Format: PS3 / Xbox 360 (Version played)
Developer: High Moon Studios
A half-decent licensed game? It’s a conspiracy!
Videogames based on licensed material have never had a great reputation, with most titles being nothing more than lazy cash-ins, preying cynically on fans of whatever licence the game is loosely based on. One shining example of getting a licensed title right is Goldeneye; first and foremost, that game was an excellent FPS with well-balanced weapons and interesting level designs. Similarly, The Bourne Conspiracy manages to make excellent use of the licence whilst being a fun little game in its own right. As in the films, players are pushed through an increasing number of enemies, with no time given to catch breath between encounters; the game captures the series’ sense of urgency and constant movement extremely well. Unfortunately the breakneck pace of the game comes at a price, with stages being extremely linear in design; there’s not even the slightest pretence of the game world being open. Surely it wouldn’t have been too difficult for High Moon Studios to include some multiple paths along the way?
Another trademark aspect of the films that has been successfully translated to the game is the frenetic hand-to-hand combat; encounters are fluid and quick-paced, with a real feeling of weight to each combatant’s actions. With every strike that connects, Bourne gradually builds up an ‘Adrenaline Meter’ that can be used to perform Takedowns on opponents. These brutal preset animations work in much the same way as Ninja Gaiden’s Obliteration Techniques – with a simple tap of a button they’ll put your enemies down for good. Unlike Team Ninja’s gleefully OTT action however, these are firmly grounded in reality, with heads being slammed against desks and multiple bones being broken; these finishing moves look seriously damn painful, and will have you wincing in sympathy. You know the developers have got things right when you find yourself manoeuvring around the environment, looking for something to slam the bad guys’ faces into. This is undoubtedly the best aspect of The Bourne Conspiracy, and makes players feel like an unstoppable killing machine. The only real flaw with unarmed combat that reared its head occurred when enemies with guns were present. You see, once melee combat has started, the only way to disengage from the system is to defeat whatever opponents Bourne is facing; rather tricky when someone’s also taking pot-shots at you! Usually enemies will stop shooting once the fighting system has started, but not always, and it’s a real nuisance when this happens.
Of course, unarmed combat is only half of the story, and it’s unfortunate that the game’s gunplay doesn’t live up to the high standards of the melee combat; the range of weaponry is quite small, and the automatic weapons in particular don’t feel significantly different from each other, although the shotgun is satisfying to use. Players are forced to rely constantly on cover, much of which is destructible, whilst concentrating on one or two enemies. You then press forwards until a clear shot can be taken against more distant enemies, and so on and so forth; I’m loathe to make the comparison, but there definitely seems to be a touch of Gears of War about this system of constantly moving from cover to cover. The enemies themselves will make good use of cover, and will often rush players if they stay in one place for too long; they also seem able to just soak up damage, and you’ll soon find yourself attempting headshots just to put them down quickly. This process can be accelerated with the use of Shooting Takedowns; cool-looking sequences that trigger Quick Time Events in order to bring down enemies with a single shot. This is especially useful when you find yourself in timed sections of the game, of which there are a few.
On the subject of Quick Time Events, High Moon Studios seems to have gone more than a little overboard with including these in the game, sometimes inappropriately in my opinion. During unarmed combat against multiple enemies, these will occasionally be triggered when someone tries to attack from behind, and failure to respond in time will result in players taking damage. This is perfectly acceptable, and helps to keep you engaged with the action; what isn’t acceptable however are the constant use of QTEs during cinematic sequences. Failure to respond to these results in game over, and a quick reload to try again; this can prove very irritating and to my mind simply ruins the game’s cutscenes. Perhaps the worst offence occurs during the game’s few ‘sniping’ sections. When I saw the opening cutscene for a level, with Bourne cradling a rifle in his arms, I was looking forward to mixing things up a little. “Oh, now it’s on!” I thought happily, and I was right. Except that what was ‘on’ was another tedious Quick Time Event! Press Right Trigger...press a face button...press Right Trigger...press a face button. Zzzzzz. If you’re going to have players snipe, guys, let them snipe!
This complaint pales in comparison when considering the ridiculous driving sequence that appears around halfway through the game. All the grittiness of the game’s combat is thrown out the window as you drive a seemingly indestructible Cooper Mini through Parisian streets, whilst guided by flashing neon signs; it really couldn’t feel more out of place, and I half expected Jason Bourne to scream “Let’s make some crazy money!” Besides this unfortunate misfire, The Bourne Conspiracy is an enjoyable game that treats both the licence and gamers with respect, and stands as a solid foundation for other games to build upon. However, the game is also extremely linear, meaning that there isn’t much in the way of replay value outside of striving to pick up Achievements. The main problem with this game is its length; there really isn’t enough here to justify the £40 price tag, unfortunately, and I’d recommend waiting until the price drops before purchasing.