It is inevitable that every time a new Bond movie hits theatres there will be a corresponding game to go along with it. It is also inevitable that every one of these games will undoubtedly be compared to Goldeneye. Ever since Rare’s shooter landed on the N64 Bond games have been unduly compared to the award-winning game. It could be a testament to just how good Goldeneye was, or simply a way to discredit every game since, but the fact of the matter is that just because a game isn’t Game of the Year material doesn’t make it a bad game.
Quantum of Solace returns the series to its FPS roots using the Call of Duty 4 engine. Treyarch has also decided to combine this with a stop-and-pop mechanic ala Gears of War to create one of the more enjoyable Bond experiences since EA first took over the franchise. The game follows the events of both Daniel Craig flicks and flips back and forth between them giving you scenarios both in between events in the film, and during them. Using Craig’s likeness is probably one of the main reasons the team decided to add the third-person cover mechanic, but it does work well and it keeps the pace from becoming a mindless shooter.
The biggest problem with the cover mechanic is inconsistency. There were often times where my character would not be in the right position forcing me to stand up and re-adjust myself, all while taking unnecessary damage. There is also an option to sprint from cover to cover, but it never felt fluid and seamless. As in most games of this type you can either blind fire from your position or pull the left trigger and aim at each individual target. The problem here is that the blind fire is almost too accurate, making playing the game on harder difficulties less about strategy and more about patience.
The gunplay works as well as you would imagine for a game running off of the CoD 4 engine. All of the guns feel great and taking down enemies is satisfying, even without the copious amounts of gore. To spice up things Treyarch has also given players the option to tackle different sections of the game either using wits or stealth. For instance you can sneak around some levels entirely undetected or you can opt to disable all security cameras in order to avoid alerting guards. Of course if you are not a patient gamer (like myself) you can simply rush in guns blazing and still make it through without much hassle. The idea that the game doesn’t punish you for not playing it the way they want you to is a huge bonus for me.
Outside of the shooting there are also some mini-games and puzzles that are introduced that do little more than break up the monotony. The balancing mechanic works well enough and the hacking game, while nicely presented, is rarely a challenge. It is obvious that a lot of these things are thrown in to give you a sense that you are in fact James Bond and not some no-name thug with a gun. This is best expressed with the takedowns, where you can approach an enemy and click in on the thumbstick to initiate a melee move in a suave slow-motion, third-person camera. There are a variety of these moves and each one requires a button press so it isn’t an instant action, and it does a nice job of making you really feel like the MI6 agent.
As I mentioned earlier the set pieces in the game are lifted from both movies, but tend to focus heavily on Casino Royale. This can be both a good and bad thing for those not wanting to spoil the events of the new flick. Everything you would expect in a Bond game is here from blowing up priceless heirlooms in a museum to making your way through a speeding train, this game has the Bond signature written all over it. This brings me to the biggest issue I had with Quantum of Solace; the game is just too short. If you play through the game at a normal pace you can finish it in just under five hours. This is of course without hunting down all the hidden cell phones and ignoring stealth the majority of the game, but it still feels like the action is over long before it gets started.
Thankfully unlike some games with such a short play time QoS does come packed with a substantial multi-player offering. All of the typical FPS modes are here, but the ones themed around Bond himself are the most interesting. One of these modes has one player assume the role of Bond while all the other players attempt to hunt you down. The catch is that Bond has more health and a plethora of gadgets and advantages. This mode feels almost like a single-player level from the game, only with real humans playing the roles of your enemies. The other Bond-themed mode consists of two teams each with Bond VIP on their side and the objective is once again to eliminate him. The online mode ran well in our tests with only the usual hiccups and lag that you would expect from any first-person shooter.
Quantum of Solace is not a bad looking game, in fact running on Infinity Ward’s engine it has moments of brilliance. Daniel Craig’s in-game avatar looks nearly spot on and the levels have a great design aesthetic that really keeps things interesting. The frame rate is solid, even in scenes of intense action, but the explosions and animations leave a little to be desired. The voice work is fantastic as Craig reprises his role as Bond along with a host of other cast members from the film. The theme song is also present in the game and is truly infectious. The sound effects are top-notch and deserve to be blasted through a proper setup. Overall the presentation in QoS is one of its finer qualities.
The latest Bond game may not be the best FPS of all time, but it is the best Bond game to come along in a while. Everything about Quantum of Solace comes together to create an experience that fans of the movies will undoubtedly enjoy. The length of the game is probably its biggest weakness, but the robust multi-player makes up for the short campaign. If you love these kinds of games QoS is definitely worthy of a look. The action is sharp, the visuals are crisp and the multi-player can be a load of fun if you can get a match going. A solid first entry from Activision and I hope their sequels continue to improve on the formula.