Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy

The Bourne Conspiracy is a third-person action game that at first seems like a great idea, but there are a number of flaws that make this game seem more like an old-school arcade game than a covert, black-ops mission. And as a fan of the movies, I was expecting to feel the full power of Bourne in my hands. Unfortunately, I didn't.

The game loosely follows the plot of The Bourne Identity, the first in the movie franchise. Whilst you do get to relive some of the key moments in the film, such as the car chase through Paris, or the battle with Castel, you won’t get much of a story, so don’t expect a full-on movie game. Well that should be obvious anyway, it has a different name. A lot of the game is based on flashback sequences, from before the first movie, you get to play through various scenarios, and a few things are explained, such as how he got to be floating in the water with bullets in his back. Don’t look forward to a full explanation though, as these things are only touched on, and never fully explored.

The visuals are quite strange. They aren’t necessarily bad graphics, but they aren’t great either. The thing that makes them stick in your mind, is their style. The cutscenes are shown through an odd sort of filter. Everything seems grainy and darkened. During the introductory scene, I tried to adjust my television set before I realised that it was just a unique styling. In a way, this is faithful to the film and character, as Bourne struggles to remember his past, this is made apparent by the low quality of the scenes. On the other hand, developer High Moon Studios could’ve just decided to spend as little as possible in the visuals department, but I’ll allow you to decide that for yourself. You take on the role of Bourne throughout the game, but if not for people calling you by name, I never would have guessed that the character on screen is Bourne. The developers seemed to have put no effort whatsoever in casting Matt Damon in the game. He doesn’t look or sound anything like him. It’s up to you to decide whether this is a good or a bad thing, based on your opinion of Matt Damon in the film.

The gameplay comes down to two things. Shooting and hand – to – hand combat. The shooting is your basic cover-and-shoot playing style, but it isn’t done very well. You are given a range of weapons to choose from throughout the game. You can hold one main weapon, such as a shotgun or assault rifle, and one side-arm, which is usually your signature, silenced pistol. The cover doesn’t work too well though, as it disintegrates after a few hits, forcing you to find cover somewhere else. Also, the gunplay feels extremely unsatisfying. The enemies you face give no response to being hit, and only react when they die. When you pump bullets into a foe, it feels like you aren’t hitting your target, and the lack of reaction makes you wonder if you’re doing any damage at all.

The gameplay really comes through with the hand-to-hand though. This is much more satisfying, allowing you to beat enemies down with a combination of light and heavy hits. You can also hold each attack button for a powerful kick, which takes a while to charge, but can bust through an enemy’s block. Unfortunately, I never felt fully in control of Bourne’s lethal abilities. You are limited to quick and heavy punches, rather than his full fighting capability that we see in the movie. As you land hits, you charge up your adrenaline meter, which has three tiers. When you charge the first tier, you can perform a takedown. An explosive show of Bourne’s true capability, as he utilises the environment, or perhaps just his own body, to take down an enemy in a dramatic (and usually awesome) move. On the second tier, you can take down two enemies at once, and with the third tier, three. However, as I said before, when it comes to basic fighting, you only have basic moves, and can only truly feel like Bourne when the adrenaline meter is charged. After a while though, even the fistfights become a little repetitive. This is especially apparent during the boss fights. These are basically just extended fistfights, against an opponent with more health and skill, and who may attempt a takedown or two of his own, which can be countered by a short Quick-time-event.

Ahh yes. The will find yourself doing many, many...many of these throughout the course of the game, in order to do everything from dodging an explosion, to jumping over obstacles, and as previously mentioned, countering enemy attacks. Hell, even the second and third tier takedowns require a QTE to pull off. These quickly become tedious and annoying, especially when you’re in the middle of a fistfight, you’re mashing buttons, and all of a sudden, the QTE to counter a move starts. If you’re not quick enough to react, you’ll find yourself losing a lot of health, very quickly. You can also use them to perform sprinting takedowns, where you don’t even have to stop moving. The final use is for the shooting takedowns. As with hand-to-hand, shooting enemies increases the adrenaline meter, and when you have enough, you can perform a shooting takedown, which works a lot like Splinter Cell’s mark and execute system. Whilst it’s much more satisfying than the regular gunplay, it doesn’t come close to the awesome takedowns of the hand-to-hand combat.

The Bourne Conspiracy isn’t a bad game, but it’s not even close to being good. The 6-8 hour campaign will be over quickly, and with nothing more than “passports” to go back for (that don’t provide any real reward), there is very little incentive to go back and play again. The linear areas provide little for exploration and the lack of multiplayer means there’s no lasting value, but there are a few redeeming factors of this game, such as the awesome takedowns, that might make it worth a rent, rather than a buy.

6/10 - OK

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