Still, Treyarch has realised that a Bond game shouldn’t all be about mindless blasting – it needs a share of stealth and hand to hand combat too. Several missions feature security cameras to avoid or destroy (instantly winning familiarity points with fans of a certain N64 classic) and a handful include sections where sneaking around and using the silenced pistol will give you a much easier time than the standard run and gun approach. Sneaking up behind a terrorist, henchman, etc. will also give you the chance to use a takedown maneuver, as will racing towards a target with the left analogue stick pressed in.
Sadly, hand to hand combat is handled through the medium of quick time event sequences, but I guess it’s a way of capturing the gritty, unpredictable style of the fights in the films, and these examples are at least pitifully easy. Not once while playing Quantum of Solace did I lose a scrap due to hard to see prompts or overly draconian time limits. Phew. There’s also room for a spot of hacking (automated) and door unlocking (a simple press when prompted puzzle sequence) to make you feel like a modern secret agent, not to mention a spirited recreation of the poisoned drinks sequence from Casino Royale (anyone who has ever tried to leave a nightclub while drunk will find this oddly familiar).
Still, if the core of the game is gun fights – and it is – then at least these are handled in some style. You get a huge variety of weapons, most of them satisfyingly meaty, and while your enemies won’t win any prizes for intelligence or squad tactics – even the so-called ‘Elite forces’ – they do make some attempt to move from cover to cover and outflank you. If all you wanted from a game was a series of vaguely exciting confrontations with multiple, well-armed opponents, spiced up by the odd set piece or spot of sneaking, then Quantum of Solace would probably leave you feeling sated.
The problem is that that is really all it does. I can’t say that Quantum of Solace is monotonous or grinding in the way that Army of Two or Fracture are, but neither does it have the intense pacing or powerful moments of a Call of Duty 4 or Crysis: Warhead. The levels are well constructed but incredibly linear, and it’s ridiculous to see how many locked doors, implausible barriers and pitifully obvious triggered events we’re expected to put up with in an FPS in this day and age. See, Bond can’t leap over that waist high barrier because it has a crack in it. That one? Not on your Nelly. Quantum of Solace wasn’t designed to leave you room to think or improvise. It was simply designed to funnel you from one encounter to the next.
This isn’t the end of the world, but throughout Quantum of Solace I found myself wondering how different this game could have been had Treyarch not just decided to do a heavily customised, Bond mod of Call of Duty 4, but had looked at other games for inspiration. Splinter Cell: Double Agent had a better take on espionage. Glimpses of Mirror’s Edge could have given the team some new ideas on how to integrate platform elements into a first-person game. If you’re going to mess about with the plot, why not open up the environment? One thing we all loved about Goldeneye was the way in which it allowed you to fully explore the film’s locations. Why not take this to a new level on a generation of consoles with the power to really do it?