It's perhaps indicative of the current state of the global entertainment industry that while the crippling financial problems at MGM have temporarily foiled the 23rd James Bond film, Activision has had no such concerns pulling together a stellar cast for big budget new video game Blood Stone 007. The third-person action game's completely original story has been written by Bruce Feirstein, writer of three Bond films and two Bond games (Everything Is Nothing and From Russia With Love), while Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and pop singer Joss Stone all lend their likenesses and vocal talents. So Digital Spy joined the famous British secret agent to end some lives and break some hearts in Blood Stone.
The game puts the player in the shoes of Daniel Craig's Bond, described by developer Bizarre Creations as "gadget light and action heavy" - meaning fancy technologies such as exploding pens or multipurpose briefcases are replaced by Jason Bourne-style quick-paced violence and chiselled-jawed conversations. Essentially, Blood Stone 007 is a third-person action game mostly featuring shooting, close-quarters combat and driving sequences. As with the Bond films, the story sees the super spy travelling to multiple locations around the world, including Athens, Istanbul, Monaco, Burma, Siberia and Bangkok, in pursuit of a terrorist leader, this time called Greco.
There seems to be nothing hugely revolutionary about Blood Stone's shooting mechanics, but nothing seems to be overly worrying either. The usual range of pistols, machine guns and shotguns appear to have a good weight to them, and the cover mechanic is strong - although it's difficult to judge its stickiness without going hands-on. Cover is dynamic, with the concrete blocks and surfaces falling apart under damage, requiring the player to keep moving. Despite the shooting sequences being fairly standard, the game could excel over rival third-person shooters such as the Uncharted series with its takedown system.
In the demo, the Bizarre Creations representative moved into a building site area in front of a huge dam, before engaging with a gang of enemies. Among the few gadgets in the game is the Smartphone system, which brings a state of "augmented reality" that is basically the same as 'detective mode' in Batman: Arkham Asylum. The screen goes to a negative filter and the enemies are highlighted, including their weapons and state of alert. Other items, such as explosives, are also highlighted to help the player plan their approach.
The Aston Martin controlled pretty well and there was a good feeling of power and speed, aided by the pleasing rasp of the engine (although it's somewhat off-putting to have Stone jabbering on in the background). After running out of road, the player was forced to take a shortcut over an icy lake to keep up with Pomerov. On the ice, it was sometimes hard to see the safe places to drive, leading to quite a few deaths before getting the hang of it. After an attack chopper started ripping up the ice around the car with gunfire, the mission ended as Bond launched the car onto the back of the train, causing Stone to break her wrist - which unfortunately didn't shut her up.
Overall, Blood Stone 007 follows a string of third-person action games in the James Bond series that have proved solid, well-made and fun, but not exactly stuff to set the world on fire. However, all the right elements are in place with Blood Stone, from the original script penned by a bone fide Bond screenwriter, to the involvement of Daniel Craig's stunt double. The level of polish already appears strong and there seems to be depth and fluidity in the takedown system that could elevate the game above its third-person rivals. Considering the uncertainty that still surrounds the future of MGM, hopefully Activision's Blood Stone will be able to keep the secret agent alive and kicking.
Blood Stone 007 will be released on PS3, Xbox 360, PC and Nintendo DS on November 2.