In theory, creating a video game from the James Bond universe shouldn’t be all that difficult. After all, the elements for a video-game blockbuster are there already: the exotic locals, an abundance of beautiful women, exciting action sequences, espionage. But why is Nintendo 64’s Goldeneye one of the only games set in the Bond universe that’s worth a damn? (I’m sure that’s a question many developers have had many sleepless nights over.) When Activision (the current holders of the Bond license) asked Bizarre Creations to undertake the Sisyphean task of creating a good Bond game, many questioned if such lofty expectations were reasonable for a developer best known for twin stick shooters (The Geometry Wars series) and racing games (the Project Gotham series). Whether Bizarre Creations really could pull this off was a mystery for a while, but no longer. With James Bond 007: Blood Stone, the company has made sure that if they were going to fail, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.
What Bizarre and Activision tried to do with Blood Stone is to create a game akin to the grittier, more visceral Daniel Craig Bond experience, sans puns and tuxedos. Great lengths were taken to make sure the game emulated said experience with some measure of credibility: the companies attained rights to Craig’s likeness, Joss Stone appears as a Bond girl, and Bruce Feirstein, who penned Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, was hired to write the game’s story. To round out this virtual Bond experience, car-chase sequences have been sprinkled throughout. On paper, all the ingredients for a great Bond game are there, but the implementation of these experiences muck things up.
First there’s the Focus Aim system (conspicuously similar to Splinter Cell: Conviction’s Mark & Execute feature), which allows the player to slow down time, in which the reticule will snap to the closest enemies, allowing the player to execute one-hit kills. Gaining this ability is as easy as performing three successful melee attacks on enemies. As you play through the game, you can see that the developer’s intentions for the Focus Aim system were to encourage the player to be less methodical—to move from cover to cover and play with a more reckless abandon, which is akin to what Craig does in the new Bond films. Clearly it was Bizarre’s hope that these melee attacks would evoke the more brutal antics of Craig’s present-day Bond. Instead, what are meant to be well-timed strategic attacks devolve into cheap one-hit kills. The melee attacks are so overpowered in fact it’s easier at times to just run up to enemies and perform a melee attack than to actually shoot them. While these attacks are viscerally esthetic, the ease of performing them breaks the game, in turn hurting the overall experience. These types of implementation problems however only amplify the bigger problem of incongruity throughout the game.
While Bond movies are known for their quick transitions from one scene to the next, there’s still a congruity present within the films that justifies a certain action sequence transitioning into a game of Bacharach. In Blood Stone, however, the story tends to forgo the logic of clearly explaining why in one moment Bond is sneaking into a building and in the next he’s in an exotic car chasing down enemies. This gets so bad that it even affects the game’s ending, in which you are left questioning what exactly happened. The game’s incongruity in pacing really disrupts the overall flow of the game. In turn, this makes the player feel as if they are playing separate Bond-themed missions, rather than a cohesive experience.