Quantum of Solace is a half-decent James Bond game.
James Bond games always get a bum rap. Ever since 1997's Goldeneye hit the Nintendo 64, every subsequent Bond game has to be put up to those very high standards Rare made so long ago. As a result, these games are given unnecessary scrutiny because they cannot be judged on their own merits, they have to be compared to the most famous and popular James Bond game of all time. It's a bummer, really. But after Electronic Arts made about a dozen games based off the titular spy, some that were great and some that were pretty terrible, the license was handed off to Activision in 2007. Now one year later, we finally get Activision's first Bond effort, based off the most recent Bond film featuring Daniel Craig: Quantum of Solace: The Game.
Developed by Treyarch (alongside Call of Duty: World at War), Quantum of Solace is a first-person shooter much like several of the Bond games over the past ten years. The title itself is a misnomer, however: Only the first 5 or 6 stages and the final stage are based off the most recent movie, the remaining levels are based off the previous movie, Casino Royale.
Quantum goes for a mish-mash of several different game ideas: The first-person shooting is reminiscent of the Call of Duty series, even down to the "Aim-Down-Sight" the series is known for. It also features cover-based shooting like in Gears of War or Rainbow Six: Vegas, such as moving from cover to cover, dashing from one piece of cover to the next, and even cornering to switch positions. It's a little bit buggy and not as well-refined as in those games, though. In one stage, I was able to defy the laws of physics, clip through a rock scenery just as I was dashing to the next piece of cover. Thankfully that happened only once, and it's not a common occurrence.
Lastly, it features Quick-Time Events, something God of War and Shenmue popularized. With a click of the right stick, you'll see a button prompt, and a successful one results in Bond pummeling the poor guard to bits. There are two scripted scenes where you have to go through an obnoxious quick-time event, based off two scenes from the respective movies, but screwing up here just knocks your health down a bit. And they're not just "tap X to not die" scenarios, there are "tap X repeatedly to not die" portions as well. The problem is that the "Press repeatedly" prompts don't fit in their context. See, they work well in God of War because Kratos would be pulling something or pushing an enemy towards a spike or something. In Quantum of Solace, its an excuse to make it seem less repetitive, and it looks tacky as a result.
The game also features something I've learned to dread: Stealth missions. But unlike in several other games where getting caught resulted in mission failure, Treyarch actually learned something from Goldeneye: If you get spotted by a guard or a camera, you just have a swarm of grunts come in and try to kill you. And most of the stealth is wholly optional: You can run and gun through the stages just fine.
There are issues with the single player, though. If you have not seen either movie, the game rarely gives you insight on what happens, as you'll mostly see slick computer-generated graphics which tell you what happened, but there isn't many CG cutscenes or FMV to show that fact, leaving you confused at what just happened sometimes. Quantum of Solace ends up being more of a supplemental piece to the films, rather than something that stands out on its own. The stages that depict moments in Quantum don't seem as polished or put-together as levels set in Casino Royale's timeline. Which brings me to believe that the Quantum levels were made at the last minute to tie in with the new movie. It still doesn't excuse Treyarch that a few core scenes from both movies are absent. As well as changing a few scenes from the movie that were originally very light on action to make them suitable for the game, like Bond on the train meeting Vesper Lynd. Which is a level that Treyarch themselves were so fond of, as they mentioned it countless times in interviews. There's nothing wrong with this, several movie tie-in games do this, so I'm not gonna completely knock them for that.
For a game that uses Call of Duty 4's engine (another thing Treyarch boasted), it doesn't seem to show the strengths too well. COD4's solid 60 frames is whittled down to a semi-choppy 30 in Quantum, and the graphics don't seem up to par with Infinity Ward's game from last year. While the model for Daniel Craig seems nice, his face doesn't seem to evoke emotion while in-game, which is odd because the COD4 engine can clearly show facial animation and emotion. The game features voice acting from most of the actors from the movie, and it works well outside of weird glitches in-game where people talk over each other. And you'll get sick of hearing the same 5-6 phrases from enemy grunts during the course of the campaign.
The multiplayer seems to be a mix of Call of Duty 4 with a few quirks of its own. It's got the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes, with two modes nicked from COD4 ("Classic" is basically "Old-School Free-for-All," and "Territory Control" is a watered down "Headquarters"), "Golden Gun" returning from Goldeneye, as well as two modes where you play as Bond. Every time you get a kill, or complete an objective; you receive credits that you put towards buying weapons, attachments, gadgets (which are like COD4's perks), and explosives. It's a nice little feature, and works better than just stealing the level progression system COD has.
Other than that, it's about the same as single player: You get to cover, you shoot while in cover, or you could blaze through and just spam your bullets into somebody's back while they're in cover. The game modes give a little variety every now and then, but you'll end up seeing players with a load of the same 5-6 weapons, despite there's dozens of weapons in the game. And while it's fun to play for a while, it tends to get tedious since there's not very many maps, a slight lack of variety in some aspects like player dialog, as well as having to accumulate large amounts of credits to buy the good items.
Is Quantum of Solace better than Goldeneye? Not really, but when you take off the rose-tinted nostalgia glasses, you realize that Goldeneye hasn't aged well. It's definitely up to par with most of EA's efforts, but does not pass 007: Nightfire as my favorite Bond game. James Bond fans will get a bit of fun out of this, but action game fans should wait for this to drop in price and pick up other games in the meantime. Let's hope that when James Bond returns that his next mission is better polished.