It’s a shame that the latest Bond film will be held up in bankruptcy litigation for at least another year, because between the game sales and the ticket office (not to mention those dreamy Daniel Craig eyes), the boys over at Bizarre Creations could make the world forget about Goldeneye. Don’t get me wrong; their latest project James Bond: Blood Stone isn’t that kind of game by a longshot, but it sets the tone for what they can accomplish.
Playing as the rugged 007 James Bond, you start off simply enough in Venice, thwarting a potential bomb threat and learning the basic controls. After an elaborate and impressive boat chase, you’re given your real assignment of rescuing a missing scientist, that leads you directly to the heart of any real Bond film or adventure: political espionage, a beautiful double agent, and of course a relentless supply of minions to take down.
While the story doesn’t exactly fall into the any particular Bond timeline, Bizarre Creations pays respect to the storytelling and pacing (which is nice, considering this is the first original story given to a game since Everything or Nothing). From the first eye-popping vehicle chase to the introductory musical sequence, the developers and story artists took aim and fired. The only mark they missed was during the features of the actual characters, whose mouths and lower jaws were the only thing to ever really move. Hearing Judy Dench speak while seeing a marionette move is not ideal.
Thankfully you’ll be too busy sneaking around or punching someone in the face to really notice until a cut scene. Blood Stone delivers a surprising amount of balance between being a sneaky spy, and a cutthroat bruiser. Mapping all of your melee abilities to one button, the mini-cinematics that you can trigger are both expansive and enjoyable, and the unique Focus system that allows you to one-shot kill an opponent after a takedown is effective. The issue is the fact that there are so many waves of enemies that even if you wanted to try and sneak the whole way, it would be impossible, thanks to an unconscious body, or just sheer number.
It’s these small, missing elements that sour an otherwise dry martini (dry martini’s are good). Just like the attention to details within the story and design but not character models could have really gone the extra mile. Like the ability to hide your foe after disarming and killing him would intensify and bring that real spy world experience to life. The same can be said for the endless supply of enemies, that let you practice your aim and Focus Ability, but it never really feels like you’re a secret agent, just a man out on a stroll with a loaded PP7.
The same issues carries over into the driving missions, where Bizarre Creations really tried to put the thrill, the excitement, and the high-octane action from the movies right in your hand. Zipping through the streets in the Aston Martin, or even a tow truck all feel and act like real cars and have their own slightly different handling, yet it’s just not enough. Things like rubble, chairs, people… all of these will get in your way while you’ll be in a bubble of contentment, still moving along perfectly content until a bad turn will make you stall out, having to start back at your previous checkpoint.
It probably would have helped if the Multiplayer didn’t just feel like it was tacked on at the last second as well. Logging in, you end up waiting for at least ten minutes, trying to find a viable game, only to get left in a room that starts out three to one. Choosing between Deathmatch, Objective, and Last Man Standing, you are either on the side of MI6 or Mercenaries, getting the ability to choose from whatever gun you wish right from the start. It doesn’t help much, because the first player to go the fastest, get a lucky hit, or get a magic bullet will get the advantage, earning a Focus ability and a free one-hit kill.
Working a little longer to get something that was a complete package would have made this game something unique and special in the eyes of the James Bond world. It had the potential to make people rethink the way Bond acts and plays online. Instead what ended up happening was a half-Splinter Cell, half-Kane and Lynch shooter that just leaves you wanting more… and wishing Daniel Craig could show something other than stoic abstinence.