Quantum of Solace Preview #2
Game publishers and movie studios just seem to love working together, no matter what the result winds up being. Every summer, we see major blockbuster hits based on wizards and comic book heroes, all launching on the big screen and in a game console simultaneously. Often, the movie is much better than the game, and gamers, excited by the film, quickly find out that the game was tossed together in a short time with a mediocre budget. As are many publishers recently, Activision is trying to break that cycle with Quantum of Solace, a new first- and third-person shooter built on the Call of Duty 4 engine that, while launching at the same time as the upcoming second Daniel Craig Bond movie, will also include many of the great scenes from Casino Royale.
So far, this strategy has worked; developer Treyarch is putting together a very solid game with a great campaign and some very fun and unique multiplayer action. It's hard to say whether this will be quite the success that CoD4 has been, but it certainly will be helped with the simultaneous launch alongside the film. The demo levels I got to try were both extended or alternate versions of scenes from Casino Royale. The first included traversing a speeding train at night, which was a scene greatly shortened from the movie, and another one where you chase Dimitrios through a science and history museum. In both levels I quickly found that Bond is not as tank-like as soldiers in other games: he can't take many hits at all, so the use of cover is crucial.
Yep, it's cover, just like in Gears of War, although I must admit that this is definitely one setting where the idea fits. It was sometimes difficult to picture it really fitting in when the characters were 300 pounds of solid muscle and everyone was packing explosives. Of all the video game settings available, you'd think Gears' world would be the one where people just charge right up at each other constantly rather than firing from behind cover. At least here in Bond's world, getting into a shootout is a dangerous thing so some precise aiming and quick thinking is necessary. That's why the developers have given you plenty of environmental items to use to shake out (or just plain blow up) your enemies who themselves will often hide behind cover.
Now, you might be wondering: Bond isn't exactly an action hero and the last movie wasn't exactly Rambo - nor should it have been - so how can we be expected to believe that a game that mostly involves shooting henchmen in the face to be true to canon? Well, the developers have been juxtaposing the scenes from the upcoming movie where M questions Bond's methods (cue shots of him doing very mean things to the bad guys) as well as extending out many of the movies' action scenes to create the meat of the game. Plus, the game does have optional stealth elements, although the demo levels I've been able to play so far have mostly revolved around straight action. Overall, it's tough to thoroughly mimic the movies, but the action should at least mimic the movies' fight scenes, and that has definitely been accomplished
No matter how you look at it and no matter how much you remember from the classic Goldeneye on the N64, the action here is solid and holds up to today's standards. Daniel Craig's Bond pops into and out of cover easily and has great aim, and the ability to move between cover spots, get close, and do a Quick Time Event-styled melee combo to finish off an enemy is a lot of fun. Ok, sure, I do wish that his guns all had chainsaws attached to them and.. nevermind.
Quantum of Solace also is including a full-featured multiplayer mode where up to 12 players can get together for some deathmatch and teamplay games. The maps I got to try included the rooftops of a European town where dropping to ground level was instant death, and the ground level of the construction site where Casino Royale got its big action-oriented start. The whole thing is set up similarly to CoD4, where you level up, finish challenges, unlock perks and weapons, and put them to use to kill even more people. Golden-plated guns are everywhere, and in one of my favorite bits of the whole game, the Golden Gun deathmatch mode has one guy carrying the Golden Gun which is an ornately gilded revolver with explosive bullets and a scope! It's completely over-the-top and ridiculous, but it's great - and the guy carrying the gun gets 5 points for every kill while everyone else, who still have to fight each other off and get kills in while trying to get their hands on the gun, get one point per kill.
It's tough to supply a verdict right now over whether Quantum of Solace will live up to what is looking to be an excellent movie counterpart, but at the very least this game has already proven to not be another horrible movie cash-in. Ok, it almost certainly will prove to be a cash-in, but it does look like a solid game. And it's a good sign, as this is Activision's first time with the James Bond license. We'll find out soon: the time I spent with the game was on the 360 and PC versions, but it's also coming to the DS, PSP, PS2, PS3, and Wii on November 4th.