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The Bourne Conspiracy

First look at the spy sim with Clancy firmly in its sights...

True patriots out there may have been put off big-screen action blockbusters The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and indeed the forthcoming Bourne Ultimatum, by the way that Universal Pictures marketed them as part of a brand new spy thriller franchise starring 'The American James Bond'... as if such a thing were either desirable or possible. There are undeniable similarities between the two, of course: both are action-packed movie franchises based on a series of books created by one author, which were successful enough to be continued after the creators' deaths, and both star renegade secret operatives who travel around the globe taking on different personas, investigating conspiracies and fighting shady organisations who threaten to destroy, take over or just piss about generally with, the world.

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But in videogame terms, with dear old Sam Fisher displaying a fetching line in tramp-chic and under fire from both friend and foe, The Bourne Conspiracy may have a different contender, and in facing off against its potential nemesis, is looking to take on the king of special ops stealthers. If you're thinking that sounds like an uphill struggle, you'd be totally spot-on.

Bourne to be king?
Our friends at Vivendi kindly gave us an exclusive first gander at The Bourne Conspiracy in action, and... while obviously reserving any kind of judgement until we've got hands-on with actual code, our socks remained firmly un-knocked-off. The first thing you'll notice is that Jason Bourne looks very different to the dude in the movies - this is because Matt Damon refused to have anything to do with the game, so developers High Moon decided to go right back to the original novels for inspiration.

To be honest, this seems like a good move to us - we're happy to keep Damon's mushroom face out of the pages of Xbox World, and the odd thing is that, despite each of the movies having exactly the same name as Robert Ludlum's original novels, the plots are so wildly different that, from about halfway through the first movie, there's almost no similarity between book and film. Returning to the true source material gives the makers all the freedom they need to create a new franchise.

In fact, as the title suggests, Conspiracy is a sort of Bourne megamix. It fundamentally begins from the same point as Identity, with you being fished out of the Mediterranean half-dead and with no idea of who you are or how you got there, before using your innate powers of detection, marksmanship and martial arts to find out your real identity and why somebody out there wants to kill you. But we expect the game to establish its own distinct story and style along the way, quite apart from both the original novel and the first movie.

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A lot has been made of the in-game fighting, with captured techniques directed by Hollywood fight choreographer Jeff Imada, who worked on the Supremacy film. But at this early stage, we've got to admit that the animations for the scrapping seemed to us to be too staccato and jerky - it certainly doesn't have the fluid movement and reactions that the new Splinter Cell is so impressively pulling off. But with no real launch date set in stone yet, we're confidently expecting improvement in just about every quarter.

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