More than fifty years ago, Ian Fleming created a fictitious spy who has graced countless novels, movies, and video games. The name 007 conjures up thoughts of bombs concealed inside of pens, ultra-fast sports cars, shaken (not stirred) martinis, sexy Bond girls, classic British actors, and of course, one of the greatest games of all time—GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64. There’s a remake of sorts for that classic game, but it’s only available on the Wii. Instead, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners got their semi-regular helping of 007 action in the form of James Bond 007: Blood Stone.
Bizarre Creations’ take on Bond is in line with the modern movies, starring a brutishly-charming Daniel Craig as Bond and Judi Dench as M. Players are drawn into what appears to be a game based on a movie (although there is no actual movie tie-in), and in true Bond nature, you’ll silently take down waves of enemies with a silenced gun, speed through busy streets as cars explode and helicopters try and shoot you, and use your brute force to smash mindless combatants’ heads against the wall. The concept is familiar like pumpkin pie, but is executed like pumpkin sorbet—while it tastes odd, you can’t help but give a little credit for trying.
The game kicks off in true Bond movie style. M discovers an attempt to kill leaders of the G20 Summit, and Bond is immediately in pursuit. He lands on the terrorist’s yacht, and after learning the game’s basic mechanics—duck and cover, slowly taking down enemies with stealth moves—you have to pursue the “boss” in a boat. Predictably, the chase ends with big explosions and the world's leaders safe. The game should be over here, right? Nope, there’s another eight hours or so in the single-player campaign that mindlessly take you across the world looking for some super boss. At the end of each level, you think you finally caught the big bad guy, but as it turns out your princess is in another castle. And so, you truck on.
For a third-person stealth action game, Blood Stone isn't terrible, but it's certainly not unique. But the game has more than just stealth combat; it’s filled with chase sequences that are equally thrilling and extremely frustrating. How can driving a fast car or boat in pursuit of an enemy be both thrilling and frustrating? Simple: each sequence is filled with epic explosions that make you feel like you’re at the cinema, while the actual execution is excruciatingly difficult at times. The folks at Bizarre Creations know a thing or two about racing games—see Blur or Project Gotham—but that doesn’t mean it’s handled here in a way that is entertaining. Because these driving events are so choreographed, they end up feeling like a chore, almost like you must memorize every little detail, every little rolling car or exploding truck, in order to finally reach your next checkpoint. And, what’s even more frustrating, after you wasted a good 30 minutes trying to memorize that specific course, the boss you were chasing gets away. Moments like these keep Blood Stone from shining.
Driving isn’t the only part of the game that feels overly choreographed. For most of the game you’ll sneak around, ducking behind different scenery objects, quickly and quietly eliminating enemies. But there are moments in the game where sneaking around just won’t do, and you’ll actually have to let the lead out. Just as in the driving segments, these moments of high action seem to require very specific reactions from the player; there is very little flexibility in execution. Sure, you can say many games fall victim to this linear model, but for a setting so immersed in awesomeness (after all, the game looks like a Bond movie), we’d expect more ways to eliminate enemies, new tactics at each level, and a little freedom to snap a neck or two, or use some freaky spy tool to blow up a room full of baddies.
Speaking of spy tools—well, there aren't any. Bond comes equipped with one measly gadget: a smartphone (talk about scaling back). The smartphone works a bit like Detective Mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum. You’ll get a pretty good idea of where the enemies are, and you’ll even be able to collect evidence to further your mission. To keep you from abusing this tool, the graphics get shaky if you walk around with it on. But, that’s it. Bond has no other tools or tricks up his sleeve.
The only other thing that makes Blood Stone original is the Focus Aim feature. You’ll get Focus Aim after taking down an enemy stealthily. Focus Aim essentially grants you free headshots, and they are incredibly handy in the sections of levels that require you to run after a boss. It seems each time we had to run in the game, an enemy was running in our direction with guns blazing. Simply pop one of your Focus Aims, and down he goes. You’ll get some pretty great takedowns this way, and it all looks great, in true Bond style.
Even though the game isn’t tied directly into a movie, and we still don’t get the Blood Stone title, you’ll feel like everything in game is scripted after a feature film. The action sequences are truly exhilarating and when Bond gets his hands on enemies, whether he snaps their necks or smashes their heads against the ground, it’s quite satisfying. The character models are decent but the lip syncing is pretty disappointing. When you have recognizable voice actors in a game, it’s a waste to get distracted when the lips aren’t matching the actual words. The game actually looks pretty great, especially during the driving and chase scenes. At high speeds, you still get some fine details of the beautiful landscape that engulfs the entire game.
The tacked on multiplayer modes try to give the game some legs. But that’s just it, multiplayer feels tacked on. You get the typical deathmatch and objective-based missions, but they are extremely flat and slow. Multiplayer could have easily been left off the game.
Even though the game feels flat, predictable and boring, it has its charm in the action and chase sequences. The story is fairly non-existent, and Bond never really settles into his role as stealth-killer extraordinaire. Diehard Bond fans might be able to overlook some of Blood Stone's flaws, but for the rest of us looking for a good third-person action game, there are plenty better on the market.
-The Final Word-
Blood Stone puts the world's favorite spy in a series of action and chase sequences that are exhilarating, but sadly they aren't enough to save this otherwise flat title.
|Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3|