Review / Quantum of Solace (360, Wii)

It may have occurred to many readers that I am an avid Bond fan. In fact avid might be putting it lightly; I’m pretty much obsessed with Bond. In that light one might think that for me to review a Bond game wouldn’t be quite right. The general assumption being that since I am such an avid Bond fan I would go easier on the game and only notice the good things thanks to my overwhelming appreciation for the existence of the game at all. This assumption would be false. As a rampant fan of anything Bond I come down twice as hard as I probably should on anything involving him and expect more than is fair in most cases.

So this review will by hyper-critical, because in my mind Bond should be the best out there (despite the fact that he hasn’t been since GoldenEye). In case you want a refresher course on every Bond game up to this point you can head over here and do so. It may help you to know where I’m coming from on this review, especially when I open with the fact that I think Quantum of Solace has regressed the Bond franchise back to the point it was at when EA first got the franchise and those were dark, dark times my friends.

Now that I’ve got everyone interested with that inflammatory statement let me explain myself. What EA had done with the franchise after their initial failures was to actually make it their own and in so doing they actually made it feel pretty Bondian. In other words, the games became more than just a licence that EA was spitting out. Quantum of Solace feels like a licensed game. Not necessarily a bad licensed game, but one none the less. What do I mean by this? I mean that it doesn’t stand on its own, but on the mimicry of other games. It was developed because the license existed, not because an idea for a game existed. This is exactly what EA was doing when they first received the Bond license and it’s the exact wrong way to go about making a Bond game (or any game, for that matter).

What this approach does in general is leave players with a game that doesn’t suck because it is based on games that don’t suck, but also doesn’t do anything to make someone want it. What it does to a Bond game is suck the soul out of it. When you’re playing a game that feels like every other FPS out there and doesn’t differentiate itself except for a cover system that plays like every other cover system out there, then there’s nothing to make the player or the game feel like Bond and everyone knows that the worst Bond material is the material that loses what Bond is. In short, for a Bond fan, who expects his Bond games to at least have some cool Bond moments in them (EA actually had Bond moments that players could find in levels, all Activision has is exploding barrels) Quantum of Solace is as flat as the plastic look on almost every character in the game.

I suppose, though, that not every gamer is as avid a Bond fan as I, and that some people are just looking for a shooter. Just to be clear, we’re talking about the 360 version from here on in until stated otherwise. Overall Bond is a decent shooter and does shooting well, thanks largely in part to the COD4 engine. Though if you’ve played COD4 then you’ve played a better game. Part of this stems of the inclusion of a cover system which brings Bond into third person. I was hoping that this meant that players would be able to do some cool things in third person, but really it just means that levels are designed around cover mostly and not FPS shooting. It works out OK for the most part, except when the AI suddenly decides that it doesn’t want to play like a third person cover AI and wants to play like an FPS AI. Suddenly duck and cover gameplay goes out the window as the bad guys charge and swerve. I had many a cheap death because I was shooting bad guys who were playing duck and cover and suddenly an enemy, clearly thinking in FPS mode, came up and put a bullet in my head.

Control wise the game plays perfectly fine. The COD4 free aim into zoomed aim method works great and when players are behind a wall aiming, a position you get into by tapping A near a wall so there aren’t any sticking problems, the transition is smooth and the only real difference in aiming is that Bond won’t get hit as much. I did find the lock-on that worked so well in COD4 a bit ineffective in Quantum, but it was far from a deal breaker. Other than shooting your foes in the head/body/foot/arm/whatever, the only other truly unique way to kill them is by a physical take down. These basically replace melees and are triggered with the press of a button when the player is close enough. The screen then swings into third person and a single button QTE occurs, which, if pulled off correctly, takes out the enemy in a multitude of cool Bond moves. I will admit Treyarch managed to capture Craig’s no nonsense movements very well for these. While QTEs are nothing new it is one of the few aspects of the game that reminds players that they are playing a Bond game and not just an FPS starring Daniel Craig.

The game also has a few stealth aspects in it that are mostly based around crouching and using a silenced weapon (most can be silenced) or one of the QTE take downs. Sadly the only penalty for getting noticed is that three or four easily dispatched henchmen come to whatever location players are at. After players have got rid of them the fact that Bond was discovered has no outcome on the rest of the level and since players can pick up better guns from the elite forces stealth becomes almost a moot point. There aren’t any levels that can be accomplished better with stealth actions either. No matter how silent the player is, a room where a shoot out is taking place will have a shoot out take place in it.

In that vein, there are no multiple paths in any portion of the game. One of the great things in previous Bonds, and most truly great shooters, is the chance to defeat a level in multiple ways. It gets even better when one of those ways is a really awesome Bond move or something tricky. It was one of the coolest features in the EA games and it is not only lost in this version, but the game runs in such a linear style I started to wonder if at one point that game had actually been a side-scroller. Just another aspect that sort of took the Bond out of Bond.

What also doesn’t help the game in any way is the feeling that it pretty much came in second place to COD5 development for a large chunk of its development period. Level design is only remotely interesting in the beginning of the game and doesn’t truly pick up till around the last two levels. Making it seem like they cared even less is the fact that most of the game’s story is presented in what is basically narration over a computer screen displaying images of satellite scans and characters who are speaking. It’s kind of like COD4‘s cut scenes, but instead of working it fails. Once again this changes near the end of the game, when it appears the developers all walked into the office and realized they needed at least one real cut scene and that maybe actually working some of the story into the gameplay a bit better would be a good idea.

