Review: Quantum of Solace (360)
No, Treyarch, I expect you to die.
A quantum of solace? Huge spoons of dÃ©jÃ vu more like. When we heard a while back that EA had lost the 007 licence and that Activison (who are rapidly becoming the new EA) were now developing a game based on the, then new, Casino Royale movie using the Call of Duty 4 engine many, myself included took a deep breath in anticipation. Could Activison really succeed where EA had failed for almost a decade and make a game to at least meet or even surpass Rare’s classic GoldenEye 007? Well here it is: a single player story covering both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace with a multiplayer game filled with unlockable weaponry and gadgets and enough game modes to keep any online player busy for months.
This Xbox 360 version has been developed by Treyarch who know a thing or two about first-person shooters having spent the last few years developing the Call of Duty franchise alongside Infinity Ward (but never really surpassing them) the game uses a first person perspective for moving and shooting and a third person camera for when you take cover or make a close combat takedown. Along with the now standard sticky cover system and QTE takedowns you’re also treated to having regenerating health and lock picking mini games to round out the videogame clichÃ©s.
The game begins starts at the end of Casino Royale and beginning of the Quantum of Solace storyline with Bond hot the heels of the villainous Mr White who is Bond’s only link to the mysterious organisation responsible for the death of his lover Vesper Lynd. Unlike the film’s simple snatch and grab, the videogame has you tearing around White’s estate shooting waves of identikit henchmen learning how to use the cover system, close combat takedowns and the unique one shot kills be it a balcony sniper plummeting to his death or conveniently placed and highly explosive propane tank to cluster-fuck nearby enemies.
The game then follows Quantum’s plot more or less until just before the final act where it goes back in time to the start of Casino Royale and then goes thought that storyline before returning to Quantum’s third act for the resolution. The stages are all liked by expositional cut scenes that briefly touch upon why Bond is where he is and what he’s doing their but you could happily skip these and just enjoy them as they are without the benefit of the back story. As a means of conveying the story its fine but showing some flash CGI interface graphics and having two people talking off screen is only just above having an inner-city office creature giving a PowerPoint presentation on an overhead projector.
Many of the events and locations in the two films have been tinkered with to provide enough extra material needed for the gameplay. Along with the aforementioned estate level at the start of the game the sewer chase, Austrian opera, Madagascar foot chase and many more have been expanded or outright changed to provide dozens of henchmen to shoot, electronic locks to pick (with a mini game that uses the Xbox 360 d-pad and that’s never a good idea), security cameras to disable and the odd sniping or turret section to ensure no clichÃ© is left unused.
So how does the game play? Well as I’ve already mentioned several times the game is rife with clichÃ©s. Now this is to be expected given that it’s a licensed (to kill) game but you can almost hear Treyarch ticking the boxes on their design document as you play it. A wide selection of modern-era firearms with alternate fire modes, iron sights, scopes and silencersâ€¦ check. Third person cover system along with regenerating health and short term sprint boostâ€¦ check. Night time sniping mission and arbitrary stealth sectionsâ€¦ big check, and so on and so forth until any possible spark or originality has been snuffed by the mass market homogenising that permeates every pore of the game.
Being neither a Bond fan or an N64 owner, the inability of the Bond games to live up to the big G hasn’t really ever concerned me (besides, License to Kill on the Speccy was better) which might be why I’m not about to rip into Quantum of Solace. Aside from the fact that it’s actually pretty good.
QoS is exactly what you’d expect from a film tie-in. A solid, if slightly ugly, FPS with a few twists in the gameplay but nothing to get too excited about. On the plus side, the (numerous) firefights can be tense and exciting and the sticky cover system works very nicely which leads to some very entertaining standoffs where you try to pick out headshots whilst protected by some rich chap’s desk or whatever.
The game is comprised of almost a dozen very short, super-linear levels which leap from location to location quickly enough to suggest that the film must be entirely nonsensical and I was done with the entire single player campaign within an evening (achievement hunting included) but, oddly enough, I never got bored and actually rather liked it.
If you’re bored of the FPS genre there’s actually something quite likeable about a game you can plough through that isn’t reduced to a bunch of fetch tasks (see: Bioshock or Halo 3) and isn’t encumbered by rubbish vehicle sections (although there is a brief, easily completed turret section). There is a short hacking mini-game which is almost ruined by the awful 360 dpad but for 99% of the time you’ll just be shooting foreign espionage pricks in the face.
The Halo/CoD faithful needn’t apply but if you see this cheap next year, it’s actually not that bad.
Secondary Score: 6/10
About the only thing missing from the game is an unnecessary driving section but the stealth sections more than make up the frustration quota with them forcing you to memorise guard patrol patterns and security camera locations. Once learnt these sections won’t hold you back for long but fell more like buffers that artificially extend the short lifespan of the game rather than the tense peek and sneak interludes they should be.
Anyone who has played a first person shooter in the last few years will easily blaze through the single player mode in about eight hours or so. There is some replay value for unique achievements and the odd ‘do X number of takedowns/headshots/etc.’ along with collecting the hidden cell phones in each level that also provide clues for those players who’s IQ doesn’t extend into double figures but if you pay attention while playing you could easily max out ninety percent of the single player game on your first play through.
So is Quantum of Solace, like its older cousin, Call of Duty a game that has its longevity in the multiplayer modes? Well no to be honest. Even despite it using the Call of Duty 4 engine which has been THE online shooter for the last year (Sorry Halo zealots but it’s true).
The MP maps are all fine if but not outstanding and all feature the same sticky cover system as the single player game making it slightly more tactical and less twitchy than Call of Duty but still falling far short of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter or Battlefield: Bad Company in terms of possible strategies and tactics. The biggest failing of the multiplayer is just how flimsy the game feels with it looking and unfortunately playing like a five year old PC reskin of Sin or Quake II. The lighting on the levels is terrible with drab near identikit textures and the player modes all look and move with a strange weightless quality that cheapens the experience and reminds you that you’re just playing Call of Duty lite. Oh yeah and don’t get me started on weapon balance as the shotguns in Quantum of Solace could punch a hole through time.
Is it really a surprise just how mediocre this game is? No it’s been made to a budget and a schedule by a developer who can seemingly only aspire to imitate other (better) games. If you want a good Bond game still stick with GoldenEye 007 or even Rogue Agent as despite their age or lack of success still play a hell of a lot better than this bland and predictable effort.