With Project Gotham Racing and Blur in their back catalogue it’s no surprise that Bizarre Creation’s latest venture, James Bond Blood Stone, features some action-packed, pedal to the metal, driving sequences. Though the driving sections in Blood Stone only constitute approximately 30% of the gameplay, the U.K. based developer says it included them to punctuate the high intensity moments in the game and provide thrills and spills away from the main course of combat and stealth play. On both accounts, based on the passage of play we enjoyed at a recent press event in London, this has been achieved with some style.
PSU had the opportunity to go hands-on with one of the driving segments from Blood Stone, on a level based in Siberia and a section of gameplay that slots into the storyline about halfway through the game. Here, Bond jumps into his Aston Martin and goes in pursuit of a villain by the name of Pomerov whose vehicle of choice is a speeding train. The mission requires you to keep up with Pomerov's train ensuring that you don't write off your car, or lag too far behind in the process. On the screen, you can see, in metres, how far Pomerov is away from you, so it's up to you to keep your foot on the accelerator and navigate the tricky course.
This sequence, which makes up just a part of a combat and stealth orientated mission, is a clear indication of Bizarre Creation’s intent on making Blood Stone a cinematic experience. However, it also shows off their pedigree in the racing genre extremely well. The jet-black, sexy looking Aston Martin DB5 looks fantastic, but more importantly it handles smoothly requiring only the deftness of touches to steer it around the course. The hand-brake grants you the ability to skid around corners and weave in between obstacles and it’s quite a subtle drifting movement reminiscent of the way that cars perform in Blur. The racing here clearly takes an arcade rather than a simulation style, inspired by Blur and Project Gotham. It's instantly accessible, yet fairly tricky to master due to all the other factors that this portion of the game throws at you.
This Siberian-based driving mission has a MotorStorm Apocalypse feel to it in terms of the chaos that you see all around you. Buildings collapse, fireballs crash on the tarmac in front of you and debris flies across your peripheral vision as you attempt to navigate around concrete stanchions and under bridges at a blistering pace. Oil tankers swerve across your road causing you to turn at the last minute to avoid their path, or pinpoint a narrow gap to accelerate between them before they collide, and all around you the sights and sounds of explosions make it difficult to concentrate on the driving. It’s exciting stuff that’s made even more cinematic, in a very James Bond like way, by a cut-scene that clicks in about half way through the race showing the Aston Martin spectacularly careering off a ramp. A further cut-scene near the end shows Bond's car landing on top of Pomerov's train.
From the tarmacked roads, Bond finds himself slipping and sliding across the snow where you immediately get a feel of how the handling of the car has altered. One false move here sees you careering into a lake as the ice breaks around you from the weight of your car. Snow drives furiously at the windscreen and the pounding musical score intensifies, as a helicopter appears overhead and starts firing missiles at you. The mission cleverly encourages you to keep your foot on the accelerator through this blend of carnage and high-octane music.
Because there’s so much going on around you this is a tough sequence to complete perfectly first time around. In fact it that took us half a dozen tries to master as we got used to the intricacies of the course. One bump and it’s hard to recover before Pomerov is out of your sights, so it’s quite unforgiving in that respect. To capture the villain you really need to navigate this course without crashing at all. But the feeling you do get when you make it to the end without brushing any of the dozens of obstacles is a real sense of achievement.
If this is an indication of the other driving sequences that we'll face in James Bond Bloodstone, and indeed a sign of the quality of the game as a whole, we're in for a real treat in November when Bond hits stores worldwide.