The lack of a new James Bond movie has made me crave some tuxedo action and this month Activision has me filled up on all things 007. While Wii owners are reveling in the re-imagine Goldeneye (our review coming this week) Xbox 360 and PS3 owners are being treated to developer Bizarre Creations first stab at the Bond license. Blood Stone is a brand new adventure for our favorite spy and it brings some of the trademarked action with it. While I enjoyed my entire run through the game you can’t help but feel a bit disappointed at the length, lack of gadgets and somewhat lackluster narrative.
Without having a new movie to keep me occupied I was thoroughly excited to see what the fine folks at Bizarre had cooked up. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench reprise their roles from the films, while Joss Stone provides both the theme song and the voice for the latest Bond girl. The story runs the typical Bond gamut with plenty of globetrotting as you chase down high-powered bad guys looking for the one person behind it all. At times it excels while other times it simply falls flat. Even the big reveal towards the end is easy to see coming. Still the voice work is strong and the story is presented well enough that you just feel like you are watching a TV version as opposed to a theatrical release.
At its core Blood Stone is a third-person cover-based shooter with some driving segments sprinkled in to break up the action. The actual shooting is done surprisingly well, and the driving is excellent, which should be no surprise from the same team that brought you Blur and Project Gotham. Bond has a vast array of weapons at his disposal ranging from the traditional shotguns and automatics to stun guns and sniper rifles. Unfortunately the one thing that you won’t be spending a lot of time with is gadgets. Bond only carries one extra item and that is his smartphone. It can be used to see enemies, unlock doors and just about anything else the game puts in front of you. Whatever you need to do in the game, there is apparently an app for that.
When it comes to the combat things work as well as they should. I hate to sound generic but honestly the game executes good enough to make it work and also without much to make it special. You do earn focus attacks that mimic Sam Fisher’s mark and execute attacks from the latest Splinter Cell. You even earn them in the same manner by taking down enemies with melee attacks. Personally I loved the flow of combat. There was little more satisfying than busting into a room, taking down an enemy and instantly going into focus mode to take out the rest of the baddies in the room. It all works smoothly and creates the illusion of being a badass.
This is the meat of the game, but there are also the aforementioned vehicle segments. As you would imagine coming from a developer known for their racing games, the controls here are smooth. I love the chase sequences and watching cars fly overhead during high-speed pursuits. There were a few times where these segments really got frustrating though. Most specifically the ice river chase which quickly became an exercise in memorization and frustration; one drop into the water and it was time to start over at the last checkpoint.
The smartphone is the other gameplay mechanic and it functions very similar to Batman’s detective vision in Arkham Asylum. Tapping down on the d-pad brings up an overlay that shows you collectibles, enemy locations and even helps with most of the game’s puzzles. There is a mini-game that involves tapping face buttons in sequence, but other than that the game holds your hand through most of the puzzles. There is also no penalty on lower difficulties for failing to disable cameras on lower difficulties. Honestly playing the game on anything less than hard can result in quite an easy experience, but at the higher difficulties you have to methodically move so slow that it drags the experience out.
Amazingly the game also includes an online mode. I didn’t even know that until I saw it on the menu upon booting up the game. There are three modes that take a stab at traditional formulas such as team deathmatch, objective and last-man-standing. The online is certainly nothing to write home about, but it actually was quite enjoyable. More than likely due to the fact that no one on there was very good at it. This means that matches remained close and even if your skills were not up to the mark, you still had a chance at winning. Even so this will be dried up within a month so as novel as it is, it certainly isn’t a selling point for the game.
Visually the game was a mixed bag for me. The cut scenes look atrocious at times and some of the locales feel drab and uninspired. On the other hand there were moments where my jaw hit the floor, most notably the car chases and the Bangkok level. The opening of that level in the aquarium is one of the coolest set pieces since the Zoo in Army of Two: The 40th Day. There is just something about watching a sniper take someone down directly in front of a whale tank. Audio wise the game blasts the recognizable Bond tunes and sound effects, and Daniel Craig reprises his role nicely. The voice acting is good, but some of the dialogue feels a bit forced. Like I said earlier this feels more like a made-for-TV Bond movie than a full-fledged Hollywood title.
Blood Stone is a solid game that without the license most people would write off as just another humdrum shooters. Still being such a huge fan of the property I couldn’t help but really enjoy taking down enemies and feeling like a complete badass at times. The game doesn’t do anything offensive, but it also fails to stand out from the crowd. It is also worth noting that the length of the game is roughly 4-5 hours depending on which difficulty you play on. The multi-player is novel but it certainly won’t last you more than a month. Still if you have the itch to step into Bond’s shoes and don’t own a Wii, you could do a lot worse than Blood Stone.
Review copy provided by publisher.