James Bond 007: Blood Stone features the likeness and voice talent of Daniel Craig, Joss Stone and Judi Dench and features an epic, original story developed by legendary screenwriter Bruce Feirstein. Players can engage in cover-based firefights, lethal hand-to-hand combat and speed their way through explosive adrenaline-fueled driving sequences as they embark on a global chase leading to action on land and sea through Athens, Istanbul, Monaco and Bangkok. Gamers can also feel what it is like to be a 00 agent, as they take the battle online in several robust 16-person multi-player modes that require skill, teamwork and strategy as players compete in matches that will have spies battling mercenaries.
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This review contains spoilers
Starting off on a boat trying to prevent a terrorist attack in Athens, you get a short mission that serves as an effective way of showing you how the game controls. Using cover is a necessity as you’ll die a lot, however, melee is also important as Bond can dispatch foes with one attack – with lots of great animations that use the environment to make it very assisting. Mixing melee and shooting is very easy and flows great. The combat really nails Bond’s style.
As the terrorist leader flees, you get the first of many vehicle sequences, all of which are set-piece heavy but very enjoyable, even if you fail a lot (restarting is very quick). They control extremely well and, while linear, are a great spectacle.
After this, you chase him on land and get to use more of the combat features, including a “focus aim”. Each time you melee and enemy, you gain a “focus aim” (up to a maximum of 3), which lets you automatically line a precise shot for an instant kill when you pull the trigger. It’s very satisfying to use, and really helps with the flow of the combat. I never got tired of punching a few nearby enemies then dispatching a few far away enemies in a matter of seconds.
A car chase ensues as you have to stop a car carrying a bomb. As this is based on the Daniel Craig films, Bond’s car has no weapons, but the sections are enjoyable enough (thanks to the developer’s driving game pedigree) that they aren’t needed. This intro sequence is its own little story, but serves as a great introduction to the game.
We get a very nice opening titles, performed by Joss Stone (the Bond girl of this game) before moving onto the main story.
A scientist has gone missing, and MI6 received an anonymous tip to his whereabouts at a dig site in Istanbul. Bond poses as a history museum professor but the goons there try to dispose of him, so you get another fun level through some catacombs as you try to find this scientist, with some great set pieces along the way (if you like Uncharted-style set pieces, you’ll enjoy this game).
Bond’s phone is his only gadget in this, working in a similar way to Batman’s Detective Mode in the Arkham games, showing enemy positions. It can also be uses to hack cameras and doors, as well as scan optional pieces of intel for extra background information.
The bad guys get a hold of the researcher’s password and flees with a briefcase containing his data on some nasty viruses, so Bond needs to pursue. His fancy new Aston Martin is too far away, but luckily there just happens to be a classic one just sitting there to take. You’ll have to dodge a lot of traffic in this intense chase, before the car ends up getting totalled.
Continuing the chase on foot, the briefcase gets passed on, but Bond manages to stop the messenger, finding out the man behind it, a Russian named Stefan Pomerov.
With Bond being assigned an assistant called Nicole Hunter, he sneaks into Pomerov’s casino in Monaco. Stealth is completely optional, and you have a bit of time when you get spotted to take them out before they call for backup. Your objective is Pomerov’s safe, and you discover that Pomerov wants to use the virus information to create new variants and then sell the vaccines.
Following him to his facility in Siberia, Bond poses as Nicole’s bodyguard to investigate this facility, which has a few nice moments of being able to walk around without worrying about combat. Bond discovers a factory already making these viruses and sabotages it before fleeing. It’s a very enjoyable level with more cool moments.
Pomerov flees in a train, so it’s time for another car chase as you dodge flaming debris before continuing the chase on a partly frozen river, it’s a lengthy chase, but still a ton of fun all the way though. You catch up with him, but he’s already boarded a cargo place.
Luckily, there’s also a giant cargo hovercraft, which Nicole takes control of while Bond deals with the guards still on board. To help catch up to the plane, Bond needs to head into the cargo hold and eject the cargo, use a turret to defend against missiles and to damage the plane’s engines, jump onto the plane’s wing as you catch up, get inside then fight your way to the front, taking out Pomarov.
This all happens with no loading screens, it’s all fluid form start to finish and is visually impressive as a result. Even 13 years later, my jaw dropped a few times in this segment.
Everything seems to have tied up nicely, but Bond thinks something is up: nobody Bond has met makes sense as the anonymous caller, and he thinks the people behind it wanted MI6 to stop Pomarov. He gets in touch with a Chinese agent who wants to meet Bond in an aquarium in Bangkok, but ends up getting assassinated as he claims a man called Ruk is behind everything.
A chase follows as Bong tries to get the assassin to pass on information on the whereabouts of Ruk, but would rather die. He does end up getting away in a vehicle for Bond to pursue.
