Activision has just demoed James Bond: Bloodstone, a new chapter in secret agent history developed by tyres-and-vinyl studio Bizarre Creations, at an event on London’s Marylebone Street. Daniel Craig fans: the eagle has landed.
We were there when they walked the crowd through 10 minutes of predictably frenetic Grecan boat-killing action. We were there too when no less a person than Joss Stone was announced as new Bond girl (or at least, the voice and likeness of the new Bond girl) and composer of the title track. And we’re still there now, huddled in a corner to bring you exclusive first impressions of 007′s next adventure.
The game is a third-person shooter loaded with vehicular action sequences. The demo begins a few thousand feet above Athens, as Bond leaps from a military transport at the behest of a stressed-out M (voiced again by Judi Dench). Terrorists are up to their old terrorising tricks, and James must hunt down one of their key players, a hirsute gentleman named Greco, and ask him nicely to stop through the barrel of a Silenced P99.
Play begins as the agent swoops onto the deck of a luxury cruise liner in Athens harbor – other featured locations will include Istanbul, Siberia and Bangkok – booting a grunt into the ocean in the process, and immediately sets his back to a nearby wall. Then he leans round the corner, grabs a chap taking a cigarette break (A guard? A tourist? The on-board chef?) and wraps him in a headlock. The QTE melee kills look considerably swisher than those of Treyarch’s Quantum of Solace title (an obvious point of comparison) with less ‘disconnect’ between free and scripted animations plus some sly fondling of the zoom control to underline the pain. Taking down foes this way fills one of three ‘focus aim’ slots in bottom left, ‘focus aim’ being a slow-mo sharpshooting ability.
Bond now makes his way into the interior of the boat. People try to stop him, but are completely foxed by his cunning and revolutionary use of chest-high cover spots and slight shoulder zoom. An action-packed thirty seconds later he kicks open the door to a ballroom and has Greco at his mercy – or so he thinks. Goons burst in, Greco slips Bond’s hold and the stage is set for a rampantly pyrotechnic getaway.
Bond precision-pops his attackers, scales a ladder, scurries under a fusillade from a suddenly appearing helicopter – there’s always a helicopter – and emerges on-deck just in time for Greco to fire a missile at him (cue cutscene) from the back of a speedboat. Fortunately there’s another speedboat not far away and Jamesy leaps to it, narrowly avoiding the heatseeker.
The chase is on, and Bizarre’s expertise in matters velocity- and handbrake-related is straightaway apparent. Light-tipped buoys loosely denote the boundaries of the course as Bond careens after Greco, dogged by the helicopter. Focus aim gets its first workout here, Bond employing it to pick off the gunboats that regularly butt in. Some of the slow-mo bits are scripted, as when the chopper comes in low and head-on, giving Bond a second or so to nail a fuel tower to its right and coat the annoyance in fire.
Thinking his pursuer dead along with the helicopter pilot, Greco stops off at a smaller harbor round the bay. Bond rams the jetty, flattening the local thug presence. The final stages of the demo see the two men running through some low terracotta buildings, trading shots. Bond ranks up some sort of in-game achievement for 80 focus kills. That’s nice.
It’s cutscene time again, and Greco isn’t going anywhere. But somebody is. A car busts through a gate as Bond interrogates the gang boss, and what’s a pouting buff Englishman to do but get behind the nearest wheel and go fender-bumping. On-coming traffic and machine gun fire mess up the paintwork, but Bond is no granny driver and the race soon culminates with the other car surfing its own bonnet. And on that rousing note, the demo ends.
It’s all rather familiar stuff, needless to say, nor is anyone pretending otherwise. The pacing is vintage Bond, with dialogue only tolerated in 10-second bursts, and the fluidity of the direction is in the same room as Blur, with all sorts of gentle colour or lighting cues to keep your reticule firmly focussed on the next gas tank.
Expect more from us on the other big Bond outing of the hour, that GoldenEye Wiimake, as and when I replenish my blood sugar and buy a new laptop.
Bloodstone is coming to Xbox 360 and PS3. Release dates are TBC.