James Bond: Blood Stone
Licence to drive as well as kill.
Apparently, Daniel Craig quite likes videogames. So far, however, videogames don't seem to like him very much in return. Part of the problem, aside from the fact tthe last Bond game was a quiet stinker, is that handsome face.
On a cinema screen, those hard blue eyes glint with a cold intensity. Seen through the lens of a game engine, though, they don't do their job quite so well. CGI Craig often looks grumpy or bemused, the slightly thuggish quality of his bone structure offset by a dreamy, glassy look. It's the kind of expression you might assume when trying to recall an obscure 1980s crisp brand.
By those standards, Blood Stone is definitely getting there. Bizarre Creation's Craig looks a bit like Craig, a bit like Christian Bale, and a bit - this was a surprise - like my old friend Dwayne, who used to wear a suit and tie every day even though he was a grocery clerk at Safeways, and who suddenly moved to Seattle in the early nineties because he heard that something big was going to go down there.
It's more important than usual that Bizarre gets Bond looking right because you're going to be seeing a lot of him in Blood Stone. The developer of PGR, Blur, and The Club is taking 007 third-person, opting for a game that splits the action between cover-based shooting, driving sections and bits where you zip about on speedboats. (Is it still called driving when you're on a boat? I wish my grandfather were still with us: he would have known.)
All three elements are looking entirely adequate, if the glimpse of Blood Stone revealed at a recent Activision press event is anything to go by. While the game's main narrative sees Bond and his new lady Joss Stone tracking down a missing scientist against a backdrop that involves the diamond trade and suicide bombers, the pre-credit sequence, taking a nod from the films, is entirely self-contained: an explosive ramble through Athens that allows the developers to present a perfectly formed vertical slice.
On the trail of a sinister man with a sweater daringly knotted around his neck, Bond skydives out of a passing airplane, shoots his way into a fancy yacht, gets involved in a little motorboat chase, switches to an Aston Martin, and finally rams his nemesis off the road and right into a theme tune that, I'm sorry to report, was co-written by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart - clearly one of the most villainous double-acts since Thomas Midgley created both leaded petrol and CFCs.
Tackling these elements in the reverse order, Blood Stone's driving looks suitably solid, given the fact that Bizarre Creations is, you know, quite good at this kind of thing. Bond pursues his rival through miles of stylishly rendered terrain, threading through oncoming traffic stacked up across breezy bridges, zipping down twisting mountain lanes, and even leaving the tarmac to take the chase into the countryside for a few hectic moments.
Enemies fire back at Bond's speeding motor, day-trippers are shunted aside at bottlenecks, lens flare winks prettily on the horizon. While it's yet to be revealed how deep the car combat goes, the final smash-up as secret agent fatally tail-gates swarthy terrorist type looks like a lot of fun - particularly if you're not counting on the swarthy terrorist making it home for a clam bake in the evening.