The Bourne Conspiracy Hands-On Update

Robert Ludlum's thrilling books are about to become a Bourne-again action game. We took another look.

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Jason Bourne is elusive, just ask the CIA, but we recently caught up with him at High Moon Studios in a playable build of Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy. Though he looked a little different (the game won't use Matt Damon's likeness), there was no mistaking his lightning-fast moves, lethal resourcefulness, or highly cinematic camera cuts. The Bourne Conspiracy looks just like a Bourne movie, making it as fun to watch as it is to play.

And, if you think about it, that is quite an accomplishment. After all, the Bourne movies aren't just action movies, they're some of the best action movies ever made. They draw from Robert Ludlum's excellent books and Tony Gilroy's script-writing expertise. They also draw from the directorial talents of Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass. To make a Bourne game that does justice to the film, High Moon Studios has been working with Tony Gilroy to pen a bona fide Bourne plot, as well as Jeff Imada, who choreographed all the fights in the Bourne films.

He may not look like Matt Damon's character, but he sure does fight like him.
He may not look like Matt Damon's character, but he sure does fight like him.

One of the biggest challenges, though, has been figuring out how to emulate the snappy visual style of the movies. According to Emmanuel Valdez, the director of The Bourne Conspiracy, it's not all quick camera cuts. For instance, his team discovered that the punches and kicks in the films seem so scary-fast because the film's editors were actually stripping frames out of the animation sequences. High Moon Studios has emulated this technique, and as a result, their strikes are just supernaturally quick.

Speaking of fisticuffs, the combat in The Bourne Conspiracy will attempt to make you feel like a born killer without putting you through hours of tutorials. There are two attack buttons (light and heavy), a block button, and a takedown button. The basic premise is this: By hitting an enemy, you fill an adrenaline meter. When the meter is full, you can execute a cinematic and ultraviolent takedown with the push of a button.

Some takedowns are simple martial arts affairs: a chop to the neck, kick to the right testicle, punch in the nose, kick to the left testicle, and then a leg sweep. Many, however, employ props. You might plant an enemy in a concrete pot, wipe off a whiteboard with his face, or turn off the TV with his head and shoulders. If the enemy has a weapon, you'll take it away and teach him a couple of painful lessons in its use. If there are multiple enemies, you can take them all down, provided you have enough levels of adrenaline.

If you're in a hurry, you can even down a foe on the go. We saw one hilarious instance of this in the game's re-creation of the embassy scene from The Bourne Identity. You're sprinting down a hallway, trying to elude security as a man in a business suit watches you approach. The fellow, who looks like a banker, apparently makes up his mind to take a swing. Big mistake, buddy. You hit the takedown button without breaking your pace, duck his blow, and plant a running right haymaker in his crotch without wasting a step. It's a very satisfying moment from a gameplay perspective, and it looks hilarious.

The only characters you can't finish off with a single takedown are bosses. But by the time you're through with them, they'll wish they hadn't gotten up the first time you slammed their heads in a door, much less the fifth time. But then again, they give as good as they get, so if you aren't careful, a boss will do a takedown on you. The bosses on display at the event were normal-looking fellows, which made the horrific amounts of violence inflicted on their mortal-looking bodies all the more impressive.

The CIA denies any knowledge of this technique or its use in The Bourne Conspiracy.
The CIA denies any knowledge of this technique or its use in The Bourne Conspiracy.

Of course, you don't just wander through all the episodes from Bourne's life punching people out and kicking them down stairwells--you shoot quite a few of them too! If you draw a gun, the camera moves to an over-the-shoulder perspective, with most of the normal trappings of a third-person shooter. Unique to Bourne is a vision mode you can enter to instantly take stock of where the enemies are and which objects might explode. If you imagine the way Bourne immediately sizes up situations in the films, this vision mode makes a lot of sense.

And what would a Bourne game be without car chases? You can stop wondering, because The Bourne Supremacy will definitely have them. In the sequence we saw, Bourne was trying to elude the cops in picturesque Paris. The driving mechanics looked pretty normal, though shortcuts and detours were literally highlighted by stray rays breaking through the overcast day. Also entertaining were the squeals of your passenger every time you pulled off a slick turn or rammed another car.

As you can see, there was plenty on display at High Moon Studios, but there is still much to learn about this mysterious, as well as good-looking, game of action and mystery. We'll keep you up to date with a full dossier, but in the meantime, look forward to being Bourne sometime this summer.

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