Although 007 has a history of fluctuating quality in his video games, handing the license over to Bizarre Creations seemed like a win-win scenario. After all, the studio is responsible for not only the excellent Blur and Project Gotham series, but also fast-paced arcade shooter The Club. Combining two winning recipes into one awesome “Bondian” experience should have been one of the better adventures in the Mi:6 spy’s portfolio.
Sadly, that’s not at all the case. With Blood Stone, it appears that Bizarre isn’t working at full capacity. Usually, when a movie license is released on an off-year (such as The Bourne Conspiracy or The Chronicles of Riddick), the quality of the games are shockingly good. So why is Blood Stone so thoroughly drenched with mediocrity?
The latest 00 outing sees Daniel Craig venturing all around Europe to take on no less than three major villains. And therein lies the first major flaw, as you never really know who or what you’re going up against. You’re literally introduced to the game’s first substantial villain five seconds before you liquidate him. This is also a few hours in after a pretty “exciting” level on a hovercraft, so I thought that I had thankfully been relieved of playing. Yet the game continues, revealing that I was merely at the halfway point.
It then introduces another villain, who is considerably less intimidating than the last. It’s as if they realized the game was too short and just tacked on a side story to draw things out, because that’s exactly how it feels: drawn out. None of the levels are particularly exciting as you’d expect in a Bond game, nor the story coherent or compelling, as you may or may not expect from a Bond movie. And the twist at the end can be seen from as far away as the opening credits, as it’s the exact same move that EA pulled with the vastly superior Everything or Nothing.
Combat includes a combination of shooting and hand-to-hand takedowns. The former is straightforward third-person shooter fare, and there isn’t any super cool weaponry like you’d find in Goldeneye. There’s a totally broken cover system, but you’ll get shot even when you’re trying to hide so good luck if you planned on playing on Veteran. (That’s right, they don’t even stick with the standardized “00 Agent” difficulty, they outright call it “Veteran.) To balance out cheap damage and deaths, the AI is unbelievably dumb. You can potshot your first victim and hide behind a large obstacle, then pick them off one by one as they come to investigate. Your melee takedowns are all one-hit kills and have unrealistic range.
These takedowns are actually the only part of the game I actually liked. There is a large variety of takedowns out your disposal, whether you’re going for stealth (as is dictated by several of the game’s sequences) or run-and-gun/fist. You can also pull enemies over waist-high cover to take them out, which will definitely come in handy as they close in on you. Each takedown also grants you a “Mark and Execute”-style aiming ability, which will lock on and dispatch any enemy with a single shot. A combination of these two techniques will be key to your survival.
The driving portions are not at all on par with what Bizarre is capable of. They, perhaps more than anything else in the game, feel like what you’d expect from the average movie game adaptation. The controls are poor and slippery, and reality is completely thrown aside as soon as you get in vehicle. Whereas the on-foot stages are pretty mundane, when James gets behind the wheel of a car he’s suddenly driving on miles of frozen ice as a helicopter shoots rockets at him, or chasing a giant garbage truck through Bangkok as the feeling assassin does trillions of baht in damage, knocking down freeways and driving through buildings.
Even at six hours, this game just felt like it went on for four hours too long. Not content to deliver a substandard singleplayer, however, Bizarre crafted an equally ho-hum multiplayer. As to be expected, it’s basically just team deathmatch for up to 16 players with some Modern Warfare-style leveling and unlocks stapled to the side. If for some reason you were tricked into buying this game and then couldn’t afford another for a month or two, multiplayer delivers a very primal level of satisfaction, but considering all the other options on the market, there’s just no reason for this mode or this game to exist. It’s not good enough.