That vehicle being a colossal haul truck (moving much faster than one would realistically move to make it entertaining), causing a ton of collateral damage. It’s another very impressive chase sequence, with more wow moments.
After crashing it off a bridge, Bond passes out and wakes up hours later, finding out that he’s wanted by the police, not just for the damage his chase caused, but he’s also been framed for murdering a Chinese agent. MI6 says that a sleazy contact of his is nearby, so Bond finds out the location of Ruk and heads over, but as Ruk was waned about him coming, gets the drop on Bond and captures him for information.
Bond is taken to Rak’s camp in Burma, where he gets called away before he can torture Bond. Bond escapes and fights trough the camp, having to deal with a few APCs and chasing Ruk in a plane before crash landing – unfortunately, there’s no flying mission, which leads us to the last main level of the game.
Crash landing near a dam that Rak’s group is taking over, Bond has to fight his way through to survive, taking out helicopters with cranes along the way. There’s a lot of combat, but the level is very well suited for good use of melee and the focus aim ability, so I enjoyed the whole things. Rak taunts Bon the entire time and it ends with a boss fight against him in a helicopter. Rak begs Bond to save him and he’ll reveal who is behind it – but Bond has already figured it out.
The final mission is a car chase as you stop the villain from escaping – however it turns out that they’re still just another part of a puzzle, as a drone takes them out. The true villain will have to be discovered in the game’s sequel…which was never made.
This is a hugely enjoyable game with fun combat and great driving sections, filled with movie-like set pieces. The ending is a bit of a downer, although people have retroactively linked it to SPECTRE as it (unintentionally) fits with that film really well. The poor sales of Blood Stone led to the end of Bizarre Creations, which is a shame as I think that this was a great game.
The game starts with a pretty solid set piece sequence. "Stealthy" infiltration goes terribly loud, and a epic chase ensues. It's a nice vertical slice of the games' main gameplay loop: start slow, throw in a couple shootouts in the middle, (try) to end it spectacularly, and start all over again.
The problem is that some sections are noticeably weaker than others. There's a particularly egregious part right in Act 2 where you're exploring a drab, gray, snowy refinery area that lasts way longer than it should, and there's nothing particularly interesting about it. It's sandwiched by a luxurious night time casino heist mission, and a legitimately great set piece sequence that is hands down my favorite part of the game. I also don't care for the final half of the last act, it pulls off 2 of my least favorite gaming tropes. Thankfully most of the game is at least decent fun, but these sections sour the experience a bit.
Putting that aside, there's a handful of neat things that the game does. They did a good job of mimicking the first two Daniel Craig 007 movies in terms of presentation: there's a decent Bond AMV intro, the soundtrack is a decent imitation of the movie soundtracks, and the mannerisms of 007 is very much in line with how Craig portrayed him. He doesn't talk that much, which is kinda refreshing considering the state of modern gaming's chatty protagonists. It also means that the game barely has any crazy gadgets to play with, other than your Detective Mode-copycat smartphone, which is a slight shame.
I do like that they tried to translate his aggressiveness to the gameplay. You can earn "focus points" by doing close quarters takedowns (which are probably the most well-animated actions in the game), and they're used to automatically lock to an enemy and kill him in one shot with any weapon. You can only hold three points at a time, so the game clearly wants you to keep closing in to enemies to do takedowns and use the ability frequently. But the enemies are not that aggressive (even on Hard), and they don't have a lot of ways to push you out from cover (like throwing grenades), so most of the time you will match their tempo and keep your distance as well. Despite somewhat botching the execution, I do appreciate the attempt. Doing John Wick-style gameplay by shooting enemies in the leg, taking them down up close, then using your focus points to cleanly kill farther enemies is pretty sick.
On the other hand, I really think that the stealth sections could be done better, and there's a simple solution for it: just introduce sections where you'll be meaningfully penalized if you break stealth, and it will make these sections much more meaningful and intense. Instead, they feel mostly flat, since there's no real stakes for making mistakes. Usually you'll only be noticed by the enemies in the immediate vicinity if you break stealth, and there are rarely more than 5 enemies at a time in these sections.
There's also vehicle sections, which are mostly about chasing another vehicle while dodging hazards like incoming traffic, and they're pretty fun. The level of crazy stuff happening on screen reminds me of something like Split/Second, although it's not quite as insane. The vehicle physics can be a bit bouncy sometimes, but it's nothing too fatal.
Lastly, I have to say that the story and characters are barely worth mentioning. The game just doesn't spend any time to properly flesh out any interesting detail, which works out well for the gameplay pacing but doesn't do the story any favors.
It kinda hurts seeing the "James Bond Will Return" tagline at the credits. The game sets up a sequel with its ending, and I would love to see a bigger, better direct sequel. But at least it's easy to be optimistic about the future of 007 games now, I believe IO Interactive will hit it out of the park. Until their game comes out, I should just try out the other 007 games. I wonder how well Everything or Nothing holds up....