The Bourne Conspiracy Review
publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: High Moon Studios
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jun 03, 08
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Plenty of nauseating Hollywood movie tie-ins went by. It's an ever-present symptom in many games, denoting usually poorly optimized engines, shabby gameplay mechanics, lackluster storylines and an ultimately mundane gaming experience. In that sense, the most recent failure -- which we seemed to have committed to memory, painfully and reluctantly -- is Iron Man. In the face of such disappointments, we are still prepared to give every developer a sporting chance before potentially crucifying their work and bad-mouthing the franchise-grinding publisher that stood behind such a project.
Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy is a bit different. We approached it with a smidgen of optimism, after witnessing some of the pre-release footage from the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game. The project had potential, most of which can be attributed to the impressive fight scenes that were showcased. Truly cool stuff. But what does it amount to? We play the Xbox 360 edition to find out.
The game tells the story of one Jason Bourne, as he attempts to discover his true identity. Fighting his way through hordes of hostiles, he's determined to do this against all odds. Familiar scenes from the first movie (The Bourne Identity) were fitted into this game, which otherwise features a variety of flashback missions. Each of these assignments shows different segments from Bourne's past, before he lost his memory. The storyline isn't much, though it serves its purpose. Occasional pre-rendered cutscenes were directed in the spirit of the Bourne movies and make a fine addition to the experience.
The first few missions reel you into the game's combat mechanics, which do feel a bit awkward and tough at first. As the hand-to-hand fighting begins, the player is required to continue pressing X, Y, B or A button, causing Bourne to block, punch, kick, block or perform a powerful execution move. Striking his opponents a few times, Bourne accumulates enough strength to carry out takedowns, often resulting in plenty of arm breaking and head smashing. The surroundings frequently provide enough interactive objects to pull off such moves, so you should make sure to effectively lure your opponents near takedown spots - near railings, tables, sinks, pillars, walls, etc. Fights are fast, intense and call for quick reflexes to be done successfully. Fighting is generally rewarding. You'll also be drawn into numerous boss fights as well, in which Bourne must outlast and outperform his adversary so he can move on with his mission objective. Again, he'll do this by relying on his fighting skills and objects in the environment that'll help him achieve devastating takedowns.
The only problem with the hand-to-hand combat is that it can become somewhat tedious after a while. All you'll find yourself doing is punching, kicking and performing the same choice of moves, coupled with quick-time events - i.e. semi-scripted sequences, where you press the appropriate button as indicated on the screen until Bourne completes some stunt or another. Another problem with the close combat is that it may be too difficult for some. Most of the time you are required to respond very quickly and a great number of enemies are more resilient than you might think. Generally, the martial arts stuff and the hand-to-hand combat may not be groundbreaking, but I believe most players should find it entertaining and challenging (as opposed to unfairly difficult). Things were spiced up a bit with the inclusion of Bourne's instinct. When activated, it helps players discern important objects and other points of interest in the surroundings.
From a reasonably entertaining fighting portion of the game, players are thrown into a mix of fighting sequences and shootouts, in addition to an extremely frustrating car chase with poor car handling and screwed up physics (appreciatively, the developers incorporated only one driving segment). Shooting is more or less a wearisome experience, since you're liable to have trouble with aiming, as well as the weird camera angle that often doesn't give you a good chance to see your opponents (most notably when peeking through doorways). Cover mechanics are okay, but unfortunately they do not compensate for the unsatisfactory gun combat. Also, for some reason, certain enemies won't drop when you expect them to. In certain duels I fired 10 accurate shots into an oncoming soldier and the bastard still kept rushing at me.
High Moon Studios have done a very nice job of conveying the ambience and spirit of the movies through well-directed fighting scenes stretched throughout the main campaign. Equally, the sound effects are superb and the music has a constant and catchy beat to it once the action starts, keeping up the pace as you battle one baddie after another.
Exciting environment-based hand-to-hand combat, challenging boss fights, thumbs-up for the audio and the generally compelling atmosphere;
Frustrating shoot-outs, one awful car-chasing sequence, little to no replay value, shortish single-player campaign.