The game's developed by the criminally under-rated British studio Bizarre Creations. Y'know, the team behind the excellent XBOX exclusive franchise, Project Gotham Racing, and this year's PS3 combat-racer, Blur.
Seeing as there is no James Bond movie this year, Blood Stone is a unique story penned by Goldeneye's screen writer, Bruce Feirstein. The plot, which is paced just like a Bond movie, opens in Athens as 007 scuppers an attack on the G-20. The story sends Bond to a number of worldwide locations as he tries to get to the bottom of a biological terrorism plot. While it feels like an homage to a Bond movie (it sticks very rigidly to the structure of a typical 007 plot), the narrative is enjoyable and is only let down by some poor cut-scene animation.
Blood Stone is a cover-based third-person shooter, but it mixes stealth, hand-combat and racing segments to add variety to the gameplay. Blood Stone's single-player campaign takes around six hours to complete, but the game also boasts online multiplayer.
Blood Stone conveys all the elements of James Bond, and it does them well. While a majority of the game is spent shooting from behind cover, the game also includes plenty of stealth gameplay, as well as some excellent racing segments. Vehicle components in licensed games usually instill fear, but in Blood Stone they are perfectly tuned. Bizarre Creations' pedigree as a racing game developer shines through, as the cars have a good feel to them. The vehicle sections are more about spectacle than true racing; they are very linear, but Bizarre Creations pack so much graphical interest on the screen that they do have a very cinematic quality to them. While Blood Stone is never particularly stellar in any regard, the variety stops the game from becoming repetitive.
There's plenty of twists, spectacle and intrigue to Blood Stone's plot. While it feels formulaic, it's a good story that's worth seeing through to its conclusion. The voice-acting's solid, if a little flat in places. In fact, the only area in which Blood Stone's plot feels like a let-down is in its woeful cut-scenes. Characters are very poorly animated here, making them look stiff and unrealistic.
There's a section roughly three-quarters of the way through Blood Stone's campaign in which you chase an assassin through a rainy Bangkok skyline. It's brilliant, and it's quintessentially Bond. As you dash past the neon-signs across grubby roof-tops, you'll punch enemies and leap from ledge to ledge. Blood Stone features Daniel Craig's likeness, and it carries that same grit from his movies. Brilliantly, the Bangkok level ends with a chase involving a dump-truck. It's the stand-out level in a game which also involves a shoot-out on a hovercraft, and a particularly enjoyable boat-chase.
Given that James Bond is actually a spy (not an action hero), stealth is always the make or break component of a Bond game. Blood Stone deals with it well, often providing the choice to fight with guns, or go undetected. The cover-based components used for the shooting are a natural fit for the stealth gameplay, allowing you to weave through environments and take down enemies with a particularly powerful melee attack. Melee animations are contextually sensitive, so there's a variety of attacks to carry out. The stealth's simple — and like much of Blood Stone's design, bears resemblance to Uncharted 2 — but it's genuinely fun clearing out rooms without being noticed.
While 007's silenced pistol has a great click to it, much of the 16-weapon arsenal in Blood Stone lacks the punch needed to make the gun-fights truly exciting. What's more, the targeting can be a little "swimmy" and the enemies take far too many bullets on the higher difficulty levels.
A little like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Bond can use his smart-phone to analyse the environment in Blood Stone. This marks enemies and "scannable" objects on the HUD. It also makes the screen look distorted and grainy. The problem is, Bond's smart-phone is so useful you'll have it turned on for a majority of the game. It's the exact same problem Arkham Asylum encountered.
As interesting as Blood Stone's narrative is, the plot is let-down by some sloppy cut-scenes. The visuals are fine, but the facial animation leaves a lot to be desired — especially with games like Heavy Rain and Uncharted common-place on the PlayStation 3. The shoddy lip-syncing and bland models make the characters very sterile.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone captures the essence of what it is to be James Bond. The game lacks polish in places, but the overall experience is good - if a little short-lived.