Reviews March 22, 2010

Quantum of Solace (Alternate: 007 Quantum of Solace)

Kenneth Seward Jr

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Quantum of Solace (Alternate: 007 Quantum of Solace)
Reviewed by Michael Gettings
System: Sony PlayStation 3
Genre: First Person/Third Person Shooter
Rated: T
Players: 1-16 (Online Multiplayer Only)
Cost: $59.99
Release Date: 11/04/2008
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch

The name is Bond, James Bond. Not really. My name is much more boring and less debonair. My name is Gettings, Michael Gettings. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Which is why it’s always kind of fun to play as Bond, James Bond.

The Bond, James Bond video game series has a somewhat sordid history. The games have ranged from great – Goldeneye: 007 – to okay – From Russia With Love– to what the hell were they thinking – Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, the game where you’re expelled from MI6 for not saving Bond, James Bond in a simulation. I didn’t realize he was the Queen. Protect Bond at all costs. That’s a good way to boost morale. Threaten to expel you if you don’t save Bond. It’s like getting kicked out of Hogwarts if Potter, Harry Potter was being an idiot, fell off his broom and died. I shouldn’t be responsible for his safety.

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But I digress. This game is not that game. This game is seriously not Rogue Agent. It’s also not Goldeneye: 007, but it’s somewhere in-between. I know, I know, it’s shocking. It’s a licensed product, and I bet you’re expecting a glib pun at this point, like, “Oh, the game is licensed, licensed to kill, like Bond, James Bond”, but I rise above that. The game is a movie licensed IP. And most movie licensed titles are licensed to suck.

See? Did you see that one coming? Yes? Go away.

I don’t want to say that I was expecting so little out of the game. I know that most movie based games are terrible, terrible cash-ins, but that doesn’t mean I don’t approach one with the naïve hope of a high school cheerleader that thinks the starting forward on the basketball team isn’t two-timing me with Melinda. But I’m on to you, Melinda.

In any case, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, and they tend to be terrible. It’s a love hate relationship. If you’ve read my review of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne in Jason Bourne Kills Everyone and Just Wrecks Stuff The Game, you’ll know that I show them no pity.

The story would be incredibly tough to follow if you haven’t seen the movie, but then again, I can’t really see anyone who didn’t see the movie picking this game up. There would simply be no reason to, unless you’re that big of a fan of Bond, James Bond. The basic premise is that the game takes place minutes after Casino Royale, with Bond, James Bond tracking down the organization who set forth the events of that film, starting with the investigation of the suspicious environmentalist, Dominic Greene.

The gameplay is broken up into two primary sections, although they’re not varied. The game alternates between straight first person shooting, and a duck and cover mechanic, popularized by games like Gears of War. However, the game reminded me more of the classic Nintendo 64 title Operation: Winback. Given that the follow up of Winback, cleverly titled Winback 2, was great at taking a wonderful game backwards to the beta stages, I have a special place in my tin heart for duck and cover games, and very much enjoy them when they’re done competently. It’s not really a difficult formula to muck up, either. You hide behind cover, and then shoot people.

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When you run to cover, the game switches to a third person view. You can blind fire around cover–highly effective, and shockingly accurate – or poke your head out. Although you work with Camille in two missions, she’s never actually there to provide support, so the enemies will constantly hone in on you.

On the easier difficulties, you’ll be playing the game more like a true first person shooter – aiming down the iron sights and picking off your targets. You are a damage soak who regains health in a Superman fashion, while on the higher difficulty; Bond can only take four shots before dying. It creates an interesting dynamic, playing through on the different difficulties. It’s almost like playing an entirely separate game. Almost.

Scattered throughout the levels are cell phones that Bond can pick up that offer enemy intel, memos from people to people, pictures, and general level information. At least one phone per level will point you in the direction of a ‘super-weapon’, typically a high powered machine gun or revolver, which makes things considerably easier.

Unfortunately, Treyarch has removed a staple of previous Bond games, the vehicle missions. Each level plays pretty much the same – run out, find cover, face a wave of enemies. The levels themselves are varied enough, running the gamut from “Quantum of Solace: The Movie” and “Casino Royale”. I know, there wasn’t a huge amount of action in Casino Royale, but the game does an excellent job of giving Bond missions during the various parts of the first film, save from one annoying and brief level where you stumble out of the casino, having a heart attack.

The AI of the enemies ranges from Godly – they know where you are even before you know where you are  - to quite dumb – hiding behind cover with their heads poking out. There are no real grenades, only concussion grenades to knock your enemies from cover, and flashbangs, to disorient them. There are also objects scattered around each of the levels you can fire at to either kill enemies in an explosion, or force them from cover.

The online is a mixed bag. Yes, there are a plethora of game types, but at the same time, the shotgun is so grossly overpowered that it turns each game into… sniping with the shotgun. I appreciate that it was programmed into the game – some of the Trophies earned online would be near impossible without it – but I dislike how quickly it becomes a crutch. Being said, I do abuse it as much as the next guy. I just wish the weapons were a tad more balanced. Online modes include Bond Evasion where one player is Bond, James Bond and he must escape while an enemy team tries to take him out, to straight up death matches.

