James Bond 007: Blood Stone
I’m normally not one to tell someone how they should go about playing a game, but for James Bond 007: Blood Stone, I’ll make an exception. Though players may be tempted to approach the game as they would Gears of War or Splinter Cell: Conviction, using an available piece of cover to take out all enemies and then moving on, that is not the approach one should employ here. Instead, Blood Stone is best approached with the same professional recklessness that has come to define Bond’s most recent cinematic exploits. When players step out of their comfort zone and take some risks, they are rewarded with a better time than they would have otherwise. In doing so, players will add a smidgen of fun to a boring and occasionally frustrating experience.
Coming to us from Bizarre Creations, the studio that previously brought us the Project Gotham Racing series and this year’s Blur, Blood Stone sets the world’s most famous spy on a mission to prevent terrorists from acquiring dangerous biological weapons. In typical Bond style, our hero will travel the globe, bouncing from city to city chasing down leads in order to save the day, but the story fails to develop Bond as the super spy we’re accustomed to. Blood Stone’s Bond could easily be swapped out for Sam Fisher or Solid Snake. The story is very abrupt, with characters coming and going with little introduction, and the game’s final two segments seemed like they were tacked on when the developers realized the game was too short.
Playing a lot like Splinter Cell: Conviction, Bond must work through a series of levels blasting away at pretty much every foe in sight. Players start off most levels armed with Bond’s reliable silenced pistol, but eventually the arsenal expands to include assault rifles and shotguns. There’s no exotic weaponry to be found and gadgets are almost completely out. The only real device that Bond ever gets his hands on is a magical smartphone which can hack doors, pinpoint enemies in the environments and reveal destructibles like exploding barrels. Without gadgets, there’s very little to do in the on-foot segments besides kill, kill and kill.
In addition to blasting enemies away, players can also use a takedown move to eliminate targets. With the simple push of a button, Bond will dispatch his foes, earning a “focus shot” that players can then use to insta-kill any enemy they target. There isn’t a whole lot of variety to the melee animations, meaning that after three or four takedowns, you’ll probably have seen everything the game has to offer. That said, I had a good time sprinting straight at a group of enemies, using the takedown move on two of them and then triggering a focus shot right into the skull of the third, as the game warned me to return to cover or die. Only then did I feel like a real super agent.
After a while, the game breaks down, revealing a repetitive structure to the missions. You’ll plug away at goons through a city or a factory until you finally get to your target, who inevitably runs away. A vehicle or on-foot chase then ensues. The driving segments of the game are obviously the game’s biggest strength thanks to the developer’s pedigree, but the foot chases are anticlimactic. Since the environments are linear and all jumping is contextual, there’s really no fear of ever losing your target in the crowd or making a mistake. Even if you do get lost, have no fear – most enemies never let you fall too far behind. In one segment in Bangkok, I took my damn sweet time and was able to catch up with my foe despite lingering to check out the scenery.
One of Blood Stone’s best features is that it is absolutely gorgeous. Each character and car are painstakingly detailed after their real-life counterparts. This game features absolutely beautiful reflections. The previously mentioned Bangkok level opens in an aquarium with reflective marble floors, offering those looking down a realistically distorted view of the marine animals swimming behind the glass. All around, the presentation is very strong, from Blood Stone’s graphics down to the voice acting, with primary stars Judi Dench and Daniel Craig lending their talents to the game.
There is some fun to be had in the multiplayer modes – if you can actually find anyone playing it. I spent more than an hour playing the game online and was only able to get in two or three matches that had more than two other players. Of the offerings, an attack-and-defense style mode that pits two teams against each other in an attempt to either cause a terrorist attack or prevent one, is the best. Sadly, this is only one of three available modes, so as fun as the multiplayer may be, there isn’t a lot of long-term value.
Blood Stone has a few bright spots, notably driving segments and presentation, but overall, it’s a pretty derivative package. Almost everything here has been done better elsewhere. That said, I still feel like there’s something here – Blood Stone establishes good ground for a future Bond game headed by Bizzare Creations. Players that pick this game up will find a game that is certainly playable, but if you let this pass by, you won’t miss much.