There's a level in 007 Blood Stone in which, after having been hounded by the Burmese army in V-22 Osprey, twin rotor, helicopter/plane attack aircraft, James Bond commandeers one of the vehicles and uses it to fly after one of the game's many Bad Guys. Then, after a short cutscene, Bond crash-lands into the same jungle from which he has just escaped. This is the point at which I angrily threw my controller at the screen and stormed off to cool down. Not because the game was bad, but because I wanted to fly that damn Osprey. Ten minutes after throwing my hissy fit, I was back, and once again having the time of my life.
007 Blood Stone is a fun shooter with first-rate driving sequences and passable stealth action. It's Splinter Cell meets Modern Warfare meets Project Gotham with a protagonist who's at once imminently familiar and yet still fresh and new thanks to Daniel Craig's "bullet proof bulldog" portrayal.
In the game, following a short opening sequence in which Bond saves the free world by thwarting a terrorist plot to blow up the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, you will play as James Bond (voiced by Daniel Craig himself) attempting to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearance of a chemical weapons researcher. Along the way you will meet Nicole, a well-to-do socialite ("There are about a half dozen men in the world worth dating.") played by pop singer Joss Stone and take orders from 00-boss "M," played by Judi Dench.
As if the actors' pedigrees weren't enough, the game's script was written by Bruce Feirstein, the screenwriter for the Bond films Goldeneye, The World is Not Enough and Tomorrow Never Dies and the game was produced by Eon Productions, the outfit that makes the films. Suffice to say, it's as good as a Bond game is likely to get to being an actual, all-new Bond adventure in videogame form.
007 Blood Stone is not the deepest, most original shooter you will play this year. As a game, however, it generally does hit what it's aiming at. The gun selection is varied and interesting and enemies die in a satisfactory way. The game doesn't break a lot of new ground here, but neither is it broken.
The stealth elements, too, seem to fit well and are well-executed (pardon the pun). In lieu of outright shooting folks, you can walk right up to them and perform a random cinematic (and compelling) takedown taken from Bond's repertoire of hand-to-hand combat moves. You can also perform stealth takedowns that generally allow you to knock out an opponent without alerting nearby enemies. These moves are satisfying and fun, and performing a takedown of any kind awards you with "direct aim" moves, which are basically guaranteed one-shot kills on anyone you can see. It's a neat mechanic and feels very Bond-like, if not too original or inventive.
Where 007 Blood Stone really blows the doors off, though, is with the driving. Massive, destructive car chases are an integral part of the Bond movie formula, but typically have been poorly implemented in Bond games. This is where Blood Stone developer Bizarre Creations (best known for the Project Gotham Racing series) really makes its mark. Simply put, the car chases in Blood Stone are phenomenal. They reminded me of the first time I ate chocolate mixed with peanut butter. The shooting and driving segments mesh so well, it makes you wonder why it took someone so long to pair the two.
In the game's introductory level, you will engage in a boat chase during which many things explode, a lighthouse will collapse directly in your path and you will boat jump through the debris of a helicopter explosion. In a later mission you will chase a train in a sports car through the remains of an exploding chemical refinery and then over a frozen river. In yet another level you will chase a giant construction vehicle through downtown Bangkok in a tow truck. These are the kind of videogame setups that would fail miserably if poorly implemented, but thanks to the near-flawless execution of 007 Blood Stone's driving sequences, elevate this game to a level that's a bit more than what you would typically expect from a movie tie-in. Also, it's not specifically a movie tie-in. The story for Blood Stone, unlike other Bond games, is wholly original (or as original as Bond stories get anyway).
In spite of the crushing disappointment of not getting to fly the Osprey, I gobbled this game up as if it were made of chocolate (mixed with peanut butter). After a solid two-month string of over-hyped disappointments and outright flawed and buggy games, playing 007 Blood Stone was an unexpected and surprising treat. One I can't recommend highly enough, even if it isn't full of hot, new ideas. It's at least full of fun, which is sometimes all you can ask.
Bottom Line: From start to finish, Blood Stone is a satisfying action game with enough "wow" moments to please even the jaded Bond fan-slash-gamer crowd. Clocking in at somewhere between 8-10 hours for the main story, it nevertheless delivers the goods where it counts and manages to offer a variety of experience and emotion that makes it feel much longer.
Recommendation: This would be an easy game to overlook in the crowded Q4 release cycle, but the original story and tight execution make it a must-have for Bond fans. Shooter fans turned off by the repetition of series like Medal of Honor or Call of Duty may also find it a refreshing change of pace.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Game: 007 Blood Stone
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Release Date: November 2nd, 2010
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, DS
Available from: Amazon