mikeinsc's James Bond: Blood Stone (Xbox 360) review

A Bittersweet Game

 The swan song of Bizarre is a really depressing thing. One of my favorite developers and the minds behind a series of outstanding racing titles (including The Club, which was way more of a driving game than a shooting game) and the best dual stick shooters on the market, Bizarre is not a developer that should've ever died. But Activision is singularly talented in sucking the talent out of companies and killing them off once they've bled them dry. And it is a bit ironic that Bizarre apparently died making a game based on a movie franchise that might well ALSO be dead due to the financial problems of the movie studio that owns its rights.

So, this is a bit of a double whammy of suck.

Blood Stone was Bizarre's chance to show that they can do more than racing titles. And, I cannot claim that they were successful in the effort. Blood Stone plays as a slightly above average 3rd person cover-based shooter. You are, naturally, James Bond of the Daniel Craig variety. The set pieces are impressively Bond-esque in the action department and the levels take place in a nice array of locales, from Siberia to Burma. The story is, well, sub-par (Bond seeks to catch biochemical terrorists in a lot of places), but it works for the source material.

The problem is that the action is so-so. The stealth is fairly rudimentary. The shooting is decent, but collision detection seems sketchy. The physical takedowns are nice, but they seem to have the same 2 or 3 animations. The weapons are varied, but many seem oddly underpowered. The enemy AI is not completely useless (they will flank you), but they make enough incredibly dumb decisions to ruin the illusion of intellect. Pacing also seems a bit off. You will have high-octane action, followed by tedious searching for clues; hacking; or just really slow parts with not much going on outside of moving forward.

When it's good, Blood Stone is really good. Running through an exploding plant is a thrill a minute. And the vehicle sections are extremely enjoyable, though really difficult. Bizarre has the cars handling really well and some intense experiences surround them...but with all of the explosions and shaking, that you die --- frequently --- while doing them is hard to miss. They are trial-and-error heavy areas and frustration is not outside the realm of the possible.

Blood Stone is not the greatest game out there and it's sad that this put Bizarre out to pasture. This is not a bad game by any stretch, but it is just a bit above-average. There is quite a bit of good here, but the design seems lacking and that Bizarre was not fully comfortable with a non-driving game seems evident. But the driving parts are excellent (albeit frustrating) and some of the set pieces are worthy of the Bond name. But it's not enough to cover up the problems.

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