James Bond Will Return... In Blood Stone
Posted on Wednesday October 13, 2010, 12:31 by David Scarborough in Infinite Lives
With James Bond currently staring down the gun barrel of cinematic purgatory, fans of all things double-O and 7 can turn to the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC this year for their Bond fix. James Bond: Blood Stone is a brand new story starring Daniel Craig and Judi Dench, and Empire was fortunate enough to take a nose around developer Bizarre Creation’s studio.
Known most recently for the delightfully chaotic arcade racer Blur, Bizarre are piling all their effort into creating the ultimate Bond experience for gamers. Some may shudder at the thought of another standalone Bond game. Rightly so, after all, previous efforts like Nightfire and Agent Under Fire were barely worthy of holding James’ Martini, let alone carrying his name.
While Craig’s involvement in both voice and face certainly helped to ease me in, it wasn’t until I saw his entrance that I truly felt Bizarre had nailed the bombastic tone of the series. Arguably the best Bond openings have the spy literally leaping into action, and with James parachuting (sadly, without a Union Jack ‘chute) down onto a yacht in Blood Stone, it instantly made the right impression.
Getting hands-on and Blood Stone owes more in style to Uncharted than that of previous first-person shooters that Bond has been affiliated with. The main third-person gameplay is a mix of gunning down faceless goons with an assortment of weapons, matched with brutal takedown moves (67 in total, we’re told) that depend on proximity and angle.
The game has been made in conjunction with EON, with Craig’s stuntman Ben Cooke choreographing the thwacks and smacks in visceral detail, maintaining the gritty fisticuffs of Craig’s Bond. In terms of gameplay, that means kicking people in the face, karate-chopping a throat or snapping the odd neck.
After the initial firefight on the yacht – there’s nothing secret about this agent when I’m in control – we take to a high speed boat chase with explosions, bullets and giant ramps. The opening flies by at breakneck speed, moving to more shootouts, before heading into a ripping car chase across Athens.
Impressively – but unsurprising given the developer’s history with Blur and Project Gotham Racing – the vehicle sections handle well, using simple controls that intuitively allow the driving segments to maintain the pace of the action. It sounds easy in theory but it’s where many Bond games have failed miserably before.
In typical fashion all this action is just the opening tease, leading into some effective operatic warbling courtesy of Joss Stone (who also plays the Bond girl, Nicole Hunter) set against a diamond-incrusted credits sequence reminiscent of Casino Royale’s card tumbling titles.
As Bond battles through minor jaunts across Athens, Istanbul and Siberia, the locations all thrive with impressive textures and particle effects. One excavation site effortlessly transitioned between exterior battles among scaffolding, moving inside the catacombs that make way for a set piece involving the breathless evasion of a gargantuan drill.
Of course, these lead to further shootouts, chases and spy work. The latter heavily influenced by Batman: Arkham Asylum’s detective mode, here channelled through Bond’s high-tech phone, which can scan enemies, hack computers and highlight objects of interest (not to mention 2-4-1 on Orange Wednesdays).
The lasting impression from my visit was that of authenticity. Everything feels tightly woven, from the pacing, story and controls, right down to Craig’s mannerisms– one amusing example has Bond imperturbably tossing a hardhat aside after a tense exchange with a fastidious construction worker.
Frankly, it’s been too long since we’ve had a Bond game worth talking about. When it comes to crafting an experience that encompasses everything we know and love about 007, then it looks like Bizarre Creations and Activision may have finally cracked the case. Welcome back, James!
James Bond 007: Blood Stone is released sometime this November.