Like a great Bond movie, James Bond 007: Blood Stone jumps headfirst into a spectacular action scene before the opening credits even roll. Going from silently dropping enemies on a ritzy yacht right into a pair of harrowing chase scenes--first by boat on the Mediterranean and then by car on the streets of Athens--this third-person action game from Bizarre Creations makes a thoroughly memorable first impression. What follows is a game that takes its sweet time stepping outside the shadow of this explosive prologue, as a number of early levels fall prey to flat pacing and drab, predictable level design. Such woes don't last forever, though, because the invigorating energy of that opening scene returns full force in the latter half of the adventure. The result is an uneven yet worthwhile James Bond experience, aided in no small part by stellar production values that make it easy to forget that this Bond story isn't tied to a new movie.
6283511And to think, Bond really had his heart set on that three hour tour.
There's no hiding the fact that the events driving Blood Stone's narrative are paint-by-numbers James Bond. You begin the game on a hunt to track down a weapons dealer bent on terrorizing the G20 Summit, but a tangled conspiracy sends Bond all over the globe tracking down the usual array of informants, turncoats, and crime lords. It's a story that succeeds not because of any emotional connection to the proceedings, but because of the sheer variety of situations Bond winds up in. At any given point, you might find yourself amid a gunfight in Monaco taking cover behind a craps table; speeding your Aston Martin across the cracking ice sheets of a frozen Siberian river; or darting across the rain-slick rooftops of Bangkok not five minutes after gazing at majestic humpback whales inside an aquarium. The voices of Daniel Craig and Judi Dench add familiarity to the cast, while the brisk cutscenes do a good job of capturing the detached, no-nonsense demeanor of Craig-era James Bond.
For the most part, the variety established by the globe-trotting plot is echoed in the game's action. Blood Stone is very much a hybrid of genres, a game that tries its hand at a lot of things and succeeds at most of them. To run the full list, Blood Stone is simultaneously a third-person shooter with a heavy reliance on cover; a stealth game that values melee takedowns over firefights; a racer replete with frantic chase scenes and explosive tracks; and a gadget-driven espionage simulator. The gadgets are the only major weak link. Pulling open your impossibly powerful smartphone allows you to scan and manipulate your surroundings, performing tasks such as cloning hard drives and cracking security points with little more than the press of a button. Ultimately harmless in their simplicity, these moments of espionage don't detract from the gameplay so much as they pad it with repetitive filler--every scan feels the same, and there's generally little context for why something needs hacking.
What this poor sap didn't realize is that you can pull off brutal melee moves while hiding behind cover.
That said, on-foot combat is what makes up the bulk of your adventure. Played purely as a third-person shooter, Blood Stone is solid, though a bit unspectacular. The cover mechanics are intuitive and responsive, while weapon sound effects and enemy animations harmonize nicely to make for an impactful shooting experience--though a lack of variety in weaponry and enemy types holds back the core gunplay. Fortunately, Blood Stone is also a game that incentivizes stylish melee combat as a complement to shooting your way through a situation. Any enemy within a few feet of you can be swiftly and brutally taken down with a single button press. From judo-chopping an enemy's throat to choking him with your legs, these vicious takedowns are dead simple to pull off but never get old. Melee takedowns also earn you a "focus kill," which is a mechanic that works similarly to Splinter Cell: Conviction's "mark and execute." These focus kills allow you to string together headshots in rapid succession--up to three in a row--in order to ramp up the pace up and really tear through a shoot-out.