Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Blood Stone 007 (DS)

Platform: Nintendo DS

Developer: n-Space

Publisher: Activision

# of Players: 1 (2 - 6 via Wi-Fi)

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: B-

Where the PS3 and 360 versions of the game focus on blending cinema-worthy storytelling elements, solid, familiar gameplay and high quality HD visuals into a solid Bond experience, the portable version of Blood Stone 007 proves you don't need stellar graphics to make a solid third-person shooter. The DS action shooter might look like a mid-range PSOne game and not have the best animation out there, but it's a surprisingly cool shooter that manages to capture the feel of the other games almost to a T. You're getting the same plot and most of the same locations with a few nicely done touches added for good measure. While it may not win any DS Game of the Year awards, it's definitely well-done enough to be a worthy addition to any Bond fan's game collection.

Like the console versions, the game starts off with Bond parachuting onto a boat, where a shootout and eventual boat chase ensue. The DS version actually lets you do a bit of shooting while parachuting down, has more enemies on the boat and a different level layout for the boat. A few other stages add assorted elements unseen in the console versions, but as I've said in other reviews, you can't possibly make a completely straight comparison between a DS and any current generation console. Content-wise, this one's is a little bit shorter overall, but still feels like a lengthy enough chunk of Bond gaming thanks to the diverse locations and high body count you'll rack up.

Once you're on foot, you'll notice that Bond controls a tiny bit awkwardly at first, running with his gun out and basically being a bullet sponge if you try to run and gun through levels. However, paying attention to the helpful tutorial will have you using cover, lining up shots and popping enemies left and right like a pro. It's quite a lot of fun and very nicely implemented overall. Using cover is pretty important as you'll see when the game sends multiple foes into your path. In some areas, you can flip tables over for cover, dive behind them and take down fools one by one. Other times, it's a bit of sneaking wall use, popping out to put a shell in some guard's melon and moving on. The pacing is great for the most part with nary a dull moment throughout the adventure.

The driving sections are trickier than the console versions where shooting is involved. As there's no feedback on the DS, it's hard to know you're being shot up until the display starts flashing read and you're looking at the Game Over screen. You'll need to be dead-on accurate in your driving, pinpoint accurate in your shooting and never tempted to toss that DS into a wall in the tougher sections. Once you get the controls down, the game can be a complete blast to play, only getting tricky when it needs to toss a few tough sections in between you and the end credits. For my money (yes, i bought the game outright at launch, DS supporter that I am) the single player game fares batter than the multiplayer, but based on a few quick matches (with some kid on the subway who noticed I had the game and popped in his copy for a quick session) that part works well enough that it's a nice diversion should you be on the road and run into someone else with a copy of the game and want a little run 'n gun competition.

As far as the presentation goes, it's just fine for a DS game but naturally, NOT at all comparable to the console versions. As noted earlier, Blood Stone on the DS looks a lot like a PSOne game, so you get the good and bad in that description right as soon as you see the character models and other art assets. Nevertheless, developer n-Space gets a lot of mileage from their engine here and given the overall quality of their other DS games, what's here is near the top of their work for the handheld.
They've also done a bang-up job on the portable version of Goldeneye, but I'll get to that gem in a separate review. Sounds are well-done, but it's the great music and voice acting that help drive the game forward (and yes, help carry the graphics when they're not so hot). Both Daniel Craig and Judi Dench lend their voices here and keep things hopping when necessary.

In the end, while it may be the final time we see Daniel Craig as James Bond, he's at least going out with a bang on consoles as well as portables in two really cool action experiences core Bond fans should approve of. Of course, any true Bond fan worth his or her salt KNOWS you can't really kill Sir James no matter how hard you try. Hell, I'm waiting patiently for that teaser trailer where we see a black screen with text that simply says" James Bond WILL Return In..." followed by the name of the next entry that will put the series back on the map as an important part of modern pop culture.

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