The Bourne Conspiracy Preview
The third film in the popular Bourne series, "The Bourne Ultimatum," is just around the corner, so of course, we had to find some information regarding the video game version of the movie. But as it turns out, developer High Moon is going above and beyond in this intense, action-packed title, as they plan to reveal plenty of new details and behind-the-scenes storyline straight from Robert Ludlum himself. The game will cover much of the back-story we don't see in the movies, although it does appear to begin with the first chapter from "The Bourne Identity." Overall, The Bourne Conspiracy seeks to cater to avid fans of the "$30 million weapon" by revealing previously unknown plot-points and elements of the story. Because of this, we have high hopes for this game, simply because it's trying to be something more.
First off, anybody even remotely interested in this title should probably know one thing: Jason Bourne isn't the quintessential video game hero; he's not Kratos or Dante, so he doesn't have magical powers, super-special God-like abilities, or any "other-worldly" skills. Heck, he doesn't even have the futuristic gadgetry we're so often used to seeing in spy-based games. No, Bourne relies on his training, intellect, and inherent ability to see him through, and that will require the player to be both creative and even reserved. Going in, guns blazing, probably won't be the best idea, and you'll likely have to utilize your environment to the best of Bourne's ability. And if you're pinned down without any firearms, you'll have to resort to hand-to-hand combat...not that that's necessarily a disadvantage. We do have one concern, though: won't it be difficult to combine equally effective third-person shooter and fighting elements? Seems like a challenge (but we have faith).
Furthermore, the gameplay won't be limited to combat. There will be quick-time event (QTE) action sequences in addition to several stealth and platforming sections. However, don't think there will be specific parts of the game mapped out for one element or another; High Moon wants to make something plain: you'll always have a goal and a direction with Jason Bourne, and there won't be many lulls in the action. So while you may encounter a ledge to shimmy on or a guard to sneak past, this doesn't mean entire missions will center on one gameplay style. Everything should blend together for a seamless experience, which is generally the best plan of action. Obviously, the combat remains the primary attraction for any game like this, though, so we needed to locate more details. For example, the hand-to-hand fighting will rely more on the player's reactions rather than complex button sequences. No button mashing, just carefully placed strikes.
Conspiracy will also feature an Adrenaline system, which we assume builds as you encounter dangerous situations. Bourne can use his adrenaline to finish off a foe in spectacular fashion (perhaps with a flurry of flashy blows), but better still, he can utilize his surroundings as well. You may recall our mention of environmental interaction, and this is where it'll come into play. If you're near a flight of stairs, for instance, you can send the enemy tumbling with a flick of the wrist. You can also execute an adrenaline finishing move while charging or when a certain distance away, but we're not quite sure how adrenaline is built and expended. Can we save up for particularly harrowing situations? Do we have to bring a foe down to a certain health level before the finishing move becomes available, regardless of how much adrenaline we have? Is adrenaline in any way related to health? So yeah, we have questions, but the combat does sound fantastic.
The other aspect of the gameplay is those QTEs, which seem to be a staple of action titles these days. Pioneered with the likes of God of War and Resident Evil 4, this is the process of hitting a certain button at the right moment during real-time action sequences. So in other words, a button will flash on screen, and if you hit it in time, Bourne will perform the desired action. This is the kind of thing we've almost come to expect, but it's generally an appreciated - and well-implemented - inclusion. Lastly, we do have to make one little admission: we said earlier that Bourne doesn't have any "videogame-ish" abilities, like magic. But that wasn't entirely factual: he will have Bourne Awareness, which allows time to slow and gives you the chance to pick out critical objects in the environment (like health pick-ups, weapons, or plot-advancing items). Still, the realism shouldn't be compromised too much.
Vivendi plans to release The Bourne Conspiracy for the PS3 and Xbox 360 some time in 2008. What really intrigues us is the fact that both the author of the books and the screenwriter (Tom Gilroy) for the films are involved, here. We always feel that if the original minds behind the story and concept are included in the development process, there's a far better chance the game will be good. For the most part, as every gamer well knows, games based on movies are usually mediocre at best. But this one just might find a way to break free of that invisible prison, crossing the border into actual quality. Hey, the foundation appears solid, so that's all we can ask for at this point.
7/17/2007 Ben Dutka