Wii owners must have rejoiced with giddy relish upon the announcement of Goldeneye 007, a remake of the N64 classic that is a renowned hallmark of the FPS genre and licensed movie games in general. Imagine, then, the grimace when it was found that, due to Nintendo’s exclusivity, everyone else would not be able to sample the great Goldeneye, and would instead be treated to an original Bond game developed by Bizarre Creations, a developer better known for honing racing games.
007 Blood Stone is based on an original storyline in the same vein as Bond games from the previous generation, such as Nightfire and Everything or Nothing, with the advantage of being written by Bruce Feirstein who also wrote the script for the Goldeneye film. But can fans seek solace in this video game adaptation while the film franchise remains in limbo?
From the traditional pre-titles action sequence, Blood Stone certainly looks the part in its attempt to replicate the cinematic James Bond rush. After infiltrating a yacht, the introductory level is laden with feisty fisticuffs mixed in with some third-person shooting before dropping you into a boat chase that climaxes with a frantic car chase in Bond’s savvy Aston Martin DBS.
Everything else explodes, and the credits roll – there is even a unique theme song specifically performed for the game by Joss Stone. The trouble is, once this level is over you will have seen practically everything the game has to offer, as it soon descends into a short-lasting ritual woven in linearity.
You can immediately tell something is amiss when you first clasp your eyes on the wax sculpted figures that represent the main cast. The game reprises the likes of Daniel Criag and Judi Dench’s likenesses and vocal talents, but the facial models look downright wretched at times, plagued with wooden animation and unforgivably stiff lip synching that would look substandard in a PS2 game.
These blemishes principally stand out however because the game otherwise looks quite impressive for the most part: backdrops are finely detailed and the game runs smoothly, and yet there’s a noticeable level of inconsistency in texture quality at times.
As with every Bond film, Blood Stone follows the familiar formula that has you globe-trotting across a series of exotic locations in order to hunt down would be assailants driven by world domination, from Moscow and Istanbul to Monaco and Burma. There’s even a smattering of levels set in night time Bangkok that create the illusion of playing a more smartly dressed Kayne and Lynch.
This time you’re out to thwart the launch of an atomic weapon by international terrorists, or something. It’s all very standard, paint-by-numbers Bond that does little to really hold your interest as the majority of the game centres on you tracking down leads that build up to a final encounter with a sparingly used antagonist.
The game often places a strong emphasis on stealth scenarios which does a good job of completely hampering the pacing of the first half of the game. A simple tap of the square button will initiate a brutal takedown move that succulently knocks out your opponent, usually by punching them squarely in the face, but you end up overusing them since it’s incredibly easy to simply approach an enemy and batter them senseless whilst they are shooting you. Subsequent shots also won’t harm you when you perform these take-downs, either, implying that Bond has developed supernatural powers of the immortal variety.
More often than not, it’s easier to simply wait it out in a heated firefight as the predictable and primitive AI will eventually creep towards your location, allowing you to effortlessly beat them to death without ever firing your weapon. Performing these takedowns will earn you up to three focus kills, a technique that unapologetically apes the mark and execute mechanic from Splinter Cell: Conviction by locking onto enemies for the perfect head-shot. It’s a useful tactic that works particularly well when you are heavily outnumbered or on the verge of low health.
Blood Stone’s core facet is that of a cover based third-person shooter, but it seldom feels exhilarating. Controlling Bond feels clunky as he plods through linear path after linear path and shooting the enemy clones just doesn’t feel satisfying: there’s no visual blood to speak of either presumably to preserve the all-important under 18 rating. Later levels become increasingly monotonous, too, as you often become confined to a fixed spot defending against an endless swarm of enemies. They’re not particularly difficult for the most part, just terribly tiresome, though the game does eventually up the ante pitting you against an enemy tank and machine-gun firing helicopter in the final location.
There is also a distinct lack of gadgetry at your disposal, although this is to be expected since this is of course Daniel Craig’s revitalised, technophobic James Bond. The game suffers for it however, as this makes it ever the generic shooter. As compensation, you are permanently equipped with a smart phone that allows you to scan intelligence, disable security cameras and guide you towards objectives, effectively spoon feeding you should you become lost.
Given that Blood Stone was developed by the same people that brought you Project Gotham Racing and Blur, you would expect there to be some driving escapades somewhere along the line. And you would be right, as there are indeed a handful of driving segments thrown in to pad out the campaign that predominately put you behind the wheel of the contemporary Aston Martin DBS. The lead female character also drives a Koenigsegg but you never get to drive it to my dismay, though you do get to drive the iconic Aston Martin DB5 for some inexplicable reason.
While they offer some impressive spectacles including a dump truck decimating a highway bridge and chasing a train whilst hurtling along a frozen river, the abundant chases still follow a set path leaving you with little sense of involvement – perhaps they would have been improved if you could at least fire out of the car. They are rather unforgiving too, thanks to a reliance on Stuntman-esque trial and error: it’s all too easy to veer off course into the water in one dockland level, for example. Nevertheless, Blood Stone’s driving levels benefit from Bizarre Creations’ penchant for racing games, resulting in a solid handling model that delivers some of the more captivating set-pieces of the game’s campaign and I actually wish there were more of them.
An online multiplayer component is also included, but it is disappointingly bare-bones: aside from the standard team deathmatch and objective-based modes, like in the campaign, there is little substance to chew on here. It’s a shame because the single-player portion, like many modern games of this generation it would seem, only lasts around five hours, finishing with a particularly anticlimactic conclusion that no doubt leaves room for the inevitable sequel.
Without the authentic Bond license, it’s doubtful that that Blood Stone would evoke any interest whatsoever. As it is, Blood Stone falls into the pitfall of mediocre licensed games, playing it safe with linear shooting sprinkled with a few well-crafted driving sequences. It’s entertaining at times and certainly captures the hallmarks of the franchise, but a lack of any real ambition renders it entirely unmemorable.
Character models look scary and gormless, but Blood Stone is an otherwise decent looking game all round despite some inconsistent texture quality.
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The slow pacing is initially off-putting, but things do pick up and the driving levels are the undisputed highlights.
The voice acting is polished along with the engine sounds, but the weapons and musical score remain generic.
Unfortunately, the single-player campaign can be easily beaten in no time at all, and the multiplayer is a throwaway addition.
If Blood Stone was a legitimate Bond film, it would be Die Another Day: formulaic and forgettable yet still sexy and entertaining with some standout driving sections to boot.