007 Legends wants to celebrate a timeless Bond

Activison's 007 Legends is intended as a celebration of James Bond's 50-year film history. But by rewriting history instead of letting fans relive their Bond memories, it's trying to walk a very thin line.

There's only one Agent 007 — only one James Bond. That's the explanation Activision gives for the peculiar premise of 007 Legends, the next Bond game.

Legends takes Bond through sequences from five classic films, including 1979's Moonraker, in a narrative that ties the movies together and takes place in the present day. Daniel Craig, the current Bond actor, serves as the story's through-line; he is the face of Bond throughout the game. Activision will augment the campaign with a free DLC mission based on Skyfall, the upcoming Bond film set for release in November.

Activision says 007 Legends is intended as a celebration of the franchise's rich history — 2012 marks the 50th year since the release of the first Bond film, Dr. No — and according to associate producer Dino Verano, the idea is to pay homage to the movies with a story that feels like "one piece that you experience as a whole."

Yet the cognitive dissonance on display in a demo of sequences from the Moonraker section of 007 Legends proved problematic for me. "We wanted to ... celebrate all these past moments, but also keep it kind of modern and keep it contemporary," said Verano, explaining the "difficult balancing act" that developer Eurocom faced. The Moonraker levels exhibit the movie's post-Star Wars science-fiction soul, with laser rifles and garish spacesuits. But since Eurocom has transposed a 33-year-old film to the present day, the gameplay is more fiction than science: Bond's high-tech gadgets include a smartphone that can track wires through walls by sensing an area's electromagnetic field.

I found it weird to see modern technology in the context of a film that came out over three decades ago, and stranger still to watch Daniel Craig — instead of Roger Moore — fight the steel-toothed brute Jaws. If 007 Legends is supposed to serve as a nostalgia trip for fans of the Bond movies, it seems odd that it rewrites history instead of letting fans relive it.

007 Legends is due out Oct. 16 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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