Reviewed: January 7, 2011
Released: November 2, 2010
Bond fans get a double dose of super smooth spy action this year with not one but two Bond adventures. While Nintendo owners got a taste of nostalgia from the N64 era with GoldenEye, everyone else with a PC got some non-film Bond action in the form of James Bond 007: Blood Stone. While it was a hard task to pry myself from the TV and my Wii, I sat down to dive into Blood Stone with absolutely no knowledge about this title other than what the back of the box said. I was actually surprised to see that Bizarre Creations, of Project Gotham fame, had the reigns on this Bond adventure.|
James Bond 007: Blood Stone may not be the first of the Craig-era Bond franchise titles but it is the first that I’ve played since I usually avoid movie tie-ins as a general rule. Both Dame Judi Dench and Daniel Craig reprise their film counterpart roles along with singer Joss Stone as token CG Bond Girl, Nicole Hunter. Blood Stone takes us across the globe, as Bond must stop the U.K.’s Top Secret Biochemical Project from being used by the wrong people. The story will take the player across the globe from Greece to the jungles of Burma and beyond in this fairly fast paced cover-shooter.
Blood Stone offers some of the best cover-to-cover combat that I experienced in some time. Most of the time, you will be snapping from one piece of cover to another taking out bad guys but the people at Bizarre Creations really kept things moving with a nice mix of melee combat, gunplay and stealth takedowns. The Stealth Takedowns are without a doubt one of my favorite things about Blood Stone.
The Takedowns animations differ depending on your cover or approach to the enemies and each is more satisfying then the last. I thoroughly enjoyed yanking an unsuspecting enemy over a low piece of cover after smacking his face into said cover or doing more subtle choke holds behind pillars with other guards just a short distance away. It just added to the adrenaline rush that I got every time I was staggeringly outnumbered. Not only is it fun but it is encouraged thanks to the combined Focus Aim ability.
Focus Aim, similar to Conviction’s “Mark and Execute” mechanic allows you to go into slow motion and take out up to three enemies in quick succession if the shots hit. This allows you move through thicker enemy mobs faster and keeps the game moving along a good pace. This comes in handy in a few pinch points throughout the adventure as you have enemies coming from everywhere though not to the point of relying on the feature all the time.
The A.I. in Blood Stone is actually some of the smartest I’ve seen since F.E.A.R. and to some extent better. The enemies were almost human in nature with nice flanking as well as tactical and cover advantage maneuvers. Though every once in a while you can outsmart them as they often concentrate on you last known position giving you time to sneak around and surprise them from another position. I was pretty impressed as not many developers do this kind of detail.
To add to the adrenaline rush of the experience, Bizarre Creations utilizes their famed expertise in creating some of the most enjoyable and white-knuckle chase/escape driving segments to break up the standard stealth and shooting parts. Usually these are near the end of missions but are none the less a necessary must for a Bond game. It’s not Bond without some fine foreign engineering and a chase scene. I have to say that my favorite driving sequence was when I was driving an Aston Martin DB5 ala Goldfinger through an exploding oil refinery, down a frozen river while trying to catch a train. Only Bond can deliver this much action.
There are only a few issues that sort of put me at disagreeable odds with the gameplay mechanics and the biggest issue was the controls. Now this being a PC review the usual and personally preferred method is the tried and true keyboard and mouse configuration for the obvious reasons like aiming accuracy. However driving with a keyboard is and was still awkward at best and this is where a gamepad comes in.
I will admit that I sacrificed finer aiming for the ability to navigate on foot and driving with greater response. The biggest problem with this is that they didn’t accommodate the use of a gamepad quite as well as they could have. Most games are coded to switch the on screen instructions (if applicable) to that of the gamepad equivalent. Not so here. I was using a 360 controller but the onscreen directions were still going by the PC controls, which means I had to sit there and figure out what each button did. This is particularly annoying when you do the gadget hacking mini-games. I never did figure what the PC to gamepad equivalent was. On the upside, it only took me a few tries to figure out what activated the Smartphone, which was an invaluable tool in seeking out enemy positions and objectives as well as the hidden Intel pieces throughout each mission.
The graphics of James Bond 007: Blood Stone were quite impressive through most of the experience despite the rather bland and shaky start before the credits. The visuals however did a complete turnaround and remained pretty stunning as the story moved along. The character models, particularly those of Bond and Hunter were decent though not nearly as good as the environmental and car details. The driving moments, which are easily the most graphically intensive, ran remarkable well even on the highest settings on my PC. The explosions, water effects and smoke looked great and were much improved over the console versions.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone as I mentioned featured the voice work of the current Bond franchise actors as well as that of Joss Stone who I think did the best out of all of them. She played her part quite well and I wouldn’t mind seeing her in a future film. Craig’s performance was sort of lacked emotion which was kind of disappointment as his film portrayal is more energetic. Dame Dench also wasn’t that big of a presence, which I kind of expected in a Bond title. I really liked the signature Bond opening credits featuring Joss’s vocal talents and the inclusion of the Bond theme repeated during the end credits.
Blood Stone will take you roughly around 8 hours to complete and perhaps more if you make a second pass to pick up any Intel you may have missed via the mission select option or to try your hand at the 007 difficulty. James Bond 007: Blood Stone also includes a 16 player multiplayer mode that features your basic Team DM, Objective and Last Man Standing modes that will add a few hours of additional gameplay via the Internet or local LAN.
I can honestly say, despite the control fiasco, that James Bond 007: Blood Stone took me by surprise. Bizarre Creations did a good job at creating an adrenaline packed Bond experience that is on key with today’s modern Bond. It’s full of satisfying melee combat, signature Bond moments, great cover combat, pretty visuals and awesome driving sequences. It does feature that classic Bond mood to a point and is definitely worth a play through for single player experience.