James Bond may be taking an unfortunate hiatus from the box office at the moment, but that hasn't stopped Activision from giving 007 fans a double dose of their favourite spy. While Wii owners are treated to a re-imagining of the N64 classic GoldenEye, high-definition consoles get 007: Blood Stone; a game that combines cover-based, third-person shooting, intense driving, stealth-action, and more. Coupled with a standalone plot in the Bond universe, Blood Stone is generally successful in capturing the feeling of the iconic films. However, the game has its share of issues. For one, the wide variety of mechanics used has resulted in mediocre delivery on almost all fronts - driving elements being the exception. Additionally, the dialogue and overall presentation lacks the charm and dry wit that's made Bond legendary.
Blood Stone may not be linked to any impending movie release, but it does stick closely to the format of the Daniel Craig era. The broad themes you'd expect from a modern Bond film are prominently featured; international conspiracy, exotic locations, intense chases, and so on. In this latest tale, Bond travels to Istanbul to investigate the whereabouts of a missing British scientist who possess highly sensitive intelligence. Naturally, things aren't as simple as they seem, and Bond quickly finds himself at the heart of an international biological weapons catastrophe in the making.
While Blood Stone's overarching plot structure and themes suite the Bond franchise well, the dialogue fails to invoke Bond's signature dry wit and charm. Attempts at capturing this crucial element of any good Bond story fall flat, generally feeling forced. In addition, the overall structure of events bares a striking resemblance to Casino Royale. Everything from the opening action sequence, to the musical intro, to the late stage betrayal feels like it's trying to mimic Craig's big screen debut a little too closely.
Playing as 007 means possessing the ability to confront a wide range of situations. Whether it's brazen firefights, hectic chase sequences, traversing buildings, gathering intelligence or covert execution, Bond can do it all. This combination of numerous different mechanics results in a game that moves at a pace, as there's generally something different around the corner to keep things fresh - aside from a select few gunfights that drag on. The downside to this versatility is an apparent lack of focus on each individual mechanic, sacrificing depth for variety. The end result being a collection of mostly mediocre parts, ranging from the chase scenes on the high end, likely due to Bizarre Creations experience on Project Gotham Racing, to the awkward platforming and simplistic intelligence gathering that both fall well below average.
That being said, Blood Stone is primarily described as a cover-based, third-person shooter, because those sections are most commonly featured. Overall, the gunplay is pretty standard, bringing few original ideas to the table. The game makes use of a "Focus Aim" system that allows players to pull off quick, automated headshots after completing melee takedowns, and a nifty cellphone which indicates where objectives and enemies are on the field - both mechanics feel very similar to those of Splinter Cell: Conviction and Batman: Arkham Asylum, respectively. Blood Stone's execution is competent, but doesn't stand out in any meaningful way.
In terms of presentation, emulating the film experience is the name of the game here. Is Blood Stone successful? Well, Yes and no. The epic set pieces and rousing soundtrack definitely conjure memories of the films. In particular, the incredibly detailed, at times gorgeous, chase scenes really leave an impression. The diverse range of environments also helps to make these sequences visually striking. On the other hand, in between these adrenaline filled moments, representing most of the game, are generally uninspired, dull rooms and corridors. Blood Stone can go from awe inspiring to bland in a matter of seconds. The cutscenes also suffer their share of issues. Poor voice syncing and, aside from Daniel Craig, rigid character models hamper the experience.
After completing the roughly six hour campaign, there are multiple difficulty settings and an online multiplayer component to entice players to return. Playing on the higher difficulty settings is preferable for those remotely familiar with shooters, as there's substantial aim assist on the normal setting if you want it. The 8-on-8 multiplayer features six maps and three modes, none of which bring anything new to the table. Competition in the shooter market is so stiff that it seems unlikely many will be playing Blood Stone into the future.
Despite its apparent shortcomings, such as lacking Bond's charm and personality, 007: Blood Stone manages to retain some level of interest throughout its relatively short campaign. It certainly isn't the most original title, as almost every mechanic has been used before, but it's somewhat saved by solid pacing that stems from a wide variety of tasks. Some thrilling set pieces and chase scenes also help make Blood Stone memorable.