It’s videogame reviewing law that every Bond game review has to mention, at least once, that the game in question isn’t as good as Goldeneye. When you sign up for webhosting and buy a domain vaguely connected to gaming, they make you sign a legal document that stipulates this; it’s just the way it is. So, let’s get that out of the way first: Quantum of Solace isn’t as good as Goldeneye. But hey, it’s damned close.
Firstly, the game contains levels taken from both Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale, so whilst we’re not going to be spoiling the plot of the new movie in this review, we assume we can safely say that some of the sections from Daniel Craig’s first outing are rather spectacular – the freerunning section in Madagascar especially so, and whilst some of the levels are a little bit drab and the lighting a little flat, when the Call of Duty 4 engine is allowed to flex its muscles Quantum of Solace can look incredibly vivid and solid.
Yes, the graphics tech is starting to show its age, but in terms of texture variety and impressive draw distances thrown around at a rate of knots, there’s more than enough life left in the old dog yet. The character models (Craig’s in particular) look good enough, there’s ample next-gen whizz-bang with things like smoke effects and convincing animation and the weather effects are unrivalled: wait until you see the rain about five levels in. Just don’t do what we initially did and write the game off from the first couple of areas, the game only really kicks in once you start the Casino Royale sections.
If you’ve played Call of Duty 4 you’ll waste no time getting to grips with Quantum of Solace: the controls are almost 100% the same, the guns feel similar and even the enemy AI, which we’re told is improved, still shows some signs of Modern Warfare. No bad thing, really, but much more emphasis has been put on the cover system here than with CoD 4, and in fact it’s pretty much essential to remain behind objects as much as possible: the X button is used to dash to cover and should be applied liberably throughout each level.
In terms of mechanics, Quantum of Solace offers an automatic healing system (just stay out of gunfire for a few seconds and you’ll feel much better), a slightly odd method of gun swapping (it’s never really clear which gun you’ll be swapping out and which you’ll keep) and an oddly convoluted HUD which seems quite happy to bombard you with stuff whenever possible, which isn’t always that easy to manage. Still, if you’re happy running about following an on-screen compass whilst juggling mission objectives, dodging cameras and gunning down the bad guys you’ll have a riot.
Quantum of Solace isn’t subtle. Sure, there are stealth sections and you do need to use the button-based takedowns from time to time, but for most of the game you’ll be spewing bullets faster than Hale and the Master Chief combined; despite the cover system and the options for silencers, this is an all-out first person shooter and it’s all the better for it. Enemies come quick and fast, attempting to flank you if you’re camping, and you’ll rarely be short of bullets and the scripted nature of each level continuously pushes you onwards, often against very tight time restraints. It keeps the game flowing, and works well.
As a Bond adventure, though, it’s missing a bit of the finesse that marks out the movies. The cutscenes are clunky, both the pre-rendered and the in-game, and the mission objectives aren’t always as clearly signposted as some might like. The production values are through the roof, though: all the major actors have lent both their likenesses and their voices to the game which helps with the atmosphere, the load times are quick and covered via briefings and the overall feeling we got from the game once we’d reached the last level was a highly positive one – Quantum of Solace is hugely enjoyable, and a complete surprise.
Please note that due to the limited number of people online this week (for obvious reasons) we’ve not covered the online aspect of Quantum of Solace at this stage, except to test out the various multiplayer levels. Fans of Goldeneye might recognise the Chemical Plant level: it starts in the toilets…