Monday, May 5, 2008

The Bourne Conspiracy Demo Impressions

The playable demo for The Bourne Conspiracy just showed up on Xbox Live so I took it for a quick spin despite never having seen any of the Bourne movies and not really having followed the development of the game.

From what I've played so far it seems like a potentially cool title with some repetitive gameplay. It is certainly the most cinematic action game I've ever played. The developers did a good job of making gameplay look like a fast-paced movie. Gunplay works very well, but Bourne's basic movement is a little sluggish. For the most part you're either fighting or shooting though, moving is just a means to get to the next firefight or brawl, so it's not a big deal.

My biggest problem with the game is the hand to hand combat, which looks incredible in action but is also extremely repetitive. You basically jam on X and Y to do punching combos and you can also hold down the same buttons for an unblockable kick attack that takes a couple seconds to activate. Successful attacks build up a meter which can be used to execute "takedown" attacks which will usually finish a regular enemy off.

You'll often fight 4 or 5 guys in a row and your health meter will only refill in between battles, often resulting in you getting killed by the final guy and having to restart from the last checkpoint. Bosses are similar to fighting multiple guys in a row because they can withstand 5 or more takedown attacks before finally giving up the ghost. My other problem is that the kick attacks are sketchy and often won't activate even though you held the button down for like 3 seconds. This just leaves you open to getting your ass whooped, making the kicks a huge risk to use.

Even more baffling is that the couple of bosses you fight in the demo are both guys who are clearly twice Jason Bourne's age. Being that Bourne is a government secret weapon, it doesn't make much sense that it takes him 10 minutes to knock out some 50-year old guy and even less sense that said 50-year old can knock Bourne out in no time. Of course, it's a game and there needs to be some sort of challenge, but the fights don't need to be dragged on so long. It just makes it that much more annoying to play over when you die right before you're about to beat them. They also have that classic video game trait of all of a sudden pounding the crap out of you when they're almost finished, making it hard to even get an attack in. Even if you never got touched the entire fight they can deplete your entire health meter in a couple of barrages. Again, who's the specially trained government super weapon?

Despite the weak fighting system I was actually pretty impressed with the game. It looks fantastic and overall plays very smoothly, I just hope that hand-to-hand fighting isn't as prominent in the final game or else it might be a deal breaker for me. It's fine to break things up a bit here and there but I don't want to be kickboxing every boss in the game.

There is also one short driving level in the demo but it is over so fast it's hard to tell how well driving will be implemented in the final game. You tool around in a little Mini Cooper, which controls fine, trying to shake the cops who are chasing you. I would imagine driving won't be a huge part of the game and that's just as well.

The Bourne Conspiracy is currently scheduled to ship on June 3rd, which puts it awfully close to titles like LEGO Indiana Jones and Ninja Gaiden II. They probably should've pushed to get the game out a couple weeks earlier, especially since nothing is really coming out in May anyway.

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