Monday, November 15, 2010

007: Blood Stone (Review)

By now, we've all heard that the future of the 007 films is in limbo, and so to make the fans happy, or... settle them down, Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, and Bizzare Creations, the developers of the Project Gotham racing games, teamed up to tackle yet another videogame Bond title. But does it hold up? Well...

007 Blood Stone begins with Bond in Athens, attempting to stop a terrorist bombing on the G-20. The level begins on a small yacht and quickly walks you through how to silently headshot guards and perform brutal Solid Snake worthy physical beatdowns on them, known as "Takedowns". The game is played from a third person, over the shoulder perspective, and it works well, for you can always see what you need to. The game takes place mostly on foot, but there are also vehicle sections where your driving boat and car to pursue your targets, and even a few chase scenes where Bond will pretty much have to retire if he doesn't catch his single target.

Daniel Craig lends his face and voice to the game, as well as his stunt double from the films who does all of his motion capture work for the game.

Graphically, Blood Stone holds up pretty well. Personally, I feel it has this certain style to it that makes it feel unique, and strangely cinematic, which is a good thing. It's hard to tell what I mean from these photos, but once you play the game, you'll understand. The sun shines great, shadows reflect well, animations are superb (far better than in most shooters), you get the picture. It does seem as though the game uses the Unreal engine, giving everything that rather shiny plastic look. The only issue I have with it is M's hair; it looks... plastic, but everyone else has is fine, save for the occasional jagged edge or clip. Blood is hardly in the game; its there, but there's very little, earning the game a T rating. Aren't the Bond films R? Come on. But in general, the game doesn't look bad, but at the same time it's hardly something you're going to show off to your friends.

Gameplay wise, the game holds up excellently in execution. You quickly learn how to kill via gun and physical combat, and although its simple and straight forward, its satisfying. Anyone who has played Splinter Cell Conviction will recognize where Bond's "Focus Aim" skill comes from. For every takedown you perform, Bond gets one, out of a total of three, focus shots, where you basically hold the L2 button (On the PS3, which is the system I played the game on.) and the game auto aims to a targets head in slow-motion, you pull the trigger, and regardless of the gun you use, they die. If you have three focus aims, you can line up three guards to be killed quickly. I prefer this method over the way its done in Conviction because it can be executed for stealth purposes or to quickly leap out of cover in a fire fight and down one or two hard to hit baddies. The shooting is easy to become accustomed too, especially if you are a fan of shooters, and the game only becomes difficult on the two harder of the four settings.

Disarming enemies proves to be very satisfying.

The other portion of the on-foot segments is the physical Takedowns; my favorite part. Anyone who's played Metal Gear Solid 3 will recognize the amazing feeling of slamming a dudes skull into the hard floor and seeing those stars appear over his head. Bond takes it to the next level. When within CQC range, or basically right next to a bad dude, you tape Square and Bond levels the guy in a second flat, be it kicking out a leg and chopping the throat or slamming their head into a rail or wall. Many times, I had a huge grin on my face seeing a guard at the end of the hall, and I would turn the corner, sprint, kick leg, chop neck. There are many different animations for the takedowns, and they change depending on how close the target is too the walls or railings nearby, and if you perform a Takedown while using corner cover and you aren't in a gun fight already, Bond does it stealthily and silently, pulling the gun from their hand or strangling their throat with his arms, and sometimes his leg. The feeling of a dude being snuffed out or bashed into physical stardom is great in this game, and I feel Blood Stone is at its best when Bond is playing Sam Fisher and doing Takedown after Takedown.

Unfortunately, the stealth sections of the game are the ones given the least attention. This is where the game really drags for me. When stealth presents itself, you can go running and gunning, but that's for idiots, and you will die on the harder modes. More often then not, you are forced into gun fights, one particular level being stealthy the first half, the second shooting your way out. Outside of Takedowns and guns, there is no other way to play the game on foot. No shooting lights, hanging from pipes or in lockers, or dragging away guard bodies. The only other thing you get to do is disable security cameras with Bonds wireless Smart Phone, which is done with a few taps of X and Square. You can also use the Smart Phone to find the locations of enemies and items to scan, which makes the game too easy at times. My eyes also began to hurt when I constantly switched from normal view to Smart Phone view, which is the same, but the screen turns a greenish cell phone tint, and for some dumb ass reason, the coolest super spy ever has a phone that bugs up and goes fuzzy when he runs. Why does this happen in every game? Also, scanning items is pointless apart from an annoying ass Trophy, and probably Achievement to gain. The Smart Phone isn't really a nuisance, but its pointless as well, adding nothing to the game.

