007: Quantum of Solace review

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The usual Bond staples – big public buildings, construction sites, boats – all feature. Cupboards and hallways stuffed with trigger-happy Eastern Europeans, the odd African, even the occasional traitorous Brit. They’re occasionally smart, grenading you from cover or attempting flanks, and four or five charging for your location shouting “It’s Bond, get him!” is unnerving in a good way. God knows why they always seem to be sitting on explosive boxes, or dawdling next to propane tanks.

Go through six or seven firefights of this ilk, maybe do a few QTEs on the way, finish with a big set-piece, and repeat. That’s the meat of QoS, although among those big finishes are some adrenalin-pumping escapes and one or two flourishes, such as sniping a bomb-maker you’ve been chasing as he dashes to set off his charges. “Spot on, Bond”, someone very English chirps in your ear after that, and they’re spot on. In qualification, however, there are many more QTE brawls, minigames, and the eventually wearying rounds of spot-the-exploding-object. And there’s one horrendous helicopter boss that on anything above normal difficulty is mouse-smashingly tough, unless you’re able to nail him with four shots off the bat, thanks mainly to the need to keep your eyes on the air while enemies respawn in the corners of the roof. After a while, the formula does begin to grate.

On that note, the controls aren’t ideal, thanks mainly to what we will call the Gears of War factor. That is, games that have been designed with the Xbox 360 as the priority and, unsurprisingly, take advantage of its big fat ‘A’ button to implement a context-sensitive cover system. Here that’s mapped to the friendly Mr. ‘E’. Maybe it’s just fat fingers, but having to right strafe and control cover (which has to be held down until you’re against the surface) at the same time gets messy in the big firefights. There’s some form of compensation in being able to aim for the next piece of cover from your current one, and hold down the button to send James jogging. But it’s a real pity that one of the game’s slickest features, the seamless switch between the first- and third-person perspective, is a little more hampered than on console.

If all this sounds a little negative, it’s only because of the context. Playing around as Bond for a few hours is fun, and that silenced PP7 and the odd big bang make it a good analogue for a popcorn movie. But you’re only playing around: you know you’ll be going home to Far Cry 2. And with games like that setting the FPS pace, what would have been an excellent effort a few years ago just hits basic competence now.

Nov 5, 2008

More info

DescriptionWhile trying to straddle several genres, 007 once again comes up short of anything more than an OK time.
Franchise nameJames Bond
UK franchise nameJames Bond
Platform"Xbox 360","PS3","PS2","PC","Wii"
US censor rating"Teen","Teen","Teen","Teen","Teen"
UK censor rating"16+","16+","16+","16+","16+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)