Quantum of Solace Xbox 360 Review
Bond is back in Activision’s first secret agent outing since grabbing the reins of the franchise from long-time 007 handlers Electronic Arts. In the hands of Treyarch—keeping extremely busy this season by also delivering Spider-Man: Web of Shadows and Call of Duty: World at War—the lucrative license gets its slickest adaptation in years. Of course, besting EA’s last couple of Bond titles (Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, From Russia with Love) isn’t saying much, seeing as those efforts were met with disappointment from critics and fans alike. Still, Quantum of Solace, while far from meeting the bar raised so high by other recent shooters, is a very good licensed title—a genre usually sullied by movie-based mediocrity—and one that successfully puts Bond back on track to videogame stardom.
Mixing moments from Daniel Craig’s second go-round on the big screen as 007, as well as many (more than half, in fact) from his Bond debut Casino Royale, the Call of Duty 4 engine-powered QoS is visually impressive. Craig looks scarily like his cinematic secret agent counterpart, and the environments equally ooze with eye candy; whether running atop a speeding train in the pouring rain, or splashing through the fountains of an upscale hotel during a whiz-bang firefight, everything looks sharp, detailed, and worthy of Bond’s globetrotting exploits. Toss in plenty of destructible objects, amazing fire and explosion effects, and smoke that’ll have Call of Duty vets recalling many choking-haze moments from the battlefield, and QoS more than delivers a blockbuster action movie presentation.
While the pretty sets and cool effects more than deliver the stylish espionage vibe, the gameplay doesn’t always live up to the same standard. QoS primarily unfolds from the first-person perspective, but occasionally transitions into a full-bodied Bond revealing third-person view. The former plays out like pretty standard FPS fare, while the latter is mostly executed when you’re using the game’s cover system. Individually, both work pretty well, but I found going from one to another was often a jarring experience, especially when executing a “dash”; a maneuver helpful in speedily moving you from harm’s way, but often unsettling in its animation, as Bond displays a wonky first-to-third person transition. Additionally, the cover system occasionally overly complicates things. When next to some obstacles, you’re given the option to duck behind them or vault over them, but you can’t choose to duck then vault without first pulling yourself from the cover spot. Additionally, when in "cover" it seems you're invincible even when baddies do get a bead on you, yet you can hide (without hitting the "cover" button) behind other, often bigger obstacles, and be afforded no protection.
Other odd design choices rear their head as well; some ladders can be climbed while others cannot, selecting “cover” in front of some windows will leave you standing upright in front of them, and a painful balancing mini-game only serves to pull you from the action. The game's oddities don’t end there, either: For example, sneaking around to hack security cameras is fun, but why does shooting them alert the bad guys—doesn’t that go against everything Sam Fisher has ever taught us? And why is the world populated with conveniently placed cell phones teeming with vital information? Oh, and where are the car chases? This is a Bond game, isn’t it?
Despite the cover system not being as good as in Gears of War, the quick-time fisticuffs not as visceral as The Bourne Conspiracy’s, and the FPS action not as solid as the title's this game's engine is named for, QoS offers an otherwise solid, impressively cinematic experience for Bond fans. There’s no denying the effect adrenaline-pumping moments, richly recreated from the films, had on me. Chasing down Casino Royale’s free-running bomb maker through the construction site was a blast (despite the aforementioned balancing sequences), stealthily taking out henchmen in the airport made me feel as badass as Bond, and tearing up weaselly Mr. White’s estate with guns and grenades was an explosively-charged romp. And, while QoS drops the ball in adapting some movie moments—Casino Royale’s heart-stopping race to save the sabotaged airplane is literally reduced to a one-shot kill in the game—it does flesh out some others beyond the film’s fiction. Strategically sniping guards outside of the Science Center is an added bonus, and turning Bond’s and Vesper’s train ride into one of the game’s best action sequences was a brilliant move.
When you’ve saved the world in QoS's too-short solo campaign, there’s still plenty of secret agent man business to attend to in its multiplayer modes. In fact, the online options are surprisingly robust, and, in many cases, finally relieve that Goldeneye itch fans of the N64 classic have been waiting to have scratched for years. Several modes, including the excellent Golden Gun—where everyone fights to obtain and keep the titular firearm—are well worth checking out, as they offer much more than the tacked-on multiplayer experience we get from so many other titles. Additionally, these modes borrow some of the RPG-like addictiveness that continues to keep so many leveling and upgrading in Call of Duty 4’s online arenas.
As a top-tier shooter, QoS doesn’t make the cut, especially in light of the many better games raising the bar this season. But as a licensed title tied to a movie release, it's better than we've come to expect in recent years. Much like this past summer’s The Bourne Conspiracy, it breaks no new gaming ground and some of its mechanics lack proper polish, but it does excel in successfully bringing its source material to the interactive medium. The visuals, especially Bond himself (and all his sharp costume changes) are spot on, the weapons and many explosions pack a nice aural pop, and, lets face it, the classic theme music could make a day at the dentist exciting. The fan service even carries over into the game’s Xbox 360 achievements, where many are named for the series' many films. Stealthily taking down 50 enemies, for example, will earn you the “Live and Let Die” achievement. It’s this sort of nod to our favorite secret agent franchise that weaves its way through much of QoS. And while the gameplay will leave most merely stirred, the 007 vibe should find them suitably shaken.