It doesn’t help that an Aston Martin going full-tilt isn’t the most maneuverable vehicle in the world, especially when you’re careening through the narrow streets of Istanbul. The chase in Bangkok was a lot more fun just because you were driving a slow pickup truck and following a massive earth-mover, slowing down the action to manageable levels and giving you something big and obvious to chase, but in the process a huge swathe of Bangkok is laid waste, and just so Bond can run down an escaping assassin. Aren’t the Craig movies supposed to be more realistic? Why didn’t the assassin just duck into a building, so I could continue the thrilling rooftop foot-chase? After so much collateral damage I’d expect M to take 007’s license to kill and set it on fire. In fact, the most enjoyable race was the no-frills high speed pursuit at the very end of the game, because I could focus on the chase. I was chasing a sports car in another sports car, over highways and weaving between traffic, but without the distracting superfluous wanton destruction.
A lot of this monotony could be forgiven if the game had a plot that was as gripping as Casino Royale’s, or even as varied and visceral as the story in Quantum of Solace. Unfortunately the story just isn’t that compelling. It’s a globe-hopping adventure in the tradition of most 007 stories, with Bond following the trail of a bio-weapon through Europe and Asia, but the texture and real-world roughness of the Craig movies just aren’t there. I think this is mostly because there are only two movies in the new continuity to work from, and EON Productions probably didn’t want Blood Stone taking too many liberties this early in Craig’s tenure as 007.
The James Bond movies are in a strange transitional period right now. MGM’s financial mess has prevented the Daniel Craig films from progressing, putting Craig’s Bond Universe in a state of limbo; it has a very solid foundation and bold new direction, but lacks important context. Quantum, the modern version of Connery’s nemesis organization SPECTRE, has only just been revealed and is still highly nebulous, lacking any discernible ringleaders much less its own Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Judi Dench’s M is well established but newer, more down-to-earth versions of Miss Moneypenny and Major “Q” Boothroyd have yet to appear. Unfortunately, Blood Stone falls squarely into that void of detail and context.
Q’s absence is felt particularly strongly in Blood Stone. While Craig might have made it through two films with just his grit and ingenuity, Q’s spy gadgets were always perfect for filling in the “hey, cool!” moments in previous Bond games. In Blood Stone, Bond is stuck with his smart phone and that’s about it. The only reason that single minimalist gadget sufficed in the GoldenEye reboot was because it did everything, much like Bond’s watch in the Brosnan films and games.
The whole game feels like a side-story, by no fault of Bizarre Creations or Feirstein; they’re just trying to be faithful, painfully faithful, to the setting established by Craig’s movies, and unfortunately they don’t have a lot of background substance to work with. It’s made more glaring because so far Craig’s films have had a strong story arc and Blood Stone doesn’t add much to that arc. Bizarre Creations and Feirstein were obviously in a tough spot—they couldn’t advance the important plot points because those were being reserved for the next film, whenever that happens, but they had to come up with an action-packed story that kept the hard-edged, gadget-less quality of the previous two films. Unfortunately, the break from the Quantum arc makes it feel like 007 is doing this adventure in his spare time.
There are a few redeeming aspects, though. While Q himself is absent, M’s chief of staff Bill Tanner is mentioned as serving in Q Branch and gives Bond equipment advice; if Blood Stone is indeed canon, this is the first mention of Q’s division in the rebooted Daniel Craig continuity. I was initially disappointed with the supporting cast—I really wanted Felix Leiter to show up—but the requisite “Bond girl” did surprise me. I was very ready to hate Joss Stone’s highly superficial Nicole Hunter, a Bond girl who appeared to have a lot more in common with the floozies of Rodger Moore’s films than the driven, complex women in Craig’s movies.
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