James Bond: Quantum of Solace First Look
We track down Activision and Treyarch's first game based on the James Bond movie franchise.
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James Bond: Quantum of Solace is the upcoming game based on Ian Fleming's iconic British spy, who's been around since 1953. The character has appeared in 14 novels and 22 films over the past few decades. The special agent has even starred in an array of games published by everyone from Nintendo to EA since 1983. The latest publisher to try its hand at the multitalented spy is Activision, which has tapped internal studio Treyarch to craft a new action game based on the most recent Bond films starring Daniel Craig. We watched a run through bits of the upcoming game at a recent press event held at Treyarch's Santa Monica offices.
Quantum of Solace marks the first game appearance of Daniel Craig's Bond and, although it's named after the latest film, it will cover the previous film, Casino Royale, as well as Solace. Covering both movies actually works out, given that Solace is a proper sequel to Casino Royale and picks up roughly an hour after the events in that film. Treyarch is taking a pretty standard action approach to the game, in that you'll be running Bond through his paces across various set pieces from the films that will have you spying, fighting, and shooting. Unfortunately for hardcore fans, Treyarch hasn't included a "bedding the ladies" component, which keeps Quantum from being the definitive Bond experience, but there's always the next game.
Our demo of the game broke down into looks at three different levels, all taken from the Casino Royale portion. The first demo was set during the latter part of the film, in which Bond chases his current special lady Vesper into a house on the canals of Venice. For the purposes of the game, Treyarch has taken some dramatic license and dropped into the house a whole bunch of foes who will stand between you and Vesper as she rides an elevator up to the higher levels. Your goal is obviously to follow her, dealing with the opposition in one of two ways: stealthily taking them out when possible or shooting them full of bullets. The demo of the level showed a pretty logical assortment of spots in the house where one method worked better than the other, which kept the action varied. The other element to the sequence involved making your way through the house environment, which, in typical dramatic Bond fashion, was beginning to sink into the water.
The second level that we saw was taken from a bit earlier in the game and was set in the casino that serves as the film's centerpiece. Bond's task is to shadow and protect main baddie Le Chiffre from assorted goons who would like to kill him. Bond receives direction via an earpiece as he navigates the guard-filled halls of the casino. The level skewed a bit more toward the stealth side of things; the initial demo level found our demonstrator attempting to tear through the halls on a shooting spree that got him smacked down pretty quickly. His second attempt to go through the level was much stealthier and saw him avoiding guards and even taking to the exterior of the building via windows to make his way to different areas. The exterior route also let Bond do some eavesdropping to get some useful information.
Once that was done, Bond was guided back into the building, where he took to the air vents for some more sneaking. Along the way he engaged in some stealth kills, which took the form of button-pressing minigames. After a bit of stealth, the level took a more action-oriented spin as Bond dropped from the vents into a firefight that was complicated by the presence of vision-obscuring steam. Once the shooting was done, the level was back to more sneaking that showed off a lock-picking minigame, which segued into another firefight. This time, though, we got a chance to see some of the level interactivity working in Bond's favor as he shot down a chandelier that took out some of his foes. As with previous games, Quantum of Solace will feature a bullet-time mechanic that will slow down time and let players target with greater accuracy.
The final level that we were shown was taken from the early part of Casino Royale and followed Bond as he ran through a construction yard. The sequence is pretty faithful to the scene in the film, although obviously extended in a few places for dramatic license and gameplay. The demo showed a brief portion of the level and focused on the sequence in which Bond is running through the construction site and leaping around moving platforms and girders.
The gameplay appeared to be solid across all three levels that we saw. What stood out to us were the shifts between first- and third-person perspectives, which happened often. The basic logic is that you'll play the game in first person but the perspective will switch to third person at certain points, such as when you take cover or engage in melee combat. It's an interesting wrinkle to the action, but we're not sure how we feel about it, considering that it may make gameplay a bit too disjointed. Nevertheless, we'll reserve judgment until we play it ourselves. The rest of the gameplay was pretty straightforward and seemed fine. The action and stealth sequences look good. The stealth-kill and melee system look satisfying and seem as if they'll be pretty easy to handle. The assorted weapons are what you'd expect and should suit the action fine. It's also worth noting that the action in the game will revolve around Bond on foot and won't include any car sequences.
As far as visuals go, Quantum of Solace is benefitting from Treyarch's use of the Call of Duty 4 engine. The powerful engine is already offering high visual fidelity and impressive performance even in the work-in-progress levels that we saw. The environments feature a high level of detail and interactive elements such as breakable objects and fabric curtains that react. The first- and third-person shifts are handled pretty well, although the camera movement looked a bit jarring to us. The upside is that the third-person perspective shows off the detailed model of Daniel Craig, which is worth some showcasing. Treyarch might have gone a little overboard when modeling the super spy, going so far as to show pores in close-ups, but the attention to detail helps the game's cinematic leanings. The secondary enemies don't get quite the same glamour treatment but they still look pretty sharp.
Audio in the game is another facet of its presentation that's benefitting from the COD4 tech. Quantum of Solace's audio team is working to craft a dense layer of sound to complement the visuals. You'll obviously hear familiar tunes such as the Bond theme, mixed in with other incidental music to frame the action. At the same time, gunfire and enemy chatter will add to the chaos of gunfights and the like. To keep things authentic, Daniel Craig and Judy Dench will be voicing Bond and M.
Based on this early look, Quantum of Solace has a nice look to it and is taking an interesting approach to serving up a Bond experience. We're curious to see how the Quantum of Solace levels look and play, but we expect that they'll be in line with the Casino Royale ones we saw. We're also curious about the game's multiplayer experience; Treyarch said that multiplayer would be included but kept mum on the specifics, which are expected to be released later this year. Bond fans will want to keep an eye out for James Bond: Quantum of Solace, which is set to ship later this year across all platforms. For those keeping track, Treyarch is handling dev chores on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, whereas the rest of the platforms are being handled by Beenox (Wii and PC), Eurocom (PlayStation 2), and Vicarious Visions (Nintendo DS).