James Bond 007: Blood Stone First Impressions

Bizarre Creations' action driving game, based on "an original and topical" Bond story, acquits itself well in a fast-paced first look.

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The unveiling of James Bond 007: Blood Stone confirmed speculation, triggered by retailer listings and domain name registrations, of a new Bond title from Activision. The game, it turns out, is an action driving hybrid from Blur developer Bizarre Creations. Blood Stone isn't tied to a James Bond movie but follows an "original and topical storyline," according to David G. Wilson, Bond Marketing's vice president of business strategy. This plot, penned by experienced Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein, is a "completely new narrative...with plot and characters in keeping with Bond heritage" and includes international terrorists, a terrorist suicide mission, and, judging from the title and diamond-encrusted opening credits (in familiar silhouetted Bond intro style), a quantity of jewels.

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The soundtrack from the opening sequence begins with the game's own Bond theme song, "I'll Take It All," a typically grand Bond theme cowritten and sung by Joss Stone, who Activision has also revealed as the game's Bond girl. Her voice and body-scanned likeness appear in the game as Nicole Hunter, a socialite who works with diamonds. On stage at the preview event, Stone described the character as "a posh version of Paris Hilton."

The game will combine both driving and on-foot action, with the intention that you will be able to move fluidly between unarmed combat and gunplay. In making the game, Bizarre Creations also brought in talent and crew to an "unprecedented" degree. Besides Daniel Craig and Judi Dench, who have both provided the voices for Bond and M, Bond stuntman Ben Cooke has choreographed hand-to-hand fight sequences for the game's combat system.

In Blood Stone, Wilson promises "total immersion in the world that is Bond" in a game that takes in diverse locations, including Istanbul, the south of France, and Athens. In a section from the first level of the game, we saw Bond on a plane above a scenic harbour, being warned by M of an imminent terrorist attack--the man behind the attack being a man named Greco, who was on a heavily defended ship below. Bond jumped from the plane and parachuted onto the deck, kicking a guard into the water below as he landed.

Segueing into real gameplay, Bond performed a hand-to-hand stealth takedown of a second guard and then took cover behind a wall. The third-person shooting, initially with a silenced P99, includes a cover system and a "focus aim" mechanic: a kind of earned bullet-time, instant takedown system. After shooting his way through the ship, Bond confronted Greco in a cinematic. Greco called in more guards, giving the opportunity for Bond to perform some nifty stuntman-choreographed hand-to-hand moves. Greco, having escaped onto another boat during the chaos, launched a rocket at Bond (in another cinematic), who jumped ship at the last moment onto a nearby speedboat.

The transition to driving from an on-foot action sequence was as slick as promised; Bond gave chase to Greco through the harbour past liners and ferries, being shot at from the boat ahead and then a missile-carrying helicopter, which brought a tower overlooking the harbour crashing down into the water just ahead. A slowdown effect triggered as Bond, still at the helm of the speedboat, shot some gas tanks at the water's edge to explosively take out the chopper.

Daniel Craig stars as Blood Stone's Bond.
Daniel Craig stars as Blood Stone's Bond.

A cinematic then had Bond launch his speedboat up a pier and onto dry land, transforming the driving into a run-and-gun segment through parked cars at the harbour's edge. We saw Bond put his focus aim ability to work, killing three enemies in a brief slow-mo sequence. After catching Greco and tossing him through a plate glass window, Bond realised his target--a bomb of some kind--was aboard an SUV as it sped past. Cue a second vehicle chase segment; this time in an Aston Martin. The chase took Bond first through a tunnel and then along a cliffside road in an action racing sequence reminiscent of the 2008 Bond movie Quantum of Solace.

Most notable in the hands-off demo was the intensity and variety of the action, moving swiftly among shooting, driving and hand-to-hand combat at a pace that matched the action scenes of the recent Bond movies. If the final game, out in November 2010, can match the pace and pitch of the demo, there'll be a great new Bond game vying with the GoldenEye remake for the attention of Bond fans.

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