November 02, 2008
The Bond name in the gaming world has been thrown around the ring more times than Bond himself has been captured and subjected to some kind of interrogation. Bond games have generally come and gone, leaving relatively no impact on the gaming world whatsoever. Well, that’s not entirely true, but if it wasn’t for a little known N64 title called Goldeneye a little over 10 years ago, we’d have no hope for a franchise that has the potential to deliver an amazing story with high octane action. So here we are, another year, another Bond; this time, Treyarch are at the helm doing what they can to rejuvenate a dying brand.
Quantum of Solace throws you in to the hot pants of James Bond, almost seconds after the Casino Royale film ended; however, saying this is a true representation of the film would not be fair. You’ll spend the vast majority of the game reliving seen and previously unseen extracts from the Casino Royale film rather than getting too knee deep in the Quantum story; something that I, who hasn’t seen the latest film yet, actually appreciated more. The story in itself doesn’t flow like a Bond film’s does and will leave you feeling like you have no idea what’s actually going on; you’ll just be happy killing wave after wave of henchmen knowing you’re on your way to stop some bad guy.
Thanks to a deal with Danjaq and Activision, Quantum of Solace not only features genuine character likenesses but also their respective voice as well. I say likenesses, but other than Daniel Craig (and La Chiffre and M if you squint), the other likenesses are very poor. I mean, Vesper looks like she’s gone ten rounds with an ugly stick; something that Eva Green might not be too happy with.
While the likenesses might not be spot on, the voice acting and general score of the game is right on the button, but truthfully, I didn’t expect anything else. Running around the level, strutting my bad ass assassin skills to different styles of Monty Norman’s famous Bond theme was a joy in its own right (if not a little over used) and starting the game to the new Alicia Keys and Jack White Bond theme was also a nice touch.
The first thing that hits you with Quantum of Solace is the lacklustre visuals; sure Craig and his blue eyes are encapsulating and the environments are diverse, but the textures and general level detail leaves little to be desired. Bond doesn’t look as glam as we all expect him to which is a shame although the lighting can be fairly decent at time. Don’t get fooled by the destructive environments promise as well as this is too infrequent to notice.
The controls and general feel are simply delightful, but I’d expect nothing else from the Call of Duty 4 engine. Thanks to some tweaking by Treyarch as well, they have an intuitive cover system in place that truly can give lots of Bond style moments; remember, you’re a trained assassin, not a soldier. Rarely does the cover system play up, sometimes you’ll find yourself in awkward positions as you try to break free from the cover, but these are few and far between.
The cover system would be even better if it wasn’t for the unpredictable AI. Treyarch have done a great job tweaking the AI to work together to take you down as you’ll often find yourself being flanked, flushed out with grenades and under heavy cover fire. However, when your adversaries are hiding behind cover they’ll almost always leave you with a clear shot at their head, meaning that the game becomes ridiculously easy ... Even on the hardest setting.
Even the stealth sections in the game are affected by dumb AI who must work on a proximity basis in the way that Metal Gear does, but this doesn’t really make it any less fun. Creeping through a level and systematically wiping out a crew without them knowing is very satisfying from a gaming standpoint. It’s these situations where you’ll most likely take advantage of Bond’s new takedown system. Walking up to them and clicking the right joystick will trigger a button press sequence, that if hit correctly will unleash a devastating, incapacitating blow.
The multiplayer aspect of Bond is actually quite appealing, offering 8 different modes in all and very little to no lag. It definitely feels more like Call of Duty though, than James Bond and if it wasn’t for the Golden Gun mode and a few other Bond style modes, you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference, even a few of the maps have similarities. It would have been nice to have seen more Bond models and classic Bond models fighting each other in the game rather than two generic teams. The Golden Gun mode is a fantastic mode that I encourage everyone to sample. The premise is easy, get the Golden Gun and rack up kills; there is one per map and only one person can have it at a time, but it’s not a Golden Gun in its traditional sense; this one is almost like a mini rocket launcher, so don’t let them get too close when you have it because you could be sampling the same death they experience.
It does however do everything else right; strong party system, quick loading games, fluent game play and a well implemented experience system where you can spend your hard earned experience on weapons, weapon upgrades, gadgets and even golden gun skins. If I did have any qualms; it would be that when a host quits, the game ends; some of the weapons are overpowered, seeing a shotgun headshot someone from 30 foot away is never right; and people haven’t quite grasped the concept of the Golden Gun mode yet. Although, blaming Treyarach for the idiots that use their product is not fair by any means. All in all, the multiplayer aspect of the Quantum of Solace stops the game from being a day affair and thankfully adds some longevity to the game. However, whether it’s ground breaking enough to tempt players from the likes of Call of Duty 4 remains to be seen, although I wouldn’t count on it.
Quantum of Solace’s achievements are a mixed bag to say the least. Treyarch are right on the money with the story related achievements; rewarding players for chapter completes and certain random goals in those chapters like shooting a helicopter pilot instead of taking down the gunners. Hell, they even stack the campaign achievements which developers still make the mistake of not doing. You can’t take the smooth without the rough though and there is plenty of them in the form of collectibles (in an FPS of all places) and there are way too many multiplayer achievements, some of which could take a massive amount of time (100,000 credits!). A simple playthrough of the story could net you around 300-500 points and if you want the full 1000, I would estimate that it’s 50 plus hours.
Bond is good for the non-stop action, the Bond like stealth scenes and its appeasing multiplayer, however, its downfall will in fact be its longevity. With about 6 hours of single player missions and little incentive to make players play through it again, Quantum of Solace is a short affair and one that will ultimately have an effect on how you spend your money this festive period. There’s no denying it's fun and the multiplayer mode is actually pleasantly surprising but it's no different to what's already out there. The game is more of a weekend’s rent rather than a long term investment.
Stellar voice cast, but seeing as the game was made alongside the film, that's to be expected. Great score but maybe used the whole Monty Norman Bond theme tune a little bit too much.
Mediocre character likenesses on the whole with some pretty terrible textures. Great set of diverse locations and some good level design though. Uninspiring on the whole; average, very average.
Treyarch have done a great job adding a fantastic cover system to the Call of Duty 4 engine; it really feels like you can truly recreate some true "Bond moments". The AI can be really unpredictable at times, but the game rarely has its frustrating control moments.
What we have here is a game that lacks any sort of longevity; with a single player that lasts 6 hours maximum and despite the multiplayer having depth; it lacks anything really to separate it from other shooters on the market.
Mixed bag. A perfect example of The Good (random level task achievements), The Bad (the collectibles) and The Ugly (100,000 credit!?). Way too many online achievements to render it a decent list. Very, very average. Wow, that seems to be a theme.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy Quantum of Solace because I did, but this is coming from a huge Bond fan. The single player campaign was entertaining and boasted intuitive and responsive controls; our only grumble is its length. The campaign is way too short for any game these days; 6 hours is pretty absurd, and the game overall is saved by a fairly decent online mode, although, it's pretty generic. Rent this bad boy for sure, but spending £40 or $60 on it can only lead in to a rant about value for money. Good effort Treyarch, we look forward to seeing how your next Bond game will turn out.