Review: 007: Quantum of Solace – Treyarch Invention, LLC – Xbox 360

My wife picked this up for me out of the bargain bin at an opening of a new branch of a well-known Australian Hi-Fi, music, games, computers, etc chain. What I knew about it was that it was built on the COD4 engine, but wasn’t nearly as good.

But hey, it was cheap.

James Bond has never been in a mediocre game, after all... right?

Awhile back on a different website for a different review, someone asked me why I play trashy games instead of the good stuff, and while what I said then was valid, he did have a valid point. After all, I’ve got a pile of games I know are better than QoS sitting unplayed. I guess it’s in part because I’m “saving” the good/best ones, while the less good ones can be played and disposed of without caring if I really savour them properly. So anyway, I threw this on today since I’ve been in a bit of a Bond mood recently, and, yeah, a short, disposable game was what I felt like playing, since I can probably/hopefully finish it over the weekend, inbetween a couple of DVDs and World of Warcraft-dailies.

I played it on the 360, but I really can’t see there being much of a difference between 360 and PS3. Or the PC version, for that matter…

So anyway. Based on the plots of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. CoD4 engine. Treyarch. Slightly-crappy Gears-wannabe cover-shooter mechanic bolted on. Bond plays through a series of vaguely-based on the films scenarios, mostly using a series of various high-powered weapons just like he didn’t use in the films in the odd sequence that may be vaguely related or not to the actual plots of the two films. I guess many of the weapons did cameo in the films while other people were using them. And James has the famous cover shot with the HK UMP-9.

The most surprising thing I found about the game was that it was actually decently enjoyable. The graphics and sound, while not amazing, do their job well enough. Treyarch may not be the world’s most renowned dev, and especially at the point where they churned this game out, well before Black Ops, but it’s certainly solid enough in terms of gameplay, graphics and sound. Using the CoD4 engine and being from a CoD developer should do that, after all.

At one point I paused to reflect on the game after having acquired an M60, and shot up a building with it, while slowly fighting forward while taking cover against waves of heavily-armed goons armed with AKs. You might remember this scene from Casino Royale as the parkour chase from the beginning of the film. Which oddly was also 1/3 of the way through the game. Some of it is told in nonsensical flashback though, so the continuity is a right mess.

Remember this bit from the films? Me neither.

After another hour of play, I had experienced the exciting rooftop helicopter battle and exploding elevator shaft sequence that you may not recall from Casino Royale since they never happened in the film, I do have to reiterate it’s definately not a bad game. I enjoyed myself well enough, with of course the bargain-bin price caveat. The cover mechanics aren’t bad either, they just don’t really add anything to the FPS formula or this FPS title. At least they did make an effort to replicate the final section of the parkour chase, and while it wasn’t awesome, it was playable. It also features one stage where you get to play as drugged-cardiac-arrest-Bond from CR, which is almost as little fun as the Nightmare stages in Max Payne. At least it’s faster and you can see.

There are cell phones scattered about, which fill in little bits of intel. They’re vaguely interesting, but nothing to worry about if you miss any.

Anyway. Is it fun? It’s alright, actually. It’s nothing like the films, of course. But it’s an alright shooter. I’m not even going to bother considering  the multiplayer for the recommendation, since it’s an older game at this point, and let’s face it, every FPS/3PS of the last decade has a half-assed MP shooter aspect tacked onto it, but most people just play one of the better/more popular ones, and anything shy of that tend to be a ghost town. That’s what this one is. There’s nobody playing it.

So, yeah. As I said, CoD4 engine. Treyarch. Slightly-crappy cover system. Still a decent enough game. Not an awesome one to pick up at full price, but perfectly okay as a weekend rental, or something to fish out of the bargain bin and then either inflate your games collection or pass onto a friend.  I had fun enough with the game, though I found the wild deviations from the film(s) to be annoying.  Overall though, it’s still an ok game. Better as a rental rather than a bargain bin buy, since there’s not much to do with it once you finish it in 10 or so hours, unless you want to play through all the difficulty levels or achievement whore, since the MP is a ghost town.


Verdict: Rent it. Or buy it cheap. Or don’t. It’s all good.

Review: F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate – TimeGate Studios – PC

F.E.A.R. : Perseus Mandate adds proper widescreen support back into the game. The original F.E.A.R had it, and then Extraction Point inexplicably lacked it, so it was a relief to get it back and be able to see things in their proper perspective again.

Back again-again.

It opens with a “proper” intro, explaining how the first two teams are down and you’re going in and yadda yadda. As the game takes place parallel to the final events of FEAR and alongside Extraction Point, the Clone army is inactive for part of the game until they get reactivated with the resurrection of Fettel. So this time you’re fighting against mercenaries initially. After about 5-10 minutes of the game being slightly fresher, we’re back to the same old series of rooms with the same old art assets and the same old blood spatter on the walls. Your character has the same “bullet-time” ability of the guy you played in FEAR/Extraction Point, which is never really explained.

On one hand, it is the next bit of FEAR, on the other hand, by this stage I’d really appreciate some effort to mix it up just a bit, because it’s getting fucking tedious. Your two squaddies are also fucking stupid, but at least you know you’ll be rid of them quickly enough, either from some kind of contrived “we’re separated” plot point or gory death. Or, most likely, a combination of the two. This happens a couple of times through the campaign. Much of the game consists of running down endless corridors and through office buildings once again. Many of these offices naturally contain ammunition, grenades, first aid kits or body armour. Just like real offices do.

The gameplay is pretty much the same as the two previous instalments – A firefight with 2-6 enemy followed by 2-6 minutes of running through empty offices, rooms and hallways, occasionally punctuated by a telephone message or some other bit of exposition. An odd thing about Perseus is that at quite a few points it really does feel like they tried to do something a bit different with the FEAR formula. There are a couple of interesting locales, and there are also some interesting architectural points within the inevitable endless research facility. The main problem with it all is still essentially the gameplay issue presented above.

The lightning gun in action, which is the best part of the Expack.

You could, in theory stop and look at the scenery, but at a certain point a medical centre with blood-spattered walls and a couple of dessicated corpses just ceases to be creepy and becomes as samey as any other bit of random wallpaper. Unfortunately, you pass that point way back in FEAR 1, so both expacks just end up retreading the same ground ad nauseum. There’s a new Lightning Gun that’s pretty cool but you never get enough ammo for it ever to become any kind of primary weapon – another archaic design choice – “let’s make a really cool, fun weapon, then make sure the player barely gets to use it! Yeah!” I mean, the SP campaign doesn’t need to be balanced for multiplayer, after all.

There’s not much else to really say about it. I ran through it as quickly as possible. It’s better than Extraction Point, but ultimately it’s just more of the same. A solid shooter by the standards of half a decade ago with the visuals to match. Unless you love both of the previous ones, or you’re jonesing to play F2 and maybe F3 and really want to get the whole story before doing so, I wouldn’t bother with this. Especially since the story is still paper-thin, and both EP and PM are non-canon to the FEAR franchise these days anyway…


Verdict: Skip it.