The combat is at its best when you're doing just that: carving your way through enemies with a sense of urgency that deftly mimics a Bond movie's brisk action scenes. The aforementioned Bangkok rooftop level is a prime example of Blood Stone playing to its strengths. You're running after someone with ties to a figure you need to learn more about, and it's a chase that sends you leaping across buildings and quickly dropping every bad guy unlucky enough to get in your way. The game does its best to mix up the pacing so that it's not constantly at full throttle, which is a tack that works quite well in the varied and exciting second half. But Blood Stone's first half isn't nearly as well executed, and pronounced stretches of time when you encounter repetitive environments and few enemies are more the rule than the exception. A lengthy trek through the catacombs of Istanbul is littered with barren, claustrophobic corridors, while a stealthy infiltration into a Siberian oil complex carries all the excitement of a sightseeing tour through a Soviet-era office building. Scenes like these--merely inoffensive rather than bad--could be fine as palate cleansers punctuating sustained action scenes, but linked together they simply leave you yearning for the next big set-piece battle.
6283354Indoors or outdoors, Bond likes to hurt people.
While the combat takes a while to warm up, the game's driving scenes are consistently exciting from start to finish. At certain points in the story, Bond jumps behind the wheel of a car to chase someone down--generally at the end of a mission as a sort of climactic transition point toward the next chapter. You race through all manner of delightfully chaotic situations, whether it's escaping an exploding oil refinery in Siberia as fire and debris rain from the heavens or testing the speed limitations of a tow truck as you're zipping through construction sites and crumbling freeway overpasses in Bangkok. Bizarre's pedigree as a racing developer is on full display here (the studio is well known for its Project Gotham series): each vehicle features handling that's forgiving enough to allow for some mistakes, but challenging enough to keep the tension levels high. In fact, these cinematic chase scenes are so exciting that you'll wish there were more of them. As is, they make up less than a quarter of the overall game.
One of the reasons the chase scenes are so much fun is that the detailed environments and visual effects really put you in the moment, which is something of a theme for the game as a whole. When Blood Stone isn't keeping you locked up indoors, it's an aesthetically pleasing game. Whether it's the nighttime fireworks above the Monaco skyline or the sunlight dancing off your car's chrome fender as you speed through Istanbul, objects and environments tend to be rich and varied. Your movement animations when you're running around a level can be awkward from time to time, but on the whole, Blood Stone has clearly benefited from a high attention to detail in its visual design. Likewise, the soundtrack does a great job of establishing varied emotions. The music is unmistakably James Bond, with all the extravagant horns and crashing drums you'd expect from a story focused on the beloved English superspy. It's a soundtrack that underscores the tension of big chase scenes and establishes a more subdued feel during mid-mission cutscenes.
There's only one high speed boat chase, but like the handful of car chases, it's a blast.
A no-frills multiplayer component is included in Blood Stone, but it's a vanilla third-person shooter experience right on down to teams of red versus blue. Modes include team deathmatch and a couple of objective-based contests, but no matter the mode, the combat is much slower and plodding than the fast-paced levels that make up the best parts of the single-player story. Consequently, the online features don't add a whole lot more value to the relatively short (five or six hour) single-player campaign. It's an online feature set that winds up reinforcing the lingering idea that Blood Stone could have been something quite special if it offered a more consistently exciting experience across the board, but the end result is a game that feels held back by a nervous reluctance toward going all in. But when it hits those high notes--which it does more often than not--Blood Stone is a quality action game. From exciting driving to fast-paced and stylish combat, Blood Stone is an enjoyable foray into the world of James Bond in spite of its flaws.