When you go see a James Bond film, you go in with certain expectations of what the experience is going to entail. 007’s adventures are always caked with contemporary sex appeal, exuding from the cars and exotic locales, not to mention the Bond girls or even 007 himself. Bond’s daily, high-octane, thrill-a-minute existence is at its best times a pinnacle of cinematic escapism, and even his more mundane adventures are a far cry from the dull existence of those of us who aren’t caught up in the world of international espionage.
For better or worse, the same can be said for 007’s game outingsâ€”at least the ones that aren’t based on movies. Put up against often more visceral expectations of modern action games, this can pose a problem when trying to accurately assess an original 007 game. On the one hand, any good game should, in theory, take a great design and improve upon it, ostensibly taking elements from the best games of the genre and integrating them in an original way to an established series formula. On the other hand, gamers expect a certain level of violence and intensity that typically goes beyond Bond’s PG-13 style from contemporary games. Maybe it was Activision’s mistake to quietly announce Blood Stone with little to no fanfare after they had already unveiled the Wii’s Goldeneye redux; in any case, from its inception Blood Stone hasn’t generated much noise from the gaming community, despite the fact that it’s a new Bond game starring Daniel Craig, and one that looked to deliver a more or less complete Bond experience (and in HD, too!). For whatever reason, Blood Stone seemed to be “that other Bond game,” regardless of whether or not it’s actually good. I know I may be going out on a limb here, but if a Bond game is able to deliver all, or even most, of what you would expect to get from a film of the same caliber, it’s doing a pretty good job. Blood Stone certainly doesn’t top the perfect balance of drama and action as the seminal Casino Royale, but it may at least generally keep par with Quantum of Solace.
I make the connection to Quantum of Solace because as a follow-up to Casino Royale, Craig’s second Bond adventure thundered its way through its plot to the credits with considerably less room for subtlety. Quantum had some interesting ideasâ€ working outside MI6 as a vigilante of sorts, Bond himself letting loose his calculated-yet-psychotic rage on those responsible for Vesper’s deathâ€”and while it was still a good Bond film, it was one that mostly just came down to its setpieces.
Blood Stone opens with a similar bang, with 007 going on a shootout to stop a terrorist from detonating a bomb meant for a group of diplomats gathered in Athens. Naturally, after the terrorist shoots up the front of his boat with a chopper in a very clumsy attempt to kill Bond (this isn’t the only time Blood Stone takes a page from Uncharted’s playbook), 007 gives chase in a motor boat, and then, after wasting some more very-dedicated henchmen, eventually catching (read: blowing up) the bad dude after a breakneck chase in a very sexy sports car. If Bizarre Creations released this level as a demo for the game, it would be a good representative sample of what to expect. Apart from some optional stealth, Blood Stone contains a lot of such setpieces: usually Bond breaks in or out of a henchman-filled exotic locale, kills everyone in his way and usually either blows something up or gives chase to the villain in question. And really, this is about what I would expect from a Bond game, so that’s just fine.
Of course, this all comes down to how well Bizarre has been able to not just capture the Bond feel, but also how well the mechanics of the game work. The Call of Duty crowd may not be all that thrilled with Blood Stone’s more muted violence, but for a Teen-rated action game, the developers have done a pretty good job making this one fun. Action segments are pretty self-explanatory for a cover shooter, but advancing AI and a good cover system that allows you to switch between spots or corner objects easily keeps the action from getting too stale. Bond’s takedowns – hand-to-hand maneuvers that will instantly down an enemy – also mix up the proceedings. If you want a real challenge, try simply moving between cover positions to quickly drop a room full of baddies only using physical attacks. As is often the case with shooters with cover mechanics, hand-to-hand is almost more fun than simply shooting the place up.
Throughout the game, Bond’s mission takes him all across the world, and the varied level environments also keep Blood Stone from getting too predictable. During the action scenes, the game is at its best when you’re doing something big and momentous, like blowing up a biological weapons facility, but thankfully the developers allow you negotiate most situations either with full action or just with stealth (much like “action” hand-to-hand, playing entirely stealth can also be a lot of fun). The AI is a little ridiculous when you’re sneaking around like a proper spy, but at least you don’t run into situations where you’re spotted while completely hidden; if you get caught, it’s your own fault.
Coming from the team that made Project Gotham Racing, you would expect the vehicular bits of the game to really stand out, and for the most part, this is where Blood Stone really shines. When you’re inevitably forced to chase a bad guy or escape a situation, chaos usually reigns, with buildings and towers falling down around you, oncoming traffic to weave through, and a lot of scripted destruction wreaking havoc on your path. It’s pretty clear that Bizarre took some cues from Split/Second, because these volatile setpieces feel ripped straight from that style of design. And, boy, does it work. Sadly, these moments of automotive mayhem are all too brief, though they do a great job breaking up all the third-person shooting.
If there’s one area where Blood Stone is a bit disappointing, it’s that everything that it does, while well-made and thoroughly polished, is fairly basic. A few minutes into the game and you’ve basically seen almost all of the major mechanics of the game, from the basic shooting to the “focus shot” one-hit kills you earn for takedowns. The weapon selection doesn’t change much from the outset, so it’s only what 007 is doing in the later levels that keep the game fresh. And to Bizarre’s credit, the six-hour single player campaign actually keeps things pretty varied. Blood Stone’s narrative, which follows Bond tracking a bioweapon attack to its source, is pretty basic as well. Still, Daniel Craig and Judi Dench’s voicework is excellent, and it’s nice to see more of the cold, borderline-sociopathic edge Craig has brought to 007. Needless to say, you won’t see MI6’s top agent getting too cozy with any ladies this timeâ€”it’s all espionage on display here. That being said, Blood Stone isn’t worth $60, but 007 fans will probably get a kick out of it after the inevitable price drop.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Minus a slight uncanny valley for Daniel Craig and Judi Dench (though Bond looks really good in-game), Blood Stone is a looker, particularly in its environments. In some lighting, 007’s hair looks dark brown, however. 3.8 Control
Only occasionally, not being able to intuitively move to another cover spot when playing stealth can be tricky. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Daniel Craig owns Bond (duh), even if Blood Stone’s script isn’t the most interesting. The music is appropriately Bond-like, which is a nice touch. 3.5 Play Value
The basic realities of Blood Stone’s shooting and driving are generally overshadowed by the bombastic setpieces. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.