raycarter's Quantum of Solace (Xbox 360) review

COD-lite action in Bond game

He looks like Bond. He shoots like Bond. But he is not Bond.

The remake of Casino Royale is one of my favorite movies of all time. For the first time in a long while people see the man behind the gun and gadgets. Daniel Craig sold Bond to be an ice-cold, capable, and yet vulnerable and inexperienced character. Whenever he was on camera my eyes were glued to the screen because he comes off as interesting and nuanced. Eva Green as Vesper, witty and pretty, was a great Bond girl. She didn't need to strip or the like to get attention. The film was great in both its quiet and loud moments and I enjoyed every moment of it.

So why am I sharing my thoughts about Casino Royale in a review piece talking about "Quantum of Solace"? Two reasons, actually. First, there is a part of the game that brings Bond back to his Casino Royale days. Secondly, it is to juxtapose the storylines from the game and the movies themselves. The movies, especially Casino Royale, are captivating. The former feels flat and stale, a cheap imitation at its best. Characters feel like cardboard cutouts of their inspirations. They have the voice (discussed later), the look, but not the innate soul of these characters. The plot is pretty simple; it's Bond trying to find the guys responsible for killing his lady friend. Unlike the movie though, you don't understand why the girl meant so much for Bond and their chemistry together. These oversights are for me the most noticeable in the game and the most unfilling.

But still, if you can ignore the butchering of the narrative source material, you will find some thrills in Quantum of Solace. If you have played any Call of Duty games, you'll find yourself in familiar territory. Specifically, you'll find that Bond is capable of aiming down the sights (ADS) and locking into a nearby enemy for a split second. From my 6 or so hours playing the main campaign on Field Agent mode, ADS is actually more hit and miss. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't, and when it doesn't it creates frustrating moments. What is not from Call of Duty is the cover system. By pressing the A button Bond can hide behind tables, columns and whatnot and be shielded to around 99% of the incoming fire. However, by taking cover for a good long while, firefights degenerate into a shooting gallery, where you shoot when opponents rear their heads for a shot. To the AI's credit, they do a good job flanking you and taking cover in multiple spots, so there is some suspense in battle, especially in the second last and last missions (my favorites in the game).

When you are not popping off rounds, Bond will commit to activities that are much less impressive, like walking across tight-rope like spaces and unlocking doors electronically. Probably the most important non-shooting move is the close up kill, where you press on RS, then a random button (X,Y, A,B) to instakill someone. The quick time event is OK, but they look very impractical when foes are shooting at Bond while the move is underway. Actually, there is another important skill: Accessing the phone to give you enemy coordinates and positioning.

Once the short campaign is over you can skip ahead to multiplayer, where there are various types of matches. You have the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch and "Hold the Area", but there are also some intruguing variations like the Golden Gun (find Golden Gun and kill others), Bond versus (Bond versus everyone else) and Bond Evasion (escort).

Graphically, QOS doesn't look too bad but still has a generic looking package. Daniel Craig's visage looks really good, and supporting cast members do also inject some realism, but the most part henchmen and scenery don't stand out. There are also some good 007 riffs that inject a lot of suspense and drama to the action, though I find it a bit dull when it tries to punctuate something else like a scene introducing Bond to Vesper. To cap it all the voice acting is competent, as (I think) the actors in the movies reprise their role here. Even if it isn't actually the actors the replacements do a good job. But considering that these same people delivered the same lines with more heart in the movie than the game itself the voice acting have a bit a disappointment, at least to me.

But the voice acting is never the problem. When I think of QOS the game, I remember a COD-wannabe that fails to take advantage of the source material, the same way I criticized the Code Lyoko games for their inability to forge a compelling story despite the stuff provided to them. But still, if you can stomach the blandness there is some shooting fun to be had in this Bond adventure.

Final Verdict: 3 stars. It could've been more but an unoriginal presentation coupled with a story that looks bare at best really detract the game's value. Doesn't help that campaign doesn't take that long, though there are 4 difficulty levels. Gunplay and multiplayer does have its moments.

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