James Bond 007: Blood StoneESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Xbox 360 Features:
Online Multiplayer: 2-16
4MB to Game Save
In-Game Dolby Digital
Network Players: 2-26
4GB Required Hard Disk Space
HD Video Output: 480p and 720p
Having reviewed many licensed movie based games over the years I often find myself dreading their arrival. Far too often the movie tie-in games just seem to let me down for a variety of reasons. So when James Bond 007: Blood Stone arrived at my home office and I discovered there was no movie tie-in, my hopes for the game were raised. Granted, the previous next-gen Bond game (Quantum of Solace) was not exactly a stinker and certainly did not soil the Bond name; yet, it was far from being considered a 'Triple A' game as it did suffer from some issues. After some playtime with Blood Stone I would have to say that any worries I had for this game have been swept aside. Although not the best title to hit the market this fall holiday season, Blood Stone is a highly entertaining and engaging game that many 007 fans should be pleasantly surprised with.
Visually speaking, Blood Stone is a sharp looking game. Bizarre Creations was able to bring the modern day James Bond world, featuring Daniel Craig as Bond, to life in a convincing manner. From Bond himself to the various locales where he creates utter chaos, the graphics compliment the work that went into the game.
For starters, the character design in the game is decent. For instance, Daniel Craig’s likeness in the game is very well recreated. He definitely looks like the James Bond that was in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. His face could have used a bit more detail but his overall look is bang on. He animates fairly fluidly too and when you see him in third person you get that feeling you are actually watching a James Bond movie. In terms of the rest of the characters, the various enemies you come across seem to be pretty generic. Sure some of their outfits change but there is nothing incredibly original about the game's enemies. As well, the animations for each are pretty standard too, even though they do look good in motion.
In terms of the game's environments, Blood Stone scores high marks. The game takes you across various locales such as Athens, Istanbul, Monaco and Bangkok. You really feel like you are immersed in the world of 007. The game's environments are beautifully rendered. You will notice this beauty soon after you fire up the game as you start out in picturesque Athens. Ample use of lighting, shadowing, and cool water effects are evident in the many levels that you visit. I am sure that they could have opted to cheap out and repeat a lot of the levels in their graphics and texture work, but they did not. Each level has a look and feel all of its own.
I should also mention the game's weapons look great. From Bond’s trusty silent pistol to the various semi-automatic, automatic, and explosive weapons found, each has a look all its own and this adds a bit more authenticity to the game. The game's menus are not the best we have seen in recent years but otherwise Blood Stone offers up a great looking package.
The audio in Blood Stone is arguably one of the strong points in the game. Bizarre Creations made sure it stayed true to the James Bond license as they enlisted Daniel Craig (James Bond), and Judy Dench (M) as the game's two primary voice actors. The recorded dialogue is found in the cut-scenes, briefings in between levels, as well as in-game chatter during play. I don’t know how much it cost Activision to fund the pair, but to incorporate this level of authenticity not only brought the game to life, but made it even more real.
As for the music, it is what you would expect from not only a James Bond game, but a James Bond movie. After the opening level, you are treated to a traditional James Bond opening with the familiar gunshot at the screen, the camera iris like logo of 007, and a flashy theme song with some funky action too. Joss Stone sings the opening tune which suits the theme of the introduction and it matched the whole 007 style that so many previous movie intros have done before. I should also mention Joss Stone also does the voice work for Bond’s main squeeze which was also a nice touch indeed.
As far as the sounds effects are concerned Blood Stone has lots of sounds to fill any type of speaker set-up, from your standard TV speakers to a full Dolby Digital surround sound system. The weapon sounds are what you should hope for from an Activision game. Each gun manages to sound very distinct, with varying sound for each one too. Even when each one is silenced you will notice an audio difference. Of course the rest of the sound effects package is solid too from the explosions, enemy fire, or breaking glass. The entire audio package is well rounded and helps to pull you deeper into the world of 007.
As I mentioned at the outset, Blood Stone is not based on a Bond movie but rather is a stand alone game with a storyline written by Bruce Feirstein (“GoldenEye,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The World is Not Enough”) specifically for the game. Blood Stone is a 3rd person action shooter which plays very much like previous Bond games. The majority of the game involves shooting sequences; however, there are opportunities for hand to hand combat, boat chases and intense action driving sequences. But before I get into the nuts and bolts of the game, let me just give you a bit of background in terms of the game's storyline.
