After the tepid response to 2008’s Quantum of Solace game, Activision apparently decided to ramp up their James Bond efforts for 2010. Gamers got both home console and portable versions of two new Bond games, the remade GoldenEye 007 and Blood Stone. While GoldenEye and its intangible recapturing of N64 nostalgia wrapped within modern FPS mechanics is all well and good, Blood Stone is interesting in its own way. An original 007 story penned by veteran writer Bruce Feirstein, the game is an attempt to make up for this year’s painful lack of a Bond movie, as MGM sorts out its complicated financial mess.
Unfortunately, Blood Stone on the HD consoles was something of a disappointment. Bizarre Creations did their best to deliver a blockbuster game, but lack of clear direction and gameplay innovation made the home console Blood Stone feel like a side-story; Daniel Craig’s View to a Kill, as it were. Sadly Bizarre Creations are hitting some financial issues of their own, a fate that the Project Gotham developers really don’t deserve. Blood Stone might have been a little disappointing, but it wasn’t too bad for a Bond story smack in the middle of a rebooted continuity that is still very much up in the air.
However, the smaller scope of the portable Blood Stone focuses it into a much more compelling Bond adventure. While the console big boys get to argue whether Blood Stone or GoldenEye is the better game, DS owners are the real winners here. Both games found their way to the portable, courtesy of n-Space.
It must’ve been a busy year for the people at n-Space, with not only two 007 games but also Tron and Call of Duty Black Ops to tackle. Luckily they were up to the challenge. GoldenEye DS turned out just a bit too ambitious for its own good—a solid solo story with a few pacing issues but an incredibly deep multiplayer to even it out. Blood Stone on the other hand is the exact opposite—a rousing globe-trotting adventure with a more modest multiplayer.
It’s a little ironic but the technological constraints of the DS make for a much more interesting game. Without the HD flash Bizarre Creations were privileged with, n-Space had to make Blood Stone DS good through sheer gameplay alone. As a result Blood Stone DS has the one thing its HD counterpart was sorely lacking—variety.
The console Blood Stone was mostly a series of generic cover-based firefights, and as with the many Gears of War imitators before it, this rote shooting quickly grew thin. Blood Stone DS does have this gameplay, but it feels fresher for a couple of reasons. First of all, I personally have never seen it in a DS game, at least not done well. The way n-Space implements it is kind of clever; Bond can cover-stick to corners and the obligatory chest-high-walls, but you use the D-pad to pop out in the desired direction and the stylus to aim. You still get the occasional stylus hand-cramp, but that’s more a flaw in the DS’s ergonomics rather than a problem with this game. All said the aiming is a nice workaround for the typically dual-analog heavy cover combat, and manages to pull it off without the clunky aim-down-sights mechanic that usually shows up in such gameplay.
The combat also involves something I haven’t seen in a 007 game since EA was making them: Bond moments. At certain points in combat a little 007 emblem will appear on screen, indicating you can shoot something or pull off a Bond-like move to take out several enemies at once. In EA’s games this mechanic made you feel a lot more like James Bond, highlighting shortcuts and executions only he would think of, and it works the same way here. Ironically the HD Blood Stone’s tedious firefights would’ve benefited a lot from this system. The Bond moments also make up for the DS version’s lack of focus kills, and considering that was a rather arbitrary element in the HD game it isn’t particularly missed.
Blood Stone DS also includes the much-vaunted hand-to-hand fighting and I actually liked it more in this version. While the HD game’s gorgeously animated melee takedowns have been scaled down for the DS’s modest abilities, the fighting is interactive now, requiring direction matching on the D-pad. It feels much more like you’re struggling to disarm an enemy, instead of just pressing a button and watching the subsequent takedown animation.
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