James Bond has been in a lot of films and books, most have which have been well worth while. Sadly 007’s track record on the gaming scene is less than stellar by comparison. Blood Stone is the second Bond game to utilise a script not-based on a Bond movie, and as such doesn’t live in the shadow of Golden eye (at least not too much.)
The plot does a good job of referencing classic Bond, with a convoluted conspiracy plot regarding bio-weapons, some cool gadgets and some seriously foxy ladies. Unfortunately, as charming as these aspects are, they happen to be some of the weakest elements of the Blood Stone package.The story does a reasonable job of providing a loose framework that guides the game through the various set-pieces, and in this capacity it is highly successful. That said, the depth and complexity of the plot is sorely lacking and it seemed devoid of any memorable or emotionally engaging moments. I say this, but in a way this makes it an even more effective homage to the James Bond films (he says controversially.) The “cool gadgets” I made reference too are also a staple part of the 007 films that have translated poorly into Blood Stone, often manifesting themselves as tedious connect that dots puzzles that do little but slow down the gameplay considerably. Last but no least are the foxy ladies, who may have been a whole lot more fox-alicious were it not for some odd graphical hiccups. Generally speaking the visuals in Blood Stone are rather pleasing, but an oddly grainy filter became quite frustrating (although I can’t attest if this is specific only to the PS3 version I had the pleasure of playing) and, no matter how you look at it, the facial animations on the character models stand out as looking rather ghastly in comparison to the detailed and expertly rendered landscapes. Rant over.
Now we get to the better parts of Blood Stone. First up is the cover system, a hurdle many third person shooters have clumsily failed to clear. This is not the case with Blood Stone, a game that has a cover system that just simply works. There are no whistles and bells attached to it, but you can move between bits of cover smoothly and there was very little evidence of broken animations and glitches. The rest of the shooting mechanics are similar in their effectiveness, with a no frills style that functions solidly, if blandly. I say blandly on account of the poor variety of weapons on offer. With only sixteen gun types mainly falling into the pistol and SMG category, there is very little room for imagination in Blood Stone’s ballistic arsenal. Hell, there aren’t even any grenades for you to use.
The main shooting mechanics aren’t all that bad though. In spite of a limited range of weaponry, Blood stone throws in a decent melee mechanic with some slick and satisfying animations that earn you focus aims. Focus aims are essentially one hit kills you can chain together in the vein of Splinter Cell: Conviction’s mark and execute system. Admittedly it is sad to see Blood Stone ripping off Conviction so overtly but, regardless, the system is solid and adds more interest to the gunplay. This isn’t the only thing that has been copied from the latest Tom Clancy stealth ’em up however. The implementation of the smart phone is integral to Blood Stone as it allows you to see your next objective marked on the HUD, but it serves the dual purpose of also allowing you to see the location of your enemies. It’s a decent gameplay mechanic but it certainly seems a little on the overpowered side without any major downsides, not to mention the slightly frustrating design choice to map this particular action to the D-pad.
Blood Stone mimics so much from the splinter cell franchise, not just for its own amusement but, in an attempt to bolster its gameplay with some sneaking sections. Normally the boast of stealth sections in a shooting game makes me wretch and quiver in disgust, but in Blood Stone they are actually reasonably well done and add a delicious variety to the proceedings. It is still far too derivative of Splinter Cell: Conviction for its own good but if you’re going to rip off something, you may as well rip off the best.
Attempts to improve gameplay variety are also complemented by some driving sections that are thrown your way here and there. Again alarm bells were ringing when this became apparent, but once more Blood Stone proves that this can also be pulled off in a competent matter. The driving sections are probably the worst of the three core gameplay aspects with some stocky car control and poorly signposted pitfalls, but the set pieces are often very impressive and enjoyable none the less. It may not be uniformly fantastic and it certainly isn’t especially innovative, but there is no doubt that the gameplay in Blood Stone is fairly solid.
The aural side of the presentation deserves some credit for its impact on the experience. Expect to here some solid SFX that really beef up the gunplay and close quarters combat, along with a sound track that really nails the suave 007 feel. The Achilles heel sadly comes out in the voice acting, which is less than stellar in comparison to the rest of the game. The casting is impressive with Judy Dench and Daniel Craig reprising their roles as M and Bond respectively. In spite of Craig being present in his role of 007, his voice acting was really rather uninspired and wooden throughout. I’m not saying the transition between normal acting and voice acting is an easy one, but I was rather disappointed with his vocal efforts.
One of the weaker aspects of the Blood Stone package is that of content. The single player story mode, whilst fairly enjoyable, is only six hours in length. There is a multiplayer component, but it is sadly limited in scope. For a start, there is no split screen option. From there on though it wouldn’t really matter as the online component is just a bit slow and mediocre all around. All the things I enjoyed about the single player were missing in the versus modes and this is a true shame, as it is the difference between a memorable gameplay experience and a short six hour diversion.
Overall Blood Stone is a fairly well realised game, but with all the blockbuster titles coming out in the run up to Holidays, it is difficult to whole heartedly recommend it. Blood Stone offers some enjoyment and is clearly a well designed title, but it just fails to go above and beyond the call of duty (excuse the pun) in terms of quality and quantity.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Decent cover system, Reasonable gunplay, Excellent set pieces, Varied landscapes, Solid Presentation
Repetitive gameplay, Little variety in the weapons, Arbitrary gadget sections, An off putting graphical filter