There’s no doubt whatsoever that the Bourne films are absolutely stunning. The reinvention (Bourneification) of James Bond through Casino Royale would not have been were it not for Bourne bringing the spy / action genre back with such unflinching force. So it’s a little disappointing that this game is not based on the films, instead it’s apparently more based on the original books by Robert Ludlum.
This was probably due to Matt Damon apparently not wanting to get involved with the project because he didn’t like the violent content. Wait…what? Mr Damon, you shoved a biro up someone’s hand and have spent three films smashing the fuck out of people. We’ll assume the cheque didn’t have enough zeros on it then.
Don’t be fooled by the new subtitle of ‘Conspiracy’, this is not a compilation of all three titles; this only covers The Bourne Identity. Having read the book though it’s obvious the developers have ignored it and ripped off the film instead, tweaking the odd familiar action set-piece a little (for the worse). There are also ‘memory’ missions from before Bourne went for his midnight swim off the coast of Marseilles. I’m guessing they’re written in invisible ink and between the lines in the book. They have done well to get the same awesome music from the films, which really pumps up the action.
The game plays as a decent looking third-person shooter and brawler, similar in many ways, but ultimately inferior to the likes of Uncharted and even Quantum of Solace. The shooting sections rely on a snap-to-cover mechanic that often require a second or even third tap before it kicks in. This is made even worse by the shooting itself. Enemies hardly react to multiple shots, instead suddenly falling down. The aiming is overly sensitive when trying to line up head-shots, even when changing the settings down to their lowest, which only slows down your turn speed. The targeting reticule turns red to indicate a potential hit but even on stationary soldiers you can almost see them smirk at each other as your bullets dance around them like a knife-thrower at a fair.
At least you can run over and smash said smirks off their chops. In what might be a case of the most honourably idiotic enemies seen this generation they’ll never fire on you at point-blank range, opting instead to go toe-to-toe, unfortunately you’re forced to do the same, and no you can’t back out and shoot them in their bewildered betrayed face.
These scraps are simple to play with only the face buttons being involved. One for a light attack, another for heavy, both pressed together for a combo, hold one of them for a strong kick, one to block and another for a takedown move.
The takedown moves are most exciting part. You build them up by landing a few decent blows, then press circle next to an environmental hazard such as a window, conduit box, tables, bar stool or even a one-use weapon like a chair, a biro (get in!), or a spade (he still got up after ‘digging’ it into his face). If you’re not near one of these you’ll dish out a special beating.
Boss fights will require multiple takedowns and can go on for slightly too long, as the basic moves on offer to build up the takedown meter can become boring. If the developers had added a few more moves, by possibly getting the shoulder buttons involved they could have had something special here.
While these scenes do look like the ones from the films, they’re not too much fun to play as once you activate the takedown with one button you’re a spectator watching Bourne dish out the pain, only letting you do the busy work again to build up another.
It’s not just during these fighting scenes that sideline you as a player while all the cool shit goes down, at numerous points a QTE (Quick-Time-Event) will kick in requiring you to match the on-screen button prompt. The most annoying use of these is for the sniping and driving sections. Sniping sections involve no aiming; just press circle or R1 when you’re told.
After what was a relatively exciting car chase through Paris, now with a new chunky version of the Mini car (the shame of it) the finale is wrapped up with you occasionally pressing a button and watching the game play itself like a bully taking the pad off you for the best bits.
The current trend for QTE’s instead of proper gameplay is really beginning to take the piss now, it’s about time developers got off their arse and thought about how get us involved more. It’s a game; we don’t need a stunt double!
In hindsight it turns out Matt Damon might have made the right decision. If you are desperate for more Bourne while hoping that rumours of a fourth film come true I recommend picking up the original books for an alternative to the films plot.
Conspiracy only lasts a few repetitive hours and only covers the first film (sorry, book) but I wouldn’t hold my breath for the remaining titles getting made. It seems condemned to end up washing ashore somewhere having some neat tricks but no real identity of its own.