While the remake of GoldenEye has been capturing most of the public's attention, Activision has another Bond adventure on tap for HD consoles. Read on for impressions of 007 Blood Stone, the action-shooter in the works from the Project Gotham Racing team.
What we're talking about: 007 Blood Stone
Where we saw it: At a private preview event held by Activision
What you need to know:
* Blood Stone 007 is a brand-new, completely original entry into the James Bond media franchise developed by one of Activision's newer studio acquisitions, Bizarre Creations. Blood Stone is their second title for Activision - their previous release was the well-received Blur. While Bizarre is best known for their driving games such as Project Gotham Racing, they have also made a few fun shooters in the form of Geometry Wars and The Club.
* In order to suit the well-established entertainment pedigree of the 007 name, big-screen talent has been brought in to make the game into an authentic Bond experience. Blood Stone 007 features a script by famed Bond screenplay scribe Bruce Fierstein. The game also features the voice talents and likenesses of several famous faces, including Daniel Craig as 007, Dame Judi Dench as M, and musician Joss Stone as Nicole Hunter. The game even includes an all-new introductory credits sequence and theme song, laden with trippy, colored imagery and sexy silhouettes.
* Keeping with Bond tradition, Blood Stone starts with an unrelated -- though no less exciting -- introduction that shows off the game's mechanics. Bond parachutes onto the yacht of a terrorist determined to detonate a bomb at a summit going on in Greece, and must get past the mastermind's henchmen in order to face off with him.
* The majority of the game is presented as a third-person adventure. The game features some platforming and puzzle-solving elements, but for the most part the emphasis is on stealthy (though certainly not subtle) infiltration and combat. Bond's most prominent abilities in this title are his stealth takedowns and "Focus Shots." While you can still approach enemies head-on for a melee slug-fest or go brazenly into a room with a loaded pistol, it might result in you being quickly overwhelmed. Stealth takedowns allow Bond to sneak up on foes and take them out with bone-crunching finesse, while Focus Shots unleash pinpoint-accuracy, quick-fire takedowns that will surprise even the most alert of enemies. Focus Shots are limited in use, but Bond will replenish his ability to utilize them whenever he performs a stealth takedown -- making mixing up attacks a priority. Bond also has use of a smartphone that can display targets, enemy details, and (at certain points) assorted mission-relevant information and dossiers.
* The demo session also showed off the game's numerous chase sequences. I soon had to pursue the bombing mastermind on a small speeder boat, and later culminated in a chase sequence in Bond's famous Aston Martin DB5. Bond was assaulted by enemies throughout these chase sequences -- and for the most part, he was severely outgunned, be it by vehicles filled with henchmen literally riding shotgun or by pursuing helicopters with very heavy weaponry. Bond not only had to close the distance between himself and the target he was chasing (fall too far back and it's Game Over), but use his almost supernatural ability to get out of the stickiest situations to avoid deadly enemy attacks.
Point in development cycle: The game is near-final, as it's due to release on November 2nd.
My take: One thing is obvious: Bizarre Creations sure know how create awesome gameplay involving vehicles. The chase sequences in 007 Blood Stone are exceptionally fun and exciting. These scenes aren't quite as frequent as the on-foot third-person action sequences, which involve stealth, gunplay, careful use of melee strikes, and even some puzzle-solving. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- the mix of changing gameplay elements kept me on my toes and eager to see what came next. Besides the opening missions, we also saw a few other areas in the game -- including a spectacular white-knuckle train chase over a frozen Siberian lake that showcased the game's fabulously detailed environments. That sequence was particularly mind-blowing.
The one thing I found rather disappointing about the game were the rather lackluster character models, but besides that, Blood Stone looks to have everything you'd possibly want with the 007 license attached to it. Since MGM's financial woes have put future 007 films on hiatus, Blood Stone looks like it may be the perfect fix for any Bond buff looking for a completely new experience.