Sunday, August 13, 2023

First Play Review - James Bond 007: Blood Stone [2010]

While there are more James Bond games than there are movies it's not uncommon for PC gamers to have never played a Bond game. This is mainly due in part to two factors: The majority of James Bond PC games not considered great adaptations of the franchise (as most movie-based tie-ins are not) and the fact that once a publisher loses its publishing rights, the game is withdrawn from distribution so they are difficult to get hold of if you were too late in buying it. Case in point: There are at time of writing no James Bond games available to purchase for the PC.

About a dozen Bond games existed before EA games acquired the license to produce the mediocre Tomorrow Never Dies game in 1999. While they arguably failed to capture the level of success Nintendo had with GoldenEye 007, they still released several Bond games that were well received - Agent Under Fire and James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (both consoles only) and 007: Nightfire (which sadly had a poor PC port). The Bond license changed hands to Activision in 2007 who released a mixed bag of games over the next 5 years but most natively supported the PC. 

Quality of the games aside, the delisting issue is more problematic as  one that happens there's no advertising for Bond games that are removed from sale so it's much more difficult for casual gamers to get a hold of and enjoy them. That's an issue for this game - James Bond 007: Blood Stone when it and all of Activision's James Bond franchise games were suddenly de-listed in 2013 when Activision chose to end its license with MGM a year ahead of an eventual expiration; likely following the poor performance of its final Bond game 007: Legends

Despite its rocky position James Bond 007: Blood Stone is a 3rd-person cover-shooter that got similar praise to EA's efforts for its more original take on a Bond story rather than when a developer just lifted story beats directly from whatever movie the game is named after. Set between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall the game opens with Bond (Daniel Craig) foiling a plot to assassinate the G-20 leaders in Athens. M (Judi Dench) assigns him to recover a researcher from Istanbul where he was believed to be taken after being kidnapped. This puts Bond on his usual globe trotting hunt for the researcher and more importantly, his research, which if weaponised could be used to create a chemical WMD. The by-the-numbers Bond-outing takes him to the casinos of Monaco, a Siberian chemical refinery, the streets of Bangkok and the jungles of Burma.

Blood Stone's gameplay is fairly simplistic once you get used to the somewhat awkward control scheme. You control Bond as he traverses a mostly linear path through the varied environments. As a cover shooter, it's not too much run and gun as opposed to stealth and taking cover behind every obstacle and choosing your time to strike, making it very Splinter Cell like (it even has Conviction's mark & execute mechanic). Weapons include your Walther P99 and practically anything your enemies drop from machine guns to assault rifles when you need them. Getting shot reduces your health (obviously) and it will happen when you're out of cover for too long. Thankfully it regenerates once you're behind cover allowing you to just wait until it's full again before you shoot back.

Developers Bizarre Creations were well known for driving games having developed three Project Gotham Racing games for the Xbox. From this experience it was a given that they would have added some form of vehicular Bond action. They created an incredible boat chase, fast car-chases on the highways of Monaco and a chase involving a mega dump truck in Thailand! These sequences serve to break up the game while offering a different way to experience the action that feels as cinematic as a Bond movie.

While video games are great playgrounds for Bond type gadgets, Blood Stone game sticks to the more realistic interpretation of the Daniel Craig era, so your only gadget is really your mobile phone which admittedly does a little more than your phone does by scanning evidence, opening locks and handily identifying enemies behind walls etc. 

One stand out feature of a Bond movie is of course both the title song and it's musical score. No expense was spared in this department for the game's music. The song, entitled I'll Take It All was co-written and performed by British artist Joss Stone who also leant her likeness and voice to the game's Bond-girl Nicole Hunter. The game's score was composed by Richard Jaques (Mass Effect) who respected the essences of both John Barry and in particular David Arnold to create an original score fitting for the era. Jaques recorded brass with musicians at Abbey Road Studios, many of who played on all of the James Bond film scores over the years.

Final Verdict: Blood Stone was the PC's consolation prize in a year where Wii and DS owners got a new version of Goldeneye. While the unintuitive controls take a bit of practice and it originally averaged a mere 63% in Metacritic, the game has been re-evaluated a lot over time and is worth a look to experience a very cinematic style Daniel Craig Bond adventure.

Technicals: 6 hours approx on Windows 11 with an RTX4070Ti @ 3440x1440 / 60FPS (engine lock).

Bugs: None recorded

Availability:  This game is delisted from sale and cannot be legally obtained digitally.

James Bond Windows PC games :

  • James Bond 007: Nightfire [2002]
  • James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace [2008]
  • James Bond 007: Blood Stone [2010]
  • 007 Legends [2012]
  • Project 007 [TBC]

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