Takin' it to the streets of Marseilles with Jason Bourne

With preview season in full swing, we've had abundant opportunities to sit down with various publishers and check out selections from their upcoming release schedules. We've rolled out coverage hubs for Midway, Nintendo, and Namco Bandai to name a few, and next week we'll be launching a similar...


With preview season in full swing, we've had abundant opportunities to sit down with various publishers and check out selections from their upcoming release schedules. We've rolled out coverage hubs for Midway, Nintendo, and Namco Bandai to name a few, and next week we'll be launching a similar page detailing the prize ponies in Sierra's stable. One of their finer specimens is Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy, a game that puts you in the shoes, and fists, of Jason Bourne, everyone's favorite amnesiac black ops agent. Joe Dodson previewed the game two months ago, Brian Ekberg got his hands on the demo that will be downloadable sometime this May, and we even hosted developer High Moon Studios on On The Spot. After all checking out all this fist-flinging content, I was eager to get my own mitts on the game. Is it wrong to want to jump kick a man from a full sprint, or acquaint book with esophagus in ways that would make Guttenberg turn in his grave? I say nay. So without further ado, here's my take on the first level of the full retail version of the game.

The story begins, as in The Bourne Identity, at sea. Specifically, in the sea, the place where Jason Bourne ends up after he attempts to assassinate Wombosi on his private yacht. Wondering who Wombosi is? Cue flashback! Suddenly it's two days ago and I'm infiltrating Wombosi's organization in Marseilles, France. The level begins with Bourne standing on a side street. Using an ability called Bourne Instinct, my objective lights up on the radar in the bottom right corner of the screen. Rule number one of being Jason Bourne: he always has a target. Bourne Instinct makes that target clear so there's no down time figuring out where to go next. At my objective point I acquire some key info: Wombosi has hired an assassin to kill me, so now it's kill or be killed. But before I get to the target, I'll have to go through his goon squad.

Running through the streets of Marseilles, Bourne is accosted by henchman galore. Some he can see coming, others just jump him from around a corner. In each case, combat is initiated by a quick, automatic encounter. Goon sees Bourne coming, goon throws punch, Bourne parries and hits goon with a kick to the leg that sends goon back a step, and combat begins. At first, these auto-engagements feel a bit jarring, but after a few fights I begin to appreciate the kinetic tone they set for the action. Stringing together combos with light and heavy attacks, Bourne gains adrenaline that will allow him to perform a takedown. Bourne can either beat goon into submission, or activate a takedown to lay goon low with style. Be it a head smashed into a dumpster, a face through a pane of glass, or a good working over with a fire extinguisher, a takedown is as satisfying as it is savage. Build up two or three tiers of adrenaline, and Bourne can take down two or three foes with a series of timed button presses. Since takedowns are environment-specific, I found myself luring enemies to certain areas, wondering if I really could, say, use this lamppost or that drainpipe in sinister fashion. The answer was almost always yes, and the takedowns were always brutal, badass, and believably Bourne.

In addition to goons galore, Bourne also had to contend with traps set by his target. Rounding one corner, I was given a split second to tap a button and dive behind a bench as a nearby cherry picker exploded and crashed to the ground right where I had been standing. Moments like this can happen anytime, and add to the sense that danger is everywhere in Bourne's world. The camera angles during this sequence were very similar to the fight and takedown camera, so rather than feeling shoe-horned in, it felt reasonably integrated into the gameplay. Sprinting to catch up with my target, I busted out a running takedown on an approaching henchman. Bourne delivered a vicious high kick to the chest, knocked his would-be attacker out cold, and barely even broke his stride. The dude has icky moves.

Once Bourne caught up with his target, the boss rumble was on. These differ from normal encounters because bosses are much tougher than your average goon, and can withstand a number of takedowns. The boss fight areas are littered with different takedown-ready elements, and over the course of our battle I put my foe's head through a microwave, smashed it in a refrigerator, used it to bust open a fuse box, and that was just in the first section. Rule number two of being Jason Bourne: he is resourceful and uses whatever he finds for his purposes. Case in point, each boss fight has a unique weapon Bourne can use in a takedown, and in this case it was a book. The book takedown featured a sharp rap of the book cover to the face, a jab of the spine to the throat, and then a good old fashioned smack upside the head. These takedowns are particularly fun because they closely mirror the (badass) scene in the movie in which the item was used.

When the boss got low on health, he jumped out a window and escaped on to the roof. Bourne's health meter regenerates only outside of combat, so you'll have to be careful with the more powerful bosses, who can execute takedowns on you. These can be evaded with timed button presses. I finally caught up with my quarry by a large neon sign, which I promptly used in a particularly flashy takedown. After a few more combos, the boss succumbed to one final takedown that involved his head and an air-conditioning unit. This fatal bludgeoning happened off-camera, of course. Rated T for Teen.

Since the boss fights are such an intense distillation of the game's fighting mechanic, the developers reckon players will want to try them again and again. Once you beat a boss, that fight is unlocked and you can access it any time from the menu screen. With an estimated 8-9 hour storyline, plus this bonus boss fight mode, The Bourne Conspiracy certainly looks to quench any player's desire for fisticuffs when it ships on June 3rd. I certainly enjoyed busting faces on the streets of France, and am looking forward to more.

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