007: Blood Stone

With no movie script to tie them down, the creators should’ve been able to design an engaging new Bond adventure that plays to the strengths of the cover-based shooter. On paper, it makes perfect sense. Unlike, for example, the plot.

007 Blood Stone

Publisher: Activision
Rated: Teen
Players: 1-16 players
Price: $59.99
Platforms: Playstation 3 , XBox 360 (reviewed), PC
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Release date: 2010-11-02

With new James Bond films on hold due to MGM’s financial diffiuclties, the British super spy has to find exposure where he can. This month, James Bond in the guise of a digital version of Daniel Craig appeared in two games: the Wii-only update of Goldeneye and the all new Bond story, Blood Stone. I like the idea of Blood Stone in theory -- with no movie script to tie them down, the creators should’ve been able to design an engaging new Bond adventure that plays to the strengths of the cover-based shooter. On paper, it makes perfect sense. Unlike, for example, the plot.

I can’t quite explain what the overall plot of this game is. I’m not even entirely sure why it’s called Blood Stone, although I suspect it’s some combination of pop singer Joss Stone’s presence and a dagger with a ruby in it that makes an appearance very late in the game. There’s certainly nothing in the story about diamonds, whether they be mined by slaves in Africa or used to power world-domination lasers. Setting the title aside, there’s some stuff about a bad Russian oligarch and some chemical weapons, all of which gets wrapped up well before the game’s conclusion, making room for another villain whose purpose I never much understood and who’s ultimate fate involves a pretty silly (and not particularly fun to play) set piece boss fight.

But so what if I can’t explain the plot? I’ve seen every James Bond movie ever made, and as I sit here, the only plot that I can actually recall in any detail is that of Goldfinger, and were I to relay it now, it would sound silly (because it is). Bond stories have never been about tight plots or even stories that make sense. The meandering scripts are mere frameworks for stylish one liners and outlandish action sequences, tied together with some PG-13 sexiness.

How does Blood Stone measure up against even such a modest yardstick? Not too well, I’m afraid. The voice cast features Daniel Craig, Joss Stone, and Dame Judy Dench, all of whom are given dull as dirt dialogue to get through. Only Stone shows a hint of liveliness and then only a hint. Workmanlike performances all around add nothing but a scaffolding for each level.

As for the levels themselves, well, here’s a mixed bag. The game is mostly a third person, cover-based shooter with some occasional stealth elements. All this works as expected and works well. Playing Bond feels appropriately bad ass but not quite superhuman -- stray out of cover into a firefight and you’ll go down fast, but aim carefully and use your focus attacks and you’ll clear the levels with little difficulty. Bond’s only gadget in the whole story is his Smartphone, which can overload security cameras, open locked doors, and locate enemies behind walls. It’s reminiscent of the Detective Mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum. It adds some depth to the gameplay and is the center of the games non-shooting segments, aside from the driving parts.

Ahh, the driving. Thrilling and frustrating all at once. Always done in fancy sports cars (okay, and one tow truck) and always done at high speeds through glorious settings like Greece or Monaco or Bangkok. It looks good and controls well enough, but it mostly sucks. These aren’t races or real chases, they’re obstacle courses -- survive long enough to drive all the way to the cut scene and that ends the chase. As such, they mostly proceed through the tried and true and awful system that I call “learn by dying.” Obstacles will appear, the road will collapse, and unless you really do drive like James Bond, you’re probably going to crash or at least spin out. Either way, the games fails you, and you restart at a checkpoint. Fortunately, the game’s checkpoint system is pretty good overall, but even so, I found most of the driving sections tiresome rather than exhilarating because I ended up playing sections of them over and over again.

Blood Stone’s greatest flaw is that it gets less interesting as it moves along. Early levels have a better balance of sneaking around, spying, and shooting. Then at a certain point, it trades any semblance of subtlety for overwrought bombast. There’s a turret sequence where you shoot down missiles from a hovercraft. There’s a giant, unstoppable dump truck that looks more at home in Avatar. There’s a fish tank full of whales for some weird reason. And, spoiler, you have to kill an airplane by opening up valves on a dam and drowning it. All these silly sequences are overladen with protracted gunfights against identical armed thugs, resulting in a process that’s dreary rather than inspired or even particularly fun.

007: Blood Stone is a wasted opportunity. The game had at its disposal movie stars, an iconic character, and a clean slate. The results are entirely middling. It’s not a bad game, but it’s not thrilling, delightful, sexy, or clever. A good James Bond anything has all of those elements in play.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

'Curb Your Enthusiasm' S9 Couldn't Find Its Rhythm

Larry David and J.B. Smoove in Curb Your Enthusiasm S9 (HBO)

Curb Your Enthusiasm's well-established characters are reacting to their former selves, rather than inhabiting or reinventing themselves. Thus, it loses the rhythms and inflections that once made the show so consistently, diabolically funny.

In an era of reboots and revivals, we've invented a new form of entertainment: speculation. It sometimes seems as if we enjoy begging for television shows to return more than watching them when they're on the air. And why wouldn't we? We can't be disappointed by our own imaginations. Only the realities of art and commerce get in the way.

Keep reading... Show less

Wars of attrition are a matter of stamina, of who has the most tools with which to keep fighting. A surprising common tool in this collection? Humor.

The name of the game is "normal or abnormal". Here's how you play: When some exceedingly shocking political news pops up on your radar, turn to the person next to you, read them the headline and ask, "is this normal or abnormal?" If you want to up the stakes, drink a shot every time the answer is abnormal. If that's too many shots, alter the rules so that you drink only when things are normal—which is basically never, these days. Hilarious, right?

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.