Grab your shovels, folks, because we’re going grave robbing.
Quantum of Solace has been busily making the rounds at the local graveyard. Not only does the latest Bond title summon the specter of Bond games past, it also digs up the freshly buried corpse of Casino Royale’s plot. Most of the game’s structure and play mechanics directly borrow from the ten-year-old Goldeneye 007 originally released for Nintendo 64, while three-quarters of the plot draws from the two-year-old Casino Royale remake.
[image1]Back in 1997, Goldeneye 007 set the gold standard for all future console FPS titles. Without Goldeneye, there would be no Halo and no Gears of War. It even established many now-familiar conventions in PC gaming by giving games like Counter-Strike a multiplayer model to follow. Ever since, Bond games have struggled to fill those enormous, spy-shaped shoes. Invariably with every new Bond release, we hear from the game’s designers that “this time, our game will finally live up to the legacy of Goldeneye”, and every time we’re disappointed.
With Quantum of Solace, however, the problem is that it too closely resembles its Nintendo 64 forebear. The play mechanics, level designs, simplified stealth play, predictable A.I., and even the available weapons all feel very much like those found in Goldeneye 007. Developers at Treyarch focused so much on returning the series to the former glory of 1997 that they forgot we were all still living in 2008. While Quantum of Solace looks substantially better than the N64 title—and well it should since it’s using Call of Duty 4’s graphics engine—it doesn’t play any better.
It goes without saying that FPS gaming has improved substantially since 1997, and not just visually. But playing Quantum of Solace, you would never know that anything had changed in the past decade. Like Goldeneye 007, the core gameplay involves moving to a new area, parking yourself behind a wall, and taking out each of the enemies one by one until you eventually kill them all. Only after you’ve killed all the enemies does the next area open, usually by means of a conveniently scripted explosion sequence.
Enemies are only intelligent enough to pop up from behind cover to shoot or charge randomly, and most of the game could be played by you running carelessly at enemies, guns blazing. Sure, you might trigger an alarm or two along the way, but all that that means is you’ll have a few more dudes to kill. I thought we had left these goofy play styles far behind us in the land of cartridge-based systems. Guess I was sorely mistaken.
[image2]One of the few concessions Quantum of Solace does make to more recent FPS games is the addition of a cover system. It works well. Too well, in fact. The ability to pre-aim from behind cover makes killing enemies a cinch. And since most cover is indestructible, you’re all but invincible behind it. Enemies won’t flank you, and most grenades fall too far away from your hiding spot to force you to relocate.
Quantum of Solace also incorporates the modern-day health/shield recharge mechanic. But on each of the four possible difficulty levels, your health recharges too quickly. If you’re hurt, all you need do is hide behind cover for a second or two, and you’re healed almost instantly and can reenter the fray as fresh as the day you were born.
Put bluntly, Quantum of Solace is easy. And since the game is also short on content, blasting through the game in a single play session is practically a given. At most, plan on a four-hour experience. There’s also not much reason to replay the game since the only ostensible secrets to hunt for are cell phones that you’ll find scattered throughout the levels. But because the levels are incredibly linear and since the cell phones ring very loudly whenever you’re near one, chances are you’ll find them all on your first time through.
The majority of your time is spent recapping the events of Casino Royale, with only a few brief opening and closing sections taken from the game’s namesake, Quantum of Solace. While the film’s actors do much of the voice acting and help bring the game to life, their narration does little to clarify the haphazard patchwork of random sequences and events culled from the two films.
[image3]Multiplayer is slightly more rewarding than single player since you’re not relying on computer-controlled dumbasses to provide you with a challenge, but there are no real surprises to be found. Basic deathmatch, team deathmatch, zones, and VIP all make their requisite appearances.
The addition of the chemical plant map from Goldeneye 007 is a nice trip down memory lane, but you’ll quickly discover that that particular map was not meant to be played by more than four people; with six or more players, most of the level remains unused. The other multiplayer maps are all straightforward layouts with plenty of walls and obstacles to hide behind, and unlike other multiplayer FPS games that include a cover system, using cover is too cumbersome for frenetic online play and ends up killing you more often than helping you.
For those of us wanting to relive the Goldeneye 007 experience, Quantum of Solace provides some brief, cheap thrills. Yes, Treyarch does manage to resuscitate the old Nintendo 64 Bond title, but this release proves that sometimes it’s best just to let the dead rest in peace.