Quantum of Solace DS, definitely not worth your time
When it comes to games design, the Nintendo DS touchscreen is one of those things that you have to think hard about. Whether your game concept would actually benefit from the use of a stylus outside of navigating menus, and whether it would be a game to suit an "all stylus" method of control are just some of the questions you’ll have to ask yourself. While it’s interesting to see that Activision has strayed away from simply porting the same game released on the home consoles with Quantum of Solace on the DS, their decision to turn Bond into a third-person-shooter controlled almost solely by the touchscreen was clearly a poor one.
Quantum of Solace DS is purely a single player experience, and after booting up the game you’ll have the option to either start a new file, continue with your old save, or to sit through a five minute credit reel to discover just which people you should blame for getting this mess published. You can already gather clues of what’s to come from the full four pages of game details in the instruction manual and the tinny, compressed and poorly-looped Bond theme music which begins to play through the DS speakers during the introductory sequence. Oh, and did I mention the fact that they want you to turn your DS on its side to play, ala Professor Kawashima’s Brain Training? If you’ve found your hands are easy to cramp after some gaming sessions, here would definitely be the place to stop.
Start the game itself, and you’ll be met with a short slideshow of events meant to portray the plot – along with atrocious voice work and sound effects - together which will prove mind-numbingly confusing to players who have yet to see the film. M will give you a short briefing before thrusting you into the game’s training mode. These “cutscenes” occur before each mission in the game, but only really serve to bewilder you and aren’t worth paying attention to if you want to keep your sanity.
The game itself sports some fairly bland visuals and clunky animations for Bond and the various NPCs, although they are decent enough to have been forgivable had the gameplay been better. The game lets you use any of the DS’s face buttons as the “focus button”, which, when held, will allow you to either shoot with your equipped weapon or enter combat with an enemy.
Close combat consists of sliding the stylus across the touchscreen to perform uppercuts, hooks and blocks. If an enemy blocks, you’ll be required to send a hook to his undefended side to throw him off balance and possibly follow up with a combo attack, else have your punch parried and become stunned until the enemy hits you back. The problem here is that the game will often fail to recognize your command until it is too late. Several times I would attempt a punch then attempt again when it didn’t work, only to then have the game perform my command twice and have it stopped by a last-minute block and be struck back during my long recovery time. The enemies themselves have really predictable attack patterns which can be discerned by their appearance - either “attack, attack, attack” or “attack, block, attack” most times – so it’s all the more frustrating when you find yourself incapacitated by one of the goons when you know exactly what to do.
Ranged combat isn’t much better, as most weapons will only deal a small portion of damage to your enemy even from point-blank range without taking body armour into mind. You’ll usually need pinpoint accuracy with your stylus tapping too, else you’ll miss your target regardless of how far away they are from your character. But even if your shots are on target, a random factor will cause bullets to either be dodged or miss every now and then anyway. I ended up trying to forget about my guns and running up to any enemy which wasn’t behind a barrier to engage them in close combat instead, seeing as most of their shooting attempts would either miss or do minimal damage and I couldn’t be harmed by other enemies while in combat with another. Flawed doesn’t even begin to describe how the gameplay is.
It wasn’t until the end of the first proper level that I realized just how bad of an idea using the touchscreen like this was for the game. Up until this particular fight everything had been fairly simple – run up to the edge of a rooftop to jump over to the next, run up to enemy and engage in close combat, take his items, rinse, lather and repeat. Keep in mind that taking an enemy’s items requires you walk up to a briefcase on the floor, hit an icon in the top right corner and then another in the bottom left corner. Oh, and if said enemy has health or ammo for you, you’ll need to hit an icon in the top left corner to bring up your inventory to reload, and an icon in the bottom left to use a med pack. No buttons to do this quickly – only icons on the touchscreen while you’re in the midst of the action.
So picture this: I reach the final fight of the level. Important character runs behind a barrier and starts shooting at me with his machine gun and sends his goons in from two doors in the room, which are endless in supply until you kill said important character. I have a clip of bullets left and one med pack. In order to beat the level, I need more ammo and health, which I’ll need to obtain from important character’s goons. Each time I stop to pick up whatever it is they have from their briefcases, I run the risk of being killed by important character. Did I mention the drops are random, and every now and then I’ll get some stupid casino chip to spend in the lobby? I’m usually a fairly calm gamer, but let me tell you, I had to restrain myself from throwing my DS against a wall after the number of times I died during this fight, and I knew that had I turned off and walked away, the game would have sent me back to the start of the level before the checkpoints.
Just to sum things up quickly – Quantum of Solace for the DS is a bad game. While the console versions of the title were fairly mediocre, they don’t come close to the shoddiness of their DS counterpart. If you see this one in the bargain bin of your local games store, there’s a very good reason why it’s there. And while it’s become hard to expect too much from a James Bond game for quite some time, Quantum of Solace DS somehow manages to lower that bar even further. Stay away.