James Bond 007 in You Only Play Twice
Good graphics<br>Voice acting by Daniel Craig and Judi Dench*<br>Some good action<br>Multiplayer included<br>Excellent soundtrack
*Somewhat bland and phoned-in voice acting<br>Short story mode
The Bottom Line:
James Bond 007: Blood Stone is a solid game, it's nice looking and enjoyable, but isn't unique. Decidedly average but definitely better than the average movie-based games out there.
With MGM teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and the 23rd Bond movie looking increasingly distant, things were kinda bleak in the James Bond world. Happily during that time we got two new James Bond video games, a re-imagining of Goldeneye on the Nintendo Wii and this, James Bond: Blood Stone which released on the PS3, 360, PC, and Nintendo DS. Both games feature the likeness and voiceovers of Daniel Craig as Bond and Judi Dench as M.
Blood Stone is a third-person shooter with a look and feel somewhat reminiscent of Uncharted. It's brought to us by developer Bizarre Creations and published by Activision. The game is broken down into two forms of gameplay: the ground-based third person shooter missions which make up the majority of the game and the vehicular levels (usually in a car, once in a boat). Ground-based missions are mostly gun fighting and hand-to-hand combat with a splash of platforming and bits of stealth action (unless you're clumsy and just stumble into more gun battles). The game is very linear (even moreso than Uncharted) and it's nearly impossible to get lost. You're usually just working across the map from one objective to another. You'll be equipped with a smartphone which is used to scan intelligence items as well as to guide you through the game.
The graphics in this game are quite good (though the character animation looks a bit simplistic compared to other modern games found on the PS3). This isn't to say the characters look bad, on the contrary Bond looks very much like Daniel Craig and moves in a very realistic way. They just don't look as detailed as they could have been, especially the random bad guys.
The audio in the game is suitable for the events you see on screen. Guns sound like guns, cars sound like cars, and ambient sound effects are suitable to their location. No complaints here. Happily this game features a full-on symphonic score which sounds great. Each level has its own unique score and the tracklist for the game is very long. The creators could have easily put in a cheap synthetic score like many other games or tortured you with the repetition of the same music over and over but this excellent score adds to the polish of the game. It really helps to amp up the action scenes and is very Bond-like as far as I'm concerned. Check out YouTube for the tracks from the game, I think most would agree they're quite epic. Props to videogame composer Richard Jacques for his work on the game. Will he follow in the footsteps of Michael Giacchino and make the move to motion pictures? We'll see.
The controls in the game are easy to learn and work fine, though they are different from other third-person games I've played. Still, I felt comfortable with them just a few minutes into the game (though they can be changed in the menus -- I just never bothered changing things or seeing what other options there are). There are also frequent on-screen prompts reminding you of the controls of the game (such as how to duck into cover or how to climb) and reminders to take out your smartphone near intelligence items. I really wish there was a way to turn these prompts off, 5 minutes into the game I knew all the controls and didn't need or want the help. This handholding was annoying but doesn't by any means ruin the game. How are the controls though? When they work they're fine but unfotunately, they didn't always work as I wanted them to. Sometimes I'd get stuck in cover and wouldn't be able to melee an enemy before he shot me, or I wouldn't be able to get into cover before being gunned down. This lead to much frustation when I played on 007 difficulty (more on that later). I'd just say simply that the game needed a bit more work making the controls smoother. I hesitate to call back to Uncharted again but that game had more refined controls (even though they aren't perfect either). Bond also moves too slow during action scenes. By default you click the left analog stick to make him run faster but it's only for a brief moment and he's back to a casual jog. You'd think when he's being shot at by an enemy helicopter he'd be more inclined to RUN. Did they make him slow because he's Bond and doesn't panic? Did they do it to add a touch more of difficulty to the game? I can't say, but I was annoyed by his slow pace when it came time for the final "boss" battle.
Your needs for weapons are well filled, you'll find a ton of different weapons to use in the game, from Bond's signature P99 and PPK handguns among many others, to numerous machine guns, shotguns, and the occasional grenade launcher or sniper rifle. One level puts you into a machine gun turrent on a hovercraft. All standard fare, just like......Uncharted.
