Monday, November 24, 2008

Quantum of Solace (PS3) Review

NOTE: There's two updates today. Check out the other one here.

SuperPhillip Central has been toning it down on posts recently. That's mostly due to my personal life, but at the same time my free time has been going to a batch of new games. This is the very first that I'll be reviewing with many, many more to come. We have Quantum of Solace for the Playstation 3. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are nearly identical if not exact, so this review essentially covers both. The Wii version is obviously less graphically advanced, but it does have motion controls and proper online. You can get a general sense of the Wii version, so no worries, my Wii brethren.

As a side note, I tried entering this review without mentioning Goldeneye. How many Bond reviews on various sites have you seen bring up Goldeneye? I especially abhor it when the question is asked, "Is this the game that can finally dethrone Goldeneye?" Get off of it already, people. Goldeneye is a great game, but nothing can top something that revolutionized the FPS experience. Stop trying to compare everything to it. Anyone agree with that? Don't comment just yet. Read the review first, or I'll beat the living daylights out of you. Perhaps I should live and let die... Meet my friend, Mr. Moonraker! Wait.. That one doesn't even make sense!!!


The Passing of the Golden Gun to Activision

Bond. James Bond. No other introduction casts more excitement than any other in the eyes of the world's most notorious and popular spy. From the late years of the Nintendo 64 and all the way up to the end of the last generation of consoles, it was Electronic Arts who held the Bond license with their trigger fingers, armed and ready to fire a Bond title each year of their run. This was from The World is Not Enough all the way to Everything or Nothing-- both solid titles in their own respective rights. Now enters a new agent into the mission of creating an entertaining experience for Mr. Bond and his fans, Activision. Is their first foray into 007's world, Quantum of Solace, a rousing success or has this mission been compromised?

Hey... Pierce Brosnan looks a lot different
in this one. Is this a Face-Off ripoff?

The video game adaptation of the latest entry into the Bond series, Quantum of Solace, not only dabbles into the story of the movie without spoiling too much for those yet to sneak into a theater, the game also draws on various scenes and locales from the previous film, Casino Royale. In fact, most of the game is spent playing through Casino Royale with scenes from Quantum of Solace as the bookends. The spoilers for the newest movie are minor at worst. However, the game will give away crucial elements of Royale, so be forewarned if you've delayed watching it yet (and you call yourself a fan!). For someone completely oblivious to the story of either movie, all of the scenes will just come across as loosely-connected and confusing. Narrative this is not as the video game version of Solace is mostly to be played as a companion to the actual movie.

And even though you may not know exactly what's going, you will be able to know that no luxury was too large for Activision. The majority of the cast of both movies reprise their roles, and they come off just as competent as they do on the big screen. Well, big screen as in movie theater big screen and not 34" HDTV big screen... those rich jerks. What we have here is James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench as "M", and Mads Mikkelsen as Casino Royales' Le Chiffre, to name a few. The score is lively as well as original, fully orchestrated, and it gets you into the right mood whether it's sneaky stealth or a frenzied firefight.

Quantum of Solace was created via the Call of Duty 4 engine. While by no means as great of a looker as its graphical source, Solace does come off as beautiful at best and bland and uninspired at worst. Some areas like moving atop a train bound to Montenegro as a downpour of rain drenches the earth are awe-inducing; others such as the airport aren't as interesting to gaze upon. Character-wise, Daniel Craig's model looks shockingly like the genuine article, and animations are believable enough. Regardless, beauty is only skin-deep. In the handbook of any secret agent, you can be sure that one of the top tips is that appearances can be deceiving. For example, an Aston Martin might look heavenly from the outside, but who knows how well it drives? As for Quantum of Solace, this baby performs well, but nowhere near remarkable.

May her Majesty have mercy on you if you get that tuxedo wet.

Most of James Bond is played in first person view. What separates this FPS action-shooter from its other operatives is a cover system which is very much an integrated mechanic of the game. It's used extensively and can be used anywhere there's a place to hide behind. The camera zooms out showing Bond in third person. It enables Bond to hide behind cover while allowing him to peak out and pick off foes or play it safe and assault them with some blind fire. Covering is essential as the enemies didn't get their firearms accuracy from Dick Cheney. They'll shoot the right target if you give them the chance. Of course, Bond has adequate firepower, too, with a wealthy armada of assault rifles, machine guns, pistols, explosives, and other handy hardware. If things get up close and personal, Bond can perform a special move to incapacitate a foe in a swift, but nonetheless elegant, fashion. Joining the never-ending parade of shooters with regenerating health, when Bond is in danger the gun barrel from almost every Bond opening appears. The clearer the image comes, the closer her Majesty's men better order a coffin.

