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It’s the Daniel Craig films that got me into the 007 franchise but I was into the games way before I started watching the films. That’s one of the cool things about many of these games, you don’t need to have any knowledge on the franchise. Some of them are just really good action games/shooters. Developed by Bizarre Creations and published by Activision, 007: Blood Stone was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in November, 2010. There is also a DS version which was developed by n-Space and released at the same time. For this review, I played the Xbox 360 version. Blood Stone is another 007 game that was pulled from digital storefronts after Activision lost the rights to the James Bond video game franchise. Blood Stone was the last game developed by Bizarre Creations before they closed down and it released on the same day as the GoldenEye remake for Wii. I’ve heard some generally positive things about Blood Stone over the years and I’ve wanted to play it for a while now.
Once again terrorists are a threat to the world and James Bond is the one who has to stop them. In Blood Stone, Bond is put on the trail of Stefan Pomerov, a terrorist who is manufacturing bio-weapons. Bond teams up with a wealthy jewelry designer named Nicole Hunter and together they infiltrate Pomerov’s refinery in an effort to stop him and recover the bio-weapons. But of course there’s more to the plot and Bond sets out to find out what’s really going on. Overall, the story is okay but Blood Stone does a great job at capturing the style of the films. This is a very cinematic-styled game and you can pause cut scenes which I like. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench reprise their roles as Bond and M respectively and Joss Stone voices Nicole. The performances are pretty good and the game as a whole has a very movie-like quality. The presentation is phenomenal.
Blood Stone is a third-person shooter which combines shooting, stealth, and hand-to-hand combat. Although, I would primarily call it a shooter. Bond can walk, run, sprint, take cover, vault over obstacles, and perform takedowns. Performing a takedown grants you a focus aim or focus aim shot. You can accumulate a max of three. Activating focus aim basically lets you auto-lock onto targets and kill them instantly and you can chain multiple focus aims together which can be helpful if you’re outnumbered. This focus aim mechanic is the game’s way of encouraging you to engage enemies in hand-to-hand combat and with guns. Staying in cover is important because if you’re out in the open, you’re basically guaranteed to die. There’s four difficulty modes – recruit, field operative, agent, and 007 which needs to be unlocked. I had a feeling the game would lean towards the easy side so I played through it on Agent. I was right. The game isn’t too difficult. Health does regenerate and you can take cover behind most objects so whenever you’re low on health, you can just stay behind cover for several seconds and then you’re good to go. And it’s not hard to keep enemies at a distance.
Bond can use his cell phone to scan items or intel in the environments which act as a form of collectibles. Although, you don’t normally have to look too hard for them since an icon will appear on your HUD whenever one of these items are nearby. The cell phone can also be used to see enemy positions and shootable objects, disable cameras, and gain access to new areas. His phone can basically do everything, it’s the ultimate gadget. Being able to see enemy positions is one of its most useful features but makes the gameplay too easy. You rarely have to think during a firefight because you can track where every enemy is and their patrol patterns so it would be hard for them to get the jump on you. Most of the time, you’ll be on-foot going from one location to another but every now and then, you’ll get to drive vehicles, usually to chase down the bad guys. These vehicle sequences are action-packed and look really cool but are heavily scripted. Basically they’re all flash and no substance. The vehicles control well and these are cool to play through at first but they all boil down to the same thing. Just stay on the obvious path and don’t lose whoever you’re chasing.
