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007: Quantum of Solace

What does that title actually mean? Anything? Anyway, it's Rambo in a suit

We've heard it from the horse's mouth. "It's a first-class shooter in a Bond wrapper," commented Quantum Of Solace, executive producer Garret Young as he attempted to explain the ballistic-flavoured direction of the latest game to feature the world's most famous spy.

Earlier in the day, Garret and the Treyarch team had taken me through some stages based on events from Casino Royale (these appear as flashback missions in the game) that illustrated the description. This game uses the Call Of Duty 4 engine and it shows. The first play through was based on Bond's attempt to reach Le Chiffre and protect him from African warlord Obanno's henchmen.

In the movie, Bond has a punch-out with two goons in a stairwell - it's tense, quiet and brutal. It was two goons after all. In the game, Bond blasts his way from corridor to corridor, through a spa room and into a large open ballroom. I counted over 60 henchman, that's 58 more than in the movie. This isn't quiet. This is explosive gunning - COD4 style.

The big question mark hanging over Quantum Of Solace is how much of Bond's wrapper is fraying at the edges; how much is peeling away and coming unstuck as the action and all-out shooting of COD4 tries to break out.

Looks familiar
The stages I saw in action did lean towards cover-fire, which works in a similar way to Rainbow Six Vegas 2, with the camera pulling back to a third-person view when Bond hugs a table, wall or handily positioned pillar.

From here you can blind-fire or lean and shoot, as you do everything explodes in a suitably combustible way. Shoot a door, and the glass smashes and anyone hiding behind takes a hit. Blast a statue and its marble shatters in chunks leaving the enemy behind vulnerable to a headshot. It all looks like fun - like COD4-does-Rainbow Six - but is it actually Bond or is it more like Quake in a dinner jacket?

A counterpoint to all the action is the idea that "Bond can use his mind" as Garret puts it. This means sneaking. This means stealthily hugging the walls of the Casino as Bond stalks the various guards set-up along the corridors. A simple headshot will do for most of the villains but if you want that movie feel you can hit Instant Kill or Takedown moves by pressing R3.

This activates a Quick Time Event (QTE) as you go through the motions of pushing an enemy off a balcony, kicking him in the gut or one-two punching him to the floor; all performed by pressing q, r and w when prompted, God Of War-style.

Alternative routes
To maintain the stealth idea further, there are alternative routes through the levels. Bond can shimmy along the hotel's ledges and pass by windows Splinter Cell-style ensuring that your timing is perfect to avoid being spotted.

Likewise, there are airvents to scurry inside to avoid the corridors lined with villains. The COD4 engine is used to good effect here to ensure that moving from rooms to climbing inside vents is seamless, never removing you from the action and sticking firmly in the first-person view.

The atmosphere is kept tense and filmic by the cinematic direction. For example, as Bond crawled high above a gunfight between Le Chiffre's bodyguards and Obanno's men, stray bullets pierced the vent ahead, streaming beams of light through the freshly peppered bullet holes.

The demo came to an end in a large, open two-tier ballroom where the object was to kill a set number of enemies to enable the exit to open. Not quite Bond using his mind. Garret was eager to point out that there were tuning issues with this stage as wave after wave of guards swamped the map, lining up to be blasted by Bond. It was overkill and hardly in keeping with the new Bond, but it was in the character of the COD4 engine.

It was odd to hear Garret criticise the EA Bond games, pointing out the inclusion of driving sections that interfered with the action, but had a point. Nothing interferes with the action in Quantum Of Solace. But maybe it should. There's a lot of gunplay planned for Quatum Of Solace.

Elsewhere, the stealth sections and puzzle ideas - Bond can hack locks using his PDA by matching number codes - look likely to be sidelined in favour of the 'kill the enemies to unlock the door' gameplay. Bond's wrapper is coming off and Rambo is below the surface. He's playing COD4.