Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy Review
Jason Bourne's quick-fisted head-busting combat style makes the transition to consoles with panache.
- Simple, yet immensely satisfying fisticuffs
- Brutal takedowns
- Tense music and great sound effects
- Captures the excitement of the films.
- Mediocre gunplay hamstrings replay value
- Collecting passports to unlock boss fights is tedious.
Since the release of The Bourne Identity in 2002, Robert Ludlum's titular amnesiac spy has thrilled movie audiences with fast, brutal combat and tense action sequences. When developer High Moon Studios set out to create a game starring Jason Bourne, it drew on the electric choreography of the movies as well as the robust world of Ludlum's novels. Perhaps this is why The Bourne Conspiracy shakes off the mantle of disappointment worn by most movie tie-in games and proves itself worthy of entry into the Bourne canon. The exciting and deeply awesome hand-to-hand combat system expertly captures the pugilistic prowess of the 30-million-dollar weapon and, while complemented by serviceable gunplay and rich environments, is reason enough to get in on this conspiracy.
The plot of The Bourne Conspiracy follows Bourne's quest to learn who he is and why heavily armed men are after him, and it's structured around the key action sequences from The Bourne Identity. Interspersed throughout these familiar missions are playable flashbacks that hark back to the time before Bourne's amnesia when he had no qualms about leaving trails of bodies and bullets en route to his objectives. There are also video cutscenes between missions that, while well produced, just seem to drive home the fact that both Matt Damon and Franka Potente are much more attractive than the prerendered characters that replace them.
In The Bourne Conspiracy, as in the Bourne films, the hand-to-hand fights are fast, exciting, and brutal. The beauty of the combat here is that it doesn't demand any complex user input, so you'll be focused on the immediate action rather than trying to recall elaborate button combinations. There are two attacks available to you--light and heavy--and a block button. Attack combos consist of up to three consecutive light or heavy attacks, so there are only eight possible combinations. Throwing these combos down will make up the bulk of your fighting strategy, though you'll occasionally want to unleash a charged attack because the impact is just so satisfying. Getting the controls down is easy, but timing them is a bit trickier. Your opponents attack as vigorously as you do, so it's key that you focus on good fight flow. Interrupting your opponent's assault by blocking and then beating out a smooth cadence of combos on his head and torso is the quickest way to secure your victory.
This victory can come by straight-up pummeling, or you can use the adrenaline you've gained by landing successful blows to unleash a takedown. A takedown is a fluid, context-sensitive flurry of blows in which you finish bad guys off in signature Bourne style with efficient, improvisational brutality. It's when you finish your foe off by kicking him down a staircase. It's when you bounce his head off a desk, then punch his head right back down into the desk as he tries to get up. It's when you break a bookshelf, a vending machine, or a glass table with his broken, unconscious body. In short, it's a way to exponentially increase the amount of awesome stuff you can do in combat without increasing the complexity of the controls.
Takedowns are such an excellent part of combat that as you come up on enemies and engage in battle, you'll find yourself looking around for objects you could possibly use in environmental takedowns. Thankfully these objects are plentiful and range from a concrete pillar in a parking garage to a fully stacked bookshelf in a library. This is a testament to the thoroughness of the takedown implementation, as well as the richness of the environments. The levels look sharp and are very well populated with everyday objects, but they're not without their flaws. Any noncombatant you encounter is surrounded by an impenetrable invisible shield, and sometimes you'll maneuver an opponent toward a specific object for a takedown only to execute one of the many generic, open-space takedowns. To be fair, these are still pretty satisfying, but you'll notice the repetition as you progress further into the game. You can also charge your adrenaline meter up to the point where you can take down two or three opponents in one fluid sequence. Performing multiple takedowns in a row requires timed button presses, and though these animations also begin to repeat, multiple takedowns happen rarely enough that you'll probably just be psyched to have leveled so many foes so quickly.