|System: X360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Treyarch||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2 (12 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Quantum of Solace is the latest addition to the expansive library of James Bond video games. Like the films, 007 games' quality has varied widely depending upon the era and team involved with its creation. Rare threw down the gauntlet with the creation of Goldeneye for the N64, and developers, whether they like it or not, will forever be judged by that litmus test.
With that in mind, 007 games have rarely been poor, From Russia with Love being the only real disappointment, but they also haven't lived up to their progenitor. Treyarch and Activision are now at the development helm and looking to change this run of relative weakness. Unfortunately, they don't exactly succeed on all fronts. The overly-cinematic approach, dodgy cover mechanic, nondescript baddies, and disjointed storytelling between chapters hold this title back. Nevertheless, Bond fans will be treated to solid visuals and shooter controls, and a rather expansive multiplayer component that help to rekindle interest in the Bond brand.
Quantum of Solace features a run-of-the-mill yet fairly satisfying single-player campaign. Daniel Craig's rogue-like Bond suffers from hotheaded wrath and, consequently, is a grittier and more interesting video game character. Plowing through the attractive environments, players will find that this Bond is very capable; executing headshots with firearms and taking down marks with your bare hands is supremely easy. You will always feel like an elite badass, and that is very much appreciated. I found a handful of trouble spots with the campaign mode, but in spite of them all, I still had a lot of fun.
Where the game begins to bog down is in the extremely linear levels and the overly simplistic objectives. A map and objective-indicating system is given to players in the form of a Q-like Smartphone, but you'll never need it, as you will always be railroaded onto the right path. As such, levels feel extremely formulaic: sneak into the room (train, cave, rooftop, lighting gantry, etc.), disable the infrared cameras, take out the henchmen, patch into the CCTV, and download the secret info for MI6. Sometimes you'll have to deal with elite troops, balance yourself across a narrow walkway, or takeout helicopters, but these don't really vary the gameplay. Though each level looks distinct, they all play remarkably similar.
Moreover, CCC Staff Contributor Adam Brown's hands-on preview hinted at the abundance of shiny, well-placed explosive objects throughout the train level. Well, his gut feeling was spot on; making things go boom by shooting fire extinguishers, compressed air tanks, backhoes, and mini-generators is a big part of combat. It's a mechanic that became old after the original Doom, and there's no need for it in a modern shooter. The only reason I can think of as to why they would include it is because they wanted to communicate a cinematic feel to the title. After all, it is a movie tie-in. In that sense, the resulting explosions are great to look at and they initially make you feel like a superagent, but the overtly shimmering, strategically-placed containers tend to Nerf the experience.
Additionally, the much-touted cover system is a hodgepodge of fun and frustration. From cover, Bond is far more accurate with his precision aim; he's largely protected from small arms fire and can even accurately blind-fire. Hiding behind crates, doorways, columns, and the like is easily executed by pressing the A (360) or X (PS3) button, and it's very satisfying and intuitive. Sometimes getting out of cover feels sticky (you have to pull back on the left analog stick), but this isn't much of a problem after a few levels.
However, automatically hopping out of cover and advancing at a sprint to the next strategic point almost never functions. Frequently, players will be prompted to charge out of cover by holding down the cover button, but the move can only be executed when prompted by the CPU. Often, I found myself wanting to charge ahead to the next cover location, but the prompt wouldn't appear or it would flash on the screen and then immediately disappear. This really hampers the pacing of the title; you'll spend a lot of time futzing around looking for the prompt and, after a couple of seconds, you'll just charge out without utilizing the feature. Treyarch needed to give players the ability to activate the mechanic at any moment by pointing the crosshairs at the target and holding the appropriate button to bop over to the next bit of cover. Instead, we have to rely on the inconsistent prompts; a truly missed opportunity.
The story is told through end-of-chapter sequences that do a nice job of disguising loading times, but they do a terrible job of soliciting interest from the gamer. In fact, if it weren't for my reviewing responsibilities, I would have skipped the storyline altogether and wouldn't have missed a thing. Furthermore, the cookie-cutter baddies that you will take down might as well be Republic Clones or Star Trek Red Shirts. This applies to both mundane and elite henchmen; they all look exactly the same, and it detracts from the experience. How many times have I shot that bearded guy? Did The Organization manufacture them?