James Bond is doing okay at E3 2012. He’s had it rough over the years. GoldenEye 007 was the right game at the right time, a technical marvel that defined both the Nintendo 64 and first-person games on consoles, but it’s legacy is defined by the era that birthed it, not its fundamentals. The Bond games that followed, movie tie-ins like The World is Not Enough, originals like Agent Under Fire, and even Call of Duty: Black Ops developer Treyarch’s Quantum of Solace were B-list games at best. They were all sloppy shoot ‘em ups that never captured GoldenEye’s bottled lightning or the flavor of Ian Fleming’s enjoyably anachronistic novels.
Eurocom’s done much to elevate the Bond gaming. GoldenEye Reloaded was a good start, if still a bit too heavy on the big guns, big explosions of modern shooters. Its latest, the Bond 50th anniversary game 007 Legends, is a step up based on a demo shown at E3 2012.
Creative director Bob Matthews demoed the portion of the game based on the old Bond novel and movie Moonraker, one of six Bond adventures in the game including one based on the upcoming Skyfall. 007 Legends is still a shooting game first and foremost, with explosions and noise a plenty, but it also pays close to attention to the gadget-based spy work so beloved of 1960s and ‘70s Bond pictures. Bond can sneak around the henchman of eugenics terrorist Hugo Drax rather than gun them down, using non-lethal gear like a pen that shoots tranquilizer darts and a radar watch that lays out where enemies are around him.
The setting’s been modernized, with a Daniel Craig Bond—a lookalike lacking Craig’s actual voice—using tools like a smartphone, but some of the ‘70s camp aesthetic is preserved in bright orange and yellow space jumpsuits and Bond’s gear.
007 Legends is impressively quiet. Quiet is part of what makes Bond, Bond; without calm cool, the inevitable spectacle loses its impact. Provided Eurocom keeps a steady hand and it doesn’t feel pressure to match publisher-mate Call of Duty’s bombast, 007 Legends could be one of the year’s better games.