The last time I saw James Bond 007: Blood Stone in action, I wasn't convinced. Something, some hard-to-define Bond quality was missing. But developer Bizarre Creations may have won me over with my second look at Blood Stone.
The developer of the new, Daniel Craig-starring James Bond video game brought two new levels with it to Gamescom: one set in Istanbul, one in Siberia. They brought a better-looking Blood Stone with them. The game's digital Bond looked less like plastic this time and its gameplay mechanics made more sense.
Bizarre's Neil Thompson (art director) and Peter Collier (level designer) again walked us through the third-person shooting game action, which can be played stealthily or speedy. We watched as Bizarre guided James Bond through a construction yard in Istanbul. It was filled with bad guys that stood between Bond and a man known as professor Malcolm Tedworth, an educated man who apparently knew too much.
The first play-through was stealthy. Bond took down each bad guy from cover silently, choking them out or snapping their necks. (One of those kills was extra-silent, because according to Thompson "We had to remove a sound effect that was deemed 'too visceral' for human consumption.") When Blood Stone's bond takes someone down in stealth mode, he gets a "Focus Aim" token that he can cash in for a lightning-quick one-shot kill. Using a combination of take downs and Focus Aim attacks, Bond cleared the construction yard without a bang.
The second play-through was all running, leaping, loud shooting and punching. Bond went from bad guy to bad guy brazenly and killed them all. When "using maximum prejudice," clearing the level took about half the time of the stealth version, perfect for the impatient Bond fan.
The stealth tactics looked more fun - and familiar, as that Focus Aim thing looks heavily influenced by the "Mark & Execute" feature from Splinter Cell Conviction.
Go Go Gadget Phone Another James Bond 007: Blood Stone feature that appears to borrow from another successful action game comes from one of Bond's gadgets. It's a smartphone.
James Bond's smartphone does more than make calls; it offers an "augmented reality" view of the environment. It's not unlike Batman: Arkham Asylum's "detective vision" effect. Pulling up Bond's smartphone in Blood Stone lets players see waypoints, search for evidence and find discarded enemy weapons and ammo. It's also used as a catch-all hacking tool that lets Bond pull data from computers and engage in hacking mini-games.
But the smartphone is clearly not meant to be overused. The augmented reality effect is visually jarring to switch on and fills the screen with static while running.
James Bond has a cool, appropriately-overpowered electronic gizmo in Blood Stone. The game's feeling Bonder already.
Bond Action It was a trio of action sequences that better sold me on the new Bond. Deep below that construction yard, Bond entered a massive cave filled with wooden scaffolding. A wall at the far end of the dug-out room was circular, actually the tip of a massive drill, which kicked on in an attempt to crush Bond. The spy climbed up scaffolding, leapt across wide gaps and shimmied quickly across support beams while scrambling to run away from the drill.
It was a death-defying Bond moment, made more believable by the animated parkour skills of Daniel Craig's more athletic version of the super spy. I was into it.
Bizarre also showed off two high-speed driving sequences. Both were crazy.
The first took place at the end of the Istanbul level. It was - what else? - a chase sequence, with Bond dodging oncoming traffic that was spinning out of control. It appeared to be a well-choreographed sequence of accidents and near misses.
The second was better and it was more Bond. He was driving an Aston Martin with singer/virtual Bond girl Joss Stone's character in the passenger seat. He was chasing a train in Siberia, chasing a man named Pomerov. Bond's Aston Martin drove through industrial areas, through heavy snow, underneath collapsing structures. He snaked below the bridge on which the train was moving and dodged helicopter fire. It was exciting stuff.
Then it got Bond-ridiculous, because - against his passenger's wishes - he drove off the road and onto a frozen river. Onto a partially frozen river, that is, with Bond expertly avoiding the river's icy waters while still dodging that helicopter fire and, eventually, leaping off a ramp and landing on top of the train itself. He deposited the car into one of the train's carriages and the demo ended.
Blood Stone looks like it will feature the best of what Bond does - death-defying escapes, impossible stunts made to look easy and a licence to kill used expertly.
Bizarre Creations explained a bit more about its multiplayer plans for James Bond 007: Blood Stone during our demo, saying we should expect gametypes like team deathmatch, last man standing, and objective based modes. Sadly, there will be no multiplayer driving online.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone will be out for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this November. If it continues to look this good, this Bond is worth keeping an eye on.