Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are on hand for one of the most underrated Bond games ever.
Who made it?: Bizarre Creations, n-Space (Developers), Activision (Publisher).
Genre: Third-person shooter.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS.
Format: CD-ROM, DVD, Blu-ray, Cartridge.
Released: November 5, 2010 (UK).
It would be fair to say that everyone’s favourite British superspy has a spotty record with video games. In 2017, the number matches the amount of films released since 1962, and they are as equally inconsistent. Aside from the legendary GoldenEye on the N64, none of them have really set the console world alight, although there have been some gems along the way. It occurs to me that, to truly make a 007 game playable, you have to create an original story that can stand alongside the films, and not merely a movie tie-in rushed to claim a few extra bucks. This approach has resulted in the really rather good Everything or Nothing and Nightfire, starring Pierce Brosnan, and in 2010, the sorely-overlooked James Bond 007: Blood Stone, which sees current franchise star Daniel Craig undergoing a brand new mission in the period following Quantum of Solace.
Having the rotten luck of being released on the same day as GoldenEye 007: Reloaded (a modern-day rebuild of the original), Blood Stone was going to have to do a lot to stake its claim, and it almost inevitably became developer Bizarre Creation’s final release as a result. That’s a damn shame, as this was surely the winner of the two. Bolstered by a script by Bruce Feirstein (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough) and the likenesses and voice performances of Craig and Judi Dench’s M, Blood Stone is better than it had any right to be and is a ludicrously fun licensed action game.
Not long after the treacherous Vesper Lynd broke his heart (and soul), Bond is working overtime for MI6 and taking out the usual assortment of terrorists and arms dealers. Along the way, he crosses paths with rich jewellery designer – and secret agent – Nicole Hunter (Joss Stone, who also performs the song for the obligatory title sequence). Like the similarly over-plotted Living Daylights, I couldn’t layout the story for you if I had wall charts, but it is suitably globetrotting, taking 007 from Athens to Instanbul to Siberia to Burma.
Blood Stone is exactly what you’d expect out of a third-person actioner, and if you’ve played the likes of Uncharted, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. The game is split between gunfights and chase sequences, like any Bond film essentially is, with the Naughty Dog mechanics dutifully adhered to; take cover, fire, take cover, get hit, wait for your health to replenish, rinse and repeat. Occasionally, you’ll have to solve a problem that requires the use of an MI6 smartphone, but any hardened gamer will complete the experience in no time at all. The hardest stages. unexpectedly, are the driving sections which are fittingly frantic, including one such level where Bond commandeers the iconic Aston Martin DB5. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll have to restart from your last checkpoint as hitting any obstacles at speed will promptly write you off. Though the gameplay is formulaic, the pace and variety of “set-pieces” will keep you coming back for more, and they successfully make you feel like an armchair 007.
I especially love the melee combat, and the variety of takedowns Bond can perform is endlessly satisfying. Dispatching an enemy with your firsts will add to a special gunplay meter, a time-slowing capability that will allow you to kill an enemy with a single shot. Though you could argue that this makes things even easier, there’s nothing more Bondian than precisely blowing off a baddie’s head from over fifty feet away.
In terms of visuals, this is still a very fine-looking title considering its seven-year vintage. Environments are finely-detailed and vibrant, and the recreation of our star’s mug is precise. Very little has actually dated to the point of ruining your experience, and you could imagine Blood Stone being easily updated with a remaster. There’s also a very fine score by Richard Jacques that faithfully replicates the mood and grandiosity of David Arnold’s music. In fact, I assumed they had just reused some of Arnold’s cues from the movies.
Blood Stone also has online multiplayer, but seeing as the servers are currently deader than a SPECTRE defector, I will just have to paraphrase Wikipedia and tell you that up to sixteen players can compete in “spy vs. mercenary” deathmatches, or goal-oriented games where everyone works as a team. I guess I’ll be sticking to the still-functioning GoldenEye 007 severs for that.
There are some key quibbles for me, though. Feirstein’s narrative is pretty shopworn and you’ll predict every double-cross in the story, but isn’t that being faithful in a way? Also, as this is set before the fiftieth anniversary movie, Skyfall, which introduced Q (Ben Whishaw) into Craig’s Bond world, there is a complete lack of fancy gadgetry. I get why they did this as they were being true to the story so far, but I really think they should have introduced some gadgets even without an appearance from the then-uncast Q. This is, after all, a video game and any variety to the experience would have been beneficial. I’m not saying he needed to be flying jetpacks or driving invisible cars, but some realistic espionage equipment would have been the icing on the cake.
We also have a weak female lead in true franchise fashion. Stone is obviously not an actress, but even so, her line readings are as flat as a pancake and actually stop these story moments dead in their tracks. This isn’t a criticism I can lodge at the other performers, since even Craig tries his best not sound like he’s asleep, and Dench handily walks away with the acting plaudits as is so often the case. The story with Nicole also leads to an open-ended conclusion that was clearly setting up a sequel that was never made, although you could argue that the revisionist writing of 2015’s Spectre ties up any loose-ends.
Finally, not once over the course of the game does Craig utter the immortal words, “Bond, James Bond.” Seriously! What was the reasoning for this? Did they include it and then cut it out? Did sourpuss Daniel not want to say it? Whatever the case, the lack of one of the series’ most iconic trademarks is downright strange.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone doesn’t reinvent the wheel and doesn’t even try to, but it does offer around eight hours of solid action gaming and is surely one of the better titles in the superspy’s licenced canon. If you’re a fan of Craig’s tenure and want a story that is more satisfying than at least two of his theatrical outings, you could do a lot worse than retrieving this from the bargain bin…
- Ben Cooke, who is Daniel Craig’s stunt double in the films, provided the motion-capture choreography for Bond’s digital animation. He is credited as the game’s stunt coordinator.
- It is the 24th game in the James Bond series although it is not a direct sequel to any game; it is the first game since James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing to have an original story.
- Joss Stone provides an original musical track to the game titled “I’ll Take It All” written and performed by her and David A. Stewart.