Movie tie-in games usually suck, but the gold standard is arguably the 1997 N64 release Goldeneye, based on the Pierce Brosnan James Bond flick of the same name. Based on this combined pedigree, the newest 007 film tie in, Quantum of Solace, had a fighting chance.
In these combined contexts, Quantum of Solace is neither as bad as I'd feared nor as good as I'd hoped. It's an enjoyable enough game, but it's solidly in "rent-it" territory... unless you absolutely cannot stand first-person platforming, since there's a fair bit of that.
The game is a hybrid action/shooter with a hybrid first/third person view, that's a hybrid of the plots of the Quantum of Solace film and it's predecessor, Casino Royale. Confused? Exactly. The game never feels like it's sure what it wants to be, other than an interactive form of advertising for a successful movie franchise.
Does Quantum of Solace want you you to pretend to be Bond as a first-person view implies? Does it want you to be an interactive movie-goer as the opening MGM Lion and third-person action sequences suggest? Both? Not knowing makes it hard to immerse -- insert "it leaves you shaken instead of stirred" joke here. Yeah, I went there.
Exacerbating the difficulty in connecting to the game are strange things like Bond's superhuman ability to rapidly recover from damage. Other shooters take great pains to explain how characters can pull off such a feat, but in Quantum of Solace, 007 recovers from frequent gunshot wounds in seconds, but still needs to race to his car for digitalis because of a spiked drink. Huh?
Furthermore, he can carry dozens of ammo clips for three different times of guns but only one of each kind of grenade. And he somehow manages to carry concealed fully automatic assault weapons. The man is one of the few on the planet who can pull off a speedo, but my credulity is still strained regarding where he is stashing these very large boomsticks.
These silly logic faults are unintentionally entertaining though. Of greater concern is that there isn't enough Bond in this Bond game. Casino Royale's love story is glossed over. Quantum of Solace's revenge theme falls flat. The game assumes you've seen the 2006 film as well, because the story jumps all over the place, zooming past the card game, the car chases, the women, the intrigue... the things that make Bond, James Bond. Yeah, I went there too.
Although this game is the first to use Daniel Craig's likeness and voice, his digital copy falls just short of passable. Instead of looking like an Aston Martin-driving hardened killer, he looks like he belongs on the short bus, especially when sporting a bow tie. The whole game is distinctly lacking in graphic texture, which becomes glaringly obvious when entire scenes from the viscerally realistic Casino Royale film are reproduced. It actually made me miss Goldeneye's ten-year-old technique of just dropping film clips into the game.
Sound falls similarly short. It's hard not to be thrilled hearing the classic Bond theme, but the combat chatter is terribly repetitive: apparently hench-goons the world over speak English, but have a vocabulary limited to only four or five phrases.
The most exciting in-game moments are when things are shaking and on fire and Bond is running through buildings that are about to collapse, sink or explode. While not always timed sequences, there's a definite sense of urgency and some good environmental effects -- flying glass, sinking platforms, train seats that get shredded by bullets, and the like. Exploding fire extinguishers, fuel cells, and loose lighting panels provide satisfying kills in some hard to reach places. There are also some good sniper sections. Watch out for the train level though: it's infuriating.
On the subject of infuriating, the nifty-looking "gun-barrel sequence" damage indicator looks slick but reacts sluggishly, sacrificing functionality for style. So by the time you realize you're taking heavy damage, there's a chance you're already dead. There are periodic lag issues throughout the game but these, strangely, happen most noticeably in cut scenes.
The mix of weapons is good, the maps and level design are average, and the cell phone security camera hacks... well, I guess it is a Bond game, so it needed a gadget function, but it never completely clicked with me.
Gameplay is generally okay, although the controls feel unnecessarily complex. The action elements are pedestrian, but when you're just aiming and shooting, it's not bad. The stealth components are nice because there is always the option of fighting your way out of situations 007 fails to sneak through. Since Craig's Bond is reckless and flashy and his film missions frequently go to hell, this feels decidedly right.
However, a glaring issue with the game's context-sensitive cover function is a distinct flaw. 007 goes into cover with the X button but comes out by pulling away with the left analog stick. Because of the 1st/3rd person interchange, it's extremely easy to end up accidently exposed when leaning out to fire on a target. But when you actually do want to get out of cover in tight quarters -- especially in a hurry because of a grenade or flanking enemy -- well, that's unreliable too.
The single player campaign can easily be completed in a weekend, and has zero replay value. Multiplayer is nothing special. I certainly enjoyed myself in places, but it's hard to recommend Quantum of Solace because of the current wealth of superior titles in the shooter genre that live up to their hype, most notably Gears of War 2 and Resistance 2. For Bond fans, the complicated controls, lack of an original story, and mediocre graphics may cool the ardor for owning any and all Bond-related products.
Now if it had been targeted at female gamers, and had included the speedo, it might have been on to something. Hey, Lara Croft lets you replay her games with alternate outfits.