007: Blood Stone [5 Minute Review]

At the moment I’m mucking around with the layout so that things don’t feel quite so…cramped. Here’s a quick write-up while I get things sorted.

There are certain games you can’t help but get into with a certain mindset. I was expecting Blood Stone to do a number of things:

  • One, display an unrealistic number of explosions;
  • Two, allow me to drive a car off a ramp into a larger moving vehicle, such as a boat or a train, and finally;
  • Three, have a mindless script complete with an externally dominant but quietly submissive female co-star, and a classic Bond that is blessed with the ability to turn any window bulletproof and to send henchmen and assorted minions diving for their lives simply by pointing a gun in their direction and causing volatile containers to explode.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew what I was signing up for…but at least the game played well.

Blood Stone is generic, but that may be the reason why everything handles so nicely. All the standard cover-mounting mechanics are there. Weapons kill things you point them at. CQB is restricted to pressing a takedown button when you’re close enough to someone – the animations are impressive enough, although somewhat questionable. The Focus Aiming ability is Bond’s wildcard, and it allows you to kill enemies in a single shot after taking someone down in hand-to-hand combat (eerily similar to Conviction, but let’s not go there).

Driving sequences actually play quite nicely – Bizarre Creations must have ported over some code from Blur or one of their other projects to get things looking so shiny and to get the car handling to a point where it doesn’t feel like something that’s been tacked on. Having said that, the driving sequences are painfully formulaic and, as aforementioned, usually end by catapulting a vehicle into another vehicle at high speed. The worst injury I’ve seen anyone suffer from one of those manoeuvres is with a broken wrist…and that was the chick.

Various stars have lent their voice and likeness for that additional authentic flavour in this unique plot – unfortunately, Daniel Craig has lost that ice-cold touch from Casino Royale, and is coming dangerously close to a certain actor whose name starts with “B” and ends in “rosnan”. At least Judi Dench can still pull off a good Ice Queen.

But where this really falters is the difficulty. Enemies won’t stick to cover, and instead will slowly walk towards your cover point with their gun drawn. Obviously, they didn’t get the memo about your ability to blind fire. You can even wait for them to round the corner so you can perform a takedown and earn yourself a completely undeserved Focus Aim, which in itself is painfully unbalanced. (At least Conviction had a maximum range.) Casual players may find themselves abusing the auto-aim functionality as well by continually pressing the iron-sights button to snap onto new targets. Your sonar goggles Smartphone can identify weapons, pinpoint enemies (and the weapons they’re holding!) and provide low-light visibility. Just quietly – if you need rely on a phone to tell you who’s firing at you, I’ve got some bad news for you.

Achievements are also awarded for somewhat inane actions. If you get a certain number of Focus Kills, you get an Achievement. If you kill a certain number of enemies by blind firing, you get an achievement. If you take down a certain number of enemies in CQB while detected, you get an achievement. If you take down a certain number of enemies in CQB while undetected, you get an achievement. The game acts like a parent that constantly has to reassure their kids that they’re smart and faultless, without encouraging them to better themselves. It’s a cheap and cheerless tactic to try and stimulate some kind of replay value. Not with me.

Casual gamers may appreciate what’s on offer here – it’s not too challenging, it’s mindless action, and it doesn’t grind too badly.However, veteran gamers will finish with a sour taste in their mouths, especially given the brisk nature of the campaign and the awkward cliffhanger ending. And they’ve got spies vs. mercenaries to look forward to in multiplayer. Yew!

If you’re curious, go with a rental.

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