You’ll get your hands on over a dozen weapons like different types of assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, and a grenade launcher. You can only carry two weapons and you usually always start out with a silenced P99. Weapons can be found in the environments and are dropped by fallen enemies and it can be easy to run out of ammo if you don’t keep moving and pick up the dropped weapons. I’ve heard some say Blood Stone is similar to one of the more recent Splinter Cell games but I don’t think so. For one thing, Blood Stone is heavily scripted and the stealth mechanics (if you want to call them that) are extremely simplistic. There’s no real melee combat. You press the takedown button when an enemy gets close and you can immediately take them down. Enemies consist of your typical thugs and goons, at one point you’ll have to destroy an APC, and the enemy AI isn’t very intelligent. The bad guys will shoot at you, throw grenades, use grenade launchers, some will snipe you, and they run around and take cover. They’ll often rush your position or in other words or walk towards you, giving you an opportunity to kill them instantly with a takedown. Furthermore, if you move from cover to cover, enemies can lose sight of you making it very easy to flank them. There are a few areas where you have to basically just survive until something important happens and more and more enemies are thrown at you the further you progress through the campaign. However, none of the encounters are extremely difficult if you manage to stay in cover.
What would the 007 franchise be without exotic locations. Well as expected, Blood Stone delivers. The game will take you to different locations in Athens, Instanbul, Monaco, Siberia, Bangkok, and Burma. You’ll shoot your way through a casino, refinery, and construction site, and there are numerous set pieces peppered throughout the campaign. You’ll have to chase an assassin across rooftops in Bangkok and one of the more exciting ones is when get to use an anti-missile turret to shoot down missiles from an S.A.V. The environments are mostly linear and Bond’s phone will show you where to go so you should never get lost. Firefights usually occur in open spaces with plenty of objects to use as cover and numerous routes that can be utilized to flank enemies. Of course, explosive objects are littered around and enemies will always gravitate towards them so you can blow them up to easily kill foes but there’s not many environmental dangers you need to worry about.
I think Blood Stone is one of the better looking 360 games. It’s got a washed out look so it’s not extremely colorful, jaggies are noticeable, and I don’t really care for the film grain effect which can’t be turned off but, overall, it’s a good looking game. The character models look excellent, the texture work is solid, and there are some great visual effects. Muzzle flashes look cool, smoke puffs appear when bullets hit parts of the environments, takedowns will often look brutal, and I only wish the gore effects were better. You’ll see some small blood puffs when shooting enemies and there death animations appear very dramatic which is cool but I think the combat would feel a bit better if there was more gore. On the audio side, the music matches the cinematic style the game is going for and, of course, you’ll get to hear the classic 007 tunes. Also, Joss Stone provides an original song for the game. The sound effects are excellent with great sounding weapons, booming explosions, takedowns sound satisfying, and enemies will yell during firefights. On the technical side, the gameplay and cut scenes would stutter here and there but for the most part the performance was solid and I didn’t encounter any serious issues.
I really enjoyed Blood Stone but I won’t deny it’s an average third-person shooter. It feels like a B action game with a AAA coat of paint. What does that mean? It means it’s a solid shooter but there’s nothing really special about it. I would put it in the same category as Kane & Lynch 2. It’s a flashy but dumb shooter and one I could revisit here and there because I enjoy its cinematic style even though it doesn’t really offer anything I haven’t seen before. The gameplay isn’t very in-depth, the vehicle sequences are cool to watch, there are some neat set pieces, diverse environments, and at it’s core it’s just an action game. And a pretty good one. If it’s trying to be a stealth game, it fails. There’s really no benefit or punishment for being stealthy or loud but it’s nice having the option, and I think the stealth would work better if there were more mechanics like the ability to crouch when not in cover and the ability to lure enemies at the press of a button. Things like that. The game is heavily scripted and holds your hand. But it’s fun and I enjoyed it. There is a multiplayer component but I didn’t find any games. Unfortunately, there’s not many reasons to return. The single player replay value stems from the multiple difficulty modes and intel but it would have been cool if additional game modes were included.
I would recommend Blood Stone to fans of the franchise and action games. You can find it for pretty cheap and it’s a solid action game. It’s not the best, it’s not the worst, but it’s enjoyable. I really got into it and enjoyed the game’s cinematic style. I loved the action. I think it could have been fleshed out a bit more but overall, it’s a good game and if you can find it for under twenty bucks, I would say definitely check it out.