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Quantum of Missed Opportunities
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on November 17, 2008   |   Episode 154 (Show Archive)  

   

Despite what I'm about to say, Quantum of Solace is still a good game!
Last week I gave a tepid recommendation to Activision's new action game, Quantum of Solace. While I love James Bond and look forward to each and every 007 outing, I saw far too many problems with the video game version of Quantum of Solace. Still, the gameplay was solid, I enjoyed the Casino Royale portions of the game and I had very few complaints about the online multiplayer modes. But there was something about the game that didn't sit right, which is why I ultimately slapped on the 75% and called it a day.

Oh what a difference a few days makes. When I first received my copy of the Xbox 360 game on November 3rd, I was worried that playing through the story mode would spoil all of the secrets of the Quantum of Solace movie. Still, I opted to go through it even though it was sure to take some of the fun out of the movie. After all, it's important to get the review up before the movie comes out, even if it's just by a day or two. Yet not even five days have passed since I posted that review and I'm already starting to have second thoughts.

How can this be? It hasn't even been a week and suddenly I'm starting to doubt my own opinion? Is it even ethical to go back and re-review a game, especially if it's only five

This is one of the few action sequences that is just as much fun in the game as it is in the movie!
days later? Probably not, but now that I've finally had a chance to see the Quantum of Solace movie I am ready to admit that maybe I was a bit too kind to this Treyarch developed action game. How can watching a movie have so much of an impact? I guess it's time to dig down deep and explain why Activision should have never released a Quantum of Solace game this year.

If you're like the millions of people who went to see Quantum of Solace this weekend, then I don't need to you that this is one heck of an exciting motion picture. Oh sure, it's not as good as Casino Royale and has turned Bond into a British Jason Bourne, but it still has a few stunning action sequences and a lot of pissed off rogue Bond. When you watch all of the movie's action

No, not THAT Mr. White! Though, isn't it about time we get Harvey Keitel in one of these Bond movies?
it's hard not to think about how much fun a video game version of this movie would be, which is why the Quantum of Solace game is such a huge disappointment.

The problems are almost immediately apparent, too. The game opens just as the last movie ended, Bond has tracked down Mr. White and is ready to shoot and kidnap him. After you've played the extended sequence, we are treated to a short two minute long car chase cinema. In the cinema you see our favorite MI6 agent taking sharp corners, fighting off enemy cars and jumping off of a cliff. And then it ends. However, in the movie this same car chase lasts a solid ten minutes, offering much cooler stunts, collisions and reckless action. It's a great way to start out a movie, one of the most exciting car chases in Bond history. Yet the game only hints at the action, never letting you be a part of it.

In my review I complained that it feels like you are never part of the coolest moments of the movie, that somehow you just get parachuted into a set piece and then proceed to kill everybody inside. I suppose this isn't all

I would pay double for the game if it actually adapted the original 1967 Casino Royale into a first-person shooter!
that different from what most movie-based games do, but given Treyarch's track record and the potential of the Bond license, it's hard not to be disappointed. Yet I had no clue how much cooler all of these moments were going to be in the movie. This car chase is just the beginning, the game could have featured an airplane and a boat, but Treyarch opted against even showing us these exciting sequences in a cinema.

In the developer's defense, they didn't know how amazing these action sequences were going to be. At best they got to read the script, scout out the filming locations and look at storyboards. Maybe, as the movie started to come together, they got to see clips and pieces of the film, but by that time the game would have been too far along to go about changing things. This could also explain why the Casino Royale stages are so much better than the Quantum of Solace parts of the game. At the time the game was being developed the developers had already seen

It's just not the same without an exciting car chase. Even Electronic Arts understood that!
Casino Royale, they knew how cool these action-packed moments could be. That's why you had the fantastic train level and all of the levels in the casino. These Casino Royale levels weren't perfect, but they managed to make you feel like you were really part of this movie.

