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Quantum of Solace
Score: 69%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 12
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Third Person Shooter/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
When Activision announced that there would be a game based on the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace I thought to myself "Well, it has been a long time since we had a 007 game. I hope this one turns out ok." Well, Activision and Treyarch did deliver on one thing. This is a James Bond game. This isn't the second coming of Goldeneye by any means. If I were to sum it up eloquently, Quantum of Solace is full of squandered potential.

Visually, Quantum of Solace gives a terrible first impression. The first level looks awful. It barely looks good for a PS2 game. After beating the first few levels though, everything starts to liven up a bit. The set pieces and locales eventually start to look good and somewhat believable, but honestly the first impressions are so bad that you might nearly turn off the console.

The biggest feature is that Treyarch acquired Daniel Craig's likeness as James Bond and his character model looks really great. Most of the recognizable characters look really nice as well. The goons that are peppered throughout the levels however, look like cut and paste jobs over and over again. Honestly, I think I killed the same vaguely Spanish looking man about 80 times. They could have done so much more, but fell short.

One of the areas that does stand out though is the audio. The voicework is done really well with all the original actors' dialogue either re-recorded or captured from the films. It all sounds organic. The sound effects from the guns and explosions sound crisp and clear and most of the sounds from cell phones or other gadgets sound nice too. Probably the one thing that most gamers will take away from this game is that damn theme song. They play it when the action heats up, which is every 30 seconds, so be prepared to have it stuck in your head for days afterward.

The basic story setup seems like it would be a re-telling of the new movie, but Quantum of Solace is actually more about the first movie, Casino Royale than the new film. Basically, it is bookended with the new movie with most of the meat of the game being parts from Casino Royale. So it starts 10 minutes after the first movie ends and confronts the evil group known as "Quantum" and their involvement with the villains that killed Bonds' girlfriend, Vesper.

Quantum of Solace is built with the Call of Duty 4 engine with a few tweaks to make room for the new cover system. Basically, the new cover allows the game to play out just like a Rainbow 6 game now. Meaning that it is all first person until you go into cover, and then the camera pulls out to give you a third person perspective. I really think that the game would have been better if they had decided on one camera and devoted the gameplay to it. Honestly, I think this would have been so much better had it been a third person game. But as it stands, it is merely an adequate shooter that does very little to make you excited to be playing James Bond.

The single player campaign is broken into small, bite-size chunks. Too small. Since Quantum of Solace the game covers material from both films, stretching the content to fill 8 to 10 hours is tough because they only have 4 hours of film. Unfortunately, the plot is scattered, poorly delivered, and sometimes even confusing. One level has you in Madagascar chasing a bomb maker through a construction site, the next moment Bond is in South America fighting some bad guys that have some sort of vague connection with the Quantum group. There is no sense of world. It didn't feel organic enough to travel from setpiece to setpiece, and that is partly because the narrator literally fast forwards through large pieces of story that would have made it more believable. To its credit though, Quantum of Solace does have a few moments that are fun to play, with the sneaking mission in the hotel being a standout. But the game consistently comes up short; for every fun sneaking mission, there is another generic hallway shootout or boring sniper mission.

Other than the single player, Quantum of Solace does manage to pack in a fully fleshed-out multiplayer game as well. There are a few different modes to play like standard "Deathmatch" and objective-based games like the infamous "Man With the Golden Gun." Once again though, seeing as it was built on Call of Duty 4, this is COD:4 with spies and terrorists with less cool weapons. There is a loadout screen where you will upgrade various weapon layouts and earn points to buy more gadgets, but it all feels stale and dull in the long run.

Quantum of Solace follows the very general rule of thumb of only making the game hard when there is a climax. But Quantum does this in a very artificial way. There are plenty of moments where you will die, but it isn't because of a tough sequence or a crazy boss battle. It is because they throw so much at you at once, you become disoriented and aggravated. The most infuriating moments are when there are too many goons on-screen and for some unknown reason, Bond continually pops out of cover only to be shot in the face repeatedly. It only gets worse because the A.I. is drastically inconsistent at times. These are times when I wish I had video to show because I found an enemy that literally stood out in the open without firing his gun just waiting for me to kill him. Since I became so focused on that one loner, eight of his friends popped out of cover to unload round after round of hot lead into me. If you wanted to make it tougher though, there are many different difficulty settings ranging from easy to super hard, also known as "00 Status."

Game Mechanics:
There are two serious problems with some core mechanics of Quantum of Solace that I feel take away from the overall fun factor. First, they have a feature when in first person view that allows Bond to dash into cover. You hold down the (X) button when there is a cover object in front of you to send Bond running. I think this is the most pointless feature to have when there is already a "run" button when you click (L3). It would be different if it made Bond have some sort of melodramatic action that brings him into cover, like rolling forward or sliding head first into the cover, but all it amounts to is Bond sprinting forward in third person only to sit down behind the object.

The other major annoyance is what they try to pass off as "boss" fights. Every. Last. One of them last less than a minute. They tried to make it more impactful than it is by having Quick Time Events in the fights. So, instead of having to come up with a clever solution to beat the bad guy, you just press (X) to not die. Honestly, Quick Time Events are becoming increasingly trite. It is lazy game design and while Treyarch has a few places where their Q.T.E.'s are handled decently, (like when you disarm an enemy by pressing (R3)) most of the time, they are simply not fun or compelling.

All in all, Quantum of Solace has enough in the package to make it worth a purchase if you must have a James Bond game, but as a standalone title, it doesn't come close to its competition. To use at least one Bond analogy, this game is as much fun as The Living Daylights with Timothy Dalton. While it is short on style and content, it has plenty of nonsensical action to at least make it entertaining.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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