Interviews// James Bond 007: Blood Stone

Posted 21 Jul 2010 14:00 by
Neil Thompson (R) + Adam Dickinson.
Neil Thompson (R) + Adam Dickinson.
After a many and varied rumours, we now know that James Bond 007: Blood Stone is real, and I've seen a fair bit of the game in action. A brand new adventure starring current spy actor Daniel Craig, it sees you travel to various locations around the world to thwart what appears to be a multitude of villains bent on destroying world order.

In the sequence that I saw, Bond was situated in Athens, Greece, where a cheeky fellow named Greco planned to destroy the Acropolis with explosives. The landmark happens to be where many world leaders are attending the G10 summit.

So Bond hopes on to a hidden yacht and engages in some third-person stealth - taking out a few guards along the way - before being spotted by Greco's henchmen. Taking out enemies quietly earns you a Focus Aim, which works similarly to Red Dead Redemption's Dead Eye mode, slowing down time for you to defeat more than one enemy with your handgun.

After a cutscene that saw Bond taking to a speedboat and dodging all sorts of oncoming hazards, the player is taken to Greco's pad where a fistfight leads to the classic 007 title credits. So there's a lot of on-foot, driving and melee action to consider here.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Blood Stone is its developer. Bizarre Creations, a studio not usually known for its high-profile franchise games, is leading the charge to create a diverse and hi-octane 007 experience. After the presentation, I had a chat with art director Neil Thompson to learn more about the game.

SPOnG: James Bond games have traditionally been either third-person or first-person affairs. Goldeneye 007 is opting for the first-person approach, while you guys are going third-person. Any particular reason for this direction?

Neil Thompson: Well, the two projects aren't related, which allows us to ensure our visual style and direction is different to Goldeneye, but on another level we feel that games are about aspirational experiences. And you can't get much more aspirational than James Bond. For that experience, we thought it best to have Bond on the screen, to allow players to get into the flow of the action.

SPOnG: Blood Stone includes a lot of stealth, shooting and driving action. What's the split on each of these segments? How much can we expect to be in vehicle, or on foot?

Neil Thompson: It's not a 50/50 ratio when it comes to the racing and on-foot sequences. It's probably about 70/30 in favour of the shooting action. Obviously, each driving segment is rather short, but they're extremely intense. It's a good blend, I think too much of either would have made the game less exciting.

SPOnG: Did you take any of the lessons learned from Blur into creating the driving elements?

Neil Thompson: Yeah, primarily we used our experience from Blur and Project Gotham Racing. But we're not going for simulation driving here, it's more arcade, so we took more from our expertise with Blur. It's a good, fun driving experience with a dose of challenge in there as well.

SPOnG: What is the transition like between on-foot action and vehicle driving? Can you get out of vehicles at will or are you in a car for a particular section until it's over?

Neil Thompson: When you're in a case, you're in a car for that section yes. But because the game is narrative-led, we've tried to make the transition as seamless as possible. When we're using the cinematics not only is that advancing the game's story, it's also hiding any kind of loading. So the idea is you'll go from an on-foot section to a cutscene to driving, without any visible loading times.

SPOnG: Are you able to talk about the licenses for the cars?

Neil Thompson: Well, obviously we have the Aston Martin. There will be another driving sequence with another type of car, but I can't tell you what that is, it would be too much of a spoiler.

SPOnG: How challenging was it to make a Bond game that's not based off of a film, book or other form of medium?

Neil Thompson: It was very challenging, but creatively liberating as well. We had a fantastic story to work from already, thanks to the script from Bruce Feirstein.

I think if we had a film to work from we'd be somewhat more limited though. Some of the levels may not have been as creatively free, or we would have found it hard to be able to creatively express ourselves as much as we'd like.

In terms of fitting the levels with the story, we're given a start point and an end point that ties to the narrative, but what we do in-between is up to us. It's quite exciting and refreshing really.

SPOnG: What is it like to deal with the license holders such as Danjaq? They seem to be really behind this project compared to past titles - there's even Joss Stone as a Bond girl.

Neil Thompson: It's hugely exciting. These are the people that are the closest to Bond. It's their franchise and they want it to be seen in the best possible light. That's what we want to do at Bizarre as well, to give Danjaq the best possible Bond experience. So working with them has been absolutely fantastic. They helped us with voice talent for the game in Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench and Joss Stone. It was a fantastic experience.

SPOnG: How did the Joss Stone thing come about? Was that a decision made by the license holders, or was that your intention?

Neil Thompson: No, it was a choice made by the Bond license holders. She's a great choice though, she suits all the criteria needed for a Bond girl - beautiful and classy. She did a wonderful title track as well.

SPOnG: Where do you see the future of the Bond franchise? Activision has a tendency to annually release titles in a franchise if it feels it's on to a good thing. Is this the case here, or is this more of an experiment?

Neil Thompson: Anytime you do an original title it can be seen as an experiment, in my view. I personally want to see more of these games, I think Blood Stone is a very good game. But a lot of it will depend on how well it does in the market, and whether people like an original idea that's not tied to a film. After all, if there's a delay for a Bond movie, this is where fans can get their hit of 007, so it makes sense to do it again if it's successful.

SPOnG: Will stealth play into the on-foot sections of the game?

Neil Thompson: Absolutely. With those stages, you can be as stealthy or as... non-stealthy as you like. We've tried to reward the player for playing stealthily as well, so if you do takedowns whilst hidden you can get Focus Aims. These allow you to take guys out with your handgun in slow motion for a flashier experience.

If you play with stealth you're rewarded and can get through levels more quickly and economically. And you need to really, because that's one of the tenets of the game. It was essential that this had to be Daniel Craig's Bond, and very action-heavy.
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