Who is James Bond? What does he look like? How can he be recognized?
Questions without answers. And that’s because Ian Fleming’s James Bond got dragged through every make-up parlor Hollywood could conceive throughout the years. Seven actors played him over twenty-two movies, sometimes converted to the exact opposite from the book character and swapping his personality, lines and abilities more often than Madonna’s reinventions in the 90s.
Let’s take his most recent incarnation as a prime example, one that envelops Blood Stone as well: a Bond without the obligatory dose of charm, infused with a visible tendency to blow stuff up. Truth be told, Fleming’s character was less refined and witty than Roger Moore, for instance, but Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace really turn the British assassin into a roid raging cartoon.
Is this good or bad? Well, it really depends on how much you fancy generic action flicks and how much you’re upset by some traditional elements being utterly absent, from ironic one-liners to a convincing antagonist. They really threw all the movie clichés that I could think of, but they don’t evolve, connect or lead towards a grander scheme, making Quantum of Solace – The Game seem not-so-inhumanly stupid anymore compared to the handful of hours I spent gunning down grunts I didn’t even know what the beef against them anyway.
You chase international terrorists around, bad guys who make 3-minute appearances at best and all you ever get to learn about their plan is that they like to blow stuff up, but there’s an astronomical difference between A View To A Kill’s Max Zorin and any of the episodic terrorists you blow away without too much hassle, systematically and accurately, throughout Blood Stone.
Actually, I’m having trouble presenting the storyline. It starts with the chase of a guy named Greco and goes through every imaginable villain cliché Hollywood could come up with: the whole array of Europeans, Russians, Asian, without even mentioning the horrendously-predictable final boss. The flirts, once cascades of innuendos, were turned into campy mush, but let’s just admit that Daniel Craig’s backpack has a lot of useful stuff to blow stuff up and distract your disappointed conscience.
Worry not, however, because we actually have a Bond Girl. To be more exact, a virtual rendering modeled after Joss Stone, the soul singer, who sighs in disappointment as Bond doesn’t grant her cleavage any sort of appreciation, since he’s busy saving the world. Or something. Which makes you forget how impossibly silly the lines get. Then again, I always found Daniel Craig’s James Blonde lacking in conviction and wits when talking to the more delicate gender.
Just as the recent movies, Blood has a somewhat more solid action environment: mechanics borrowed from Uncharted and brought to your friendly neighborhood PC for the first time… since Splinter Cell: Conviction. So we have an otherwise well-implemented cover system, sneaking segments (during which the game rewards melee takedowns with instant headshot aiming) and a dumb-as-a-stick AI which ensures your constant, relaxed progress through the generic backgrounds.
I must admit though that certain sequences can cause adrenaline rushes that make you forget about the predictable patterns and lack of aggressiveness on behalf of the terrorists you mow down. Chases, a couple of ambushes – incomparably easier than the grenade parade that defined Uncharted’s encounters, even making you sweat a little on the higher levels of difficulty.
More volatile and dynamic – but also dumber through rigid physics and mandatory routes – some levels have you drive cars in pretty chaotic contexts. The control is reminiscent of the space shuttle racing depicted in Need for Speed II: there is absolutely no object mass or inertia and the tracks are built much like roller coasters under bombardment.
Considering that it’s a secondary trait, I didn’t expect a convincing car simulator, but it’s pretty frustrating to get crushed not because of some piloting error (which are otherwise more or less impossible to attain), but rather by some crane/bomb/rocket hitting a scripted location at a scripted time. Thus, what would have been otherwise a decent reflex and reaction test turns into a trial-and-error series of exercises in which the only redeeming aspect is the speed and imminent danger present.
And since all the elements that set Conviction apart from Gears of War were imported, the see-your-enemies-through the walls aspect is introduced via the cell phone in your inventory. Although the last movies omitted Q’s arsenal, Blood Stone arms Craig with a tool befitting someone whose headcount tops the Holocaust. A cell phone that would be considered a flat-out cheat if you asked me four years ago.
Computer decrypting and the manipulation of any kind of electronics also employ this tool, as does the objective pointer in the military bases you visit. Generally speaking, they look decent and on rare occasions even outstanding, but aesthetics don’t make up for monotony. It’s a continuous duel in which you’re always behind an unbreakable object, as the maps don’t allow much flanking or sticky situations.