Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Bourne Conspiracy

Alright, I'll admit it, I'm a huge Bourne fan. I enjoyed the books back in the day, and really enjoyed its reinvention recently with Matt Damon. So when I saw that they were making a game based on the books, but in the style of the movies, called The Bourne Conspiracy, I was appropriately excited.

So, I downloaded the demo on XBL and fired it up. The opening splash screen, punctuated by the look and music of the Matt Damon films built it up.

And then I started playing the game.

The Unreal 3 Engine can put together some gorgeous games (see Rainbow 6:Vegas, Gears of War) and it can put together some really ugly games (see Stranglehold, Blacksite: Area 51). Unfortunately, The Bourne Conspiracy falls more into the Stranglehold camp than the Gears of War camp. I hope they put some sort of post-processing filter on the game, because if the Art Direction was to purposefully create art assets that uniformly bland and washed out, then they succeeded.

The character models are appropriate, but the animations are stiff. Character movement is wonky - Bourne doesn't move like he has a purpose, he moves like he just rolled out of bed and needs to spend five minutes stretching. This is only exacerbated by the fact that there are really cool cinematic portions to the fights that show some really good, creative animation sequences that flow well.

Which segues nicely into the combat system. The gunplay takes a little getting used to, the controls are slightly different than your average Third-Person shooter, but if you are familiar with other console games of the genre, you should be able to get into that portion of the game quickly. The melee combat system, which is supposed to be the meat and potatoes of the game, is made of instant spuds and spam, not roast beef and idaho golds. High Noon, the developers, dropped in some twitch-button sequences to spice up the melee combat sequences, but the sequences fail spectacularly for one big reason: buffer time. The melee system is pure button mashing, but the twitch-button sequences happen so fast, and with so short a buffer time, that when you are learning the feel for the system, you tend to accidentally "miss" the sequence because you were busy pressing one of the attack buttons trying to furiously pummel the enemy.

Finally, there are some definite cheese in the naming of some of the systems. For example, the alternate vision mode to turn on your minimap and view your next checkpoint is called "Bourne Instincts". That was the best name they could come up with? When I saw it, I audibly groaned.

I think the game will garner ratings between 70-75. They tried way too much, IMO, and in the end, didn't seem to get the chance to polish all of it.

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