More Than the Sum of its Parts - Review by Kim Fidler
It's not every day that a game you expected to be horrible, turns out to be pretty good. I will admit that my expectations for Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy were pretty low, and maybe that's why I had such a great time with it. High Moon Studios has proven that it is possible to make a video game based off of a movie that is not only decent, but better than many of the other titles sitting on store shelves. While it's not perfect, it does show what kind of product can be released when a developer is not rushed to coincide with a film's release.
The Bourne Conspiracy follows the events of the first film, and many of Bourne's missions leading up to it. That basically means that if you haven't watched the first movie but would like to watch it sometime in the near future, you might want to steer clear of The Bourne Conspiracy for now. While the narrative isn't as tight and polished as in the film version, it does serve its purpose. You see the character of Bourne go from a brainwashed government weapon, to an actual human being, fighting for answers of his past. It doesn't take on the deep meaning that it does in the books or films, but it does relay it pretty well for a video game.
What many fans of the films will love is how The Bourne Conspiracy takes you into Jason's past and gives you a first-hand look at some of his early missions. The assassination attempt on Wombasi is probably the best in terms of connecting the movie to the game, and thankfully it still includes the scene where Bourne realizes that he may just be human. Along with all of the flashbacks you'll get a chance to play through many of the scenes from The Bourne Identity. The fight with Castel in Bourne's apartment is probably the stand out and looks just as amazingly frenetic as it did in the film. While they could have spent a little more time on the narrative for newcomers to the series, as a supplement it should more than satisfy anyone's need to know more about Jason Bourne's past.
The basic game play elements utilized in The Bourne Conspiracy are that of a brawler with built-in Real Time Events. Bourne can utilize a fair number of attacks while in combat, but they all revolve around the basics of a light and heavy attack. Light attacks are quick but don't do as much damage, while heavy attacks are a little slower but cause more damage. With each and every successful attack, Bourne's Adrenaline meter will build-up to a total of three levels. Each level allows you to perform a takedown which will trigger a quick cut-scene where Jason attacks the enemy with whatever happens to be near them at that time. At times you'll be out in the open and he will merely pummel them with punches and kicks, but ultimately it isn't as exciting compared to when you're near an item of interest. Items glow yellow when you're in battle and if you lure the enemy near one and activate a takedown, Bourne will deliver a devastating blow to them with whatever item it happens to be. My personal favorite would have to be when he used a book to knock an attacker out cold. A book!
While the premise of an old school brawler sounds promising it doesn't translate as well as it could have. At times it feels as though you're just going through the motions of the fighting engine, and that there really isn't a way for the enemy to defeat you. There were boss fights where I just held down the block button and waited for the enemy to make a move. When they did and were blocked from doing any damage, I simply retaliated. There is no way for an enemy to break your block except with a takedown of their own, and even that is easily shrugged off with the push of a button within a real-time event. A little more variety in terms of the moves would have also been nice, as it seems that I could get away with using the same combo over and over. Of course, Part of the blame could be put on myself for being unoriginal - but when you find a combo string that is 99% successful, you tend to use it.
When you're not fighting with your fists in The Bourne Conspiracy, you're fighting with yours guns. Sadly, fighting with guns isn't really all that fun, and tends to pale in comparison to the over the top hand to hand combat. Bourne follows the one pistol, one heavy weapon formula, which is actually pretty realistic - except for the fact that you can be just as lethal with a handgun as you can with an assault rifle. The game has a strange mechanic that almost makes it impossible not to get a head-shot on an adversary. Anything aimed above the waist seems to register as a head-shot on the counter, and it allows you to tear through enemies with ease. Where the frustration of Bourne's gunplay really kicks in, is when you don't know where the shots are coming from. In other games there tends to be an indicator that lets you know where the enemy is situated but here you basically have to spin around until you find an enemy poking his head out from behind a wall. This brings me to my next point, the enemy AI.
I've played many games where the enemies have very dynamic AI. They adapt to what you do, flank you if they can, and use whatever they have accessible to take you out. In The Bourne Conspiracy, the enemies do one of two things - shoot at you or fight you. It does fit the quick pace of the game, but more often than not, you'll be treated to a veritable shooting gallery of soldiers standing right out in the open. I think it has much to do with the clipping within the levels, and the attackers inability to gain a line of sight on you. For example, on the last boss I literally stood out in the open and shot him in the head for a good thirty seconds while he simply crouched and looked at me. It was a pretty easy win, but it felt a little cheap when you consider that he was the last boss in the game.
Now it may sound like I really didn't like The Bourne Conspiracy by the way I'm bashing it, but that couldn't be more untrue. It's very hard to explain, but even with all of its faults it still comes out being a genuinely enjoyable experience. Clocking in at around 8 hours from start to finish, it hits that sweet spot that many action games aim for. The spot where the game is still at the point where it's fun without being repetitive, and short enough to complete after a few sit downs. I have already recommended it to many of my friends who can't make the same time commitment as I do to games, based on the fact that I know it's a solid single player experience that they'd be able to play from start to finish.
For the more hard-core players, High Moon Studios included some extras to keep you coming back for more. The achievements are set up in the way that they are actually tracked and progress can be viewed by simply hitting the start button. I will admit that I'm an Achievement Connoisseur, and The Bourne Conspiracy has set them up in a way that I'll definitely be playing the game again. Along with the solid stable of achievements, there are some in-game rewards that you'll be given on completion of your first play-through and with the collecting of passports. There are 5 passports on every stage and as you collect them you will gain unlockables that are accessible from the main menu. It's nothing really too great but it will give you something to do if you ever want to give the game a couple play-throughs in the future.
While the game is far from perfect, I have no problem recommending it to anyone who wants a brief 8 hour distraction. It's one of those titles that makes a perfect "filler" game that fits snugly between many of the bigger releases and doesn't require all that much of the player. Along with giving fans of the movies a little more story depth, you'd be hard pressed to not give the game a chance. The only thing that I find somewhat off-putting at the moment is that the game is $60. Taking into consideration that the visuals are amazing, the sound quality is top tier, and the production values are very high. I still don't think I could warrant a purchase of The Bourne Conspiracy at its initial retail price. As a rental or after a price drop, I would have no issue with it. It really is a game that surprised me with how much fun I actually had with it, and impressed me with how high they set the bar for all future movie tie-in games.