007: Quantum of Solace Review

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Casino Royale 2006 is currently my favorite 007 film. I’ve always enjoyed the games but for the longest time, I was never into the film series until I saw Casino Royale which was years after it released and some time before Skyfall came out. After watching Casino Royale, I watched Quantum of Solace and thought it was okay. I didn’t think it was incredible but not as bad as some people make it out to be. Since then, I saw both Skyfall and Spectre in theaters. I thought Skyfall was excellent and I don’t remember much about Spectre. Developed by Treyarch and published by Activision, the Quantum of Solace video game was released for PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, and DS in November, 2008. Apparently, Beenox ported the game to PC and Wii and Eurocom developed the PlayStation 2 and DS versions. For this review, I played through the PS2 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. I wanted to play the PS2 version because it’s a third-person shooter as opposed to the other versions, excluding DS, which are first-person shooters. As of this review, many if not all the 007 games are no longer available digitally anywhere which kind of sucks and I regret not buying them on Steam when I had the chance. I don’t know if Activision lost the license to the franchise or just won’t renew it but whatever the reason, players that want any of the Activision 007 games digitally get shafted. Anyway, I figured the 360 version would be good enough.

In both versions you play as James Bond. You get to play through events from both Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale and I’ll give a very brief overview of both films. In Casino Royale, Bond gains his 00 Agent status and proceeds to stop a banker who services many of the world’s terrorists. Quantum of Solace continues the story arc established in Casino Royale and Bond goes after key players in the terrorist organization known as Quantum. You’ll play through many sequences not seen in the films that more or less “fill the gaps”, if you will, between major plot scenes. However, some missions do let you play through sequences depicted in the films. For example you’ll chase the Bomb Maker through Shanty Town and blast your way through the hotel in the Bolivian desert, among other recognizable events. A lot of what is seen in the films is just glossed over in the games during the cut scenes where dialogue is exchanged, usually between M and others at MI6, and as far as I can tell, most of the voice dialogue is ripped straight from the films.

The PS2 game is a third-person shooter and the 360 game is a first-person shooter. That’s the most obvious difference between the two. The PS2 game includes three difficulty modes and the 360 game includes four. In both games you can run, sprint, crouch, take cover, shoot from cover, blind fire, and perform take downs. The take downs on 360 involve quick-time events because somebody thought that would actually be a good idea. Both games include cover mechanics and on 360, the camera perspective will switch to third-person when entering cover. For some reason, you can’t acquire grenades on PS2 but will have to avoid them and the game does allow you to quickly roll out of the way. On 360 you can acquire and throw grenades which can be very helpful. Both games allow you to vault over specific obstacles, you can shoot things in the environments like explosives, valves, or any objects that can be broken or detached. Both games implement of a form of aim assist but you can aim manually and the 360 version allows you to aim down the sights of weapons. You can climb across objects in the PS2 version, and on 360 you’ll have to balance yourself when navigating along narrow platforms. The look and layout of the shared environments will be different depending on the version but they are all extremely linear. On PS2, you can bring up a minimap which will show you where your next objective is and where enemies and civilians are. On 360, you can reference the waypoint at the top of your HUD if you’re not sure where to go.

Quantum of Solace doesn’t include any driving sequences and there’s no gadgets but there are some forced stealth segments in the PS2 version. Because the environments are very linear, these areas are very trial and error. It’s not hard to figure out how to proceed through these areas and if you mess up, you fail and must try again. Some missions allow you to shoot objects like fire extinguishers or interact with certain things to distract enemies and on 360, if the game recommends you approach scenarios quietly but somehow get detected, you’ll just have to deal with a squad of Elite enemies. The environments in both games contain cameras that you can either avoid, destroy, or hack to disable and in the 360 version, you can patch into camera systems and then view the cameras on your in-game phone. Hacking is present in both games whether it be to disable cameras or open doors and there’s a little minigame you have to complete to successfully hack a device. The 360 game contains cell phones which are scattered throughout the environments and they act as a form of collectibles. These phones will contain text files, image files, and/or audio logs.

