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Blood Stone: 007 (Xbox 360) artwork

Blood Stone: 007 (Xbox 360) review

"Whereas GoldenEye Wii and its N64 predecessor lived up to the 007 name, Blood Stone fails to create the highly addictive thrills that gamers and moviegoers have come to expect from the franchise."

In the film Unbreakable, Bruce Wills and Samuel L. Jackson play characters that are complete opposites. One is a hero with a good heart and an impervious body; the other is a weak and deranged villain with frail bones.

James Bond 007: Blood Stone reminds me of that film – not because it has some unusual connection to M. Night Shyamalan, but because Blood Stone is the complete opposite of the Wii-exclusive remake of GoldenEye 007. The latter is a rich and inspired first-person shooter with great multiplayer gaming. The former is a rundown third-person shooter with atrocious multiplayer, sub-par single-player, and a generic presentation that harkens back to The Bourne Conspiracy.

The Bourne Conspiracy, however, was successful in its attempt to combine different kinds of gameplay. While none of them were particularly outstanding, the mixture – which included open-world exploration, hand-to-hand combat and brief driving sequences – was quite effective. The game wasn’t as deep as the film trilogy, but it was cool, action-packed, and proved to be more entertaining than the average popcorn flick.

The same cannot be said for Blood Stone, a Bond game that uses the Bourne blueprint but lacks any degree of polish. To be clear, this is far from the worst Bond game ever made. But in the world of shooters – especially those priced at $60 – it leaves a lot to be desired.

From the moment the game begins, it’s crystal clear that the developers had no idea who would play Blood Stone, so they decided to develop it for everyone. Thus, the basic character movements – running, crouching, ducking behind walls or peaking over them – are as generic as they come. Shootouts occur frequently, and while they could have been a source of intensity and excitement, they are all but ruined by useless AI and faulty aiming mechanics.

Players who take the time to line up a perfect headshot will be disappointed when the game fails to recognize their precise actions. But they won’t be punished for it: Bond’s enemies make the footprint-following soldiers of Metal Gear Solid look like rocket scientists. These guys are oblivious to their surroundings. You can run up from behind, unleash a simple one-button melee attack, and call it a day without ever having to fire a single bullet. While you might think that sounds pretty cool, keep in mind that there’s no risk in moving carelessly. Though you could be seen if another enemy walks by, the danger is minimal. Character health is rarely an issue since you can take cover behind a wall until your health meter replenishes itself.

Thus, there’s no reason for Bond to pretend to be a spy he’s not. In this game, Bond is more of a low-level Duke Nukem knock-off than a spy; he’s slower, has weaker weapons, and doesn’t have to worry about a monster invasion. But Blood Stone’s gameplay isn’t all that different. Simply run toward the enemy, open fire, take cover, and repeat.

As if that weren’t easy enough, the developers went the extra mile and included a feature called Focus Aim that allows you to aim automatically and kill enemies with the press of a single button. This feature is gained by executing the aforementioned melee attacks, and while Focus Aim might have been a cool addition to a futuristic shooter like Vanquish, it doesn’t really fit within the James Bond realm. Bond is supposed to be a spy who pushes the limits of what a determined and highly skilled individual can accomplish. But he is not – and never should be – a superhero capable of performing acts outside of our own reality.

Blood Stone’s problems do not end with these gameplay features. The game is also plagued by generic single-player levels and abysmal multiplayer environments. While going through the solo campaign, players will explore European cities, underground pathways, and even climb aboard a yacht. But there is nothing exciting about any of these locations, especially when the layout is designed to lead you down one particular path.

In multiplayer (which includes little more than a deathmatch and team deathmatch mode), the levels can be best described as a collection of blocks that have been thrown together in one room. There are towers and small buildings, a few stairs to climb, and a couple of barricades to hide behind. While any one of these elements can be found in any good shooter, Blood Stone does not do anything to make them exciting. The gameplay is too slow and the weapons – pistols, machineguns and the like – are too stale to add any flavor to the experience.

Similar to The Bourne Conspiracy, Blood Stone offers a set of vehicular missions that give players the opportunity to take control of speed boats and luxury automobiles. Much like the stages that Bond battles on foot, these missions are easy enough to induce sleep. In addition to the clunky controls and the linear roads/waterways (FYI: you won’t need a GPS to get from point A to point B), the vehicles are physically slow and visually boring. There is no sense of speed whatsoever. The graphics are partially to blame, no question; without any beautiful environments to fill in the background, you might as well be driving through a world full of cardboard cutouts.

From a marketing standpoint, Blood Stone could be viewed as a success for obtaining the voices of Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench (and Joss Stone, if anyone cares). But their voices can only go so far. The associated character designs and animations are no better than what you’d get on PlayStation 2. The story isn’t very good either: as Bond, players will uncover the truth behind a top-secret biochemical project.

Whereas GoldenEye Wii and its N64 predecessor lived up to the 007 name, Blood Stone fails to create the highly addictive thrills that gamers and moviegoers have come to expect from the franchise. The gameplay is clunky and predictable, and the multiplayer content is downright laughable. Bond loyalists may be tempted to add this game to their Christmas wish list, but they’d be better off looking into some of the older (and much more entertaining) games in the series.

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Freelance review by Louis Bedigian (December 07, 2010)

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