Gaming Today Impressions of The Bourne Conspiracy (Xbox 360)
The Bourne Conspiracy
Developer: High Moon Studios
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
ESRB: “T” for Teen
Release Date: June 3, 2008
Really, I was surprised they didn’t make a Bourne game at some point while the movies were still coming out. A trilogy of action movies that makes millions at the box office seems like the sort of thing ripe for a shoddy video game tie-in. Thankfully though, the powers that be staved off such an adaptation until a video game company finally just secured the rights to the Bourne books themselves. Well now the wait is over, since High Moon Studios and Sierra have now released The Bourne Conspiracy for the Xbox 360 and PS3. So is this game — though Matt Damon-less — worthy to carry the Bourne name? Read on past the break to hear my impressions.
The Bourne Conspiracy follows the events of the first film…kind of. The game really seems to assume that the player has already seen the movie, so it just brushes anything other than quick plot points aside. You do find out the basics: how Bourne is a trained spy and assassin who loses his memory and then decides to give up his old life. The story is really just used as a meager way to string the action sequences together though. Plus the whole mystery of Bourne’s past is revealed in the very first mission, so the tension of him finding out who he is completely evaporates before it even has a chance to surface. An added feature though is that half the game is spent playing through flashbacks to his past missions, which consist mainly of “fight through a bunch of bad guys and assassinate someone” or vice versa. Really, if you haven’t seen the films or read the books, you’re going to be a little lost and have a hard time even caring about the characters.
Enough about the flaws in storytelling though. Let’s talk about the highlight of the game: the hand-to-hand combat. High Moon Studios brought in the same fight choreographer from the movies, and it shows. The fistfights look and feel intense with enemies and Bourne starting to look bruised and beaten as they go on. Unfortunately, the combo system is incredibly simplistic. You really only have mash X and Y in any combination, hoping you can land a hit. It looks great on screen, but it can get old after awhile.
The special “takedowns” are incredibly rewarding though; in fact, they’re the best thing about the whole game. After you’ve landed enough hits on an enemy, you’re granted the ability to use a takedown on them. These moves function like an “insta-kill” button for the weaker enemies, and usually end up with the environment around you getting torn apart. Several of them made me wince because they just looked so painful as you hear the sound of individual bones being broken and see blood flying. The ones where Bourne uses the environment to his advantage are especially brutal, like when he grabs a nearby screwdriver and stabs a guy with it.
The shooting segments however are pretty standard for a third-person shooter these days. You take cover, wait for enemies to pop out of their cover, and then take them down. About the only main difference is that certain pieces of cover are destructible, so you can always just unload bullets if you don’t feel like taking the time to aim precisely at the one exposed part of an enemy. You can also perform shooting takedowns, but they mostly just eliminate the need for aiming by having Bourne do a special pose and shoot a guy.
Since this is a Bourne game, there’s of course has to be a car chase involving a Mini Cooper. Basically, your goal is to drive around, following a series of arrows and dots on your mini-map, and trying to evade the police. The car actually handles pretty well, until you hit something that is. Then you usually ricochet around like a bumper car in an ice rink. This whole section is really forgettable and just feels like it’s holding you back from doing something more fun really.
A lot of the game though really just feels like you’re playing a movie. Pretty much the whole game, cut-scenes included, require you to press specific buttons when they flash on the screen. These usually result in some impressive moves by Bourne, but you can still find yourself settling into a “wait for the flashing button, press it, wait for the next button” style of gameplay. And, let’s face it, the whole context-sensitive button mashing gimmick has just felt more and more tired since every other game starting replicating it from God of War. This makes it even harder to understand why there’s pretty much a whole game centered around it.
I haven’t read the books, but based off the movies and generally who the character of Jason Bourne is, I was expecting the game to be more spy-like. While the movies had their share of high-calibur action scenes, one of Bourne’s msot compelling features seemed to be the way he could blend into a crowd and sneak into places for information. In the game though, it seems he turns to his guns and/or fists before anything else. How many spies mow down dozens of terrorists in a crowded international airport with an assault rifle? Even the brief stealth elements are a joke, since killing a terrorist quietly is most likely to just tip off his buddies.
No matter what though, The Bourne Conspiracy is really only rental fodder at best for one simple reason: the play length. I beat the whole game in a little over five hours; and once you’re done, there’s really no replay value. After all the buzz, I was expecting the game to at least span the events of all three films, rather than just the first one. The gameplay starts to wear thin after a few hours, but at least you’d feel like you were getting your money’s worth if it were longer.