The duck and cover mechanic works particularly well online, giving you an advantage when it comes to spotting your foe, but leaving your front side vulnerable to those who are prone to flanking.

Online, instead of leveling up via CoD 4, you gain credits, which can be used to upgrade guns, purchase new guns, unlock gadgets – more life, bigger explosions, and scopes for your weapons. There are frag grenades online, as well, but they must be purchased.

It’ll take over 60,000 credits to unlock everything, and with only 40 credits a kill, it can become a challenge to save up enough credits to unlock everything worthwhile, but it is highly fun. If there had only been local multiplayer, things would have been a little better, almost on par with Goldeneye: 007.

The graphics in Quantum of Solace are under whelming, to say the least. Bond, James Bond has only looked blockier in Goldeneye: 007. The character model for Bond bears a passing resemblance to Craig, Daniel Craig, which isn’t really a down-grade, as Craig, Daniel Craig, in real life, looks like a bunch of jaggies and pixels. I would have liked to have seen more diverse character models when it came to the generic thugs that I was killing left and right, or to have seen a character model for M. This only bothered me in one mission where M was directly attacked and was suspiciously missing from the room where the attack actually occurred.

Some of the levels are rich, set-wise, but the characters that populate the landscape are sadly generic. It was a bummer to run around the rooftops of Siena and see several red-shirted pedestrians wandering. Variety in any of the models would have been nice.

The set-pieces and stages are terrifically done, however. Most, if not all of the levels are memorable, ranging from canals to casinos. There were a few nagging problems here and there – when Bond runs to cover, the game switches to the third person, and there’s no lip syncing when this occurs during dialogue. It’s a minor annoyance that I only noticed once.

Activision managed to secure all the major voice talents from both movies – Craig, Daniel Craig, Dame Dench, Judi Dench, Green, Eva Green – but most was  recycled dialogue from the films, not new lines  recorded for the game.

The gun effects were nice, but I always feel odd scoring sound in an action game such as this. The voice acting was done by film professionals, so of course it sounds good, but there are only so many ways you can hear a gunshot and say it’s unique. The music comes from both movies, so it also sounds very good. Enemies have recycled lines, which I find problematic, especially in a next gen title. Should I really be recognizing something an enemy says three seconds after he says it, because his fellow henchman is repeating it back? Are you both really out of ammo? Is Dominic Greene really that shoddy of a boss?

The replay in this game really comes from the online mode. The single player is short enough to be completed in a few hours on the easier difficulties, although my initial playthrough was on 007 difficulty and took me a few days. You get what you put into the game on this case – if you want the game to be easy, expect to be done with it in 4 hours, all cell phones collected, all super-weapons fired. The harder difficulties can take a little while longer.

If the online were more populated and the shotgun less powerful, it would be more fun to hop back on, but it’s incredibly easy to get burned out. Getting sniped by a shotgun from across the map gets old real fast.

The game is a series of recycled gameplay ideas, from “Call of Duty 4”, and rightly so, to Gears of War and Operation Winback. There’s not really anything new to speak of. Even the online game types are highly derivative. I can honestly say there’s not a single original idea presented in QoS.

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As unoriginal and bland as the game is, I just have to say that I had a blast playing it. The enemy AI is shoddy, the deaths are cheap and numerous, but I had fun. It reminded me of the excitement I would feel coming home from school in the fifth grade – boy, does that date me – and wanting to play Winback. I haven’t played Winback in over seven years, but I did play the sequel, which completely shattered everything Winback was.

QoS plays like Winback 2 should have. Good old duck and cover, not explicitly violent, arcade style fun. When I broke the game down into categories, it made me realize that it was a middling title that I probably enjoyed more than I should.

They call them ‘guilty pleasures’ for a reason. A rental at best, sadly.

Gameplay: 8
Duck and cover was done better in many, many other games, and works well enough here. The first person is useless on the higher difficulties, while the cover mechanic is a joke on the easier settings. Online is a mixed bag, dominated by shotgunners and exploiters.

Graphics: 5
Would have been passable as a PS2 title, but as it stands, just not up to par with what we’re seeing. And it pains me to say this… but “Jason Bourne Kills the World” looked better. It’s a movie IP, but I’m not going to give it brownie points just because Bond, James Bond doesn’t clip through the floor.

Sound: 5
It’s stuff from the movies, so it sounds good. Would have sounded better if I was watching a movie, so hearing the same cues over and over and over and over again got slightly tedious. Voice acting is good, but mostly recycled stuff. Guns are guns. I cannot stress that enough.

Replay: 3
Once you finish the single player, there’s not much else to do except collect phones. It’s woefully short, and the online isn’t really worth playing for more than a day.

What’s New: 0
Literally nothing.

Final Score:

4.2