Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Blood Stone 007

Platform: PS3 (also on Xbox 360, PC)

Developer: Bizarre Creations

Publisher: Activision

# of Players 1 (online 2 - 16)

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: B

With former movie powerhouse studio MGM now pushing up daisies (they'll be sorely missed), the future of the James Bond series on film seems bleak at best. On the other hand, what could be the final product to bear that familiar Leo the Lion logo is a pretty solid licensed game that looks and feels like one of the recent Bond films in the series. Blood Stone 007 isn't supposed to be some sort of amazingly groundbreaking game that will send you over the moon from the moment you touch the controller (and shame on you if you look at EVERY game you play in this manner). Nevertheless, what the game does right it nails near perfectly. It's exactly what an interactive movie experience should be in terms of making you feel as if you're watching a film while letting you control the action as the story elements push you forward.

If you go into Blood Stone expecting a huge open-world experience with tons to do and see around every corner, you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you're a huge Bond fan, you'll slide right in and get your groove on within seconds. The sole purpose of the single-player game - dropping you into the shoes of Daniel Craig's rough and tumble version of Bond - works from the first mission's great reveal up to the explosive finale. Taken as a whole, it's a decent Bond "film" that's not as quite frantic as Quantum of Solace and a well-made action game that's packed with firefights, vehicle chases and even a tiny bit of adventure game elements.

By the way, that reveal is the moment where if you're a TRUE Bond lover, you'll get a grin on your face and a quick buzz running down your spine and JB leaps from a cargo plane's ramp and parachutes down to the game's first action sequence. The opening is fast-paced and a rather nicely done tutorial where you'll get in a fair amount of shooting, a bit of fist-to-face action and even two driving sections (boat and car). The game isn't all running, gunning and driving, though. Things quiet down a tiny bit in some areas where Bond needs to use his smartphone to locate intel or hidden weapons and that phone also triple duty as an enemy radar.

While you can simply dink about with that phone out and keep track of every enemy or explosive hazard in these on foot sections, this actually makes the game a wee bit too easy. As a trade off, the screen display fuzzes out if you're scanning an area and start running (Bond must be using Verizon for his connection)
. Controls work as they should and yes, the game uses those popular cover mechanics you'd expect in a third-person shooter or action game. Bond can also take out enemies up close and personal using some great close quarters combat moves that when pulled off, add the ability to chain up to three slow-motion headshots. You'll want to save that ability for the more crowded areas, particularly where grenade launchers or more heavily armored enemies are standing between you and your goal.

Some sections of the game are timed in that you need to run and jump quickly to avoid getting chewed up by a giant drill or keep up with someone escaping on foot or in a vehicle by staying as close as possible and/or doing some sort of damage before they can reach a certain location. To keep the whole movie thing going strong, you're thrown into cut scenes after a certain amount of successful chasing on foot or on the road. This may seem jarring to those more used to games that let them have their way from beginning to end, but here, it just feels right and again, as if you're watching a Bond film.
In fact, trying to compare this to too many other action games is a losing proposition because like nearly every recent game in the genre, you either like or dislike the influences when you start picking things apart.

The driving sections are excellent and challenging (what else would you exopect from Bizarre Creations?) with each vehicle handling differently on a number of road surfaces. The chases are done well enough but aren't the focal point of the game - they blend into the experience just as in a Bond film. Granted, the game is a few times longer than a film, so there's quite a bit of ground to cover in or outside of a speedy sports coupe. Depending on the difficulty level, the game can be completed in anywhere from six to eight hours (maybe a little less if you blow through sections in one go), which is more than enough for any Bond adventure.

As for the visuals and sound, the overall presentation here is great, going for a solid and realistic look throughout. Character models of the principals are dead on and you get Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench lending their voices to the game and doing a solid job throughout. I thought Joss Stone made an odd choice for a "Bond Girl" here, but she's easy on the eyes as a virtual character and doesn't ruin her career with a lousy vocal performance. She also does a great job with the main theme, which is done up in the same visual style as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. While the music in the game is great, I was slightly disappointed that the credits only looped that familiar (but always cool) Bond theme rather than pump out some sort of overture.

There are a few fun multiplayer modes here, but the game would have been fine without them. They're pretty basic stuff and run fine online, but after the amazingly underrated The Club (a game you HAVE to play before you die, I say), what's here is a bit tame. Then again, I'd gather most players won't be looking at this for the multiplayer if they happen to have a Wii in the house - in that case, you'd more likely be reaching for that copy of Goldeneye 007 and getting a few friends over, at that. Nevertheless, I'd definitely recommend Blood Stone to Bond fans looking for some closure or at least something to tide them over until any news of future film entries in the franchise surface. If anything, the next film could even be based on what's here and it just might be the first time a movie game came out a few years before the movie (which would be pretty amusing).

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