How many car chases can you fit into one James Bond adventure? If you're respected driving game developer Bizarre Creations, the answer lies somewhere in the neighborhood of "a whole hell of a lot." While the developer's all-new Bond tale is primarily a stiff, basic third-person shooter, the action is peppered with just enough driving sequences to remind you that the developers are really good at making that sort of thing, when they aren't attempting to cram their Blur and Project Gotham Racing experience into a game that doesn't necessarily benefit from that sort of thing. The end result is that Bond's adventure has some nice-looking moments, but feels largely uninspired and dead simple.
With the Bond movie franchise completely sideways at the moment, there's no new film for the developers to draw from. That hasn't stopped Bizarre or Activision, which have instead taken Daniel Craig and Judi Dench and slapped them into an all-new story with singer, Joss Stone, who is as close as 007: Blood Stone gets to a "Bond girl." While you'll get a couple of the characters and actors you'd expect from a Bond experience, a lot of the line delivery is flat, and the story, which has 007 on the hunt for missing research, which leads to potentially weaponized anthrax, which leads to a lot of car chases and occasional explosions... by the end of the game, I had already forgotten why I was even there.
Blood Stone plays like your standard post-Gears cover-based third-person shooter. You can stick to walls, pop out over them to take shots, or blind fire in the general direction of your enemies. You can also execute enemies with up-close melee attacks, which gives you a focus shot. You can store up to three of these, and they operate a bit like the "mark and execute" system from Splinter Cell: Conviction. If you hold down the focus button, you'll automatically aim at an enemy's head, and one shot will take him out. If you have multiple instances stored up, you can chain all three of them together to quickly empty an area of enemies. But the focus system isn't really vital to Blood Stone, because the basic shooting is almost as easy. The game will snap your reticle to your target when you aim, and if you feather the zooming aim button while popping off shots, you'll rarely miss shots, even if the enemies are specks on the far side of a long level and you're firing a silenced pistol. On one hand, it makes sense that a guy like James Bond would be so raw that he can waste guards from such a distance. On the other, it doesn't make for a very challenging game. Blood Stone offers four difficulty settings (one of which is locked until you complete the game once), and you'll need to play one of the higher settings to reduce the amount of auto-aim. But since this also makes Bond less resilient, the net result of setting it to Agent or higher is a slower-paced game that drags on too much.
Like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Blood Stone has an alternate vision mode that shows you your next waypoint, scannable intel items, and the location and current status of any nearby enemies. Seeing your enemies through walls and knowing if they're alert or not is a key piece of info that makes it worth keeping this vision mode on almost all the time. The catch is that the screen gets a layer of static over it when you're in this mode, which can be a little annoying. Also, the in-game conceit for this ability is Bond's cell phone, so whenever you have it enabled, Bond holds his gun in one hand and lazily gazes at his cell phone in the other. It's like he's checking into Foursquare or staring at his Twitter feed in the middle of a firefight or something. It's hardly game-breaking, but it's definitely goofy.
After every couple of areas, the story will call for a car chase. So Bond will hop behind the wheel of some licensed super car and drive along a set track in pursuit of some thug. The whole thing feels really scripted, like you can't actually end the car chase early if you happen to be a great driver. If you fall too far behind, though, the target will get away or, in one case, you'll get shot up by a helicopter that's chasing you. Either way, it's back to the last checkpoint. The driving sequences look great, and there's an awesome sense of speed. But you really feel like you're just making your way up a set track until the game decides that you've driven far enough, at which point it goes into a cutscene that ends the chase.
Aside from the game's solo story mode, there's also a multiplayer component, where you're broken up into two groups (red and blue) and play team deathmatch, a last-man-standing TDM variant, and an objective option, where one team attempts to take over three control points while the other tries to stop them. All of this is set against the same basic third-person action found in the campaign. The map design is a little drab and, overall, the whole mode feels a bit unnecessary.
Blood Stone isn't bad, but literally every single thing you can find here has been done better elsewhere. Considering there's no shortage of other third-person shooters out there, it's tough to recommend Bond's newest adventure for anything beyond a rental.