James Bond: Blood Stone Review
James Bond: Blood Stone is a cover heavy third person shooter developed by Bizarre Creations, a studio that made its name in the racing genre with the Project Gotham Racing series and more recently Blur. Blood Stone is a peculiar game. On one hand you've got a bland story that doesn’t really capture the mood and style of James Bond and on the other you've got a pretty good action game with solid shooting and incredible driving sequences. You'll have a blast playing it if you aren't a James Bond fan, but if you are you may struggle to deal with the ridiculous direction that the developers took with the story.
I'll start with Blood Stone’s main issue; the story. It severely lacks the style of other Bond products and doesn’t even come close to having the same impact as Bond’s other adventures. It's a generic tale of terrorists acquiring a dangerous weapon that's far too powerful to leave in their hands so MI5 send a suave super spy after it, Bond. While on paper it sounds like an adequate backdrop for an action game, its execution is somewhat underwhelming as they never actually explain what the weapon is. They just call it "the bio-weapon." At one point Bond is exposed to it for an extended period of time and he doesn't even need an antidote or a cure, which kind of makes you feel as if all the bad ass stuff you had just done to get to it was a complete waste of time. It feels as if the writer, Bruce Feirstein, had a checklist called "things wot make a Bond film a Bond film" that he worked from. Everything is there, a pretty lady, fast cars, and a lot of explosions but it's not linked together in a meaningful way. Perhaps the biggest omission is the lack of a memorable villain. I just finished the game and I can’t even remember his name, he’s just some Chinese guy or something.
Fortunately, the rest of the game holds up a lot better. Most of your time will spent running around in foreign countries, taking cover behind crates, shooting the fools who try to stop you and generally fucking shit up for the baddies. You'll kill people with a wide variety of weapons should you choose to pick up the guns that you find, but most of them feel more or less identical. There is 4 classes of weapon: Pistols, SMGs, Assault Rifles, and Snipers. There are different types in each class, but they feel more or less identical. Of the three different assault rifles that I found, the only thing to differentiate them was their appearance and the amount of damage that they deal. Recoil and accuracy were exactly the same. While this feels alright, a bit of variety would have been appreciated.
There's also a melee system which just involves running up to dudes and pressing F which will initiate a takedown animation that looks absolutely savage. While this looks and feels fantastic, it also benefits you to occasionally go out of your way to perform one of these takedowns as for every melee kill you get, you earn one focus shot (although you can only have 3 focus shots stored at one time.) This allows you to score an instant headshot and kill an enemy from any range with one bullet. It's a nice balance of risk and reward that can help define the way you play the game. That being said, it's basically a carbon-copy of the mark and execute feature in Splinter Cell: Conviction. If you have played that, you probably won't think that this system is anything special. The cover system in Blood Stone is functional and nothing more so I won't delve into that.
From the start of the game, the only gadget you have is your smartphone. You can activate this phone and you get all kinds of intel on the screen such as your current objective, waypoints that tell you how to get there, enemy positions and explosive objects. It's very similar to detective mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum, and because of that it suffers from the same problem of wanting to leave it on all the time which in turn makes the game far too easy. A battery that drains as you use it and then regenerates while it is turned off would be an appropriate way to balance this gadget without making it any less useful.
The driving sequences are the highlight of the entire experience. Bizarre's experience with racing games really shines through in these short but hugely entertaining sections. The cars handle beautifully and basically do everything that you want them to do. It's very arcadey, but that works brilliantly in a game where you drive through explosions, falling logs and several pedestrian car crashes. All in slow motion, I'll add. These sequences are incredibly cinematic and are easily the most memorable parts of the entire game though they all follow a similar formula of you chasing someone through an area that's basically falling to pieces. You'll be driving some classic Bond cars such as the Aston Martin DB5 and DB9 through some incredible places such as on a frozen river or through the collapsing streets of Bangkok. The only problem I really have is that there aren't nearly enough of these sequences. Even worse, there was a perfect set-up for a long car chase with Bond driving a supermodels Koenigsegg CC but instead they just faded to black and then brought you back in after the chase was concluded. Not only would it have been fantastic to drive a supercar that was much faster than the other vehicles, it would have been great to mix up the driving sequences and make you the mouse instead of the cat.
In conclusion, Blood Stone is a fairly fun game overall but it is not a brilliant entry into the James Bond franchise. It has everything that gives a James Bond product it’s iconic style, but for some reason it just doesn't feel right. Honestly I would have much preferred a game made up completely of driving sequences with the story just delivered through cut scenes and bits of speech. As it stands, Blood Stone has a lot of unfulfilled potential and while I probably won't be playing it again, I look forward to the next entry in the series in hope that Bizarre has learned a lesson and can take advantage of the potential that this series clearly has.
Also, I've got no fucking clue why it's called Blood Stone.