The visuals do a good job at keeping the cinematic approach of the movies.

When you aren't on foot, Blood Stone presents you with some really fun and beautiful looking chase sequences, if the fucking brakes worked that is. The boating sequence at the beginning is fun and easy, and the shooting is automated, so its very much like a film. The driving bits are all throughout the game, and are very fast, very good looking, scenery and cars rushing past you like dots. Now, I don't play a lot of racing games, but something is wrong with the turning in Blood Stone. Using the normal brake stops you, slows you down, the handbrake is so you can drift tight turns and stay on your target, but every single time I needed to drift, no matter when I hit that button, I always smacked a wall. Maybe I suck at these particular driving bits, but I always bounced off walls in order to stay on my target. Otherwise, these parts are great and blend really well into the game, feeling very Daniel Craig Bond-like.

Story-wise, Blood Stone is your usual Bond villains kidnapping and torturing in a number of foreign countries, and this time around they're trying to create a deadly bio-weapon by reverse engineering cures to some real life diseases. Its good, and easy to understand if you pay attention, but I found myself at a loss at the end; there are multiple villains, and I did not understand the motive of the last one, even though I liked him a lot. The last segment of the game has this guy throwing dozens of mercs at Bond while taunting him over an intercom in classic Bond villain fashion, which is great. However, I found the game to end on a flat note; I didn't like it, and the credits basically scream sequel, which is fine with me, but, please, lets update the game.

 Of course Bond must drive an Aston Martin.

I found it too linear, and not enough gameplay variety. Even though Daniel Craig's Bond isn't a gadget guy, there is still more to be done here. You always hop the same ledges, shimmy the same walls, open the same doors; there's only one way to do things. Having more options for stealth and multiple paths through levels would have been great. I can say that while there's only one way to go about the game in a linear sense, everything is executed fairly well, save for some annoyances on the harder settings.
Now, onto the multiplayer. At first, this felt like a tacked on addition for money, then I got into it and had some fun, then came to the conclusion that its tacked on crap. You have Team Deathmatch, Objectives, and Last Man Standing; you can figure out for yourself what each means and you do in them. The shooting is fine, but, in almost all of my games, and I played around a dozen, I found some lag in a majority of them where I would die after hiding behind cover and more often then not, the guy I was shooting at would kill me as I kill him, him dying after I do. Remember those bad ass Takedowns? Not here. Hitting Square basically swings your weapon through the air as if your hitting a bug, and all it takes is ONE melee "swack" to kill a dude. But, they fall down as if they were a puppet whose strings had just been cut. *swack* > *fall* > *10XP*

It's very boring and honestly the Takedowns should have been in the multiplayer. It would have been as simple as making sure the first player of the two to hit Square once in proximity would earn the kill, very much like in the newest Turok game, where the melee system was in fact that which I just described, but with the R trigger, and it worked magnificently with the game leaving its FPS view to show your character stab and gouge the other guy in third person. Another thing that REALLY irked me is the spawn locations. Each team spawns in a high up spot that is unreachable by the other team, but they can still shoot up there. The big issue is that if one team advances far enough, your basically being spawn camped until one side wins, and this happened to me a lot, enough that it was piss ass annoying instead of a strategy.

Not much else to say, other than badass.

All in all, Blood Stone is one of the better Bond games out there, and I really enjoyed the single player, despite it being short and straight forward, but I would not pay 60 bucks for it and I'd be upset if I was on the development team; Bond deserves better. If you would like to try it, for sure give it a rental, as that's what I did. The Trophies are actually pretty fun to go back and earn, and some of the set pieces are great, but like I said, the game is short, straight forward, and to the point; it needed some more variety in on-foot actions and very much tweaked multiplayer.

Personally, I'd give 007 Blood Stone a 3/5, or...


Written by Taylor Dean


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