BAD'S Commentary Page


|| TITLE || The Book Was Better
  || WRITER ||   Destructonaut
  || DATED ||   07.16.2009


In Late 2007/ early 2008 there were most likely a plethora of games that were occupying your time. It's really the same story every year. Between the months of September and December developers throw so many high profile games at us we are forced to take second jobs and make shady back ally deals with scary men to accumulate enough money to get our hands on all of them. This period each year is reminiscent of panning for gold. You meticulously sift through a riverbed keeping the largest nuggets of gold that you find, but the river is large and cold, and it's winter so you only have so many hours a day in which to pan. Regrettably, you miss deposits of gold. Maybe not the biggest bits, maybe not shiniest, but they would have made you plenty happy. So if you missed Sierra Entertainment and High Moon Studios' January release of The Bourne Conspiracy, you're forgiven. It wasn’t widely publicized, and it came out to mixed reviews.





The Bourne Conspiracy is a very hit or miss game; especially if you've read the books or seen the movies. Most people are familiar with the storyline, so you basically know what's going to happen (leaving very little room for surprise or plot twists). However, High Moon did an excellent job at shifting throughout the timeline of Jason Bourne and telling the story in their own way. Being a video game, it does suffer from periods of gameplay that are drug out for far too long. A scene that would take five or ten minutes to unfold in a movie or book takes upwards into an hour in the game (turning into pure drudgery). In the films, the action shifts from hand-to-hand combat, to gunplay, and to car chases seamlessly. There are games out there that do this as well, but then there are games that break them up into different segments (really separating you from the moment and the character at the same time). Bourne is the latter, separating hand-to-hand, driving, and shooting by driving a wedge in between them. They almost feel as if they were all developed by different teams and sown together.
















The hand-to-hand combat is where the game excels. It is truly excellent and beautiful to behold. It's basically a two button beat-'em up. Punch, Kick (hold either button to make it a Heavy Attack), Block; sounds simple, right? Blocking is what really changes the landscape of the fighting. Instead of mindlessly mashing buttons till your opponent falls, you have to have a well timed attack and defense strategy. You can also perform combos by stringing Punch and Kick together. The final piece to the puzzle is the takedown! You systematically dismantle your opponents while a gauge to the right of your map fills up. There are 3 tiers in this gauge. Tap the Takedown button and you will perform a takedown that only a living weapon could perform.

The best thing is that the takedowns are environment-sensitive. Perform a takedown next to a fire extinguisher, you bludgeon your opponent with it. Next to a table, you toss your attacker through the table splintering it to pieces. You get the point; it is very entertaining. Each takedown drains a level of the Takedown Gauge. When you have multiple opponents and a full Takedown Gauge, you can perform a Multiple Takedown. The game enters a slow motion sequence as each enemy comes at you, you’ll be prompted with "Punch, Kick, Block," or "Takedown" onscreen. The successful push of each button takes down each opponent in succession. A failure results in your face getting pounded. Unfortunately, this sequence is very hard; it must be timed perfectly (resulting in failure more often than not).

Before I bash the shooting, I want to get something in the open. I love first-person shooters. I dislike third-person shooters. Third-person shooters always seem sloppy, slow, unpolished, and I feel lack the true feeling of shooting a weapon. A third-person shooter needs to be exceptional for me to like it. Having said this, Bourne's shooting side falls into everything I dislike about the genre. It feels detached, awkward, and altogether sluggish. Add the fact that apparently all your assailants are expert marksmen (with seemingly unlimited ammo), and frustrations can quickly mount.

Thank God there is a cover system; this is the saving grace of the shooting portions of the game. With out the cover and fire system I believe the game would be close to impossible. This is also when it becomes clear of the barrier between the fight, shoot, drive segment. Whenever you're running around you can pull your gun or choose to run unarmed. However, you're really only allowed to shoot at armed characters. You fail missions if you shoot police, and they are always unarmed. When enemies have guns, you can opt to attack hand-to-hand instead of with a gun, but I defy you to make this successful. You’ll be riddled with bullets before you can get within ten feet of your target.











I've heard a lot of bad things about the driving section of the game. Honestly, most of it is warranted. Its very easy and not very realistic by any standards, but it works. As bad as it sounds on paper, I find it very enjoyable. I challenge you not to smile while tarring through the streets of Paris in your tiny little European car. It has an early burnout or cart racing game feel to it. When the rest of the game seems to become routine and occasionally frustrating, these driving segments are a welcome break (almost like a mini game to lighten your spirits).

The biggest issue with the game is the failure to make you feel like the ultimate living weapon. The only time the game achieves this is during hand-to-hand combat, and only on easier difficulties. There’s nothing that will make you feel like less of a badass than playing on the hardest difficulty. I have to question why developers put such high difficulties in games sometimes. I already hear some of you, "because I like challenges!" Shut up! Play this game on its hardest setting. It's not challenging, it's the endless abyss of hell that slowly and delightfully sucks every ounce of joy and hope from world around you and eventually devours your soul. I advise you to never attempt this difficulty. It forever skews your view of the game. I'm pretty sure I loved this game before I played three quarters of the way through the hardest setting.

Putting all jokes and sarcastic remarks aside, the Bourne Conspiracy is a solid entertaining game. I'm pretty sure you can find it for well under 30 dollars. Worth every penny. I paid 60 dollars and I can say that it wasn't a waste. If you missed it a year ago I urge you to give it a shot now. Finally, even with the flaws, I believed this was a great jumping off point for a new series, I felt the developers could easily overcome the shortcomings and learn from mistakes to bring future Bourne games that could live up to Robert Ludlum's vision of a living weapon. Unfortunately, High Moon Studios will get no such chance. During the Activision Blizzard merger The Bourne license was dropped and acquired by the Great Satan, EA. There is a small shred of hope. EA has tasked Starbreeze AD with the development of the new series of Bourne games. Starbreeze AD is the Swedish game developer behind the original Xbox hit and Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 remake of The Chronicles of Riddick. Here's hoping for another worthwhile entry in the Bourne saga that can hopefully meet or even exceed its predecessor.