Impressions: James Bond 007: Blood Stone

While most view GoldenEye 64 as the pinnacle of Bond gaming, there’s another that’s near and dear to my heart, and it is 007: Everything or Nothing. I’m not sure exactly why I’m so partial to that excursion. Perhaps it’s the fact that it was one of the first games I played and completed on my slim PlayStation 2. Maybe I was giddy over another decent Bond adventure starring Pierce Brosnan. Whatever the reason, I played that game to death, and haven’t enjoyed a Bond offering as much ever since. Quantum of Solace was playable, if bland, and I’m sorry to say that James Bond 007: Blood Stone seems to be following in its footsteps. Is this due to the fact that Daniel Craig’s no-nonsense, shoot first and ask questions later-style is too permeating or is it because the game tends to hold your hand almost the entire way through?

Blood Stone is classic Bond, through and through. From the beginning scenes, to the glitzy diamonds-and-Joss-Stone-infused opening “I’ll Take It All”, to the seemingly random manner in which the story unfolds. It’s clear you’re after a weapons dealer, but why do you suddenly change targets over and over? Who are you even chasing anymore? It’s a puzzle I didn’t care to piece together, not until halfway through the game, where things begin to come together in a much more palpable manner. Even though this clarity doesn’t last too long, it at least gives you a reason to press on when the gameplay quickly dulls.

And it will. Since this is a Bond game, you might be wondering where all the handy dandy gadgets are. Sorry to disappoint, but all he’s packing for now is a smartphone and an arsenal of weapons, none of which are as useful as simply hitting “X” to melee the poor sods standing in your way. For this reason the experience is already quite dulled – what is Bond without his indispensable remote-controlled spiders or lasers and all of his goodies? The answer? He’s tough, but pretty darn boring.

It’s faster to run up to enemies, hit X to melee, then rush to the next nameless baddie to finish the job. It racks up kills, it gets you an eventual achievement, and it’s much more satisfying to watch Bond manhandle some ne’er-do-wells than to stop-and-pop with one of the many guns lying scattered about. Shots don’t offer that satisfying “thud” felt in most shooters, even with the addition of Focus Aim, which is earned from said melee kills. You can hold onto three at a time, and when executed, you’re granted an instant kill. You can use all three at a time, making short work of henchmen whose sole purpose is to ensure you don’t reach your objective. Both tactics keep the game overly simplified, as if there weren’t enough of that already.

Bond’s smartphone can be used both to aid in figuring out the way you need to go, finding intel, opening doors, hacking computers, etc. It’s a catch-all tool that’s functional enough, but as I mentioned before, where are the gadgets beyond this do-everything magical phone? I can have a lot of that in real life. Let me live in my fantasy land with Bond whatchamabobs and doohickeys, please. The phone works well enough and can be helpful enough, though cannot be used when shooting, climbing a ladder, or performing other actions simultaneously, thus becoming a tired gimmick sooner than later

Thankfully, Blood Stone isn’t all cover-based third-person shootouts. There are a fair bit of car chases, boat segments, and other vehicles to take control of and break the monotony. And I found these to be some of the most explosive and enjoyable parts of the game, likely much to Bizarre Creations’ chagrin. Thankfully most mission includes a variety on one of these, and I happily gave my all, eager to get away from the dull and uninspired shootouts that offered little more than bland action I could get elsewhere, Bond or not. It’s just so bland.

Livening up the game a bit aside from the numerous vehicular combat/chase scenes is the excellent voice acting. Dame Judy Dench once again reprises her role as “M” and is a comforting presence and Daniel Craig is appropriately gruff, although I still miss the charm of Brosnan or even Connery. Joss Stone performs the opening number “I’ll Take It All” with gusto, and is one of the game’s few highlights. And Blood Stone does sport some decent visuals, even if some of the various cut-scenes are a bit reminiscent (but higher res) of PlayStation 2 character models.

It’s hard to recommend James Bond 007: Blood Stone over the recent GoldenEye 007 revival or even its predecessor from Treyarch, Quantum of Solace. It’s a sleepy, uninspired ride that’s over soon after it begins, and even the addition of a full multiplayer modes doesn’t quite freshen up. Considering developer Bizarre Creations’ track record and the potential inherent with the James Bond license, I was expecting more. But attempting to squeeze a full-featured, challenging Bond game out of this release is like, well, trying to get blood out of a stone. It’s probably best to save your cash for Activision’s reimagining of GoldenEye for the Wii, as this one is merely stirred, not shaken.

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