Name: Quantum of Solace
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PC, Xbox 360 (Reviewed on 360)
There was a time when it seemed like the only game that mattered featured a single British agent facing impossible odds and nefarious villains. It’s been a long while since there’s been a 007 game that was worth playing for longer than ten minutes. While no Bond game has been able to capture the fun and playability featured in the Nintendo 64’s GoldenEye, that hasn’t stopped various developers, ranging from Black Ops to Eurocom to EA, from trying their hands at delivering as solid an experience. Eleven years later, the license has passed into Activision’s hands, and they’ve given FPS vets Treyarch the keys to the Aston Martin. With the Call of Duty 4 engine backing Quantum of Solace, Treyarch’s first attempt at the franchise, is there a chance gamers might finally get the Bond game they’ve been anticipating for over a decade?
A lot has changed in the FPS genre over the last ten years. Aside from the obvious graphical upgrades we’re so accustomed to, the gameplay model is completely different than it was when GoldenEye ruled sleepovers. Games like Halo, Call of Duty, SOCOM, and Rainbow Six have redefined for an entire generation of gamers what a shooter should. Quantum of Solace borrows its physics and graphics from CoD, its cover system from R6, its pace from Halo, and in the end, gamers are left with a game that doesn’t have its own identity. QoS should have been the game that reestablished the Bond gaming franchise. Instead, it makes you more appreciative of the shooters it tries to emulate, as opposed to the game itself.
Once you start up a game, you’re immediately thrown into the fray. Picking up exactly where the Casino Royale storyline left off, QoS places you at Mr. White’s mansion, where you must fend off his bodyguards in order to capture him for questioning. Acting as a tutorial level, players experience almost all of the new features the franchise is touting. While some of these features work well, others are not as lucky. The new cover system is easily the biggest letdown. You’ll notice immediately just how clunky moving in and out of cover feels when you’re asked to run to an object and take cover behind it. Occasionally, James will not stick to his cover, taking hits while you’re trying to get him behind a pillar or short wall. Another thing you’ll notice about this new system is how it has affected the level design. You’ll run across three or four areas where it becomes clear that the developers wanted to make sure you were actually using the new cover system, so they threw a bunch of pillars or barricades in the middle of an otherwise open area to force you into taking cover. This not only creates awkward situations, but will also have players questioning just why there are so many boxes or storage containers laying around all over the place. Another addition is quick-time takedowns, similar to those in The Bourne Conspiracy. As Bond, you can rush an enemy to engage in a button-pressing mini-game to take him out. It’s not the most inspired way to do it, and I’m curious why it was added at all. These mini-games also appear in a few boss fights, but make much more sense in that context than they do in the middle of a crowded battle.
On the upside, Quantum of Solace looks fantastic. Character models look good, even if at times the bad guys are a little generic-looking. Individual weapons are also rendered terrifically, but that’s what you expect from the Call of Duty 4 engine. The great looking environments are cribbed from the two most recent films, with the bulk of the game being set in the world of Casino Royale. In fact, there are only 3 levels from the Quantum of Solace film out of the 10 in the game. The game tries to mix things up along the way, throwing in stealth missions, horribly emulated parkour missions, and even a level where a drugged Bond has to make it to the defibrillator in the Aston Martin. While these ideas may seem unnecessary, it at least shows the developers were interested in trying something different. Whether or not it’s enjoyable is up for debate.
Even though it can be said there isn’t a whole lot of story to most 007 films, there’s even less in this game. Despite being built around the action set pieces of the two films, you would think there would have been time to throw in a little bit of plot. Most of the time, the only reason I knew what was happening was because I’d seen Casino Royale. All it would have taken was just a bit more dialogue, and I think you’d have a clearer sense of what was happening. As it stands, Bond is basically just traveling the world shooting at people because he can. Yes, I understand it’s a shooter, and you’re going to be shooting people, but at least give me a reason, don’t just say, “Those guys are bad. Kill them.”
We all know the main reason GoldenEye was such a hit was the tremendous multiplayer. There were tons of gameplay options, plenty of maps, and a ridiculous amount of characters and weapons to choose from. Today, multiplayer gaming’s focus has shifted to online, but sadly Quantum of Solace doesn’t offer anything new or special that will have you playing that instead of any of the myriad of more popular online shooters. Aside from traditional modes, QoS brings back Golden Gun, and also introduces a Bond vs. The Organization mode. There’s also a monetary system in which you earn points in online matches to buy better weapons, armor, and gadgets. For whatever reason, there’s absolutely no split screen. When the single-player campaign can be completed in the time between lunch and dinner, and the online is only mildly intriguing, it’s disappointing to see a feature that could have made this game much more enjoyable left out of the process completely.
It’s too bad that once again, Bond fans are left with a game that’s more interested in cashing in on a movie license than presenting a complete gameplay experience. Quantum of Solace ends up feeling more like a mod of Call of Duty 4 than it does its own game, and that’s a shame. 007 fans deserve something more substantial, and maybe one day we’ll get it. For now, all we’re left with is a game that almost makes it, and memories of a different time.