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 Quantum of Solace - A Review

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Join date : 2008-12-06
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PostSubject: Quantum of Solace - A Review   Quantum of Solace - A Review I_icon_minitimeSun Dec 07, 2008 8:44 am

About a decade ago, a James Bond-based game came out that shook the fledgling first-person shooter genre to its very core. The game was "Goldeneye 007" on the Nintendo 64. The game was an instant classic and one of the best games ever created, bringing innovative gameplay concepts, intense action, and unparalleled multiplayer options. Many gamers still look back fondly on "Goldeneye 007", but it came with unfortunate side effect: every single Bond game to come out since has been held to the ridiculously high standards set by it. Unfortunately, all have fallen short, some more spectacularly than others. However, as the first fruits of Activision’s purchase of the Bond license, Quantum of Solace is looking to change that.

Powered by the 'Call of Duty 4' engine and filled with some great action sequences, "Quantum of Solace" is a solid entry to the Bond video game franchise, to be sure. However, does it finally reach the bar set by "Goldeneye 007"? Unfortunately, the game has a fair share of problems, missing that mark of greatness. Still, if you are a Bond maniac and love a good FPS, then "Quantum of Solace" is worth a look this holiday season.

The game does a good job with the action, but the story elements skim a good portion of the films’ plot elements in favor of the action sequences and a voiceover cut scene to attempt to set the scene. While this may be less than ideal compared to many games out there, it’s an intriguing way of continuing the action without spoiling some of the upcoming film’s plot details. Most of what’s here is stuff that FPS fans have seen before, there are still some great situations to be had in Quantum of Solace. The game packs in tons of action-packed firefights, cool destructible environments and exciting sequences to keep the game moving at a fast pace. While an FPS by design, a significant portion of the action will be done from behind cover in the third-person perspective, as in 'Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas'. You’ll be able to find cover just about anywhere, simply hit the A button and 007 will either get behind it or dash to it if it’s too far away. Cover works just like it does in other games, as you can lean out to aim, blind fire, and reposition yourself to get a better shot. Aside from cover, there are a few other situations where the game will switch to third-person view. You can take down enemies in quick time event and even fight a few bosses this way, and a few sequences will have you navigating across a narrow ledge avoiding enemy fire or staying out of a spotlight. The game does a fine job of popping in and out of third-person view without interrupting the flow of the gameplay.

"Quantum of Solace" is a fun and exciting Bond title that has some truly engaging situations and pretty production values. Activision's first James Bond game, "Quantum of Solace", is almost as deceptive as the spy who stars in it. While it might be named after the current Bond film, the majority of the game's levels are one big flashback to "Casino Royale", the previous one. While the plots of the two films will be connected, this is a bit much, and the structure of the game is pretty ridiculous.

The game opens where the film, "Quantum of Solace", opens, essentially picking up right where "Casino Royale" left off. The game is a first-person shooter with a cover system. When you take cover, the game pulls out to third-person shot, which simultaneously gives you a bit more awareness of what's going on around you and lets you look at the game's 'Daniel Craig' player model. It's a pretty good model. The game looks and feels like a stripped-down 'Call of Duty' game, enhanced in some spots and reduced in others.

You'll also find a few spots where you can optionally play for stealth and avoid detection by shooting out or dodging security cameras. But for the most part, this game is all about lining up headshots while behind cover and taking them. As long as you're patient about sticking behind cover, you'll be fine. Bond starts off armed with his regulation Walther P99 with optional silencer. Later on in the game when stealth becomes more important the silencer plays more of a part, but in the first level it's more there just for the 'cool' factor.

Bond also has a mobile phone, from which he can access a map of the level, and review any communications from the bad guys that he has intercepted. These come in the form of mobile phones members of the criminal organisation have apparently carelessly left lying around the levels, and while not essential for the completion of each mission, they usually offer information on your objectives, and handy hints like the location of arms caches and tips on how to bypass the different security measures you might encounter.

