By: Peter Carmody
Most of us will have experienced the scenario where you are unwillingly dragged away from your comfort zone by friends, family or your better half and thrown into a socially awkward situation, only to be pleasantly surprised by the sheer amounts of fun the evening had in store.
Unfortunately by the time you’ve consumed all the beer and started jumping on the host’s trampoline with no clothes on, the evening comes to an abrupt and disappointing end. While this metaphor might explain why you should never invite a Lazygamer to your new year’s party, it also sums up my experience with Blood Stone quite nicely.
The story which was written exclusively for the game by familiar Bond writer Bruce Feirstein has 007 chasing high society badies around the globe, after an attempted terrorist attack on a G20 summit held in Athens. The plot thickens as intelligence is gathered throughout the games 17 chapters which cycle through a series of gun fights, stealthy infiltrations and high speed pursuits, leaving a trail of destruction in various locations ranging from Monaco to Bangkok as 007 tracks down the big cheese behind it all. Sadly while Blood Stone might sound like it has all the ingredients that make for a good Bond adventure, the game comes to an unexpected finish with no conclusive ending a mere 5 to 6 hours after it began, with the grand finale being replaced by a statement insinuating a sequel. Fortunately Blood Stone’s game play, sound and visuals make a decent impression where the story line fails to deliver.
Bond literally dives headlong into this third person shooter armed with a couple of tried and tested concepts which do a good job at making Blood Stone a well rounded action game, for instance taking cover while utilizing blind fire to suppress the seemingly endless supply of disposable henchmen, resembles aspects of Gears of War game play, with the further option of a slightly more stealthy approach. Additionally while in or out of cover Bond is able to perform a plethora of vicious hand to hand techniques which reward you with the ability to execute your opponents with a deadly accurate focused shot, which is a lot like Sam Fishers skills in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Despite the fact that these talents undoubtedly add to what feels like a bona fide James Bond experience, the authenticity would be incomplete if not for the high speed chase sequences which punctuate the games chapters nicely with aggressive pursuits over land, water and ice, in an array of vehicles while the surrounding environments are all but destroyed.
With cleverly disguised watch lasers and toothpaste tubes filled with plastic explosive having become a thing of the past, the modern 007 is armed with a “smart phone” which does everything except make French toast. This handy little gizmo not only directs you through the linear stage designs but can also be used to clone hard drives, hack into security consoles, detect near by enemies, and spot dropped weapons. This might give the gadget a more practical grounding, but it also tends to make the already self explanatory stage designs a little bit too easy to navigate and find things in.
Blood Stone moves from good to great looking at times with attractive cut scenes and an assortment of appealing international environments accompanied by a truly Bond like score, which intensifies and subsides in all the right places. Daniel Craig and Judy Dench return in voice and likeness as 007 and “M” respectively with the addition of Joss Stone, who not only performs the opening theme “I’ll Take it all” but also lends her voice and resemblance to the Nicole Hunter character (the Bond girl). Unfortunately while the models are not bad looking they tend to be a bit rigid and could use some more detailing. Curiously the female characters have an inclination to look quite surprised and maybe it has something to do with Bonds uncanny ability to hold a pout in the most intense situations (when in doubt, pout).
The multiplayer options allow for a system link or online play which divides players into Spies and Mercenaries as they go head to head in death matches, objective based games or a last man standing mode, all the while collecting points which allow players to unlock items as they progress in rank. Overall the multiplayer addition does contribute a smidgen of value to an otherwise very short campaign mode but feels like a bit of an after thought. There is nothing fresh about the online play and despite the fact that it is somewhat enjoyable, it is a bit run of the mill and makes no compelling argument as to why Blood Stone should be chosen over the many better multiplayer experiences out there.
To be honest I have successfully avoided the Daniel Craig era James Bond until now and I have to admit that while I will probably never accept him as the suave “shaken not stirred” Bond that I grew up with, Blood stone was actually a pleasant surprise. It is by no means a great game but it is quite far from being terrible. In short I actually enjoyed playing it and were it not for the disappointing campaign length and curious ending I would recommend this game to any casual gamer looking for a decent action romp.
Game play: 7.0
The environments are a bit too linear for my liking but the game play is interesting enough to keep you playing. The combination of established mechanics and the high speed chase scenes do well to prevent this game from becoming downright boring and repetitive.
With out a doubt my biggest gripe with Blood Stone has to be that the campaign is not just dismally short but rewards those who actually take note of the story line with a disappointing ending that makes no mention of the villain you diligently chased around the globe. Sadly while the game is truly good looking at times, the character models are a bit stiff and lack definition (especially noticeable during close ups). However the environments, set pieces and high speed pursuits over water, land and ice are attractive and bring the intensity of a day at the office for 007 across quite effectively.
From the opening theme right through to the end credits Blood Stone’s music and score have a distinctive James Bond flavor. The voice acting is of decent quality and the games sound effects compliment the extreme action sequences well.
Blood Stone is over all too soon, and even though there is always the option of playing the game again on the ridiculous 007 difficulty, there is not much encouragement to do so considering that most of the games collectables and achievements are easily obtainable the first time around (thanks to the smart phone).Truthfully despite the fact that the multiplayer mode is entertaining and undoubtedly contributes to the games value there is definitely better multiplayer bang for your buck out there.
Overall: 6.8 (not an average)
While Blood Stone is far from perfect and by no means sets standards or introduces new concepts, it is a decent looking game, with a fair tempo that offers a bit of everything and is enjoyable to play. Unfortunately the single player campaign is far too short and offers little challenge unless played on the hardest available level.