Emerging unscathed from blazing petroleum infernos, eviscerating storms of bullets and enough car wrecks to cause any stuntman to lose his colour, Bond was always going to be the man for the job as the world's welfare teetered on a knife edge. Cars, drinks, guns, girls and a host of unlikely and equally glamorous environments set the scene for yet another adventure for the notorious 007. Can he keep his cool?
Of course he can. Like an ice cube. The seemingly impermeable Bond, voiced by star of the movies, actor Daniel Craig, is back on top form as ever, whipping guns through the air as effortlessly as he might suavely sidle over to the bar to queue up his signature tipple. Bizzare have served up a veritable cocktail of satisfyingly crunchy hand-to-hand combat, fluid gunplay, arcade style car chases and impressive cinematic sequences which culminate in a package that caters to a great spectrum of the vast gaming demographic. There is something for everyone here, and that more than eclipses the miserably unconvincing voice acting of Joss Stone as the obligatory femme fatalé, Nicole Hunter.
The plot unfolds in classic Bond style, with the introduction of a romantic prospect early on and opening with enough gunfire to cater for the entirety of the Middle East and beyond. Bizzare have hardly shirked on the jetsetting lifestyle of everyone's favourite spy with levels set in Athens, Istanbul, Bangkok, Burma and the money-dripping Monaco, for a glimpse of the lavish high-life that every fan of the film series lusts after from the safety of their armchairs.
Clearly written with a finger on the pulse of modern global paranoia, Bond's mission orbits the prevention of the unleashing of an arbitrary bioweapon which threatens every corner of the world and, of course, through fortunate coincidence, casual sophistication and unlikely skill at bludgeoning adversaries with anything and everything that rests at arm's reach, it falls to Bond to save the day.
There's a substantial range of weapons on offer, though the catalogue pales in comparison with the big boy shooters whose arsenals form a list longer than my...well. Thankfully the full range of arms becomes more and more abundant as the game goes on, so there need be few worries about how to equip Bond. The title has followed the trend of third person shooters of recent years by necessitating a strategy based mainly on the cover system which is similar to that of aging online behemoth, the Gears of War series. This style of gameplay allows for a contrast of frantic bursts from cover, whereupon the player must blitz the countless enemies with every shard of metal they have, and relaxed cover-breaks where health can be regenerated and adrenalin recuperated ready for the next wave of attack. The blindfire system is realistically implemented, significantly reducing the accuracy of our favourite gun-toting spy, and the enemy AI is fairly ruthless, ready to punish the player for any mistakes, especially on the harder difficulties.
The voice acting is variable, as explored already. The frankly vintage Judi Dench puts in her pipes as 'M', MI6's mother superior and an aforementioned Craig leaves nothing to complain about. Some of the minor characters, including a cliché-riddled, seedy British nightclub owner, are suspisciously hollow, even to the point where one begins to question whether Bizzare has hidden some form of easter egg inside them.
The cliché can be forgiven, however. This is Bond after all. The poorer examples of voice acting also fade away in the strong presence of the key characters, leaving something that, while not quite a gleaming example of perfection, still represents a diamond in the rough, or a blood stone.
The graphics left a particular impression on me, specifically the environments. The levels are linear but this has been counterweighted with meticulous attention to detail in the textures and clutter, something which greatly enhances the ability of the player to be able to sink into the role of being Bond, which above everything, is probably the game's main selling point.
The difficulty gradient provides a large hill to climb for those gamers intent on squeezing the full complement of gamerscore out of this one, with the unlockable '007' level proving a test of dexterity as well as patience. At times it felt that the game had become a checkpoint trawl, much like the COD games on Veteran difficulty. The range of achievements is fairly varied which provides an inventory of gamerscore that will be unlocked largely passively, with only a few requiring commitment, mainly the online ones.
Surplus to the single player game is a comprehensive multiplayer mode which provides the standard range of match types on maps recognizable from the single player campaign. A pleasant departure from the run and gun tactics of the COD games which have become ever so popular, always dominating the XBL charts, Blood Stone has a far greater emphasis on stealth and therefore allows for a far more intelligent online experience. Subtlety, rather than recklessness becomes the quality of the top players.
An enjoyable romp across the world behind the eyes of a man with a penchant for destruction and a tendency towards his triggerfinger, Blood Stone will keep you entertained and excited as the brief story unfolds. The challenging difficulty options allow for a number of replays and the online modes provide endless value. This game won't die until the community does and, currently, said community is thriving. If you've always wanted to be Bond but your interest in the films has dwindled through disappointment, perhaps this game will offer a new venue where you might rekindle your love affair with all things spy.
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