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Review | 007: Blood Stone

Developer – Bizarre Creations
Publisher – Activision
Available On – Xbox 360 / Playstation 3
Reviewed On – Xbox 360

Two James Bond games hit the shelves this week, and rather unusually it’s the Wii exclusive one that’s got everyone excited. The other is this, Blood Stone. Bizarre Creations, the house that Project Gotham racing and Geometry Wars built’s first stab at crafting an action game since 2008’s super weird yet highly underrated The Club. How is it? Well pretty damn ‘meh’ unfortunately.

The story begins with Bond and M in Athens attempting to stop a terrorist from blowing up the G20 summit and from there rapidly devolves into a muddled and somewhat vague plot about anthrax antidotes or some-such. It becomes abundantly clear very quickly that story is not one of Bizarre’s strengths, and having never really attempted to inject a game with serious story before I suppose would be why.

Played Spinter Cell? Gears of War? Batman: Arkham Asylum? Any driving game ever? You’ve played every gameplay element that Blood Stone apes then but executed far better. For most of the 6ish hour time you’ll spend in the main adventure you’ll be slipping in and out of cover in third person blasting legions of fairly dim-witted generic goons. This is all fine enough but thanks to the VERY generous auto-aim system it all completely and utterly lacks challenge.

Occasionally you’ll be thrown a sequence where a stealthy approach is suggested but not mandatory and these bits are for the most part pretty enjoyably Bond-ian. Unfortunately though even these bits of the game are greatly let down by a massively uninspired sneak mechanic that just boils down to the tried and true formula of monitoring the guards very basic patrol patterns then slipping in and breaking all their necks. It’s enjoyable enough to do but in a world of Splinter Cell’s and Metal Gear’s it’s a bit pathetically bland.

Speaking of Splinter Cell, Blood Stone also copies Conviction’s target-painting quick-kill system but does it fair less stylishly and usefully. Each melee takedown you execute will earn you a ‘focus kill’ which can be used to instantly target and kill an enemy with one shot. Unfortunately the aforementioned overly generous auto-aim system makes it pretty useless though.

It’s made abundantly clear throughout the campaign also that where Bizarre’s real passion lays is in driving games as it throws you in to car chase sequences a LOT. These segments provide the biggest thrills of the game, or at least they would if they weren’t made hair-tearingly frustrating. Think floaty controls married with far too many dust and fire effects thrown at you for you to be even able to see where to steer anyway plus extremely linear courses that feel like the designers were mostly inspired by the Rainbow Road tracks in the Mario Kart franchise. Lots of bastard hard sharp turns and sections with no walls where you can drive in to water and die. Blech.

Visually the game is below par. The third person action that makes up the majority of the experience is for the most part pretty drab and the animation isn’t anything too crash hot either. Driving sequences do look noticeably better but again, they throw so damn many special effects at you during these bits that it’s hard to really see anyway. The character models of stars Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench and American singer-songwriter Joss Stone are all stiff, rubbery and lifeless, helped little by their unenthusiastic voice performances.

The game features online multiplayer which just screams so abundantly of being tacked-on just to satisfy the publisher’s desire for that bullet-point on the back of the box that it’s really not even worth mentioning in any great detail. Standard deathmatch, team deathmatch yadda yadda blah blah blah…

Very little about the game feels truly James Bondish. In fact if all the enemies were replaced with space marines or Nazi’s the experience wouldn’t be any noticeably different. There’s no gadgetry to speak of apart from the smart phone which functions precisely like Arkham Asylum’s detective vision but executed with far less visual flair. I know the recent Bond movies have intentionally strayed away from gadgets but still, even a lock-pick or camera or something would have been nice. Just SOMETHING to make me feel like a spy. There’s no one single iconic bad guy or even really a Bond girl to speak of, beyond Joss Stone’s laughably under-developed character. The musical score is pretty generic and un-Bondly and the opening song performed by Miss Stone is entirely forgettable.

Blood Stone isn’t bad. In my opinion it’s worse than that, it’s just exceptionally bland. At least if a game sucks you can work up some level of passion in hating on it, whereas an experience as utterly vanilla as this just washes over you without leaving any lasting fire whatsoever. If you’re looking to spend time with England’s finest spy then go and dust off your Wii instead.

007: Blood Stone

55%

The Good

– There’s a couple of kinda cool-ish foot chance sequences and one pretty cool but really short boat chase.

The Bad

– Just about everything else.

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