(Previously… Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit)


For years James Bond games have been a teasing bag of mixed emotions, some good others bad. Entries like 1997’s GoldenEye 007 were glorious in how responsive and innovative certain aspects were – in GoldenEye‘s case it was the multiplayer section. And while subsequent games would be generally well-received, there was always the feeling that they could have been better, or more grand. Sure, some would have neat elements, like Everything or Nothing‘s ‘Bond Moments’ which allows the user to complete specific events in a way Bond might, but there would always be something holding them back from being true classics. It was almost as if there was little thought put into some of them, like the studio’s were just pumping them out for cash. They would either feature dumb enemies with bad AI, have annoying aspects that were lame (usually driving moments), or simply be too short (a criticism leveled on more than one Bond game).

So this brings us to the latest 007 game, and the second to feature Daniel Craig. His first, Quantum of Solace, had problems of its own which of course was tied into the gameplay length and mechanics. In terms of the brevity, maybe it has something to do with trying to keep the cinematic feel to the games alive, by keeping the story contained. Regardless, one day it would be great to see a Bond game on the scale of a Grand Theft Auto, where you could get assignments from M at random intervals. But until then we’ll keep getting action games like Blood Stone that try and offer a cinematic experience, in lieu of a new Bond movie.

Veteran Bond writer Bruce Feirstein wrote the plot for Blood Stone, which centers on a missing professor and stolen bio-weapons. As a storyline it’s a well-paced thriller that offers plenty of Bond moments: romance scenes, car chases and plenty of action. But it’s bloody short! All told, the total gameplay seems to be around 4-5 hours, which is incredible in its briskness.


The game begins in Greece during the G20 Summit (all cut scenes). M gets wind of an assassination plot against the world leaders and sends you, as Bond, to investigate Greco. He’s an international terrorist, and you begin the game (and tutorial) on the deck of his yacht. Here the real game opens up and allows you to attack the first guard in any manner you fancy – shoot or grapple him. I found it was more fun to grapple, as the shooting mechanics in this game are on the easy side. There’s a way to lock on without using your powerup special ability, by quickly tapping the left trigger. While it’s a cool thing it makes the gun play a bit too lopsided, as most of the enemies you’ll encounter aren’t nearly as deadly with their aim.

Back to the game: once you’ve initiated a grapple attack a very quick cut scene takes over, showing Bond beating the crap out of the poor chap. So there’s no real manual punching or kicking; those are handled by the cut scene, and while that would normally annoy me in other games (you know, it takes away a certain aspect of the gameplay), in Blood Stone it kind of works. It lends itself well to the “playing a movie” vibe it has going for it, and I found myself using this technique almost exclusively as it offered more of a challenge than simply shooting the enemy.




So the first few minutes takes place on the yacht, but shortly thereafter you find yourself hurtling through the waves on a motorboat. As with the driving later, this is where the only degree of difficulty is encountered. Driving anything in Blood Stone is hard, as they’re not very responsive. The movements are sluggish, which doesn’t lend itself well to a high speed chase. While in the boat a few of Greco’s henchmen will attack you, but you don’t even have to aim to kill them: the game lines your shot up for you, leaving you with nothing to do except press the A button. It’s s cop out to be sure, but due to the difficulty in steering the boat I didn’t care much. And actually, controlling either a boat or a car offered the only time I died during my two hours, which says more about the easy factor of the rest of the product than it does my ability as a stealth gamer.

I quickly made my way through the various levels, including catacombs and a casino, all the while grabbing foes and watching them being pummeled to the ground, or dragged over ledges and thrown out of windows.

It’s a great way to spend two hours.

Developer Bizarre Creations did a good job of capturing the feel of the modern Bond films, and it’s aided by the voice work and model designs. Both Daniel Craig and Judi Dench (M) provide the speech for their respective characters, and the modelling is quite good – although there’s something about Craig’s hair style that bothers me. It’s as if they don’t have it right for some reason, but it’s irrelevant in the end. It’s the play that matters, and while Blood Stone is a straight forward action game it offers enough to keep you entertained. Such as:

- every successful grapple grants you points to use toward the Bond aiming system, which allows you an easier way to lock on to targets.

- for the achievement (Xbox 360) and trophy (PS3) hunters, the game keeps track of how many you have, if you accomplish something towards one of them. It’s a nice little touch and helped me crack an achievement I may not have been aware of, had it not been for the display that pops up unobtrusively.

- even though it isn’t gameplay related, the opening title sequence is very Bondian… but the song is crap. Performed by Joss Stone, who’s also in the game as the love interest, it’s the only weak link musically as the actual score to the game is good.

- about the only gadget, at least in the first two hours, is Bond’s tricked out smart phone. As a tool, it allows you to scan areas for objects you’ll have to hack into – like laptops. A side effect of this is it also shows you the location of nearby enemies, which makes an easy game all the more easier. Of course, you don’t have to use it for that reason but it’s there nonetheless.

At the end of my two hours I had already completed over half of the game, as I ended up in Siberia chasing after a train – a feat I failed at miserably because of the driving mechanics and my lack of skill with it. Despite some of the flaws, I had a surprisingly good time with the game. It’s fast paced and keeps you interested, and in the end that’s all an action game should do.

GOOD

  • Beautiful looking game, very cinematic.
  • The in-game music is great (composed by Richard Jacques), keeping David Arnold’s modern Bond sound alive.
  • The fight elements are easy to learn and fun to use.
  • Third-person view works well for this game, makes it seem as though you’re playing a movie.

BAD

  • Game is extremely short and easy.
  • The driving elements are difficult to handle, and take a bit to get used to.
  • Bond is virtually invincible, with regenerative health. If you get shot, just back away and your health will return, then go back to murdering.
  • Maybe too many cut scenes, and some of the action that takes place in them looks like it would have been fun to play… but you can’t.

Overall the game is fun, in spite of the drawbacks. My recommendation would be to wait for the price to come down from the $60, or better yet rent it. You’ll be able to finish the game well before you have to return it, and I still think there’s some replayability going for it. If you’re a 007 fan, check it out and see for yourself.