REVIEW: 007 Legends (PS3)

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James Bond returns to consoles in “007 Legends,” timed to (mostly) coincide with the November release of the new Bond film, “Skyfall.” Packaged as 007’s Greatest Hits, “Legends” lets players relive moments from six classic movies, including “Goldfinger,” “Moonraker” and “Die Another Day.” “Skyfall” itself is not on the disk, but instead available as a free download.

The gimmick here – which Bond purists may find grating – is that all five adventures are remixed as if they starred Daniel Craig, the current 007. Yet, other iconic visages remain as we remember them. The guest-star list includes Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, Richard Kiel as Jaws and Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez. The switch-up even applies to technology and settings. Blofeld’s headquarters is as 1960s as ever, while Daniel Craig Bond stalks through it wielding a full-on smartphone to gather evidence.

It is clear that a lot of care was put into blurring the lines between modern Bond and original formula Bond. The game pushes its luck, however, by attempting to stitch six films together into one narrative. The result is a confusing mishmash, as characters necessarily appear and vanish from “Legends,” just so the game can hit all the major bullet points from each film.

The gameplay is mostly a standard affair of first-person shootery with a smattering of Bondian gadgets. The wristwatch can be used to remotely disable security cameras. There’s a dart-loaded poison pen. Bond’s cellphone is used to take pictures, scan for fingerprints and hack into computers. While spy-themed investigative areas do crop up, the bulk of the game is action-oriented run and gun.

You’re encouraged to play it stealthily and have Bond tranq enemies and bust skulls without raising alarm, but “007 Legends” is just plain lousy at being sneaky. You can spend twenty minutes trying to infiltrate an area only to be sensed by one cookie-cutter guard and end up resorting to violent gunplay anyway. Poor checkpointing means having to replay large areas over and over again should enemies get the drop on you, wasting your feeble attempt at stealth.

And why, when you pick up ammo just by walking over it, is the game so concerned with realistically limiting the player’s ability to customize weapons? You can upgrade Bond’s pistols and rifles with extra clips, scopes and silencers… but only when you find a not-so-conveniently placed MI6 supply crate. It’s tough to pull off a stealth level when you missed your one chance to install a silencer.

Then there’s the silly boss fight battles, where you are coached in fistfights against the likes of Oddjob. Rubbery villains stand before you, while the game tells you which way to push the analog stick to land a punch. These mano y mano finishers might be intended to showcase James’ bare-knuckle skills, but they are so simplistic as to be insulting.

007 Legends” tries to replicate the James Bond experience, but it misses the man’s defining characteristic: he’s smooth. The only reason to play is to see the intriguing mash-up of classic and modern Bond.

Image courtesy Activision. “007 Legends” is currently available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows. This review is based on product supplied by the publisher.

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