The Jason Bourne books have been around for almost thirty years but have had resurgence with Hollywood finally turning the books into a successful movie franchise starring Matt Damon. The series follows the adventures of a secret agent trained by a secret government agency who has his memory erased when a hit goes bad. The story follows Bourne as he recalls and escape the violent life he used to lead. Given the success of the movies and the depth of the franchise it was only a matter of time before someone turned it into a video game. Instead of a straight re-telling of the movie the folks at High Moon Studios worked in missions from the books to create a more complete storyline that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
As a fan of the movies I had fairly high expectations for the game and after playing through the game I’m happy to report that the game is a lot of fun. It’s not perfect, but it is a fairly solid action game that offers a good number of thrills and some new takes on the action game genre.
The first thing you’ll notice about the game is that Matt Damon is nowhere to be seen and honestly it doesn’t detract from the game at all as Bourne is supposed to be a faceless assassin. Sure Matt Damon and Franka Potente are prettier than their video game counterparts but their absence doesn’t take anything away from the game.
With Cyril taking on the Xbox 360 version
of the game I was left to review the PS3 version of the game. This meant that I had to sit through the 15 minute install process which consumed a little over four and a half gigs of space on my PS3’s hard drive. Other than that the game is identical to the Xbox 360 version as the folks at High Moon decided not to put any SIXAXXIS tom-foolery into the game.
As you progress through the game you can switch between difficulty levels, which is helpful when you get stuck. I switched back and for the between the Agent and Trainee levels a few times during the six six hours it tookme to get through the game. That didn’t include a lot of time exploring the game to find find the passports hidden throughout the game or gain all of the game’s accomplishments. That puts the game a bit on the lean side of things when it comes to content but I’m not sure where they could have added much more content to the game without it coming off as filler. The game covers the first movie with flashback missions from the books tossed in to flesh things out a bit. That said it’s something that pushes the game more towards the “rental” side of the scale than the “own” side.
What differentiates Bourne from other third person action games is the visceral nature of the combat. They lifted the fighting style from the movie (literally as they had the fight coordinator from the movie on the payroll) so the melee combat is fast and brutal. The only problem is that Jason Bourne really only knows a few moves and while I didn’t get tired of them I think other gamers might get sick of pulling off the same combos over and over again. I think the designers missed an opportunity to leverage the memory loss part of the game as a mechanism to learn new combos as you progress through the game. This could even have been a reward for completing the flashback missions.
One area where the High Moon folks succeeded though is in the game’s takedown system. The game has an adrenaline meter on the bottom right side of the screen with four notches. As you land punches you earn adrenaline and when the adrenaline gets past a notch you can pull off a takedown which launches Bourne into a pre-defined ass kicking move. If you let the meter fill up you can use takedowns to take out more and more bad guys (up to three at a time). When you do a multi-person take down you will be prompted with a quicktime event between bad guys to take out the next guy. The same thing goes with the gun takedowns.
This is one of the flaws of the game as The Bourne Conspiracy leans heavily on quicktime button pressing events. You not only have to deal with them with the takedown system but also at random intervals throughout the game. These are the life/death things that force you to re-load if you miss them. Remember how frustrating the end of God of War II was? It’s like that but it happens about four times during the game. It’s not as hard as the ones in God of War II (the sequences are short) but it is frustrating to have to go through events that stop the progress of the game.About halfway through the game is an inexplicable driving mission which forces you to escape the police in Paris. It’s the only sequence of and while it’s not bad, it does stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the gameplay. The car controls are a bit on the loose side and it does have a few quicktime events that you’ll have to navigate as well. I’m not sure if they should have added another driving sequence to the game to fill the game out more or taken the segment out but it does feel a bit odd.
Thankfully you can restart from any checkpoint in the game which means which is a nice choice option as you can quit at any point without losing a lot of progress in the game. I don’t know why more developers don’t do this but it was nice to have.
How you feel about the style of the game will depend on how much you enjoyed the style of the movies. The game lifts the face paced, quick cut cinematography from the films. It’s a bit maddening at times but it does give the game a unique feel. The camera angle is a bit skewed the majority of the time but once you get used to it it’s not too much of a problem. I did have to fight the camera a few times but its about par for the course for this type of game.
The audio in the game is also well done with a decent score and fairly solid voice over work. Where the audio shines though is in the general audio of the game. Everything from the sound of the guns to landing a punch sounds exactly like you would expect it do and it really does draw you further into the game.
Graphically the game is a mixed bag. It certainly looks better moving on screen that it does in screenshots but it’s not quite at the same level as other current gen games. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it gets the job done but don’t go in looking for Gears of War level graphics. The game could have also used some more varied henchmen as you do end up killing the “generic bad guy in a ski mask” for most of the game. The game does gets marks for adding destructible cover into the mix. This has to be one of my favorite things as there’s nothing more satisfying than blowing up a bad guys hiding spot before taking him out with a final kill
As I was playing through the game I couldn’t help but think how cool it would have been to have co-op multiplayer in the game. Sure it would have to have been a flashback mission but it would have been a lot of fun to have a few specialized co-op missions in the game where you and some of the other Treadstone agents dish out cases of whoop-ass. Hopefully this is something we’ll see in an upcoming sequel as I think the folks at High Moon have created a very solid base to build upon. It’s not the best game on the market but I had a lot of fun playing the game and that counts for something.