Bond takes "kicking butt" literally here.

The campaign mode of Quantum of Solace is rather short lasting anywhere from 5-7 hours the first run through. There's four difficulties ranging from the easiest setting all the way up to the unforgiving, but manageable with the generous amount of in-level checkpoints available, 007 mode. The majority of missions in the game are linear as they only offer a room or two to detour into here and there. There is a collection aspect to the game, however, which is to gather the various power weapons and cell phones strewn about relaying helpful intel to Bond. This extends the life of the single player campaign by another few hours, but it's still disappointing that the experience is cut so short given that the developers had two movies to work with.

Shoot strategically-placed gas tanks to make short work
of some really stupid enemies.

"Don't shoot that gas tank behind me, okay, man?!"

Fortunately, the multiplayer mode fares even better than the already competent campaign. As for this, there's a multitude of modes for both every-operative-for-himself and teams. The free-for-all modes consist of your standard deathmatch and classic deathmatch. The only difference here is that in one you equip yourself with weapons whereas the other has you picking up weapons from around the map. There's also a Golden Gun mode where players scurry to equip Scaramanga's favorite weapon and blast their opponents with its one-hit-kill powers. Pro-tip: this time the gun has bullets that explode on impact. Team-based modes feature the MI6 team against a group known only as the Organization. Traditional modes like a king of the hill-themed game as well as team deathmatch, Bond vs The Organization, and a mode where the goal is to assist Bond to the escape point.

Kills as well as deaths are easy to come by. Just like in single-player, it doesn't take pumping a full load of ammo into a guy's chest for him to croak. The approach here is more realistic which can be bad or good depending the situation. In single-player, it's a blessing since who wants to spend a minute on a firefight that should take half the time? In multiplayer, it can battles rather quick. It can be frustrating to be shot dead with a flurry of bullets before you can even turn around or react. Another annoying aspect is the shotgun. I'm all for easy kills up close, but when I can essentially snipe my opponent from across the room with it, there's a serious problem with balance. You can bet the shotgun is getting serious legs online. You'd have to be pretty pathetic and lacking skill to always use the shotgun, so that's exactly what I do!

Multiplayer is honestly tons of fun with either public or
private matches and twelve rather large maps in all.

Multiplayer has legs as with each match you play-- win or lose- you earn credits which can be spent at the weapon store. These weapons can be equipped as your arsenal for a given match. Mid-match you can even switch to a new set of weapons if that nail gun isn't doing serious business for you, or you inadvertently keep killing yourself with your own proximity mines. There's also gold plated variants which show to the opposition that you're a gold digger and you don't care. Who cares anyway? Do you expect them to live? No! You expect them to die!

Coming into Quantum of Solace, I had very reserved expectations of the game. I had great experiences with past Bond games from the Nintendo 64 to Everything or Nothing. To be truthful, I'm plenty impressed with what Treyarch and Activision have done here with the Bond license. It certainly doesn't have the license to kill the better Bond titles of the past, but it does have that license to thrill-- no matter how chintzy I made that sound. The campaign is unfortunately short, but it is enjoyable. The multiplayer action is wonderful. The community is decent, but do expect that you'll occasionally be sitting in a lobby all by your lonesome for minutes at a time. And the options are numerous. Is this the best Bond ever? No, Pierce Brosnan is, but Quantum of Solace is rather well put-together title. I'm interested in seeing what Activision does next with it. Perhaps the formula will be a bit more shaken and not stirred next time around.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Story: Follow James Bond as he tackles a new organization, Quantum, who wants to take Bolivia's water supply. The game takes place in both Quantum of Solace as well as its predecessor, Casino Royale.

Graphics: QoS recycles the Call of Duty 4 engine for varying degrees of graphical prowess-- some better than others.

Gameplay: The heavily-integrated cover system offers a different amount of strategy rather than the run-and-gun fare.

Sound: Top-of-the-line voice work performed by the films' actors. The orchestral score is quite good as well adding up to an audiophile's dream.

Replay Value: The campaign takes a short amount of time to complete fully, but multiplayer will keep players coming back for more for weeks, if not months. Online only. No splitscreen. No bots. No sense whatsoever.

Overall: 007.5/0010

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