In both games, taking cover is very important because if you’re exposed for too long, enemies can kill you quickly. If there’s other obstacles nearby, you can move from cover to cover at the press of a button and enemies will throw grenades to flush you out so staying in one spot for too long is never a good idea. Actually, enemies become very grenade happy towards the end of both games. The PS2 version is your typical third-person cover shooter. You move from area to area and basically pop and shoot or silently take down enemies if the mission calls for it. Health does regenerate in both games so if you take damage, all you have to do is stay out of harm’s way long enough to regain your health. The 360 version feels kind of like a Call of Duty game but with a 007 coat of paint. In both games you’ll get to acquire and use pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and shotguns. Weapons and ammo will be dropped by fallen enemies and on 360, you can acquire weapons from weapon cases found throughout the environments. This version also includes a grenade launcher, an M14, a light machine gun, and at one point you can use a turret to mow down enemies. Some weapons in the PS2 game come with suppressors attached and on 360 you can attach or remove these manually and many weapons in this version allow you to switch between different firing modes like single shot, burst, and/or full auto. The variety of weapons is good overall and the PS2 game doesn’t seem to provide you with as much ammo as the 360 version. That kind of forces you to always keep moving so you can acquire ammo from the fallen enemies. But it also may force you to swap between weapons often. On 360, you can only hold a few weapons but ammo never really becomes an issue.

Most missions are shared between the two versions but a few are not. The missions set at the Miami Airport, on the Train, and in Venice are only found in the 360 version and I’m guessing most of the other versions but the PS2 version does include a docks level not seen in the others. Regardless, the shared missions are not identical in terms of layout, enemy placement, or anything else, really, besides plot elements. For example, the first part of the Bomb Maker chase on PS2 is significantly different than the same sequence on 360. You’ll have to quickly move from area to area, killing enemies while also making sure not to let the bomb maker get away on PS2 whereas on 360, you have a bit more breathing room. The same applies to the Mitchell chase in the beginning of both games. There’s multiple chase segments in these games where you have to chase characters on-foot and on PS2, the Mitchell chase can be easy to fail because you can lose him, usually due to other enemies halting your progress so you need to be quick to take them out. The checkpoints are forgiving in both games so whenever you die or fail an objective, it’s not like you’re going to lose that much progress. Most objectives require you to get from point A to B and if you have to do anything specific, a cut scene will take over or you’ll simply be told what to do. Both games pretty much hold your hand. There’s no real reason to explore in these games nor are you encouraged to do so. Not even for the cell phones in the 360 version. They’re usually located along the path you’re following to progress or in a small area off to the side. They also glow and ring when you’re near them so it’s not like they’re well hidden.

The enemies in both versions are not super smart but not incredibly stupid, either. They run around, take cover, shoot from cover, blind fire, some will snipe you, they’ll lob grenades your way, and all of them share the same basic behavior in their respective games. The only real difference between them is their appearance. What would a shooter be nowadays without things that explode being scattered everywhere and are also conveniently located near enemies? Well there’s explosives littered all throughout the environments and enemies will always be or end up near these so you can shoot the explosives to kill them all instantly. In the PS2 game, enemies will often position themselves under objects that can be detached to fall on them. Don’t get me wrong, these make for some fun scenarios but it’s just very obvious that the enemies are specifically designed to put themselves in danger. You’ll never go up against too many enemies at once in the PS2 version. It’s usually a max of three or four and if you take them out, others may come pouring out from somewhere. You’ll have to contend with a lot more than a few enemies at any given time in the 360 version which makes for more hectic firefights. While the environments are pretty linear, some areas allow you to flank enemies and there’s always objects around that can be used as cover. You will have to take out some helicopters and there are a few what I’ll call boss battles peppered throughout the campaigns. On PS2, several boss battles require you to shoot parts of the environment resulting in them taking damage. Some bosses simply require you to shoot them until they die. Boss battles are usually challenging because of the other enemies that spawn in and not necessarily because of the bosses, themselves. The battles that end in a series of quick-time events, which is present in both games, is just an example of lazy game design in my opinion. The worst part is that this quick-time event bullshit would carry over into games like the GoldenEye reimagining and 007 Legends.

