So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
James Bond 007: Bloodstone
James Bond 007: Bloodstone for XBox 360, PS3, PC and Nintendo DS features some impressively detailed environments but suffers from repetitive gameplay
- There are moments, however rare, when the game's third-person cover based action is actually fun.
- There are far more moments when the game’s third-person cover based action is not so fun; the driving segments are rather bad; the game plot isn't worth investing it
Bloodstone is a hard title to figure out, at least from a business perspective. It's not tied into a recently released James Bond movie, it's coming out just as the holiday shopping crush is set to start, and it's not only competing with the Goldeneye remake but yet another Activision title, Call of Duty: Black Ops. Even if the game was terrific, it would have a hard time finding an audience under those circumstances, so the fact that it's bad just ruins any chance it had.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
What's most bizarre about Bloodstone is that it was developed by Bizarre Creations, a developer best known for its Project Gotham Racing series and the recently released Blur (not to mention the addictive Geometry Wars). You'd think with that pedigree, Bloodstone would feature solid driving segments, but not only is the majority of the game focused on third-person cover-based shooting, the few vehicle based segments are mediocre at best. They're all chase segments where you hop into a car and go after a target; very obviously staged explosions and near miss collisions add some thrills to the mix, but the repetitive missions require memorisation and frequent attempts to conquer. Nowhere does skill come into the mix--worse still, the cars all handle like their tires are coated in melted butter, and the collision detection is absolute crap. I've failed more than a few driving missions because I clipped something with my front fender and wound up in a 180-degree slide that left me facing the wrong way.
The third-person cover based shooting segments fare far better, but I mean that in relative terms to the driving segments. It's not nearly as polished as a Gears of War or an Uncharted, but to be fair, the game does feature some impressively detailed environments, and there were moments, however rare, when I found myself actually having fun. Unfortunately, the majority of the game is repetitive and rote--you take cover behind an object, kill some foes, and repeat that about two hundred times--but stealth based melee kills and a one-shot kill mechanic called 'Focus Aim' do what they can to break up the monotony. In an odd turn, James carries around a smartphone that acts as a Swiss Army knife, showing you objectives, letting you hack doors, and pinpointing enemies in the environment, which basically ruins the difficulty. Not that the game is that challenging to begin with--braindead enemies who rely on the same side-stepping juke move to avoid your bullets makes the game a breeze, and any sense of challenge comes from overwhelming numbers rather than intelligent enemy behaviour.
The game's plot is nothing to write home about either, involving bio weapons and global political intrigue; it's fluffy and over the top, and it's a typical James Bond plot line (if that sounds like a backhanded compliment, that's because it is). Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench turn in solid voice performances, but even their starpower isn't enough to make you care about what's going on. There's also a multiplayer mode that I didn't get to try, but honestly, I'm not sure enough people will invest in the game to ensure a healthy community; besides, if you're going to play a multiplayer Bond game, you're probably better off investing in Goldeneye Wii, and Xbox 360 and PS3 owners will probably be too preoccupied by Black Ops to care about anything else for the next few months.
Again, this is why I find Bloodstone so confusing: Trying to release an original Bond title that isn't tied into a big budget motion picture is risky on its own, but releasing it the same day as the remake of one of the most beloved Bond games of all time, with what will no doubt be the biggest selling game of the year in Black Ops waiting in the wings, seems like an odd business decision. If we were in the dead time of year when high profile titles are few and far between, then I could understand the logic behind it, but releasing a mediocre game during the start of the holiday shopping crush and expecting it to succeed—well, let's just say you'd have an easier time squeezing...ah, forget it, obvious pun is too obvious.
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