Of course the story they based the game around, which follows both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace in a loose way, is lacking at best. Of course they had to change things around in order to warrant Bond shooting through each level, but they basically eliminate half of Quantum‘s plot and stretch Casino’s out into an actual game. The latter part being perfectly fine, but the former making the overall story weak in almost every way. Even EA’s final Brosnan outing, Everything or Nothing, which had a plot about nano-technology, made more logical sense than the mish mash of shooting levels presented in Quantum.

Graphically the game does its job relatively well, despite the cut scenes looking a generation old. Bond looks like Craig, M looks like Dench and everyone else kind of falls into their character. I didn’t switch the game on and get blown away by the look of everything, but I wasn’t about to turn it off because it looked bad.

That all changed when I switched over to the Wii version of the game. Few words can describe the train wreck of a game that is the Wii version of Quantum of Solace but I believe I have found the perfect one: Abomination. I do not know why a gaming company (Treyarch farmed it off to Beenox) would even want to put their name on this turd. The graphics are so low grade that I thought I might as well be playing GoldenEye, and I’m being dead serious here. The above image is supposedly from the Wii version, but if that image isn’t touched up in some way then I’ll eat a shoe. Switching from the 360 version to this was like getting punched in the face by a guy who just gave you a shiny cake. Now normally I wouldn’t give two shits about graphics as I’m an avid supporter of design over appearance, but when you can’t see the enemy because the colors and polygons all blur together then there is a serious problem.

The game unfolds exactly the same as the 360 version except it sucks on levels that made me want to take back anything bad I had ever thought about the 360 game. The camera zoomed crazily in and out, sometimes unsure where to sit itself and probably too afraid of the low res Bond it was supposed to be showing to come out of first person for the third person cover mode. Of course this didn’t matter since the enemy AI had been turned into artificial idiocy (still AI, I realize). Add to this that collision detection for bullets and almost everything else was off, that the graphics glitched at almost every chance they could and the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing, was timed right and you’ve got a game that is literally the worst game I’ve ever played.This was only doubled by the fact that many of the checkpoints that were present in the 360 version had disappeared in the Wii. In one level there were absolutely none and I had to replay the entire thing multiple times, which in a good game isn’t so bad, but in this game made me want to melt my eyes. I will admit though, that I don’t make a habit of playing bad games, so there are most definitely worse games out there, I just haven’t played them.

But don’t worry, it gets better: the game froze on me three times. Just out and out froze on three separate occasions at seemingly totally random moments. Oh, and the small changes that were made for the Wii version are mostly for the worse. Many of the interactive objects in the 360 version are no longer interactive and explosive objects don’t shimmer like they do in the 360 letting players know that they’re explosive. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if gas tanks and other exploding items didn’t blend into the background like almost everything else in the muddled world of Wii Quantum of Solace.

I really wanted this version to be good too. Unfortunately it is not the FPS that will prove that the Wii should get more FPS action (maybe COD5?). That being said there are one or two rays of light, mostly which deal with the controls. Shooting is done well enough and turning was fine. I always find it more fun to play an FPS with the Wii remote and if the rest of the game hadn’t been so poorly made I would have had the same opinion here. Also the QTE hand-to-hand combat isn’t QTE, instead the player is tasked with aiming at a certain point on the opponents body and pressing A before time runs out. It’s way more fun and interactive then just the button tap. That is it, however. Nothing else good and I didn’t even mention the lock-on system that the game forces you to play with. I suppose that could be a benefit since you wouldn’t be able to see half the enemies without it, but for those of us that actually like to aim, it’s just a pain in the ass.

The only thing I truly enjoyed in the Wii version, in one of the most ironic moments in my gaming life, was the multiplayer. The Wii version has four-player online multiplayer and is the only version to feature split screen. It is so rudimentary in its design and gameplay (only two modes both of which basically require you to shoot the other people) that it reminded me of GoldenEye multiplayer through and through. Of course it could have been the bad graphics too. Whatever it was, I had fun playing it in a way I hadn’t had fun in an FPS for a good long time. Maybe it’s because it was on the Wii, so the pressure was off to be the best Haloz player evarz. The 360’s multiplayer is far more in depth and actually has a bit of the same run and gun gameplay that made GoldenEye so awesome. It won’t be stealing anyone away from Halo or Gears 2 though.

I guess my biggest disappointment, and here we’re talking about the 360 version as I’d rather have my fingers cut off then bring up the Wii again, is that it isn’t a special game. Bond is an event in both film and literature, but here he has been relegated to the likes of every licensed movie game created. As far as games like that go, this one is no slouch, but that’s not Bond. Nobody does it better is Bond, hopefully Activision learns that.

+ (360)

  • Decent FPS and third person action
  • Quality level design, eventually
  • Isn’t the Wii version
  • James Bond

  • Bland story
  • Weak level design
  • Doesn’t feel like Bond

+ (Wii)

  • People who don’t own a 360 or PS3 can protest by not buying the game at all
  • Multiplayer, but mostly because it exists at all. Does something get credit simply for existing?

  • Everything