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Saturday, 14 June 2008 10:47

Review: The Bourne Conspiracy

Robert Ludlum’s Bourne books brought to life in celluloid and now made immersive with the release of Vivendi game.  Prepare to be pummelled.

In the early eighties I poured through the complex action packed Bourne trilogy by Robert Ludlum.  I had no idea what was going on or who was who, but still I ploughed through the books.
Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy
 bourne_conspack.jpg Developer
High Moon Studios
Sierra / Vivendi Games
Ma 15+
PS3, Reviewed on Xbox 360

When the Matt Damon movies arrived my confusion level soared, as only the basic premise of the book story remained.  Still the movies were a wonderful, adrenaline charged ride.

High Moon Studio's adaptation of The Bourne Conspiracy on next-gen consoles lies somewhere in between the books and movies.

Like the books, it tells a somewhat confusing story of a man who has lost his past memories but retains his killer skills and preternatural sense for danger. 

Jason Bourne is rescued floating in the Mediterranean, suffering gun shot wounds and a bout of amnesia.  Almost immediately we get into the action as Bourne attempting to retrace his life in order to start a new one.

High Moon Studios were conscious of the movie-to-game curse so often prevalent in this industry.  As such the first thing you notice about the game is the lack of any physical likeness to Damon the main game character has.  Instead you take the role of a nicely rendered generic tough man, wearing a similar sweater to the big screen representation however.

Game Director Emmanuel Valdez talks about the approach to Bourne the character; “From the books to the films, there is an almost daunting breadth and depth to Robert Ludlum's Bourne series.  To share how we defined everything about Bourne would mean sharing a tome of excerpts from the source and character briefs covering his history, traits, abilities, motivations – who he was, who he became, where he’s headed.  It was a thorough deconstruction, but in the end with one goal in mind:  What will make Bourne a compelling video game action hero.  At one point an astute designer at the studio pointed out the notion that we were in fact chasing Bourne’s identity, to mostly nervous laughter”  bourne_conspiracy_game_02.jpg

So what about the game play itself?  Well this is where the cinematic influence comes to the fore.

The early part of the game is all about the fisticuffs.  Bourne will face of mano v mano with some tough looking hombres that you would not want to meet in the flesh.

Magically, using only three buttons, Bourne fist fights are a wonderful montage of visceral moves and bone jarring action.  Button combos form on screen violent cinematography that looks natural and has a realistic ‘weight’ behind each move.

Then there are the ‘take downs’.  Land enough blows on your opponent, and soon enough Bourne’s adrenaline metre will build to one of three thresholds.  Pressing ‘B’ at this point results in ‘take down’ move usually causing enough damage to disable a non-boss opponent.

The take-downs are also brilliantly integrated with the scenery around the fight.  So for example, press B whilst near a fire extinguisher and Bourne will grab it, swing it into a thugs midriff and then crack his skull with a dull thud.

Multiple adrenaline levels can be used to take out more than one opponent at a time with the cinematic interlude seamlessly showing the action.

Once Bourne grabs a firearm the game smoothly moves into shooter mode with a satisfying heavy firearms feel to the action.  Bourne can carry a hand gun along with a heavier weapon, and luckily there is plenty of ammo lying about the various levels.

The movie influences return with take-downs occurring in the shooting sequences as they do during the brawling. 

The less said about the driving sequences the better, it is not a highlight of the game, but does fit in with the aim of recreating the Bourne experience.  More time could have been spent on reaching a more fulfilling driving mini game.

Like Spiderman (!) Bourne can utilise his Bourne Instinct to aid in achieving goals.  Like a drop of Nectar in Haze , spending some adrenaline on Bourne Instinct gives clues to objectives and highlights enemies and other objects of interest

Generally speaking, that sums up the game play of The Bourne Conspiracy.  And it can border on the mundane and repetitive from time to time. 

However, throw in some tense timed sections, adding a true sense of urgency and some real cinema inspired settings and there is a quality to this game on rails.  This is the closest to an interactive movie a game has come.

Length wise the game is a little on the short side, and the difficulty can fluctuate wildly.  Luckily on this front you can alter the difficulty setting at any time to help progress. bourne_conspiracy_game_03.jpg

I am still confused by the whole storey, but, you really don't need to know too much of the ongoing plot when confronted by an angry Castel bursting through your apartment window.

7.5 low blows out of 10

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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