacking something to do more shooting, driving to where you’ll do more shooting, or waiting to press buttons in the weak melee system so you can get to the next level of shooting. Bond has more depth than this, and 50 years of movies proves that. We want to stop Operation Grand Slam. We want to drive a tank through downtown Moscow. We want to BE Bond! 007 Legends lets us see Bond, but never actually be the suave, debonair, brash, and ultimately human British Secret Agent. Instead we are forced to watch as our generic agent shoots people in the face and then punches them in the sides for a few moments. Bond is the 2nd highest grossing film series of all time and I’d like to see the property get the love it deserves instead of a Call of Duty title with a Bond skin mod.