16 July 2008

The Bourne Conspiracy Review

A game based on the Bourne series of movies was always inevitable. The brutal, energetic fight sequences, along with the sporadic gunplay would always segue quite well into a game. And so along trots The Bourne Conspiracy from developer High Moon Studios, who's only previous credit before this one is the excellent Darkwatch for PS2.

The first thing you'll notice about Bourne is that he doesn't look like Matt Damon. In a rather perplexing move, Damon called himself out after seeing the violent content of the game, which seems oxymoronic to me, but anyways - the game doesn't really suffer for the lack of Damon's likeness, although it could have indeed been made better by his participation.

The game starts with the famous Wombosi killing that drove the plot of the first movie - with you stepping straight into Bourne's shoes and into a fist fight. And this is where the game shines - the simple yet deep hand-to-hand system allows for a huge number of combinations, with X linked to light attack, Y to heavy attack, and a held press of either to a powerful kick attack. That gives you 8 possible 3-hit combos, and 4 2-hits, but that's not what makes the combat special. No, that crown goes to the takedown system - linked to the B button, it's context sensitive and hugely entertaining. Executing hits on a target builds up an adrenaline meter, and once you've got a certain amount of the stuff, you can hit B and you execute one of Bourne's patented quick takedowns - anything from cracking the guy's skull off of a radiator, to slamming him into a circuit breaker, these are hugely violent and brilliantly satisfying to pull off.

Further more, when you're playing boss fights, there are usually special items littered around your battlefield - think phonebook, fire extinguisher and pen, then you're more or less there - and these briliantly evoke some of the more elaborate takedowns from the movies. It's a fantastic system, implemented in a challenging and engaging way. It's just such a shame that the game falls down on other counts.

The first and most frustrating is the shooting gameplay. Whilst High Moon have done an admirable job of being able to switch seamlessly between hand-to-hand and shooting, there's simply not been enough effort put into the actual shooting mechanics for it to be satisfying. There is a good idea in the 'ranged takedown' mechanic, but when you're just dodging from cover to cover, the controls simply feel to hands-off, and too inaccurate for you to really get into it. A system more akin to Gears of War would've been nice, but what's here is simply not wieldy enough for a lot of the things you're required to do. This, in particular, raises its ugly head when you're asked to shoot fuel tanks on an ATV, and the innaccuracy of it will have you pulling your hair out in frustration after the 17th attempt at it.

Second, it's far, far, far too short. You'll be lucky if you get 7 hours out of the first play through, and considering that a lot of games these days incorporate 15 hours with multiplayer, this came as something of a shock. The story is fine - it elaborates and expands upon some of the stuff only hinted at in the movies - but it just feels half-arsed. They could well have included Supremacy and Ultimatum, but it's clear that they were instructed to hold that part back for a sequel. It does, however, beg the question of why they're charging full price for it.

Achievements offer some factor of replayability, but to be quite honest, some of them are obnoxiously difficult to obtain (intriguingly, one of the trickier ones is scoring under 10% accuracy...), and others are so worthless as 'achievements' that you wonder why they don't just give you 1000G for simply putting the disc in.

In short, Bourne is, for once, a decent movie tie-in game that is hampered by slightly clunky shooting mechanics and a cripplingly short campaign length. Certainly worth a rental, but little else.

Ross' Rating:

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