Review by AceGamer2
Rare are still #1 at James Bond games, but Treyarch are a close second...
Back in 1996, game developers Rare released a little game on Nintendo's little N64 called Goldeneye - you might have heard of it. Goldeneye wasn't the first FPS to hit the gaming market, nor was it the best of its kind (although opinion on this matter tends to divide gamers somewhat) - what it was, however, was one of the best movie-licensed games ever created, and one that continues to attract gamers to its pretty spectacular multi player modes even to this day. It didn't just put you in Bond's tuxedo; it recreated the gung-ho, smug-smiling atmosphere of the movie upon which it was based perfectly and combined that with fast-paced action, very competent AI and brilliantly designed levels. For a game released in the mid-Nineties, it's still an absolute joy to pick up and play. The problem is that Goldeneye was not only the first awesome Bond game, but it was also the last. Various other incarnations have graced our consoles since, notably the somewhat shabby Rogue Agent and EA's above average third person effort Everything or Nothing, but none have really ever come close to the fun and challenge of Goldeneye.
When Quantum of Solace started landing on the shelves of game stores up and down the land, comparisons to Rare's FPS tour-de-force were inevitable and deserved. Here was a slick, fast-paced shooter that featured the likeness of the current Bond, packed with the most exciting elements from the movie and carefully crafted levels built around the film's exotic locales. Unfortunately, being a 007 game, alarm bells rang with almost immediate effect; everyone knows that since Goldeneye, Bond games, by and large, suck. To be honest though, comparisons between Quantum and Goldeneye are somewhat pointless and slightly unfair. For a start, there's over a decade of technology between the two, and if anyone released Goldeneye now, not a lot of us would be impressed by it. These days we've got Halo, we've got Gears of War, and we've got Call of Duty. The bar is set, the ante is well and truly upped, and gamers as a rule want something more than just a decent license when they fork out forty quid on a shiny new disc.
So how does Quantum of Solace measure up? Does it push the envelope and carve itself a place amongst the other (few) great movie conversions out there? Can it match Goldeneye for sheer accessibility, fun and excitement? Can it even stand toe-to-toe with Everything or Nothing for effortless cool? The answer, without beating around the bush, is not quite - but it still tries damn hard.
As is to be expected from a game using the much-touted CoD 4 engine, the action in Quantum of Solace comes thick and fast - which is kind of the problem with this game. Anyone who's seen the two Daniel Craig outings on the big screen will know that despite his incarnation moving Bond up the action ziggurat towards Bourne-esque levels of "no one can think that fast" exhilaration, the real weapons in the MI6 assassin's arsenal are subterfuge and charm. So why do we run around every level of Quantum of Solace blasting hordes of identikit goons in the face? There are stealth elements, sure, but they're not used enough to really increase the tension, since there's always the option of whipping out an SMG and spraying everything with bullets. In terms of story, the game follows the film fairly closely, particularly in the opening levels, the first of which sort of fills in the gap between Casino Royale and Quantum as you attempt to escape Mr. White's mansion. It's here that the lack of a tutorial is under-rug-swept by a fairly easy run and gun level, wherein you're taught to use the Gears-style cover system. It's a very simple mechanic and always effective: press A near a wall to put your shoulder against it, giving you the choice of firing blindly from cover or poking your head out using the left trigger for precision aiming. It blends seamlessly with the standard first person viewpoint and looks pretty groovy too.
Some - myself included - will argue that the cover system can at times make you feel somewhat overly powerful and the fact that your life regenerates over time when you're not taking hits means that, for a lot of the earlier levels at least, the tried and tested method of circle-strafing a la Doom works pretty well for avoiding any enemy fire - throw in the cover system and the ridiculously accurate "blind-fire" option and you'll cut through swathes of enemies and hardly take a hit over and over again. On the upside, it does make the game instantly accessible to the less hardcore shooter fans out there, but for those of you who want a challenge, Far Cry 2 this ain't.
As you progress through levels, information is made available via two main mediums, the first of which is a comms-link to MI6, through which a desk-agent gives you objectives, hints and directions on the move. The second medium is the shameless product-placement of Vaio laptops and Sony Ericsson's new mobile phone, as seen performing incredibly high-tech tricks every thirty to thirty-five seconds in the film. Despite the retail price tag on these phones, the bad guys in the Quantum of Solace game appear to drop them all over the place, leaving them for Bond to find and search through for intel on various locations, enemies and objectives in each level. Suspension of disbelief is as important in the video game as it is in the movie, apparently.
But, gripes aside, the new 007 adventure will please most casual gamers because of its forgiving, pick-up-play approach to the FPS genre. Bond fans will appreciate the detail in the main character models - notably Daniel Craig, of course - and the voice work provided by the film's cast adds to the authenticity that's expected from a Bond license. Graphically the locations won't really blow you away, but in some respects they don't really have to since the atmosphere reflects the movie scenes upon which they are based perfectly. Fair enough, the mobs are recycled pretty judicially, but as they're only there to be shot dead in the first place, it's not a major complaint.
The AI is actually something of a saving grace for Quantum, as the CoD 4 engine allows the enemy to cover one another, make effective use of obstacles, fire from cover and seek you out without presenting you with a huge ugly face to plug with lead. In later levels when they're literally firing on you from every angle, it can become quite a challenge to keep yourself alive. As has been mentioned, your health regenerates, represented by a Bond silhouette in the bottom left corner of the HUD that begins white but drains to grey with each hit taken. Once the colour is gone, the screen goes grey and one more hit sees the iconic "dripping blood" effect come into play, announcing that you are as dead as a doornail. Thankfully, dipping into cover for a few seconds replenishes any lost life and avoids the red seep, as cool as it may look. Should you find yourself surprised or set upon at close quarters, you can use the B button to execute one of Bond's takedowns - similar to the QTEs in The Bourne Conspiracy - giving you yet another safety net when things get a little overheated.
A seasoned FPS vet will clear Quantum with no trouble; I finished it in just over six hours on the default difficulty setting, although this can be increased should the challenge prove to be lacking for you. With almost no replay value, the game is helped no end by a fairly decent multi player that features the usual death match and team modes as seen in games like CoD 4, as well as a few new options, notably the "Bond Versus" mode, which is awesome fun, pitting one player as Bond against everyone else. Now that's exhilarating. You can also upgrade your multi player avatar in a similar vein to CoD 4 and unlock new weapons and enhancements, as well as customisation options, as you play. For that extra level of overkill you can even unlock golden weapons that, garish as they appear, still make you grin when you pull them out. Although it's not quite as charming as Goldeneye's legendary multi player, Treyarch has done its best to create a Live element that really brings out a whole new side to the game and extends its lifespan well beyond the short-lived solo experience.
In terms of creating a no-frills game that doesn't try to be anything it's not, Treyarch has succeeded. Quantum of Solace really feels like a Bond game, combining elements from both of the recent movies and using tried and tested game play mechanics to create a fun (if slightly flawed) shooter experience. It's not going to win any awards and it isn't likely to attract new fans to either 007 or the FPS genre, but it's very likeable, entirely inoffensive and highly playable. There's no blood, no swearing and no scares, so it may even fill in the gaps for the younger shooter fans out there until they're old enough to splatter some Locust brains in Gears of War. Unfortunately, most grown up gamers will want something a little more challenging and a lot more aggressive. Rare, your crown remains uncontested
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: 007: Quantum of Solace (EU, 10/31/08)
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