As always promised, James Bond is be back; and this time returns in “007: Blood Stone”. The feeling I get from my friends in and around the Open Forum Radio community, Bond is a relic left over from the Cold War. Perhaps the idea of a diabolical megalomaniac seeking to take the world hostage all driven by corporate profits or vengeance seems to come across as outdated and small minded. With the Bond film series on hold, “Blood Stone” can quench that thirst for some suave action while providing a comfortable scenario that is familiar to any Bond veteran.
“Blood Stone” could be a clean, and mid-major title release for this fall, however I’m guessing Activision and Bizarre Studios have devoted all their time and efforts to tomorrow’s (11/9) release of “Call of Duty: Black Ops”, and it shows. In Bond’s previous release on gaming consoles, “Quantum of Solace” took players through the films, “Casino Royale” and the sequel that shared the title of the released game. Treyarch stepped out of the shadow from the “Call of Duty 3” failure only to give a surprising and best movie based game I’ve ever played, and am willing to play to this day. While “QoS” capitalized on utilizing the “CoD4” game-play engine making solid modifications including a cover and quick-time event system, Activision decided to let the interns and rejects from the “Project Gotham Racing” franchise piece together a mediocre third-person shooter.
The game plays just like a typical Bond film. There’s an action packed opening, followed by plot set-up, all the major players are laid out, you take down the masterminds, followed by a twist. The game follows this formula perfectly and doesn’t do anything particularly well or outstanding. The game isn’t broken but is lack-luster. It’s not a bad third-person shooter like “Eat Lead” but it’s not “Ghost Recon” or “Gears of War” either. While shooting, you have the precision of a typical first-person shooter, and while in cover, you can blind fire to shoot in a more “pray and spray” fashion. If this game has a looser shooting mechanic similar to Gears of War, this game would be frustrating to no end and would have more people quit than finish. The story is balanced well and while in previous Bond game iterations, driving was never a highlight, though the folks at Bizarre almost come through on that end. “Blood Stone” is balances action, stealth, and driving well, though falls victim to the “Halo” syndrome in ending the game with a driving sequence. I would think personally that an Aston Martin DBS would be a premium performance machine, though it drives more similarly to a car earned early on in a “Project Gotham Racing” game.
Activision added a new scanning view, which is most similar to “Detective Mode” from “Batman: Arkham Asylum”. While in scanning view, you can identify enemies, their movement, and what kind of weapon they’re using. This gives you an unfair advantage and makes the game much easier, even on a higher difficulty setting. Scanning view has a disadvantage; the faster you move, the more distorted the view becomes. The only way I can explain this would be that the scanning view is like playing from a satellite feed via MI-6. There is “Intelligence” that can be collected by scanning while in that view and these items each have a dossier of information. They don’t add much to the game but there is an achievement for collecting all of them.
“Blood Stone” takes about six hours to complete and does not offer much in terms of replay value. As a seasoned veteran of shooters, “Blood Stone” was not much of a challenge even on the highest offered difficulty, and unlocks the hardest difficulty after completing on the moderate setting. This is a cheap and easy way to add replay value to a mediocre game. That being said, the enemy artificial intelligence isn’t winning any Fulbright scholarships nor is it riding the short bus. It’s a C level student at best; and thankfully the developers did not add in choke points with unlimited re-spawning enemies.
After completing the single-player storyline, I got to sit down and spend an hour or so giving the multiplayer some mileage and one description comes to mind that all gamers fear: tacked on. There are plenty of third-person shooters that have a playable and fun multiplayer experience; “Blood Stone” isn’t unfortunately one of them. The maps are some of the smallest in area I’ve ever played, and with the cover mechanic, each match turns into a World War I style of combat; meaning teams set up choke points and can predict where the opposing team is going to come through. The cover mechanic provides an unfair advantage to both teams, meaning that while in cover, you can see where and how your enemies are advancing, with no risk to you. Hit detection leaves much to be desired and though the game wasn’t lagging, the animations for the characters harkens back to the days of split screen multiplayer of “The World is not Enough” on the Nintendo 64.
“Blood Stone” doesn’t do anything particularly well but fits in well with the new Bond universe. The game does feature familiar voices to the series including Daniel Craig, the timeless Dame Judy Dench and singer Joss Stone lends her talents to the game’s repertoire. Miss Stone, please don’t quit your day job, that’s where you shine. “Blood Stone” isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played but it’s not the best. If you’re in the need for a quick action fix after all of he premier titles release in the next couple of weeks, you’d be best served to play this in the dull days of winter, say in February or March. The drawback with playing it at that time is that I fully expect the online community to be dead making those pesky online only achievements a difficult catch. If you can snag that game at a discount, I’d urge you to do so. I did have fun playing “Blood Stone” though it is a short game.
3 out of 5. Rent it or Buy at discount.