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Quantum of Solace

The name's Bland, James Bland.
The Game:
I don't really know what possessed me to pick up Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond videogame, based on the hit sequel to Casino Royale. Everyone knows that 99 out of 100 movie-based video games are terrible. But what can I say? I'm a sucker for Bond! Although, after playing this game, I just feel like a sucker.

As expected, you play James Bond, super spy and man about town. The plot follows the events of the new film, Quantum of Solace. At a certain point, partially to pad the game's runtime, and partially to provide some necessary backstory, you play several levels that take place during the events of Casino Royale. Needless to say, the plot is really just an excuse for several action sequences. In the case of this game, though, it's an excuse for the same gameplay, repeated endlessly, with little variation. They even add in plot points not present in the films to make more levels. In some cases, the tactic works. Most of the time, though, it doesn't.

The first level sets the stage for the entire game. You've made an attack on Mr. White for the purpose of gaining more information on the organization for which he works. He immediately calls out guards from every corner and crevice of his expansive villa, and you have to not only survive the onslaught, but apprehend Mr. White in the process. The only way to get through the level without looking like swiss cheese is by using cover. But this isn't the kind of dynamic cover mechanic that you'd find in, say, Gears of War. No, you just slap yourself up against a wall, take aim, then pop your head out and fire a few rounds. Not much challenge. Every so often the enemy will throw a grenade at you, and you just move a few feet back, let it explode, then go back to your previous spot.

When you're in cover, it's a third person view. Outside of cover, it's first person. I guess this was an attempt to meld Goldeneye (the classic N64 shooter) with Everything And Nothing (the criminally underrated last gen third person Brosnan Bond title), but it doesn't have the elegance of either. Instead, it feels clunky, continually going back and forth. And considering how often you're using cover, I don't understand why they bothered with the first person aspects at all. The shifting gets especially bothersome when you take into account hand to hand take downs. If you encounter an enemy in first person mode, and get close to them, you can press the right analog stick to trigger an animation whereby Bond takes down the enemy with his hands, provided you press the correct face button when prompted. This cannot be down when you're in cover mode. So, for the few times when an enemy bothers to flank you, even though the easiest thing to do would be a manual grapple, you can't unless you leave cover.

In an attempt to break up the monotony, there are selected boss fights every few levels. These consist of pressing the correct face buttons in sequence. The timing window is very generous, giving you no challenge whatsoever. And, should you fail to press the right key, the game gives you as many chances as you need to press the correct one. There are no consequences for doing it wrong. Other points in the game require you to sneak past enemies while you're on a balcony. Again, no challenge, because these enemies will gladly turn their backs to you for copious amounts of time. I imagine the timing is a little more strict on the harder difficulties, but even so, these are so elementary, they don't offer anything you haven't seen a million times before.

Quantum of Solace does provide several multiplayer modes, from deathmatch to more goal oriented fare. However, no matter which mode I tried to play, the game could never find a match for me. I don't know if this is the fault of the game, the network, or if it's just due to the fact that no one is playing this game online. It's possible that no one is playing offline, either.

The Graphics:
Despite running in native 1080p, Quantum of Solace is one ugly game. All the characters, based on the likeness of their film counterparts, look blocky and grotesque. Body motion is jerky and what you would expect from a last gen game. Textures don't vary much, although the settings do. This game is not going to win any awards for how it looks, that's for sure.

The Audio:
Quantum of Solace doesn't have much to offer in the way of audio, either. As soon as enemies spot you, they'll start saying, "We're pinned down! We need backup!" Expect to hear this multiple times in every conflict. Beyond that, the gunshots and explosions sound okay. If it weren't for the endless repeating phrases, I might have rated this a little higher. To its credit, the developers did get all the main actors to do their own voices, but of the group, only Judi Dench doesn't sound like she's phoning it in. And that may be because they simply ripped the audio from the films in her case. Daniel Craig definitely records new lines for the game, and you can tell he doesn't give a damn.

The Conclusion:
People seem to be torn on the quality of Quantum of Solace, the latest Bond film. No one, however, is undecided about the quality of Quantum of Solace the video game. It's a dreary, repetitive affair that never makes you feel excited to be in the shoes of James Bond. I'll stick with Everything and Nothing, thanks. Skip It.