Written by Ryan Johnson Sunday, 14 November 2010 12:00
In the latest installment of the Bond franchise, 007 finds himself in a strangely satisfying niche smack dab between Bruce Wayne and Dirk the Daring.
Welcome to the second article in the Month of Bond. If you’re curious about Goldeneye for the Wii, you can check out my first impressions. Keep an eye out as the month winds down for a more in-depth comparison of Goldeneye to the original, as well as a Blood Stone vs. Goldeneye article: Which game comes out on top?
I am a big James Bond fan, but I had no idea what to expect upon booting up Blood Stone for the first time. Honestly, the Hype Machine was in such overdrive for Goldeneye that I was genuinely surprised that another Bond title was in fact coming out on the same day. I have always enjoyed these “extra stories” in the Bond canon (well, minus the LAST attempt at resurrecting Goldeneye), with Everything or Nothing being my second favorite Bond game. The series has varied through the years. As they all tried to bring back the magic that was Goldeneye, Bond has gone from full FPS to full 3rd person action and points in between (with Quantum of Solace). While many reviewers are complaining about the brevity of the game, I have to say that the developers have taken many modern gaming elements that have been praised recently and polished them to a fine sheen.
If you are looking for a Bond movie this year, this is it. With the series finally looking as if it may produce a new film in 2012, all we have are the games this year. The story creators for Blood Stone truly respected the series, getting the gritty feel of Craig’s Bond down pat. It is a homage to the brand name akin to the dedication seen in Batman: Arkham Asylum. My main reference point comparing these games, however, is Detective Mode. I feel Bond’s creators did a great job in limiting this “analyzation time”. Bond whips out his cell phone, which puts a greenish digital haze over the environment. It isn’t a perfect system, though, and distorts the image when running, and when Bond does anything interactive, it turns itself off. If one critique of Arkham was made, it was that the Detective Mode was too helpful, and that players would actually miss the gorgeous graphics of the game because they just spent the entire time in Detective mode. Bond’s game is graphically brilliant, and thanks to the limitations of his cellular gadget, you can still see everything.
My second comparison is to Dirk the Daring from Dragon’s Lair. In both a negative and a positive point, this game at times feels like one huge Quick Time Event. Action happens, and Bond must deal with it. In a particular scene where a huge machine is bearing down on Bond, he must jump between platforms or die. In car chases, you must keep up with the enemy down a specific road with exact things happening each time, or lose the mission. Some of these require crystal-perfect timing. Miss a turn, and start over. What is good about this is that the more scripted a game is, the more cinematic it can be. Without drowning us in movies and dialog, the producers of this game have immersed you in the Bond experience. It feels like quite a feat to pull off these Bond moments.
Other parts of the game allow for a variety in Bond's attitude as well. I felt like Rikimaru from the Tenchu series as I went through a mansion, deftly taking out a guard here, freaking out another guard there just to take him out when his buddies weren’t looking, then busting into a room and dashing through a hail of bullets to physically takedown a deadly enemy to gain a Focus Shot (a one-hit guaranteed kill point) and turning to finish off another with that Focus Shot before ducking behind cover. All aspects of the Bond Combat are present, and are more visceral outside of Goldeneye’s First Person perspective.
The game is set with a wonderful mesh of keeping the story alive and the gamer engaged. If the story were real, Bond would have to go through a lot of briefing before a mission to know where objectives are, the layout of the area, and what he’s supposed to do. He also has an intuition of how to get out of a 3D space that we are not able to see as he does, since we are not physically in the game. Instead of forcing us through memorization and a tutorial, Bond’s smartphone adds a layer of easy-to-follow waypoints. No matter where you are, if you are unsure of where to go, pop out your cellphone, and there’s bound to be a little orange dot within a few hundred meters of you to point you in the direction of your objective. On the gaming end, these waypoints also serve as checkpoints, keeping the game together in manageable chunks. Another very addictive part of the gamer end is progressive achievements. If an achievement requires you to, say, silently disable 40 enemies, each one you take down pops up an “X/40” mini-achievement notification, making the little “bloop” all the more satisfying as you watch yourself work toward it.
Blood Stone definitely holds your hand and leads you through the game. But if you want a true theatrical experience, that’s the only way to get there. I thought of it as a 3D scroller where you go into the screen, kind of like old Crash Bandicoot. You were going somewhere, but it was the only way to go. This does, however, keep the necessary tight scripting, which feels so much more right the second and third times through a level, as you are, in a sense, “directing” Bond. A true Bond aficionado looking to get their cinematic fix this November will not be disappointed. Blood Stone keeps me up at night with that “one more level” itch done so well with the cinematics that don’t even recognize a level change, they just push through. What I thought was 11:30….ended up being almost 2AM. The game has a gripping and interesting story, a variety of driving and shooting gameplay, options on how to progress in parts and full-throttle cinematic events that place you on the edge of your seat.
I’m sure, however, that the thought going through your mind is, “but it’s the holiday season! I can only buy/get one of these games!!!!! Which one? Goldeneye or Blood Stone?” That answer is next up in the Month of Bond! If you aren’t following us on Facebook or Twitter yet, do so now, and report back in for the next article in the Month of Bond!