The PS2 version of the game doesn’t include any multiplayer or unlockable content. Once you’ve beaten the campaign, you’ve seen all there is. The 360 version does include unlockable content in the form of videos and MI-6 Debriefing Rooms. The videos are just the cut scenes. The Debriefing Rooms are a little more interesting. These are just small areas that display different weapons, items, character models, and concept art that relate to the various missions. You can read some information about these things but that’s about it. These are neat but not very exciting.

Visually, I would say Quantum of Solace looks pretty good for a PS2 game. The lighting is good, the environments are fairly well detailed, and character animations look natural enough. Dead enemies will quickly disappear which can be immersion-breaking but overall, this isn’t a bad looking PS2 game. In both versions, the  film characters seen in the games do resemble their respective actors and actresses with the exception of Mr. White who looks a bit off in my opinion. Now obviously the 360 game looks much better. This version includes more detailed environments, better textures, it’s definitely more colorful, and I enjoy the cinematic enemy death animations. They’ll fall out of windows and over ledges when killed before screaming to their death. I really like the particle effects in this version like the debris and smoke that kicks up from bullet impacts on surfaces and the explosions look glorious. The soundtrack in both games contain a lot of 007 songs and cinematic-sounding tunes but I wouldn’t expect to hear anything else. As for the sound work, both games contain loud and powerful weapons fire sound effects, you can hear shells hitting the ground during firefights, and explosions are booming and often resulting in a brief slow-motion effect on 360. When talking about the technical aspects, the frame rate in the PS2 version remains solid more often than not which is not the case in the 360 version. To be clear, the frame rate will dip on PS2 when things get extremely hectic but on 360, it’s up and down constantly. There’s usually a lot more going on at once in this version which is probably the reason why. And I’m happy to say I experienced no major bugs or glitches in either version.

It should be noted that both versions of Quantum of Solace are pretty short. You can probably blast through both in the same day. I can honestly say I had fun with both but more so with the 360 version. Both games are linear and just very straightforward but the PS2 version feels a bit more generic. It’s not bad by any stretch but it’s not incredible, either. The 360 version feels more action-packed and exciting. The firefights feel more intense, the exotic locations are more vibrant and detailed, and it contains more content in general. The PS2 version doesn’t include any form of multiplayer, there’s no form of collectibles to find, and outside of the multiple difficulty modes, there’s no real reason replay through the game again on PS2. That’s not to say the 360 version is begging you to come back but the multiplayer and collectible cell phones are at least some incentives to return. And that’s in addition to the multiple difficulty modes. There’s not a lot that really makes either of these versions stand out in their respective genres. If you’ve played any of the Call of Duty games, the 360 version will feel familiar. If you’ve played any third-person and/or cover-based shooters, the PS2 version will feel familiar. In several previous 007 games, gadgets and the vehicle and rail sequences made them stand out a little bit. At the very least, they made you feel like James Bond. Quantum of Solace is strictly a shooter like any other, it funnels you down a very linear path, and it holds your hand every step of the way. With that said, the 360 version of Quantum of Solace is pretty good but the PS2 version is weak. The 360 game feels more complete and it’s a very enjoyable action-packed experience. The PS2 version feels somewhat lacking, almost like it’s some kind of cash-grab. And for a game in the 007 series, that is very disappointing.

Ultimately, I would recommend either version and you can find them for extremely cheap. I actually paid less than five dollars for both versions of the game and the Wii version which I haven’t played yet. I would recommend the 360 version over the PS2 version only because it’s more exciting in my opinion and has more replay value, but if you don’t like first-person shooters and/or prefer third-person shooters, the PS2 version is the way to go. Unfortunately, the PS2 version of feels like a generic licensed game with nothing very memorable about it. It’s not terrible, just average. If you’re a fan of action games or 007 games, I would say check out the 360 version but don’t put anything on hold to check the PS2 version.

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