Author's Note: I'm aware that Blood Stone is nearly five years old. Having just written a blog dedicated to the James Bond games and with Blood Stone being a game I've been playing a lot lately, I've decided to finally sit down and give it a proper write up.
With Activision having produced the last official James Bond video games we may ever see, there was one game in their repertoire that wasn't entirely a blatant Call of Duty clone and that came by way of a stone...Blood Stone. Being the first James Bond game since From Russia with Love to be presented entirely in third person, it called for a different approach than its two preceding installments. With a script penned by Bruce Feirstein—known for his screenplay contributions to Brosnan's first three films as well as EA's final two [canon] Bond games—a theme song by Joss Stone and David A. Stewart, and a plan for cinematic Hollywood action, early speculation was understandable to perpetuate the idea that Blood Stone might have been a commercial success. It's just a shame it wasn't enough.
In the years subsequent the events of Quantum of Solace, MI6 learns of an international terrorist, by the name of Greco, has planned an attack on the underway G-20 Summit in Athens, Greece. As M tasks Bond with the investigation, he successfully thwarts the realization of the offense, with the political figures of the summit remaining none the wiser. It serves as the introductory, opening credits scene that's been a staple of the James Bond films since 1963, with From Russia with Love, and after a charming animation paired with an original, exclusive theme by Joss Stone, the narrative opens. Blood Stone's story has Bond chasing biochemical terrorists across the globe in an attempt to thwart their agenda of kidnapping scientists for their research and ransoming them back to their respective governments. Featuring voice work from Dame Judi Dench as M, Daniel Craig as Bond and Joss Stone (the singer of the game's theme) as a new Bond girl and fellow MI6 agent, Nicole Hunter, Blood Stone offers a rather generic but on the whole interesting narrative.
With third person gameplay, the experience manages to take a nice step away from the standard that Activision managed to set for themselves with their Call of Duty franchise and two preceding Bond installments. Instead of your typical run and gun, Blood Stone manages to play out as a watered down version of Everything or Nothing, with the lack of gadgets except for the forced implementation of a smart phone, variety of missions and objectives and diverse gameplay. Blood Stone is essentially, in a nutshell, your generic third person action-adventure game. There isn't much about it that screams "James Bond," and it may have served itself better as an original IP...or at the very least, had effort put forth from people who actually know a thing or two about the world of 007.
Blood Stone presents players with your typical cover-based combat and nothing else. There's no new features, no innovations implemented; just take cover and shoot. It does present the Focus Aim feature, which is new to the Bond franchise, but is basically a cut-and-paste of Splinter Cell: Conviction's Mark and Execute system. The only difference here is that the Focus Aim ability doesn't really offer anything to gameplay...at all. With every melee takedown Bond executes on enemies, he gains a Focus Aim point (with a maximum of three) and when activated, the mechanic allows one to quickly execute headshots. But with the game featuring Call of Duty-esque targeting, with the reticle snapping back and forth between targets, the Focus Aim mechanic is entirely unnecessary. I only ever found myself using it when I was too lazy to manually move the thumbstick in line for a headshot, which was more rare than seeing Jesus on a slice of breakfast toast.
In this game, Bond only has one gadget in his arsenal and that comes by way of his smart phone, a feature that Activision have been forcing into the franchise since Quantum of Solace. His smart phone can be used to highlight objective on the display, enemy locations in the vicinity, and scan for evidence in the area—this game's version of collectibles. It's understandable when one considers the fact that the modern generation films in the franchise don't particularly feature any obscure gadgets from Q Branch, we wouldn't see any in the video games, but with Blood Stone's gameplay already terribly lacking, it wouldn't have killed anyone to throw a few in just for the spice and flavor.
Within the seven-mission campaign, the true highlights of the experience were the driving segments, which were far and few between. In Blood Stone, we found ourselves in two chases, by land and sea, in the first mission itself and by land in three subsequent chapters. It was one of the few fan services the game made, allowing players to sit behind the wheel of the classic Aston Martin DB5 as well as the DBS from Casino Royale and briefly, Quantum of Solace. The unfortunate irony is that with a game developed by the same company responsible for Project Gotham Racing, it was truly bizarre indeed that Bizarre Creations managed to create a rather uninspired driving experience, with unforgiving instant deaths from head on collisions or swerving into a body of water. While the driving sequences left more to be desired, they were a nice change of pace and palette cleanser in between the generic gunplay-based missions.
Blood Stone features an online multiplayer component, of course, that felt more like an afterthought than anything else; it consisted of three generic modes—Team Deathmatch, Objective and Last Man Standing—that really just makes one want to ask why. It was uninspired, a waste of energy and effort, if any was even put forth, and just added to the list of negatives circling the game like preying vultures.
At the end of the day though, while Blood Stone left a lot to be desired, it's one of the Bond games I find myself going back to; at least, when I'm in need of a fix and don't feel like dusting off the old PlayStation 2 or Nintendo 64. Blood Stone's script was rather well done, even though there were a small handful of annoying plot-holes and inconsistencies, like Bond happening upon an Aston Martin DBS and later, borrowing one from Nicole Hunter's friend that just happened to be the same color and have the same license plate. It had a rather decent storyline that left a lot to be expanded upon in a potential sequel, but now that Activision has lost the license to the games, it's unlikely we'll ever see it or another James Bond game again.