Listen. My brother has the Wii right now. He’s in London, Ontario, and by all rights he deserves to have it in his possession. He paid for it, he’s leaving me the Xbox and the PS3, it’s fair and square by all accounts. But, golly, that doesn’t give him the right to text me at one AM to tell me how much fun he’s having with the new Goldeneye. No right. Where does that leave me? All waggle-less and broken? I have only so many outlets for magnet wrist watches and chairs that explode when you shoot them. As it turns out, there is a lesser-talked-about James Bond game this month. Not directly related to the new Goldeneye, but I guess it must have been convenient to have Daniel Craig in the sound studio. So Bond for all, Wii or otherwise! James Bond 007: Blood Stone is a new, standalone tale for MI6 addicts made by Project Gotham and Geometry Wars creators Bizarre Creations, letting players take the role of Bond as he shoots the bad guys and roughs up luxury cars, but is this a diamond in the rough or just plain fake?
Actually, speaking of gem puns, let’s address something weird right off the bat. I am not really sure what the title is referring to. There are diamonds in the sexy stylized cinematic intro but after that no one ever mentions the girl’s best friend at all. Its meaning is about as alienating as Quantum of Solace was for those without a dictionary. While it may not have much to do with pretty rocks, Blood Stone is about a missing scientist and the trail of bio-weapons, corporate warfare and fabulous torture caused by his disappearance. Bond will travel from Monaco to Siberia to Bangkok leaving a path of destruction and bullets as he tracks down evil in all its smug forms. If you are finding the plot hooks to be a little bit vague in comparison to the locales, then you’ve already clued in to one of the game’s first big flaws. In the name of having Bond rapidly traverse the planet to shoot people, there isn’t much of a coherent focus, no particular problem or a single dastardly enemy is given the bulk of attention. It seems every puppet master is just the puppet to another master, a master somewhere half-way around the world with hundreds of more thugs for you to riddle with bullets. This isn’t very good for any sort of dramatic tension and a limited roster of important characters make some plot points really easy to predict. Every good Bond story needs someone to deliciously hate, and you just don’t have one here. The ‘final boss’ fight is with someone you practically just met, and all you really learn of him is he has a thing for knives and wasting perfectly good attack helicopters. I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to have a gritty Bond story about blood diamonds, and all the evil associated around that real world woe, but perhaps Bizarre has a cap on jungle levels they don’t want to exceed.
If you are thinking, “Well at least this means rapidly changing environments and levels” then yeah, I guess you are right. Bond will be hopping from lavish casino parties to Burmese jungles while on wet-work duty, but the game still offers more diversity than originality. We’ve fought in these places, haven’t we? We’ve torn apart construction tunnels and chemical plants in other games. Blood Stone even seems passive for originality at times. There’s a sequence that starts out in a really ballin’ aquarium, and the promise that this will be the spot for the next forty-minute-ish chapter was tantalizing. Despite this, it’s really just the prelude to the level, and faster than you can say ‘my informant get’s killed’ you are chasing an assassin through Chinese back alleys like so many other games. Segments that are a bit uncanny to Bond are the car chases. Bizarre is responsible for the Project Gotham series, so clearly they are familiar behind the wheel. The car chase segments range from ho-hum to really awesome, the best of which take place on a frozen lake or another on the tail of the least subtle mercenary tearing apart a city with a construction vehicle so large I question such a machine’s existence. One comment I do have is that the car’s control a little bit ‘too realistic’ for the purpose of these extravagant chases. It’s kind of hard to fist pump when you are consciously reserved on the gas pedal due to steep u-ies.
When Bond isn’t operating an automobile that’s too expensive for you to touch in real life and mere moments away from being totalled, he’s on foot. On foot Bond carries two guns, a standard silenced pistol and a secondary weapon that you just happen to come across. No grenades, though, despite the fact your enemies will toss them like rice at a wedding. Qs been slacking, because gadget-wise you’re a bit stripped. You have a smart phone which can detect points of interest and nearby enemies, but it can’t be used while shooting and it also makes the screen look like a night vision camera getting beaten up. It’s not technology based, but Bond also gets a Red Dead Redemption style sharp shooter, determined by a three-point meter that fills up when you punch people in the face. Stealth, at times, is a large portion of the game, and the game will heavily encourage you to do things silently at moments, while only mildly suggesting it at others. Bond can cozy up to any wall or barrier using a universal stealth/cover button, though curiously there is no way to simply crouch, which would have been fairly useful. If you aren’t exactly light on your toes, don’t worry, your enemies will often re-affirm what made them the foot stool on the crime-ladder and all too often you can snuggle up right next to them long before they’ll bother to notice you.
Frustratingly, there are bugs, frustrating bugs. Enemies spawn in nearby places, and even with your smart phone radar on, baddies will pop into locations that will catch you off guard in the worst ways. Even worse is that some controls and moves will stutter or not work at all during more intense firefights, and Bond’s journey consistently ended when my ‘sharp shooter’ or melee attack simply refused to work when I needed it most.
There are multiplayer modes, sure, but no bombshell features, and the bugs in single player are only amplified here. Multiplayer comes team deathmatch and area hold-out ‘objective mode’ flavours. The objective mode could have been cool, each side attempting to complete a series of tasks against the other’s will, but the objectives all require the same actions, getting to a point, standing there, and not getting shot for a little bit until a meter fills. The maps are also pretty narrow, while the playing fields are open, many are plagued with limited passages, putting things into quick stalemate standoffs as cheeky contestants clog the only openings. To make things worse, the natural stealth-button-cover gameplay goes further than just encouraging camping, it can be almost nothing but. Players duck behind safe barriers and take pot shots from unshakable stand points, and sadly that’s something grenades could have really helped counter. Oh, and bugs. There are even more bugs in multiplayer than in campaign, and I had watched my foes die by my hand after they killed me a good dozen times.
I can understand that Blood Stone isn’t the top priority of Activision right now. They have, y’know, the crown jewel being released this month. Hell, they even have a more anticipated James Bond game, but this still could have been a worthy effort. Bizarre has made better action shooters before, but Blood Stone doesn’t have the gratification of The Club and nowhere near the breadth of Fur Fighters. It’s flat, linear, buggy and overall lukewarm. Stylistically this doesn’t quite feel like Bond, just dressed like him. That may be at the callused hands of serious-Bond over campy other-Bonds, but the action attempted here still doesn’t make much effort to even mimic the newer films. If you just need to shoot people from Bond’s gun, you can do a lot worse (really, you can) but if you are looking for something more, this stone isn’t worth the blood.