Wednesday, August 31, 2011

James Bond 007: Blood Stone (PS3, 360) Review

Let's go away from The Legend of Zelda series for now. I'm sure you guys must be burned out reading about one of my favorite franchises. Regardless, GameStop recently had James Bond 007: Blood Stone for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for the low price of $9.99. Not bad for a game that isn't even a year old. I felt I wasn't giving too much money to the evil corporation, so I didn't mind paying the low cost of entry. Here's my review of Blood Stone, our last review of the month of August.

Daniel Craig and Joss Stone team up for
a slightly satisfying spy thriller.

Gamers fondly remember the glory days of the Bond license with Rare's Nintendo 64 masterpiece, Goldeneye 007. Many companies have since tried to top the game including Electronic Arts who shamelessly used the Goldeneye name in Rogue Agent to try to get sales and Activision who essentially remade the game with the excellent GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo Wii. This, of course, was after their first attempt at making a Bond game with the above-average Quantum of Solace 007. With James Bond 007: Blood Stone, this is Activision's third attempt at publishing a Bond game. Is the third time a charm?

Blood Stone starts out and holds back no punches. Immediately players are thrust into the role of James Bond as he boards a ship on the Mediterranean Sea in Athens, Greece. The villain he is after gets away via speedboat, and like the daring and dashing hero he is, Bond pursues in a hardcore chase. The main story of Blood Stone introduces a character named Nicole who Bond becomes very attached to. Her uncle may or may not be involved in a shady business deal. It's up to you the player as Bond to solve the mystery and save the world. The cutscenes aren't too shabby, and the terrific threesome of Daniel Craig, Joss Stone, and Dame Judi Dench provide their voices to the game. Unfortunately the game ends on a cliffhanger, and seeing as the developer behind Blood Stone is now disbanded by Activision, it doesn't appear players will get to find out the satisfying conclusion to the game.

Blood Stone is a third-person shooter using the Call of Duty engine-- or something similar to it. As Bond takes damage, the screen turns a brighter shade of red. If it gets too red, a message will pop up smack dab in the center of the screen urging the player to get behind cover. Cover is key in Blood Stone. You'll be peeking your head out, taking down guards, soldiers, and other enemies who each want nothing more than to put Bond out to pasture permanently. While behind cover Bond can slide around corners effortlessly, switch between adjacent cover, and hide like a three year-0ld who doesn't want to take his or her medicine.

Use cover to not only get a jump on
your enemies but to save your hide.

Bond can only carry two guns at a time-- one pistol and an alternate weapon. There's a variety in his arsenal from sniper rifles to grenade launchers to assault rifles. The enemy also possesses these weapons, so tread carefully, 007. When enemies get too close for comfort, James can always knock them out with a melee move. While in a melee attack, Bond is completely invincible to enemy bullets. As a reward for melees, 007 can earn up to three Focus Aims at a time. These are triggered by holding the shoulder button and firing. Focus Aim shots are instant, one-hit kills to any opponent they penetrate. These are instrumental to clearing the 007 difficulty mode. It's quite cool saving up three Focus Aims, having three unknowing enemies, and firing off three shots which quickly silence them.

Melee moves give James Bond Focus Aims to work with.

In James's and Nicole's journey across the world, they will visit many exotic locales like Istanbul, Russia, and Burma. Levels are mostly linear, but there is some exploration to be had. Intelligence is an optional feat to accomplish. By using Bond's smartphone, he can download information on nearby intel. Then the player can read up on the various intel collected (pending you can read the obnoxiously small font the game uses). While this is more for achievement and trophy whores, collecting intelligence is a good way to lengthen the game as there's a lot to collect in Blood Stone. Certain levels also have Bond using button prompts to leap over chasms and crevasses, using his smartphone to play a button-pressing mini-game to shut off security cameras in a casino's garden, and have James stealthily creeping through the enemy's stronghold, trying not to get caught.

To break up the numerous gunfights and brawls are driving sequences. Bond's various vehicles to no surprise control well. After all Bizarre Creations (the developer) is the team behind such racing greats like Project Gotham Racing and Blur. As Bond you'll be chasing after large construction vehicles in the raining streets of China, roaring through shipyards, attempting to avoid traffic and other vehicles, going the wrong way down busy highways, and jetting across a river of ice, trying to avoid a watery and icy death in Russia as a helicopter fires off a barrage of bullets at 007's car. These sequences feature plenty of checkpoints and are quite the adrenaline rush.

Explosions, explosions everywhere and not any time to think.

Conversely from the single-player story mode, there's multiplayer action to partake in. There's three modes to choose from: Team Deathmatch (first team to fifty points in ten minutes or less), Team Objective (finish three objectives before the other team), and Last Man Standing (where it's every man for himself to see who survives the longest). Team warfare consists of players siding with MI6 or a group called The Mercenaries. There's eight players per team for a total of sixteen players. Each game lasts ten minutes or less, and maps are chosen randomly. Weapons are scattered all over the place, but mostly are located at each team's home base. Players earn medals for killing opponents with the various weaponry and earn experience for kills and assists. Individual kills net the skillful player with thirty experience points while assists give the player half that. At the conclusion of each game, awards for least deaths, most kills, most melees, and more are handed out, and the experience is given to the player,. They can earn new levels once enough experience has been gathered. New levels unlock new guns to utilize and obliterate opponents with.

Online runs smoothly enough, but there is sometimes lag to worry about which makes aiming quite the futility. Melee attacks are one-hit kills, and oftentimes players melee each other at the same time resulting in both players dying simultaneously. As with story mode, melee attacks earn the player Focus Aims which are surefire ways to instantly incapacitate an enemy. This may seem like a cheap mechanic for multiplayer, but seeing as deaths are common in battle, it's not particularly a problem. Only the most competent player will acquire and keep a nice supply of Focus Aims. Lastly, the online community is still mildly successful and active. For instance, waiting for games in Team Deathmatch isn't a huge happenstance.

Blood Stone is an impressive-looking game even if it borrows heavily from the Call of Duty graphical engine. Explosions are great to look at, backgrounds and textures look gorgeous, and character models aren't that lifeless or animate poorly. Shooting off the helmets of guards is a personal guilty pleasure of mine-- well, that and blowing them to kingdom-come with a grenade launcher. The soundtrack, composed by long-time great Richard Jacques, probably best known for me for his work on the Saturn and PC versions of Sonic 3D Blast, sounds excellent, big, and brassy. All-in-all, the presentation package of Blood Stone is above-satisfactory.

The visuals are pretty crisp and clean.
They're the least of Blood Stone's worries.

James Bond 007: Blood Stone is a relatively short game. Yes, there's multiple difficulties with the highest, 007 mode, allowing some enemies to kill Bond in one shot, but most players will opt out. The campaign is very much forgettable, and the multiplayer is nothing we haven't seen before. That notwithstanding Blood Stone is an above-average Bond game and little more. Yes, the budget is big, the story is compelling enough, and the mission objectives are varied, but those who have played enough third-person shooters will feel a great sense of familiarity with what is presented here. Perhaps this title needed to be shaken up more than it was stirred...

[SuperPhillip Says: 6.0/10]

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