As for the difficulty of the game, there are several available options: Recruit (easiest), Field Operative, Agent, and 007 (hardest). I started on Agent which is the highest available difficulty at the start of the game (007 has to be unlocked) and I felt it was too easy. The game has what it calls Focus Aim which is unlocked by doing melee attacks on enemies. Focus Aim guarantee you'll get a headshot or one-hit kill on any enemy that you target. You can earn up to three of them at a time and I frequently built these up during the covert parts of a mission. Using the Focus Aim during gun fights helps you quickly clear out enemies and move on to the next part of the game. That being the said, it wasn't much of a challenge beating the game on Agent difficulty. There are of course a couple of difficult spots where you're likely to die repeatedly but once you figure out the trick to a level you'll easily beat the game. I coasted through the game and beat it in just a matter of hours.
Once you've beaten the game on a lower difficulty you'll unlock the 007 setting. This is a whole different animal, suffice it to say this is an extremely frustrating difficulty to play on and I only finished the game on 007 to pick up the remaining trophies (there is a trophy tied to beating each level on 007 difficulty). The strength of your enemies is pumped up and it requires three shots to take them out (though headshots still kill 'em in one). Bond is weakened and will die in two hits. Peaking out of cover guarantees one immediate hit and any ememy with a shotgun will take you out in a single shot (even from great distance which is unrealistic if you ask me). This makes it neccessary to take out only one enemy at a time and then ducking back into cover to recupperate before going after the next bad guy. This draws the length of the game out considerably and there were 3 or 4 parts of it I ended up playing for an hour or more trying to work out a way to make it through the level without dying; always questing for the next checkpoint save. Once you work out a method that works though you can easily work your way through the game again (though it'll still take time with all the ducking and covering you have to do to recover from bullet hits).
So what differentiates this game from any other? Not too much unfortunately. Since Daniel Craig's era of Bond movies has been stripped of the humor and gadgets that once made up the universe we're left with a game much like any other. It's made more Bond-ish with a terrorist plot involving bioweapons, the threat of a suicide bomber attack, conspiracy, and of course -- a bond girl, portrayed here by Joss Stone. Wait, a lot of other games have those elements too. Hmmm, well, this is a Bond game simply because it has Bond in it then. Oh, and he occasionally brushes off his shoulders after a gun fight or when he enters an elevator. That's Bond-ish right?
Unfortunately, most of the time I was playing I felt that the game was just incredibly average. It's not bad by any means. But it's also not a stand-out AAA title like Uncharted. The gameplay is generic and the story is standard fare (surprisingly it was penned by veteran Bond-writer Bruce Feirstein). Even the voice actors seemed to just be phoning in their performance. In fact, the first night I played it I figured they cast someone else to voice Bond rather than Daniel Craig. Only when I looked it up did I see it was in fact him. As mentioned earlier, graphically the game is good -- definitely better than average. There are a couple of levels that really stand out - specifically the escape by car from a refinery that is exploding. The action is so hectic and so much is going on in each frame, it's quite enjoyable to watch (and play, naturally). Moments like that are extremely enjoyable and make the game a blast to play. There are bad times as well, several large gun battles feel repetivie and are tedious on the higher difficulties as the bureaucracy of taking out your enemies sets in.
The game also includes a multiplayer component. It's fairly standard fare, you'll get Team Deathmatch, Objective and Last Man Standing. You get voice chat (which doesn't seem to include the ability to mute idiots with open mics -- I really hate having other people's music or kids/pets intrude into my gameplay experience!). Repeated play will earn you new player skins and weapons but there wasn't anything special to be found. I was disappointed (though not surprised) to see that none of the vehicular levels made it to multiplayer. It'd have been cool if you could do some racing online, Bizarre Creations has after all done several racing games!
Is this game worth playing? Absolutely. How about buying? Eh....it depends. Me, I've got a somewhat limited gaming budget so I prefer to rent anything I don't absolutely love. In my case the title of this review is what I'm going by. I played through once and was satisfied even though I felt the game was too short. My second playthrough was to finish up the trophy checklist was much longer due to the inflated 007 difficulty.
So, to wrap things up, Blood Stone is not a triple-A title that'll go down in history like Goldeneye but it is enjoyable and graphically nice to look at. You'll want to play through at least twice to get your fill of story and trophies. Also don't forget the multiplayer component for possible repeat visits to the game and then there is always that awesome orchestral score. My score: 3/5