Often one of the biggest moans about a FPS, or indeed, any game which presents you with AI opponents, is that the bad guys either all seem to be totally stupid - running blindly into the open one after another to let you gun them down - or they always appear in the same place and run through the same patterns. Not in this game, oh no. The AI is absolutely top-notch, with the bad guys behaving for all the world like human players. They use cover, they provide covering fire for each other, they employ flanking tactics, and they think on their feet too. Shoot one who's hiding behind inadequate cover, and don't be surprised if his mate doesn't leg it away from you out of sight, and then reappear 10 seconds later behind you, having climbed the stairs, raced across a balcony and come at you from your blind side. These guys are Clever, with a capital 'C', and I was only playing on the second difficulty setting - I shudder to think what the opponents are like on the hardest one!

So... you've got lots of guns, challenging opponents, great environments... all in all, the elements of a great FPS. Except of course, that this is more than just an FPS, this is a Bond FPS. So as you play through, various other challenges come your way. There are door codes to crack, computers to hack, and stealth sections to tackle. These parts of the game could, if implemented badly, have harmed the gameplay, but thankfully they don't. The door cracking/computer hacking is all done by way of simple push-button puzzles. Press the right buttons at the right time, and you succeed. Fail, and you don't. It doesn't quite have the graphical polish of CoD4 but it's still a good looking game.Even the stealth sections - often the downfall in a game that isn't based solely around stealth - blend seamlessly in with the rest of the gameplay. Sometimes the stealth comes as part of the standard FPS fare, with your handler back at MI6 advising you to 'keep things quiet'. In this situation, it basically means you're better off creeping rather than running, avoiding/disabling cameras, and using takedowns or silenced weapons on the guards. In these sections however, if you do get heard, and guards get alerted, it's not the end of the level, back to the start, try it over; instead you have the chance to shoot your way out, as you'd expect of MI6's finest. The only sections where you do fail if you get caught out are specific ones where you're required to get between two particular points without being seen. You might need to edge along a window ledge for example, without drawing the attention of guards inside the building. For this, the camera switches to a third person view, with Bond moving right to left (or left to right) and all you need to do is time your movement between windows or roaming searchlights to ensure that 007 doesn't get spotted. Sometimes this is accompanied by a 24-style split-screen to show the bad guys' movements, all of which enhances the cinematic feel. Even these though, don't penalise you too badly if you mess it up - you simply get a quick death animation and end up being put back at the point you were prior to starting out on the ledge. The death animations themselves are worthy of a mention, as they're particularly Bond-esque, consisting of the familiar 'down the gun barrel' view followed by blood running down the screen. In a nice touch, as your energy gets low, the screen greys out, and the gun barrel begins to close in from the sides of the screen. This animation is a great visual cue to the fact that your energy is running low, as in the heat of the action, not everyone will be keeping an eye on their health. Your energy, as in CoD4, rebuilds after a few seconds if you can get into cover, and it's shown in the early stages of depletion by the Bond silhouette at the bottom left of the screen - as the colour drains out of it, so your energy level drops.

There are various other non-FPS elements to the game, such as when you're crossing a narrow walkway for instance, and you must keep Bond's balance by centring a white dot on a special balance meter with one stick while you move Bond across with the other, but they all work well as part of the action, rather than detracting from it. I won't give away all of them here - you want to have some surprises, right? Speaking of surprises, it's worth giving a quick warning here - because the plot of the game closely follows that of the film, if you don't want to spoil the movie, then watch it before you play this!

Each stage is tied together via animated cut-scenes, either CGI-versions of scenes from the movie (ie: where we see Bond racing cars, shooting and/or fighting) or through the eyes of those monitoring events back at MI6, where we get to watch computer readouts, voice analysis programs and digital world maps that show what 007 is up to while M discusses Bond's actions with various MI6 office staff. Sounds a bit strange, but it works extremely well, and the cut scenes must be covering the loading sequences, because after the first load you don't have to sit through another loading screen, and thus the action just flows seamlessly from level to level, helping you to lose yourself in the game.

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Quantum of Solace - A Review
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