Under-the-Radar – 007: Blood Stone Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
In a world of lackluster James Bond games, it’s no wonder this one has gone unnoticed. Ever since the revolution that was Goldeneye 64, titles have devolved into what we can expect from 99% of movie games: rubbish. Enter 007: Blood Stone, a game with an eye focused on changing the downward trend set by its predecessors. The latest (and one of the greatest) outing for the classy secret agent is an action packed, authentic step in the right direction.
The story of Blood Stone is spot-on for the 007 universe – a bio-engineer working on a secret project for the UK government has gone missing along with all his work and secrets. This being a matter of the utmost importance, M sends MI6’s best man: James Bond, a.k.a. 007. From here, he sets out on a quest to find out what happened to the scientist and eventually stop those responsible. Players can expect many traditional Bond aspects: fast cars, shiny guns, plot revelations, vodka martinis, a visually striking musical intro, and mountains of well-crafted action sequences. Blood Stone’s story is a bona fide Bond experience, worthy of sitting beside a fan’s collections of films.
To help augment the story is some pretty solid gameplay. Blood Stone plays as a third-person shooter, with some elements of stealth and driving. Right off the bat, the game introduces the cover system, which is similar to that of Gears of War. Players can enter a “Cover Mode” of sorts, keeping their back to any waist-high object or wall. These set pieces can be jumped between, rounded to change sides, and vaulted – all to help players sneak up on enemies and avoid fire.
Sometimes, stealth just isn’t an option and you’ll have to engage your foes in a firefight. Aside from simply shooting at enemies, players have a couple of options to help make sure they come out alive. Should an opponent be within arm’s reach, a takedown is possible. These brutal, animated, melee attacks will indefinitely incapacitate an individual, allowing you to save some ammo while looking like a total badass. These attacks also serve another purpose: each takedown earns a Focus Shot token, of which a total of three can be obtained. These symbols allow Bond to slow time, lock onto a target, and take a single, guaranteed kill shot, similar to the Mark and Execute system from Splinter Cell: Conviction. Action-wise, Blood Stone is an excellent and fun shooter that will be enjoyed regardless of whether or not you’re a 007 fan.
At any point in time, should a player get lost, they can whip out Bond’s smartphone. The tricked-out Windows 7 Phone shows the gamer not only the location of the next objective, but waypoints to get there, where each enemy is, their alert status, the style of weapon they carry, and explosive objects – it can even hack certain devices. This invaluable tool shows that the Q Branch is starting to come into play in the modern 007 universe and is a welcome addition to Bond’s arsenal.
In contrast to the great shooter gameplay is the driving sequences. Many missions contain some sort of vehicle-oriented scene, be it racing a speedboat through the waters of Athens or driving an Aston Martin down a frozen Russian river. These mad dashes are fun and adrenaline packed, but are devilishly unforgiving. Due to the high-speed nature of a chase, if you hit one vehicle, you’re trashed and must start again from the nearest checkpoint. Players need to drive perfectly, lest they spin out and crash. A forward-fixed camera also restricts players, blocking them from getting a better sight on obstacles. Everything seems engineered to make it as difficult to succeed as possible, ruining all immersion into the game upon failure and wreaking the 007 experience. Should you actually be a perfect driver, the scenes can be a riot, but those instances are too few.
While driving may be a chore, you can at least look great doing it, as Blood Stone sports very good graphics and animation. From the smooth crafting of 007’s violent takedowns to the pop-free textures of each environment, this game has been beautifully developed. To tie the bow on the tuxedo is the fact that both Daniel Craig and Judy Dench have given their likeness and voice for their respective characters, firmly planting the seal of authenticity on this Bond title’s visuals.
Something players will notice, though, is the facial expressions, or rather the lack thereof. Each character seems to keep the same expression, with only their eyebrows shifting slightly. Mouths move simply up and down, almost like nutcrackers, with very little dubbing accuracy. Not every game can have the expression quality of L.A. Noire, but I’d expect someone to at least flinch in pain when receiving a fist to the face.
To match the beautiful graphics is the impressive audio. Upon hearing the real-world accuracy of the roar of your car’s engine, the shots from your guns, and the boom of each explosion, you feel like you’re in Bond’s shoes fighting for queen and country. Both Craig and Dench also deliver wonderful performances, on par with their silver screen work. Each piece of audio is delivered fromRussiawith love, and I have no complaints whatsoever.
Blood Stone also features an online multiplayer component in the form of three different game modes: Deathmatch, Last Man Standing and Objective. In Deathmatch, two teams face off in a full-out brawl to reach 40 kills, or have the most kills before ten minutes are up. Last Man Standing is similar to Deathmatch, except when a player dies, they don’t respawn. When there is only one player left, they’re declared last man standing and another round starts. The team with the most points at the end of ten minutes wins. Objective takes a more, well, objective approach and is very similar to Battlefield’s Rush game mode – one team takes the role of attacker while the other defends. The attacking team must complete certain goals, such as laser designation of an obstacle for an air strike or programming a missile to attack a target, and the defenders must stop them; whichever team is successful takes the match.
Players may choose a weapon from each of the five categories: pistol, shotgun, SMG, assault rifle, and sniper rifle. The guns they pick will be used in game, and each one has its own balanced stats so there are no overpowered arms. A preferred side may also be selected, be it MI6 or Mercenaries, along with a preferred character for each team. The multiplayer is pretty fun, if not a little cliché, but the online community is touch and go; some days it’s bustling, others it’s dead. While these modes are a nice addition to the game, the campaign is where players will spend most of their time.
From beginning to end, 007: Blood Stone is like living through a James Bond film, with authentic story, visuals, sounds, and actors. As a fan of the movies, this game is not only welcome beside my DVDs, but it also shows that games based on the secret agent can, in fact, be good. It might not be perfect, as shown by super-difficult driving scenes and some bad facial work, but it’s still a wonderful experience. Since Bizarre Creations has been shut down, I hope a developer can pick up where they left off, as it would be a shame for this version of Bond to die so young. After all, you only die twice!
Final Score: 4.75 / 5.0 and a Golden Gun!
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