Gamescom 2010: James Bond 007: Blood Stone Hands-On Preview - Shaken, Not Stirred
Written Saturday, August 28, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
James Bond in the video game sphere has had a tough time as of late. Sure, one of its original spawns, Goldeneye, is generally heralded as one of the classic shooters of its time, but since that, nothing of any real quality has made the same impact. In 2008, Treyarch got closer to former glories than many other developers have done before them, with the flawed, but ultimately decent, Quantum of Solace. Rather than give the American developer another crack at the whip, Activision handed development duties over to British developer, Bizarre Creations, as they look to not only create an authentic and original Bond experience, but also to put their driving know-how to the test. Ladies and gents, this is James Bond 007: Blood Stone.
With a completely new and original storyline, penned by famed Bond writer Bruce Feirstein, Blood Stone looks to highlight the man machine that is Daniel Craig, including not only is his voice and likeness, but the voices and likenesses of the stars that have recently shone in Bond’s comeback to the big screen... oh, and Joss Stone. Built specifically for the man himself, Blood Stone looks to take the strengths - and weaknesses - of Daniel Craig’s Bond character and really bring that through in a third-person action and driving game. Expect Omega watches, brutal takedowns, Aston Martins and off-the-cuff retorts. Oh Bond.
In the Gamescom 2010 demo, Bizarre intended to show off the duality of Blood Stone, not only giving us a brief glimpse of the more action-orientated third-person shooter antics, but also go hands-on with the more chaos-oriented driving scenes as well.
Picking up proceedings in Turkey, we follow the blue-eyed bombshell, Daniel Craig, as he wanders the streets of Istanbul, on the prowl for a British scientist – who no doubt is wanted for some connection to some sinister plans of global domination. His search takes him through the sparsely populated cobbled streets of Turkey’s biggest city, all the way through to a grimy construction yard where his search begins.
In typical Bond fashion, Mr Craig enters the construction yard after an amusing and overly sarcastic exchange with the guy on the gate. After being told to wear a hard hat – which incidentally, he nonchalantly throws away when he’s out of the gate keeper’s line of sight – he makes his way down the muddy path towards his objective.
The opening sequence of events is your typical Bond stuff – especially of Daniel Craig’s era anyway – and after entering the foreman’s office and scanning the computer with his smart phone, things go from bad to worse. Almost instantaneously, the cabin door gets locked shut and Bond finds himself being hoiked up into the air by a huge construction crane and seems destined for a trip into “the pit.”
One zip line escape later and Bond is on-foot, deep in enemy territory with nothing but a Walther PPK, a smart phone and his dry sense of humour. Instantly he dives into cover and silent yanks the nearest foe over the cover and puts an end to his life in a heartbeat. At this point, Neil Thompson, Bizarre's Art Director, points out that they're looking to reward players by playing like Craig’s Bond would, and with stealthy takedowns, players earn a “Focus Aim,” which is essentially a quick, one-shot kill (activated with the left bumper and right trigger in this build). Bizarre Creations obviously want to put the power of James Bond into your hands... wait, where have I heard that before?
While stealthing through the construction yard, taking down multiple foes silently, we got to see a wide range of brutal takedown moves that included Bond smashing their face on the floor and even snapping their neck with his two legs. Unfortunately the AI lacked a little something here, with nearly all of them standing by cover, literally screaming out to be silently killed.
Incidentally, you don’t have to stealth it through either, and seeing as Craig was a more brutal Bond than anything we've seen on the big screen before, walking in and kicking off is just as much a viable option for players.
What then followed was a sequence of brutal takedowns, as Craig flew over cover and smashed some guy in the chest, moments before a little platforming and solving a simplistic “puzzle” that required Bond shoot a chain on a container opposite him to get closer to his objective. While underneath the construction yard, Bond stumbles on his target – using the smart phone's GPS locator... I must get that new app! – only to find him slumped in a wheelbarrow in a puddle of the red stuff.
Moving swiftly on to his next lead, Bond sets off after Dr. Tedsworth, only to be greeted by a huge 50ft tunnel digger coming his way. In a fight-against-the-clock-platforming-section, Bond shimmies, jumps and climbs his way to safety, escaping moments before the huge tunnel digger flashes by.
The next sequence goes by as a bit of a blur and somehow Bond ends up on the streets of Istanbul in his DB5 – yes, Bond always seems to have an Aston Martin handy when he needs one... they’re obviously paying him too much. A quick chase through the local market stalls, the Istanbul traffic, lampposts and whatever got in his way, and the sequence ends with a scripted petrol station explosion – not cliché at all.
Our hands on with the driving section took us to around two thirds of the way through the game, to Siberia, where Bond and Miss Stone must chase after a speeding train in their Aston Martin DB9 – probably after some nuclear weapon that would be used in someone’s plan for global domination... Notice a pattern?
It’s ultimately a short, chaotic and relatively frustrating scene – you know, it’s one of those scenes that means that one mistake is punished by mission failure. From a handling perspective, it handles a little more heavily than Blur, more akin to Project Gotham to be truthful, but either way, it’s not long before you’re power drifting around corner, pretending to be Bond himself.
The scene itself is two-fold: the first half takes place on the streets of Siberia while you’re constantly being bombarded with explosions and pure scripted chaos that makes life extremely difficult for the player; and the second half is a race against nature as Bond races at break-neck speeds on a frozen river.
It’s a mission – especially the second half – that will be hugely frustrating for the player and more often than not you’ll be seeing the desaturated screen to signify that you suck. The snowy caverns and abandoned ship-wrecked liners aren’t the problem here, but the ice cold water potholes, and differentiating it from the ice you can actually drive on is more of a problem. Especially seeing as the gaping holes will just appear out of nowhere. With small jumps along the way, high speed corners and being pursued by a helicopter, it’s the stuff you’d expect in a Bond film, that’s for sure, but jumping the car on to a train to end the sequence? That’s more 2 Fast 2 Furious if you ask us.
Incidentally, Bizarre hinted that driving without using the brakes and constantly using the throttle would be an achievement on this level and after trying the level out multiple times, let me tell you now, that’s going to be tricky as hell!
Offering plenty of on-foot combat, cheeky one liners, Bizarre’s driving pedigree and the support of Danjac for the licensing, Blood Stone looks to be everything a Bond fan could ever wish for. For the rest of you though, you’ll have to wait and see whether the on-foot stuff can live up to the fast paced and generally quite tricky driving sequences that Bizarre have created. If you're looking for a multiplayer fix, Bizarre also promised us plenty options, with 16 player objective and team based MI6 vs. Mercs matches for all to check out.
James Bond Blood Stone is scheduled for a November 2010 release.