Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PC - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
Let's kick off with a big, bold statement: Quantum of Solace is the best Bond video game since Goldeneye.
Unfortunately, we have to follow that statement with a fairly whacking 'however'. Saying that Quantum of Solace is the best Bond video game since Goldeneye is a bit like suggesting that the new Snow Patrol album is the band's best yet. Given the often miserable quality of the preceding material, it doesn't actually mean that it's necessarily all that good. With Quantum of Solace, the team at Treyarch hasn't made as wretched a game as Goldeneye: Rogue Agent or Agent Under Fire, but neither is this the strongest or most imaginative action game you'll play this season. In a nutshell, Quantum of Solace is a solid but slightly dated FPS with a few interesting Bond elements. It's roughly enjoyable, but anyone expecting Treyarch to do for the Bond games what Daniel Craig has done for the movies will go away feeling slightly let down.
The fundamentals aren't bad at all. Treyarch - the developer behind the new Call of Duty: World at War - has been able to base its Bond game on the established CoD4 engine. We've already seen what this can do when pushed and those familiar with the tried and trusted Call of Duty control scheme will have an immediate head start in Quantum of Solace - you'll already have the 'left-trigger aim, right-trigger fire' drill down pat . There are some changes, however. With the focus on Bond and Bond alone, the AI squad mates and cover and advance mechanics that lie at the heart of Call of Duty are no more. Instead, Quantum of Solace is all about cover, with a neat Gears of War/Uncharted style system that snaps you instantly from a standard FPS view to a close third-person view of a digital Daniel Craig ducking for dear life. You can switch from cover to cover using deft taps of the A button, vault over with Y and even dash for safety while running by targetting a suitable spot and holding down A. And while in cover, you target enemies then press the left trigger to pop out and the right trigger to blast. The health system works in much the same way as in Call of Duty 2 to 4, giving Bond a certain air of invincibility, but only if you sensibly retreat when necessary. This is Craig, not Brosnan, after all.
Cunningly, the game doesn't rely on the new Bond film entirely. With the plots of Casino Royale and its sequel so closely tied together and no existing game of the first Craig Bond film, Treyarch has been allowed to integrate sequences based on the former into a storyline based on the new movie. Note, however, that when I say 'based' I mean 'based on the bizarre fantasies of a drunken gun nut who watched Casino Royale on the same night as John Woo's Hard Boiled and got the two mixed up.' Every conceivable scene in Casino Royale has been 'enhanced' by the addition of twenty to ninety armed bodyguards, masked terrorists, corrupt army goons, elite mercenaries, drug smugglers and exploding helicopters. Remember the scene where Bond destroys a science museum in Florida while tackling a terrorist and his mercenary army? How about the one where he spices up a dull train journey with England's most ridiculously gorgeous civil servant (shame about that accent - ed.) to gun down a small army and disrupt a drugs shipment? Or what about the bit where he fills the hotel swimming pool with corpses before setting most of the ballroom ablaze in a series of violent explosions? What? None of these ring a bell? Surely not. Am I to suppose that similar liberties have been taken with the plot of the new movie?