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Video-game review: 'Quantum of Solace'

Billy O'Keefe
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

"Quantum of Solace"

Reviewed: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3

Also available: PC, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, Nintendo DS

From: Treyarch/Activision

ESRB Rating: Teen

This is November, which means one game-changing shooter after another is vying for your attention via any number of features you can't find anywhere else.

"Quantum of Solace" is not one of those games, and if there's one truly awful thing about it, it's the timing of its release, which piggybacks the film of the same name but absolutely gets lost in the tidal wave of flashier, more impressive counterparts.

That's slightly unfortunate, because taken on its own merits _ as a meat-and-potatoes first-person shooter and little else _ "Solace" is quite a lot of fun. The game runs on the same engine that powered last year's "Call of Duty 4," and the fundamental polish from that game _ great controls, convincing gunplay and fast action that rarely gives way to lulls _ is entirely apparent here.

The big addition to the engine is the inclusion of a cover system, which in turn reveals "Solace's" most impressive strength. Several missions allow you to advance quietly using stealth or burst through with barrels blazing, and "Solace" is so equipped to handle either that it's hard not to want to play both ways even if you normally prefer one method over the other. Bond occasionally gets stuck on cover, which can be punishing if it happens at the wrong time, but things work far more often than they don't no matter how you approach the situation.

That's a good thing, too, because there isn't much more to "Solace" _ which bounces between scenes from both "Solace" and "Casino Royale" _ than that. There are no driving portions that you actually control, and the game handles hand-to-hand combat through uninspired interactive cutscenes that could scarcely be easier. The high-level gadgetry synonymous with the Bond brand doesn't come into play beyond your cell phone interface and a lock-picking minigame. This is a pure (and fairly short) shooter with one mind, and while it does what it does awfully well, the singular focus certainly bears mentioning.

"Solace's" adherence to traditional values is a bigger concern on the multiplayer front, where a lack of breakthrough features leaves it hard-pressed to keep up with all those flashier games that are building communities at the same time. Again, though, what it does, it does well. The engine keeps things exciting, the modes are designed around the Bond universe rather than vice versa, and a "COD4"-style experience system gives the mulitplayer some legs by doling credits you can redeem for weapon and armor upgrades.

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