James Bond 007: Blood Stone Review (Xbox360)

Bond’s latest adventure comes in a year without a feature film, and side-by-side to the re-release of GoldenEye on the Wii. Blood Stone is its own story and game, only taking the likeness and voices of Daniel Craig and Judi Dench as Bond and M from the films. Indeed, singer Joss Stone sings the introductory 007 song and contributes to the voice acting, and the plot follows a similarly convoluted plot like Quantum of Solace.

But this tale is not like older films, nor like the direct book adaptations. Instead, it’s a straight-faced, fast-paced first person shooter that pits players as Bond flying about the world trying to solve some nonsensical terror plot. As that plot unravels, Bong finds greater opposition, but gamers need not fret. Even on the Agent (hard) difficulty setting, Blood Stone is not a difficult game, nor is it meant to be. It’s meant to be stupid fun, and developer Bizarre Creations has done a great job at making it.

Bond travels all across the globe, from Shanghai to frozen Russia to sweltering Africa

In fact, it’s best to leave the story out of the game when playing. It does piece together why nearly every level takes place in a completely different environment, and makes for some high-tech looking cinematic loading screens, but there are no characters for players to connect to. There are only a handful of characters, Bond uncharacteristically lets the girl go, and there are no emotional connections to make or fun scenarios to laugh at.

It doesn’t really matter, because that’s all secondary. Blood Stone is between you and a ton of AI that needs a molten shot of hot lead and heavy fists. This is the dumbest shooter this year. There’s nothing wrong with stupid fun, it’s still fun! Blood Stone throws different quick shootouts one after the next, each different from the next, and they don’t get tiresome.

Vehicle levels are fun, but driving in a snowstorm, on ice, in an Aston Martin? Not so much

Several levels are stealth based up to a point, which ends as soon as you’re found and then we see the real Daniel Craig Bond come out and play. It’s no Splinter Cell, but even these stealth levels are pretty entertaining. And thanks to 007’s weapon of choice being a silenced pistol, stealth gameplay can go on for a long time and add a ton of light suspense to gameplay. Finally, a special feature nearly identical to Splinter Cell: Conviction’s mark and execute function gives players insta-kills for each melee takedown. It just keeps getting better and better.

There are even a few levels with racing involved, driving some ridiculous cars through traffic on windy roads and dirt horse paths. Sadly, the racing gameplay is not even close to Bizarre’s Project Gotham Racing’s style.

Six to seven hours of brainless entertainment is surprisingly worthwhile. Many of today’s games make you think, make you work hard. But after a hard day’s work, some of us just want to watch sports. Some of us just want to go see a movie with big explosions and scantily clad women. Some of us just want to be a preposterously skilled secret agent killing everything in his path, and the campaign fulfills that role wonderfully.

It’s difficult, but this and many other segments can be completed using only stealth, and not firing a bullet

The multiplayer aspect is almost a moot point. Games like Blood Stone often come with multiplayer tacked on because publishers practically require it on all games these days, but with Blood Stone that silly fun returns with a vengeance. And, almost unbelievably, the insta-kill function is available in multiplayer. You can, as many gamers would call such an attack, get quick cheap kills for every melee kill performed. Every campaign title with odd features, be it time manipulation or insta-gibbing removes it from multiplayer, but Bizarre did not. More importantly, it works. In the online matches I’ve played, no one gets horrendously upset about it because respawning is fast, and the gameplay is still very quick and frantic without feeling overbearing.

In many ways, Blood Stone is a mediocre title. Graphically, characters look dull and frankly some PS2 and Xbox titles looked better. We don’t see any good side to Daniel Craig, whose low-quality avatar barely resembles the famed actor. His voice work is also shoddy, mumbling lines and speaking quickly. It feels like he just wanted to get the whole thing over with so he could move on to real work. Yet even with these things and a throwaway plot, we don’t get enough dumb fun games, and Blood Stone just does it so well that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

Top Game Moment: taking down three terrorists with the insta-kill move, beating down a fourth nearby enemy and insta-killing the fifth, with a pistol, 100 meters away.

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