Thursday, June 3, 2010

Demo Assessment: The Bourne Conspiracy

For reasons too boring to go into, I decided to check out the demo of The Bourne Conspiracy game that was released about 2 years go.  The demo covers the escape from the US Swiss embassy that’s depicted in The Bourne Identity movie.  This Youtube video covers what’s in the demo:

The demo was frustrating for me.  Early into it, Bourne has to slide under a closing gate.  You can see this in the video.  If he doesn’t make it, you can reload the last checkpoint.  The load times aren’t particularly long, but attempting the gate slide (and failing) took less time than the checkpoint loading.  Nothing’s more certain to make a game frustrating than load times longer than gameplay times.  In addition, in order to slide under the gate, the player needs to press a button.  The specific button changes per attempt, and is revealed to the player at the time he needs to press it.  I’m not against this Dragons Lair-type system for getting past obstacles.  I thought Shenmue’s Quick Time Events worked well enough.  But, I don’t understand the need to randomize the button.  Shouldn’t the button roughly correspond to the action that the button will perform, and not just be random for the sake of making the task more difficult?  Also, does every wrong or late button press have to be a game-stopper?  Some contingencies would be nice, especially in the game’s demo where I would think they’d want to ease players into the system.

My other big problem in the game is the hand-to-hand combat.  This was an aspect of it that was praised in most reviews, but I didn’t like it, maybe because I’m just spoiled by the “Free-Flow Combat” system of Batman:Arkham Asylum


In the game, when Bourne fights a guy, he squares off with them boxing-style.  This doesn’t make any sense when there are multiple opponents.  Why put your arms in front of you when you’re surrounded by enemies?  That’s a great way to get a rifle butt stock to the back of the head.  Beyond that, when Bourne fights even low level embassy guards, he trades blows with them until knocking them out.  I’m sure the makers of this game saw the Bourne movies, so I’m not sure how they would have gotten that aspect of Bourne so wrong.  The only opponents that Bourne trades blows with are the highly-trained Treadstone/Blackbriar assets.  Everyone else he takes down with incredible speed and efficiency.

I know that the developers have to make it challenging, but the challenge should be true to the character.  If Bourne had to rely on primitive pugilistics to incapacitate enemies, he wouldn’t be able to function.

Batman:Arkham Asylum got it right.  They made Batman fight in an authentic, overpowering way, but still made the combat challenging and fun.  Of course Batman:AA was released after this game, so you can’t blame the developers for not studying a superior combat model.

That’s all I have to say about The Bourne Conspiracy.  I wanted to like the game.  It has good graphics and seems to capture the tone of the movies, but the gameplay doesn’t cut it.

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