Since an earlier review of Blood Stone seemed to gain unexpected traction, I’m going to attempt to repeat the trick and review another milestone from a chequered career in video-games; yes, this critic’s Linkedin profile of career achievements proudly boasts completing Quantum of Solace on Agent level, but I’m not so much here to blow my own trumpet as to lament the experience of playing 007 Legends. If Goldeneye is the most recognised James Bond game, then 007 Legends is legendary for other reasons, namely being a complete travesty of the Ian Fleming character. Looking back on completing this game is like having flashbacks to a garbled nightmare; to quote Evan Dando’s song, why do I do this to myself?
Having secured the likeness of Daniel Craig, as well as his vocal participation alongside Judi Dench, plus franchise favourites like Honor Blackman and Richard Kiel, 007 Legends should have been a Bond simulator with a licence to thrill. You play through action highlights from a series on Bond movies; the attack on Fort Knox from Goldfinger, the attack on Blofeld’s mountain hideout from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the attack on Drax’s Space Station from Moonraker. But since it’s Craig’s modern Bond, all the sets, gadgets and firepower are 2010 variety, and it’s odd hearing Blofleld’s men discuss US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or seeing Craig getting married to Diana Rigg.
Even more confusingly, Skyfall is presented as a wraparound story, with Bond falling in the water after being shot and somehow remembering all his previous missions, then there’s a final Skyfall level which has to be downloaded as DLC; it was quite an achievement for me even to figure out how to do this, never mind play through a basic motorcycle chase through Istanbul washing lines and an impossible Shanghai skyscraper punch-up as a climax. Bond himself feels like he’s having a breakdown; as he flashes back through his life, every mission feels exactly the F same, right down to the boss fights; where it’s Jaws, Oddjob, Goldfinger or whoever, they all fight the same way, and even the locations all look the same once you’ve massacred so many henchmen to get inside that they’re literally piled up ten deep in the doorways.
It’s even stranger playing a game based on films you can barely remember; it’s hard to jog my memory about Licence to Kill or Die Another Day since they’re films I’d rather forget, and yet here we are. At least these missions have some motorised vehicles rather than just kill-crazy action, although Die Another Day’s cars-on-ice has the same awful skewwiff physics that the film had. The ski-chase from OHMSS is equally frustrating, taking about five minutes to load before you ski directly into a tree within the first two seconds, then repeat over and over again; it’s not very Bond at all, and neither is endlessly dicking around with your phone and your watch, solving simple logic puzzles like Dora the Explorer when you’re meant to be a F secret agent.
So I did complete 007 Legends, but it was a Pyrrhic victory since I lost so much in the process, namely self-respect and my will to live. Taking six Bond films and putting them into a narrative blender, what oozes out is sludge of pitiful viscosity, and the rubber-faced evocations of Fleming’s characters are enough to make a Luddite of us all. 007 Legends ended the short-lived fad of James Bond games, and it nearly ended me playing it. I’ll get round to Goldeneye and Quantum soon, but let this be a warning to anything considering going down this path; frustrating and nonsensical, 007 Legends must be the absolute nadir of lame Bond spin-offs to date.