Sadly, these things have an unfortunate payoff when it comes to actually playing the game. Beneath the fast cutting and atmospheric settings, Bourne isn’t actually that fast or responsive character to play. While using his ‘Bourne sense’ will help you find targets or handy ammo caches, a lot of the time the camera and controls seem to be working against you, not for you. Worse, the hand to hand combat is actually pretty basic – just simple combos of fast and heavy attacks which slowly build up an adrenaline meter. Charge it up one level, and you can press a button to dish out a ‘takedown’ attack, whereby Bourne breaks bones, chops away at pressure points or uses objects in the environment to put his foe permanently out of commission. You’re actually very limited as to where you can go, what you can jump on or off of and what you can climb over – if there’s no button-press prompt, you ain’t doing nada.
In other words, the really cool stuff you’re seeing isn’t actually happening under player control, and what is happening under player control is actually quite pedestrian. There’s a huge amount of hand to hand combat in this game, and most of it involves holding the block button, taking advantage of gaps in the enemy attack to make your own blows count, then triggering a takedown as soon as it’s offered. It’s dull enough when you’re scrapping with grunt after grunt after ordinary grunt, but when it comes to the tougher boss battles, where you’ll have to earn several takedowns, it’s all just a bit of a slog. Sure, the idea of bashing heads into crates or snapping limbs like twigs sounds cool, and the execution looks cool, but wouldn’t it be even cooler if you actually felt like you were playing some part in it?
And when you’re not fighting, you’re shooting, and the gunplay is the dictionary definition of average. The Bourne Conspiracy has a basic cover system running, but it’s nowhere near as flexible or responsive as the ones used in Gears of War or Uncharted, and the enemy AI just isn’t that engaging. Weapons seem to lack punch from any sort of distance, and even the basic enemies seem to take two or three shots before they collapse, while the tougher foes can take several head or neck shots before they deem it reasonable to graciously expire. For a game where you’re the ultimate weapon, you don’t half feel strangely impotent.