Quantum of Solace - Be The Bond

November 27, 2008

Another Bond movie has inevitably led to another Bond game. So is this the Bond game that will finally trump GoldenEye? It's the question that's been asked, and answered with a no, since 1997. You get the same answer here, but Quantum of Solace does use the Call of Duty 4 engine. Looks can only take you so far, so does this Bond accomplish its mission or should it be a secret agent?

Without revealing too much about the plot, Bond is out to stop a terrorist organization known as Quantum from seizing control of Bolivia's water supply and dole out a bit of revenge for what happened to his lady friend at the end of Casino Royale. The game relies on a basic plot structure, and like a lot of movie games, there's enough info there to provide a few mild spoilers, but not enough to supply a great narrative. At best, it's a companion piece for someone who's seen the film. At worst it's a loosely connected series of spoilers for someone who hasn't.

Quantum is a first-person shooter that frequently becomes a third-person shooter thanks to the game's heavily integrated cover system. Fortunately, the transition is quick and easy, and default auto-aim options help make Bond suitably lethal. The enemies aren't such bad shots themselves, so if you want to survive in her majesty's secret service, you have to keep your head down. This 007 is equipped with regenerating health, cribbing the gun barrel view from the opening credits to let you know how close you are to death. You'll get plenty of use out of your own license to kill, but the game is very linear, and primarily focuses on firefights with a few unique sequences and quicktime battles.

Quantum of Solace pairs an extremely short series of single-player missions, covering material from the movies Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Despite covering material from two movies, the single-player campaign is remarkably brief and could easily be finished in four or five hours. It's a little longer than the combined running time of the two movies, making it shorter than similar games.

A separate multiplayer mode pits MI6 against a rival group known as The Organization, with Bond himself showing up in certain modes. The high-lethality and cover system give multiplayer a fairly realistic feel, although there's not a lot of personality here even when Bond is present to disarm bombs or make a dash to an extraction point. There is at least variety though, and you can purchase weapons and items to customize your loadout. Solace's multiplayer somewhat makes up for the surprisingly brief solo game.

There are times when you'll want to charge in and peek down the iron sights Call of Duty style, but you won't last long. You'll need to move from cover to cover, peeking out to take out enemies and tossing the occasional flash bang. It's pretty easy, as the cover system works well without being too sticky and the game helps your aim out a little by default, helping you switch targets and line up clean shots without taking away the feeling of control.

The weapon set adds a bit of variety with numerous guns and different types of scopes; options such as burst fire or full auto; and the ability to add or remove a weapon's silencer. The biggest omission is gadgetry. Bond almost always has some cool hardware, but it's completely absent in Quantum of Solace.

The problem is that there's very little variation with the exception of some very basic stealth sections, which revolve around sneaking up on enemies who are conveniently facing the other way or pushing a button to disarm a nearby camera.

The game's quicktime fights are exactly what you'd expect. They're nice-looking, but you feel detached from the action. Things get really dull with a digital lock picking mini-game, and the most memorable moments actually come from a flashback to Casino Royale. The construction site chase scene is exciting if you keep up your speed, and a section where you have to guide a poisoned Bond to his car is gimmicky but cool.

Multiplayer matches rely on the exact same mechanics and weapons as single-player. The Bond modes don't allow players to respawn, and they often end up being too long or too short. The team deathmatch and point control modes are classic and balanced, even if they're not very interesting or relevant to the Bond theme.

While it by no means offers poor presentation, even in its best moments, Quantum of Solace looks a bit generic. Unless you can see a clear shot of the virtual Daniel Craig onscreen, it's not always immediately apparent that you're playing a Bond game. Whether this is due to the borrowed engine or some other reason, it's a little bit flat. The action lacks visual impact, and the best word to describe it is bland.

A suitable original score and strong voice work from the movie actors helps balance things out, but when most of the story is told between missions in flat, uninteresting, computer-style briefings, a lot of the potential is wasted. After the stylized intro has come and gone, you may have remind yourself that you're actually playing a Bond game.

Quantum of Solace is a passable Bond game and an above-average action game, but it's seriously held back by a lack of style and originality. The substantial multiplayer component somewhat makes up for the short campaign, but its biggest crime is never making you feel like 007. The wait goes on for a worthy successor to Rare's N64 classic.