Is there any hero in the history of film that lends itself as well to video games as James Bond 007? I certainly can't think of any. The James Bond films share a lot in common with a lot of video games in that they both feature a nearly invincible protagonist who shoots first, asks questions never, and is always taking on wave after wave of faceless henchmen. In between, he's courting unrealistically proportioned women and being a general, devil-may-care badass. Sound like any games you've played before?
Try as they might, Bizarre Creations (the makers of Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars) have done their best to capture to feeling of a James Bond film, and have come tantalizingly close to capturing that aura, but not without some missteps. Given the choice, I'd rather be playing GoldenEye 007 on the Wii, so if you have the Bond itch and the choice, definitely go in that direction.
The general gameplay in Blood Stone will be instantly familiar to fans of Gears of War or Uncharted. Blood Stone is an average cover based shooter that puts you in the shoes of Daniel Craig's rendition of Bond. Where Blood Stone tries to differentiate itself is with the use of focus aims, a mechanic that gives you an instant headshot by simply holding down one of the left triggers. You can store up to three of these focus aims, and you gain one by taking an enemy out with a melee attack. This encourages you to balance your attacks between taking cover, and running up to enemies to get up close and personal.
For the most part, the shooting mechanics feel really solid, and are well counterbalanced by the melee action. The melee actions look brutal, but the weapons don't feel powerful enough, and even on the medium difficulty enemies take too many bullets to kill. Blood Stone is rarely frustrating in that regard though. Some chase scenes and intense action set pieces in the varied levels help break up any tedium.
Easily the best parts of Blood Stone are the thrilling driving stages that have you chasing or being chased in levels that are jam packed with explosions, destructible environments, and general havoc. The most memorable of which is a level that has you speeding in an Aston Martin along a cracking frozen river chasing a train. These sections control beautifully and are easily the most exciting part of the game. If you're going to revisit anything after the six hour campaign, these levels will do it for you. Considering Bizarre's experience with Project Gotham and Blur, the fact that driving levels rock comes as little surprise.
You'll notice I haven't mentioned the storytelling yet, and that's because there really isn't much of one beyond the standard James Bond storyline. Bond meets informant girl, gets it on, takes out international super terrorist trying to destroy the world as we know it, yawn. The presence of Craig and Judi Dench as M give the story more credibility, but it's nothing that you'll be recanting to your friends later. A well done Hollywood style orchestral score also helps the presentation and atmosphere. However, the storytelling takes a hit when the game ends on a huge cliffhanger and leaves the player with a credit crawl that ensures you that "James Bond will return."
Multiplayer is boring and underwhelming. There are only three modes: Team Deathmatch, an objective based mode, and a last man standing mode. The game uses the same experience and levelling system that you'd find in Call of Duty and other shooters, but there are no modes that will keep a death grip on your attention span like the aforementioned shooters. The servers are decently populated as of this writing and net performance is good, but the fact that it's just so vanilla is disappointing, especially when compared to GoldenEye 007's fully featured multiplayer suite on the Wii.
Overall, you can easily see everything the game has to offer in a day long rental, which is Blood Stone's biggest short coming. The game is solid and well put together, with no overwhelming warts, but once the credits roll and you try each multiplayer mode once, you'll likely move on to meatier gaming experiences.
Blood Stone is a mixed bag of visuals that sometimes looks spectacular, and sometimes looks as bland as anything you'd see on the PS3 or Xbox 360. Character models are well animated, but lack significant detail, especially in the haystack looking hair. The outdoor environments generally look great and are packed with detail and impressive weather effects, but the indoor environments are bland and repetitive. The driving stages emphasize speed and destruction, but are linear and sometimes hard to see the correct path. Blood Stone is not offensive to the eyes by any means, but there is certainly room for improvement too.
James Bond 007 Blood Stone certainly doesn't do any damage to the Bond brand, and can actually be thrilling and exciting to play throughout its short campaign. It just sucks that there's so little content here that can be easily blown through in day. This is certainly a good start for a new Bond series on modern consoles. If the developers take these caveats to heart, we might have something truly special for the inevitable sequel.