So enough with the insults, what could Treyarch have done to make really capture the essence of the new Bond movies? For one thing, they should have found a way of incorporating the car chase sequences into the game. Let's face facts here; this scene in the movie is one of the most important moments in the film's hour and 47 minute running time. What's more, it just doesn't feel like a Bond game if you aren't racing around the streets dodging

How is it possible we live in a world where nobody ever bothered to make a game out of Con Air?
cars and trying to run other people off the road. In the past Electronic Arts-developed Bond games there would always be at least one or two car chases, generally based on the Burnout engine. Is there a reason Activision couldn't take one of their racing games and just sew in some cool vehicle sequences? Wait ... does Activision even have a racing franchise? How does the largest game company not have an annual racing game franchise?

But I digress, adding vehicles is only one part of the solution. The developers also needed to give Bond something else to do, something more than just shoot, shoot, shoot. I know a lot of movie critics are complaining that this new Bond is nothing more than an action star, but Bond does so his fair share of spying in Quantum of Solace. However, you wouldn't know that from playing this game. Most of this game finds you in huge shoot outs, the kind of thing you would expect to see in Con Air or The Rock. That's not what James Bond is all about. He's more than just a guy who walks around with his gun pointed at something. Is there a reason Treyarch couldn't have given Bond a few non-lethal assignments, such as, I don't know, spying on somebody? Even Call of Duty 4 took a break from the action to let you kill people from the sky.


I'm not saying we need to have a full-on two-player co-op mode, but it would have been nice to see the game from Camille's point of view once or twice!
Ironically, my biggest concern with the Quantum of Solace game ended up not being a problem at all. All throughout the game I worried that I was ruining the plot of the movie, something I hate to do before I go to the theater. But that's not what happened at all, because by the time I finished playing the four hour game I felt like I knew even less about the movie than before. I know that Bond was out for revenge of Vesper, and I know that there's this beautiful and strong Bond girl who seems to be on her own quest, but I didn't really understand how this all came together. In the game very little of this is explained, so most of the game you're just running through this world blindly killing everybody that is shooting at you. Whereas, in the movie there's a deep plot that involves controlling natural resources, conning people to get what you want and women with daddy issues. These were all plot points that the Quantum of Solace game should have addressed, but instead we get the bare minimum of story.

Speaking of the Bond Girl, Camille (played in both the movie and the game by Olga Kurylenko) has a strong presence that is only overshadowed by Daniel Craig as Bond. This is not your typical Bond Girl, you don't go to bed with her and she's not woefully helpless (those duties are left to a girl named Strawberry Fields). Considering the power she exudes for much of the film, it would have made a lot of sense

Call of Duty: World at War is a fantastic game, but can you imagine how much better it would have been if Treyarch wasn't working on two other games?
for us to be able to control her through at least one or two of the missions. Not only would it have been great to see the events from her point of view, but maybe it would have increased the game's length be a good half hour or more.

Of course, none of these things could have happened in the time Treyarch had to develop this game. Not only were they fighting against the clock to release the game alongside the movie, but they were also saddled with developing Call of Duty: World at War and helping out on Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. The solution would have been to bump Quantum of Solace a year, spend time focusing on adding vehicles, making the action sequences just right and having the game resemble the movie. Without at least two of those things happening it's hard to call this a game based on a movie.


As great as it is, it's time for developers to move past trying to make another GoldenEye 007-style video game!
Not only is this a good idea for Bond fans, but it also makes sense not to stack up two similar shooters one week after the other. There's no reason that Quantum of Solace and Call of Duty: World at War should have come out within just a few days, the stronger of the two (Call of Duty) is going to cannibalize the sales of the weaker game (Quantum of Solace). You can already see this when you log online and check out who's playing this new Bond game online, it's a fraction of the people who are re-fighting the second World War. To me this smacks of the time Microsoft decided to release Shadowrun so close to the launch of Halo 3, that was as disaster. Shadow what? Yeah, exactly.

I know it's unethical to go back and change my score and stance on the Quantum of Solace game, but after seeing the movie it's hard not to be totally underwhelmed by the game's portrayal of this action movie. I know it's a movie game, so by definition it's going to disappoint. However, I can't get over how many missed opportunities there are. This game could have been absolutely stunning; it could have easily been better than the new Bond movie. But it wasn't, instead it feels like a completely different story told on all of the same set pieces. This doesn't make me hate Quantum of Solace or anything, but it does make me wish they hadn't gotten our hopes up and used that particular name.
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