The James Bond series of games is a funny beast. In a way, it kind of mirrors the way the James Bond movie series works. Prior to Goldeneye, the movie, and Goldeneye, the game on the N64, there have been James Bond games for a long time with many being very crappy as well as some movies that have been pretty crappy. In the case of both mediums, Goldeneye both revolutionized and revitalized the series. Just the same, both mediums had follow-ups that simply did meet or exceed the quality of Goldeneye (although I enjoyed Die Another Day very much).
Then comes the big shake up with both series. Pierce Brosnan leaves the movie series, and EA, maybe for the best, gives up the rights to the video game franchise. So for the movies, Daniel Craig takes over and does a phenomenal job with Casino Royale. For the games, Activision takes over and gives the task for the new Bond game to Treyarch, who are on thin ice for their Call of Duty: World at War fiasco. With the timing, it made perfect sense for the new Bond game to coincide with the release of the latest movie giving us James Bond: Quantum of Solace.
I'm going to avoid going deep into the storyline for the game because that would affect both the game and the movie. If you've seen the movie, you've seen the storyline for the game. For those who aren't going to see the movie but want to play the game, Quantum of Solace picks up right after Casino Royale, literally hours later. Now for those who haven't even seen Casino Royale (come on, it's on Showtime), this game even lets you play several levels retelling what happened in Casino Royale. So, for the first time, this Bond game has you play through two movies in a sort of Quentin Tarantino-eque timeline.
Quantum of Solace takes a few elements that have shown up in recent, popular games. As a FPS shooter, and thanks to the popularity of Call of Duty 4, there is the aim mechanic added. Press the Left trigger and you'll bring up your sights of your gun giving you much better accuracy then shooting from the hip. Although this is not a downer per se, it's becoming an old tactic used too many times for no apparent reason. In CoD4, it makes a little sense that a soldier needs to use the sights to shoot better, but come on, this is James Bond, and he doesn't need to use a goddamn iron sight. Then we have the cover system in the vein of Gears of War. Just like in GoW and other games that make use of cover, behind cover you can use suppression fire and do a quick pop up to take an enemy down. Anytime you take cover, the camera will switch from first person to third person giving you a better look at the enemies while behind cover. The problem with the cover system is that the AI, while they do use cover all the time, don't really care about your suppression fire having them run out of cover for no reason. Also, in cover, you're very unlikely to be hit, but I can't stand that you have to be using the "cover" action. If you're crouching behind that same box, the enemies can all the sudden hit you even though you're covered just the same but not using the damn "cover" mechanic. To continue with the usage of elements popular among new games, James Bond recovers his health automatically. After taking damage, if you get some cover, Bond will recover his health, and off you go. I have to say that the near death indicator is one of the better looking ones for the game since it resembles the gun barrel view that the James Bond series is famous for.
Spread out over 15 levels, QoS tries to combine a solid game with Hollywood-type action. While they pull off some great Hollywood-esque scenes, the game is just not that solid. To begin with, I wish game developers would just stop giving us this false sense of freedom. It's like they're mocking you with passageways that are blocked by the same boxes and barriers that can't be passed while following the correct path, those same boxes and barriers are easily jumped over without a pause. Either makes the game wide open to let us explore everything, or block off every possible path other than the one we need to take. Save us gamers the time, and save us both some self-respect. The A.I. leaves a lot to desire. The enemy follows a set pattern and rarely deviates from the take immediate cover pattern. At certain points, the enemy made their way behind me not because they snuck up behind me, just that I was in their designated spot leaving them there to just sit, wait and occasionally shoot me.
To try and add some Bond type moments to the game, there are parts where stealth is advised. It's not required, but when you sneak up and click on the right stick, Bond will go into a special attack mode requiring you to press a button at a certain time letting you stay stealthy. These timed button moves will also show up in certain fights with specific characters giving you a more cinematic fight. Being that this is a James Bond game, there's an emphasis on explosives and there are plenty throughout the levels. Almost every single spot where there are multiples enemies, somewhere nearby is a fire extinguisher or gas tank that can be used. So always keep an eye out for these items because they'll help. In some levels, you'll have to hack a door which is done via a minigame. There are also levels that have some sort of time requirement giving some much needed drama to the levels since many are pretty bland.
While gameplay is lacking, presentation for QoS is of the highest caliber. Nothing shows this off better than the title sequence. It combines the standard James Bond movie artistic title sequence with the driving action similar to that of the QoS movie. It looks so good that it gives you goose bumps if you're a big Bond fan. As in previous Bond games, Treyarch takes the likeness of the Bond himself, Daniel Craig. Other major characters within the game look like their real-world counterpart. While some levels look pretty standard for a current gen game, there are some levels that put such great action out there on such a big level. One level in particular has a church almost collapse on itself, and the sight of seeing a giant bells fall and crash onto enemies is a wonderful sight.
With much joy, several of the actors from the movie also reprise their roles vocally. While the conversations are unique to the game, you can easily switch the talks between Bond and M from the game to the movie without missing a beat. Going along with the Hollywood actors is the Hollywood sound. When those huge explosions happen, and you'll know when they're coming, be prepared for a nice big BOOM from your speakers. Music is a vital part to any James Bond movie/game with QoS having the classic Bond theme and having its own theme music played during the title sequence.
Being that it's a relatively short game, 6-10 hours, you would hope that the online multiplayer would make up for that shortness of game. Sadly, it doesn't. Online have up to 12 players with only a few game modes. Two traditional modes, free for all and team death match are there with a bit of a Bond twist, and two unique modes have been added to get some kind of diversity: Bond Versus and Bond Evasion. Yet it's sub-par engine and non-balanced weapons keep online play fun especially with all the superior alternatives out there.
For the movies, Casino Royale was a triumph while Quantum of Solace was lacking in many ways. In regards to the game, Quantum of Solace tries to a lot of different mechanics in an attempt to create a great action game. However, it doesn't take those mechanics and make them their own, leaving you wanting to play the games that really use these mechanics very well. What we're left having is a game that tries to be providing a Bond experience, that's not that great, and a gaming experience, that's not that great either.