|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bizarre Creations||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. 2, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
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 outingsâat 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𤈧 working outside MI6 as a vigilante of sorts, Bond himself letting loose his calculated-yet-psychotic rage on those responsible for Vesper's deathâand 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.