As with pretty much all Bond games, you assume the role as Bond who teams up with wealthy socialite Nicole Hunter (voiced by Joss Stone) to stop a plot involving weaponised biological agents. This plot has you chasing terrorists across six locations: Athens, Istanbul, Monaco, Siberia, Bangkok, and Burma. Whether it's shooting your way out of a casino or leaping rooftops in Bangkok, Blood Stone has Bond travelling the globe as he attempts to foil the terrorists attacks. For the most part, the storyline is decent and plays out in typical Bond fashion as globe-trotting seems to have become the norm for our modern day Daniel Craig, Bond. Yet in all honesty I really found myself not paying too much attention to the game's storyline as the true enjoyment in the game comes with the varied combat.
The single player experience starts off with a bang. Before the opening Bond credits roll, Blood Stone starts out with a frantic shootout aboard a yacht, a memorable boat chase filled with explosions and a high octane driving sequence. This opening sequence immediately captured my attention and was certainly one of the best starts to a video game I have experienced in recent memory. Sure, after the opening Bond tune ends the game can slow down at times as some of the stealth missions lost me a little bit; however, at the end of the day Blood Stone's single player campaign is an enjoyable ride. Much of this enjoyment can be attributed to the varied gameplay. Close quarter hand-to-hand combat, shootouts, driving sequences, rooftop foot chases and boat chases are just a few examples of the varied gameplay you get in Blood Stone.
It is this varied combat in Blood Stone that works quite well and will never have you getting too bored. For starters, the driving sequences are much better than I expected. The driving mechanics are smooth and intense. Driving the cars takes no time to pick up and the sequences are action-packed to say the least. Navigating through a ship yard or highway can be challenge. The slightest miscue will have you in a head-on collision with a Mac Truck or falling over a cliff. I often myself cheering when I would hit certain checkpoints as having to re-do certain areas a few times is inevitable. The rest of the game's combat is enjoyable but the driving sequences seem to steal the show and is certainly one of the highlights of the single player mode.
The hand to hand combat segments are enjoyable as the small cut-scenes with Bond performing a stealth MMA-like takedown are slick. When the enemy does not see you performing the take-downs it works quite well. However, when an enemy notices you at the last moment, the close quarter combat becomes a tad flawed. In several instances, I would attempt a takedown by pressing the X button and my player would do nothing but get his ass handed to him. In other instances I would attempt to shoot an enemy at close range but little to no damage would be done. The camera starts to do some wonky things at this point which further aggravates the situation. While the close combat take-downs can be rewarding, they can also be quite frustrating at times as well.
For the most part, the shooting segments also work quite well. Mowing down enemies with your silencer is satisfying and blowing away enemies with your AK-47 is enjoyable. The weapons seem to pack a punch and anyone with some shooter experience will easily be able to pick up and shoot with some efficiency. My only issues being, the enemy AI were not the smartest at times and killing enemies was a tad too forgiving. Perhaps in higher difficulty settings this is not the case. Yet for me killing enemies was not much of challenge.
Blood Stone also employs a cover mechanic which works quite well. You can pop in and out of cover quite easily and the enemies are somewhat easier to see in certain environments. Moving from cover to cover is accomplished with a simple button press. If there is more cover you can either ‘switch’ over the cover beside you or you can ‘dash’ over to a better cover point further away. Both of these are done using the A and B buttons. The cover system in Blood Stone is simply much better than the cover system from the previous Bond game, Quantum of Solace. Bottom line, it's much more fluid and not as finicky as before.
I actually enjoyed my time with the single player campaign. I found that once I fired the game up I wanted to go continue on to see where the game would take me. Sure, I didn’t enjoy some of the close quarter combat and the story did not really grab me but personally the varied gameplay made up for all the game's shortcomings as the entire single player package is above average. Blood Stone feels like a movie and yet is anything but a movie based game. I actually felt that I was controlling Bond in his story and not just playing an FPS game. Granted the single player campaign is short. Blood Stone's single player campaign will take you anywhere from 4-7 hours max, depending on your own skill level and the difficulty level you play the game on. This is a little on the short side but I never felt I was getting robbed of anything.
There is some replay value in Blood Stone as you can collect intel with your smartphone. Your smarphone is actually a major aspect of the single player campaign as it allows you to detect enemies, locate intel and also directs you to the next objective. I tended to over-rely on the smartphone at times but if you are disciplined enough to only use it when you need to, gamers will find it only adds to the overall experience. Of course as with any Xbox 360 or the majority of PS3 games there are achievements and trophies to be unlocked too. These range from completing specific levels, completing specific tasks within levels, to finding specific items in the game.
Although the single player campaign is over sooner than you wish, Blood Stone also offers up a multiplayer experience. It does feel a tad tacked-on as I found the entire online experience to be lacklustre and is simply not on par with some of the other 'Triple A' online shooters already on the market. Your typical team deathmatch and objective based modes are present. Yet all in all, I cannot see the online aspects of Blood Stone becoming a huge hit with online shooter fans.
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