James Bond 007: Blood Stone breaks free of the “licensed game” curse, crafting an above-average game based on an existing property; however, the game struggles to push beyond this point to give gamers something they haven’t seen before. While Wii and DS owners are being treated to a re-imagining of one of the most beloved console shooters of all time in GoldenEye 007, Xbox 360 and PS3-owning Bond fans have to make do with a consolation prize in the form of a third-person shooter from Project Gotham Racing makers, Bizarre Creations. And as far as consolation prizes go, this is about as comforting as an open-mouthed kiss from Dame Judi Dench.
Blood Stone is a fusion of a few different key gameplay elements. First off, it’s a 3rd person cover-based shooter. There is a variety of weapons at bonds disposal, most of which are utterly common in any 3rd-person shooter. Blood Stone is developed in a fashion where it doesn’t really matter what weapon you have in your hands, each can be just as effective as another depending on how you use it. Taking cues from Splinter Cell Conviction, Bond has a “Focus Aim” special, with a max of 3 available at a time, gained by using a takedown on an enemy. Once you have a Focus Aim, you can eviscerate any enemy within sight, with a click of the trigger, as Bond instantly targets the dome of a terrorist and lays them out in slow-motion.
Taking-down an enemy and quickly snapping to another target is always a satisfying motion, even throughout the heavily repetitious fire fights. This keys into how Blood Stone is meant to be played. Players are intended to play through the shootouts as fast as possible, using Bond’s available arsenal and attacks. It feels akin to The Club in this manner, but if you choose to take Blood Stone at a less-than-brisk manner, you’ll be severely disappointed. So for those that choose to de3lve into Blood Stone, know this, the game is meant to be played through as fast as humanly possible. This idea is only complimented by the ridiculous driving missions, each of which feels faster than the previous. Bizarre has largely been working on driving games such as Project Gotham Racing, so it would only make sense that the driving segments in Blood Stone are outstanding. This is sadly not the case, as every driving sequence in the game is heavily scripted, with little to no leeway in how they play out.
For the sake of comparison, James Bond 007: Blood Stone appears to be very much modeled on the core design of Splinter Cell: Conviction. Hand-to-hand combat in Blood Stone earns players a “Focus Aim,” which–when triggered–snaps the aiming reticule to an enemy giving Bond a chance at a killing shot. Although there is no real “stealth” mechanic in the game (as in, playing with the light and dark), you can easily bounce from cover to cover without being spotted and take out a room full of enemies with little effort. The “little effort” part is where the game starts to trip. James Bond 007: Blood Stone is an extremely easy game to conquer from beginning to end. During my playthrough of the single-player, I decided to pick the highest difficulty setting available–the hardest difficulty unlocks after the game has been completed–and rarely ran into sticky situations. A.I. follow preset paths, often forget where you are when spotted, and don’t pose any real threat–even in high numbers.
On the game’s lower difficulty levels, Focus Aim is entirely unnecessary thanks to the Call of Duty-style targeting that automatically snaps to an enemy each time you zoom in, making it easy to pull off headshots without the need for any further assistance. But even on the higher difficulty levels there’s no tangible gameplay rewards for being stealthy, so whilst Focus Aim might be a slightly quicker and more stylish way to dispatch enemy goons it’s far from essential, and at times we forgot it was even there.
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