My unplanned weekend of James Bond ephemera ends with this surprisingly enjoyable 2010 entry from the Daniel Craig era, which features Craig, Judi Dench and Rory Kinnear reprising their roles as Bond, M and Tanner respectively, an original story by Bruce Feirstein (Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough) and a decent theme song I’ll Take it All, written and performed by Joss Stone and David A Stewart from the Eurythmics. Blood Stone came during a fairly frenetic period of activity for the Bond franchise in all media, and although there’s some obvious flaws in the construction of this narrative, which flopped hard at the time, it certainly does feel canon for the Daniel Craig era.
Playing movie tie-in games is usually a mug’s game; Craig’s contract must have been a stinker, because he had to add his VO and likeness to a number of dubious propositions. The Quantum of Solace game reprises the events of both that movie and Casino Royale, as well as including crucial scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film, or even the extras, but do make more sense of the story. Craig also played Bond in a revamp of the classic Goldeneye, and in 007 Legends, in which Craig plays Bond in action scenes from Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, The Living Daylights Die Another Day and Skyfall (downloadable as DLC but much too hard). Bond completists will know that there’s not much wrong with the classic Goldeneye game, but 007 Legends is truly awful, with loading times that often exceed the gameplay, plus inane enemy AI.
Blood Stone was intended to distil the essence of James Bond, and it’s now regarded as one of the most creative and successful games in the franchise. Good vibes flow from a sensational opening, in which Bond (Craig) foils a suicide attack on world leaders at a G-20 summit by pursuing a terrorist through the streets and docks of Athens. With the help of CIA agent Nicole Hunter (Joss Stone), Bond zeroes in on the culprits, namely crooked businessman Pomerov, who launders his money through even more crooked casinos, and eventually to a freelance mercenary called Rak, who has Bond sent to a Burmese prison camp, from which he escapes to extract a fairly spectacular revenge, only to fall victim to a tragic double-cross in the final scenes.
With a fairly top-team of talent involved, Blood Stone does feel like a mission worth taking for Bond completists; if the other games betray their origins in the Call of Duty series, using the same game-engine, it’s the action that really flows here. The pre-credits speedboat pursuit is vigorous, and there’s real tests of your ability to handle Bond’s Aston Martin DBS, which has the roadworthiness of a billiard table on roller-skates. Master that and you can engage the enemy through the streets of Istanbul, Monaco and Siberia, as well as a mind-blowing truck chase in Bangkok in which you have to shake off your Tuk-Tuk trailer before you can give pursuit in a way that belies any notion of being a secret agent; most of the city gets explosively demolished in a Michael Bay style. That contradiction between the small-stakes of Bond’s mission and the wholesale carnage which ensues has regularly been a credibility problem for Bond movies, and while Blood Stone doesn’t resolve that issue, it does feel more authentic to Bond’s hard-bitten roots than the following movies Spectre or No Time to Die. If the Craig era only produced one great film (Skyfall), Blood Stone is the black sheep of the Bond franchise, a wild ride for armchair Bond fans that, in a rather clumsy way, manages to provide a genuine taste of what it would be like to be the world’s best secret agent.