Review: James Bond 007 – Blood Stone

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I’m a Bond fan. I love his films. Not all of the movies were great, but at least on the whole, they’re better off than his often polarized career in gaming has been.

Blood Stone is the latest to punch and shoot it’s way onto shelves. But the question I have is why it’s begging me to buy a smartphone.

The game starts off by dropping Daniel Craig’s from the sky to stop an international arms smuggler in Greece. After a few sequences acquainting the player with the third-person shooting and cover system, it’s off to the races in a high speed chase. Bizarre Creations, the developers of Blood Stone, are something of an old hand when it comes to racing sims and it shows – although the difficulty curve for some of the insanity found there can often lead to more road rage instead thanks to sudden drops of instant death.

But it’s what Blood Stone doesn’t do with its gameplay keeping it from achieving the kind of suave presence that Goldeneye delivered on the N64, or that EA’s Everything or Nothing had revived later with its variety. The story is interesting enough to be a fill in for a missing movie thanks to the participation of Hollywood Bond alum, Bruce Feirstein, and Bond’s brutal melee moves easily turn his enemies into dough. But apart from these and a few other cosmetic effects, it doesn’t feel so much Bond as it does a routine shoot ‘em up. You could drop in a new protagonist, change a few names and scenes, and suddenly be playing the same game but with a different title.

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Evil minions will also get in Craig’s face, although their training regimen had left out any creative thinking. Most of the time, their predictability will make them easy cannon fodder for perceptive players as they mow through these cloned hordes of rent-a-rookies. But the backdrops make up for the deja vu by pulling you back into its fiction with exotic visits to places such as a bizarre techno-dam that seems patterned after the titanic Three Gorges Dam in China, but squeezed into a jungle setting. Or in sneaking around a casino until you realize that it’s guarded by the dumbest guards in the world. Then again, they don’t have Bond’s cellular plan.

Bond’s cell phone – which also acts as an all-seeing-eye to detect bad guys and items of interest in the world – is the other superspy trademark stamped onto this production. You can’t have a Bond game without at least one high-tech toy and it fits the bill. Unfortunately, it also tends to steal the show in most cases by making Bond’s life a little too convenient.

If you’ve watched Casino Royale, it wasn’t so much as heavy on flashy toys as it was with its characters in trying to push away from its gadget-heavy predecessors – going back to basics, as it were. So seeing Bond’s government issued miracle get as much use as it does can layer the gameplay with the uncomfortable feeling that Bond is only as good as his fists and bullets allow him to be in a game.

Being Bond also means driving like Bond and Bizarre Creation’s work with racers has paid off with blistering chases choreographed against explosive backdrops. Unfortunately, it also means that if you’re not much of a driving fan, you’ll often experience the relatively slow reloads the game punishes careless players with. The tracks also suffer from design inconsistencies such as “instant death” drops into frozen rivers to almost leisurely chases through traffic.

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Multiplayer is also added in with the usual deathmatching and team based modes, but good luck in finding many games out there. On the plus side, at least it’s an option.

Blood Stone has a number of neat tricks and ideas buried within its relatively stock gameplay; a decent if somewhat meandering story strapped on top of a few explosive scenes varnished with voice acting from Judy Dench and Daniel Craig will appeal to Bond fans – like me. But the short length of the single-player which topped out around six or seven hours and the generic third person action dull the gameplay making it difficult to recommend over its peers. It’s not Bond at his best, but in this market, he needs every advantage that his handlers can give him.

James Bond 007: Blood Stone
Activision / Bizarre Creations / n-Space
Xbox 360 / PS3 / Windows PC / Nintendo DS (reviewed on Xbox 360)
Rated: T for Teens