Blood Stone 007 Preview
To be honest, I had no idea what Blood Stone was before I arrived in San Francisco for the event to show it off. Activision’s marketing and advertising team has been pretty quiet about this game, as they only announced it a full month after E3, and it’s just not made it to previous summer press tours like people would expect. But after having played it, I can say that this title by Project Gotham and Blur developers Bizarre Creations is very much a serious Bond game, one that should be checked out by any fan of the 007 franchise - especially if you found yourself disappointed in Quantum of Solace.
Blood Stone is an entirely new story from Goldeneye (the movie) writer Bruce Feirstein. It starts out with Bond in a classic action sequence in Athens, but after the title sequence rolls, you’ll be on the trail of a rogue chemical weapons manufacturer through locations like Siberia, Thailand, Monaco, and more. You’ll be playing in a third-person view this time around, taking out idiotic, lowly henchmen at first, but eventually moving up to some elite private army-type commandos. Bond’s got all the moves you expect, like pinpoint accuracy from his weapons through a focus mode (which is recharged by finishing enemies off in melee) and some great up-close moves that combine classic movie fighting finishers like neck breakages, some of the more brutal fighting moves he’s picked up in the Daniel Craig era, and even a couple of real-life mixed martial arts attacks, too.
Speaking of Daniel Craig, the game’s got both his voice and face playing the role of Bond (and Craig’s stunt double doing the motion capture and fight choreography), along with Dame Judi Dench as M again. British pop artist Joss Stone did the title song for the game and plays the role of the Bond girl, and while the loud event we were at didn’t really give us much of a chance to savor the cutscenes or acting, what little I did get to see and hear looked on point for what you’d expect from Bond.
Because this is a Bizarre Creations game, you can likely expect that there are some driving sequences involved. And you’d be right - Bond drives his Aston Martin DBS like a professional race car driver, and the car handling in this feels like it’s been ported right over from Project Gotham. That’s a good thing, as few shooter/action games have anything better than wooden-feeling car handling, and you’ll go through several missions where you’ll need fast reactions and a lead foot to keep up with your nemesis and get out alive. It didn’t seem like we’ll have Bond firing his pistol out of the window or doing anything that takes away from your focus on the driving, but you’ll have plenty to worry about as these scenes are hectic, explosive, and very dangerous if you’re not quick to react.
During the rest of the game, the shooter action is solid as Bond will need to choose between stealth and full-out frontal assaults. The game’s not meant to constantly give you this choice in every room you enter, but many areas do offer at least a mildly open-ended approach much of the time. Bond’s ability to almost instantly take out an enemy that’s close to him is helpful, especially with the game’s solid cover system: if there’s a guy hiding on the other side of the wall from Bond, he can yank that dude right over the wall and finish him with one good strike. There’s a smartphone HUD system that Bond can also turn on which will allow you to see extra information about the world as well as easily spot objects in the environment to use to take out enemies, but it doesn’t infect the whole game as Bond actually puts the phone away when the shooting starts. Developer Treyarch’s attempt at Quantum of Solace wound up feeling dull and kind of sluggish in everything it did, and the biggest thing I took away from Bizarre Creations’ Blood Stone is that it seems to almost have been developed as a direct antidote to that.
I really liked what I saw of Blood Stone, but my only concern is that gamers have heard so little about this game already that they won’t even know that it’s hit stores in the midst of such a crowded holiday season. This is an Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 title and it will share the same November 2nd launch date with the Wii-exclusive Goldeneye, and I’m wondering if the latter game is going to steal the spotlight. Activision’s hoping that this game can strike out on its own and wow people playing the “big” consoles, and with the quality that Bizarre Creations has been stuffing into it, I kind of hope so too.