A licensed first-person shooter that’s not as bad as you might think, but could certainly be better overall.
Every Nintendo gamer worth his or her salt has memories of Rareware’s excellent Goldeneye 007, an N64 game that quickly became the “go-to” party game in the mid-90’s. Goldeneye was awesome for its time, featuring a wide variety of maps, very simple ragdoll physics, a whole lot of weapons and semi-customizable deathmatches. Bond games have attempted to match the success of that N64 knockout ever since, but to no avail. We’re now in a new age of Bond featuring Daniel Craig, but no video game tie-in released with the excellent reboot Casino Royale. This year we get the sequel to that film, Quantum of Solace, and a video game from Activision to go along with it. When the Wii version arrived at my doorstep, I expected horror, but found that the game is not nearly as bad as one might think. In actuality, Quantum would be a perfectly respectable FPS were it not marred by some jarring technical problems.
Quantum picks up where Casino Royale left off—Bond has shot Mr. White, the man responsible for killing the woman he loved (Vesper Lynd). The game begins as Bond is hauling Mr. White over to his car, when our hero is ambushed by a bunch of his enemy’s goons. The gameplay generally follows the plot of the film (with a lot more gunplay) but a significant portion of the game deals with events which occurred during Casino Royale, perhaps making up for the lack of a Royale-specific game. The game is certainly not canonical; several events in the game differ entirely from their film counterparts (the scene where Bond spies on Greene and his cohorts, for instance).
Solace’s gameplay feels like a cross between Metroid Prime 3 and Call of Duty 4. Aiming is handled in the usual way for a Wii game, with moving the cursor to the edge of the screen moving Bond’s gaze. Combined with the Nunchuk’s control stick, you have an essentially MP3-calibre shooting mechanism. Waggling the Nunchuk reloads your gun, pressing various directions on the D-pad switches weapons (or grenades), and the minus button brings up your map. The map, however, has its flaws. Using the control stick to (hypothetically) see the map in better detail results in the map scrolling offscreen entirely, no matter what direction I pressed the stick. This makes the map effectively useless.
Fortunately your objectives are constantly updated by voiceovers from MI6, and the game gives you hints from time to time to deal with new threats. One great new feature is the ability to use cover. Pressing A near virtually any large structure will make Bond hide behind it, usually shielding him from enemy fire but allowing the player to fire on visible enemy targets. It is not a perfect system; since running is also mapped to the A button, Bond will often duck behind cover while running, even when you don’t want him to. If Bond can, pressing A while behind cover will make him dash to nearby cover, which usually allows you to take out enemies on the other side of the room. Another neat feature is the ability to do stealth kills. Creeping up behind an enemy and waving the Nunchuk when prompted to do so triggers a slow-motion minigame, during which you must aim at an icon and press A to successfully pull off the kill. Failure usually results in death, but you have plenty of time to hit the A button. This aiming minigame also extends to a few cutscenes. The controls are very tight and impressive, aside from technical quirks.
The game stumbles when it comes to framerate, however. These are not top-tier Wii graphics by any means, in fact feeling rushed at times. Fire effects are particularly bad, and there is a woeful discrepancy in graphical polish between areas. One level may look wonderful while the next looks unfinished. Ambient lighting effects are simply nonexistent, and environments are not destructible. Overall, these are mid-range PS2-calibre graphics, and we all know the Wii can do better. Despite the low-tech quality of the visuals, slowdown is fairly rampant. There are areas in which considerable framerate drops are caused by Bond simply walking through with no other characters on-screen. These framerate issues really comes to the forefront when engaging a squad of enemies. While never as jarringly bad as, say, Perfect Dark on the N64, it’s certainly unimpressive.
Multiplayer features split-screen deathmatch gameplay with variable settings like round times, winning number of kills, and an impressive number of maps. You can even pick from a wide range of character types, all of which feature different weapons. However, split-screen deathmatch has one gigantic fault: bizarrely, split-screen local games look much, much worse than online games. It’s not a case of framerate drops; it almost seems like local split-screen employs an entirely different, scaled-down graphics engine. This is a phenomenon you have to experience to really understand. It’s safe to say that online multiplayer is the way to go.
Online deathmatch is a lot fun. Like Halo 3 you have the option of vetoing a chosen map, but you’ve gotta be quick. The game supposedly supports up to 12 players online in one game, but the most I ever encountered at any one time was four (including me). The online play is passable, although Quantum of Solace doesn’t even try to match the sheer amount of multiplayer variety demonstrated by modern games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4. I daresay that the number of distinct game types fails to live up to Goldeneye 007, which is a shame.
Quantum of Solace offers some good times for online fanatics, , and the single-player game is fairly robust. However, the framerate stutters are very annoying, and the fact that local split-screen multiplayer exhibits completely horrendous graphics is cause for concern. Something like Metroid Prime 3 offers a better single-player experience (with far better visual appeal), and there are better online Wii games. Quantum of Solace is ultimately a passable shooter that, as a package, has been done better elsewhere.