After a hiatus, Agent 007 returns to the DS in a solid third-person book-style adventure.
Time and time again, Vicarious Visions proves to be one of the best Nintendo third party developers out there. They've made the Wii Guitar Hero series on par with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, and they've also made one of the most robust DS online offerings with Tony Hawk's American Sk8land. Now, with Quantum of Solace DS, they've made not only a great movie adaptation, but a good, mildly innovative video game.
Featuring book-style controls similar to Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, Quantum of Solace DS uses the touch-screen almost exclusively. The entirety of the control scheme is laid out in the wonderful tutorial that is the first level. Bond is controlled by the stylus, and interaction with items and people are done in the same way. The only time a button is used is when you hold down any button to ready Bond for combat, which is split between melee and ranged attacks.
Melee attacks change the isometric third-person perspective to an over-the-shoulder view as you drag the stylus across the screen in different ways to execute jabs, uppercuts, throws, blocks, and takedowns. In my impressions I noted that "the detection of these attacks is a little tricky and not always responsive." I did not have this issue in the final version of the game. While it is sometimes hard to differentiate jabs and uppercuts, the hand-to-hand combat works fine and is never that frustrating.
The gunplay is a slightly different story. For starters, the concept of sniping is unheard of due to the perspective of the game. All guns are fired from the default isometric perspective and are limited to characters on the screen at the time. Sticking to your guns is almost always suicidal, especially in scenarios in which you are outnumbered (which occurs very often). Despite repeatedly trying to get the jump on an enemy (which is only possible due to the second screen being used for radar), you'll wind up trying to initiate melee combat as quickly as possible.
When enemies fall, they curiously drop briefcases with ammo, guns, health packs, poker chips, and playing cards. While three of these five items have obvious uses, the latter two are used as Quantum of Solace's defining feature: its robust upgrade system. This system features everything from more health to a better chance of good dropped items from enemies. Also, every single gun is upgradeable in different categories such as damage and ammo supply. These upgrades are paid for by Bond points, which you accumulate by picking up poker chips and completing levels. The aforementioned playing cards allow you to put together a poker hand that will net you a bonus depending on the suit. For example, if you have a flush with all hearts, you get a big health boost.
Quantum of Solace has a solid presentation, as each mission is prefaced with a series of static cut-scenes with full voice-overs by the main cast. The graphics aren't jaw-dropping but they are great 3D graphics for the DS, even though every enemy looks more or less the same. The game clocks in at around five hours and there is no multiplayer, so there isn't much to do when you're finished aside from replaying the levels over and over again to fully upgrade Agent 007.
Despite the small problems that Quantum of Solace has (namely gunplay), it does a lot right on the DS. Thanks to the third-person view, the pace is slowed down considerably from its first-person brethren, which allows for a different gameplay perspective than the typical James Bond title. The upgrade system also really allows the player to make his Bond however he wants him to be. Quantum of Solace is a very good movie-to-DS adaptation, and I would recommend this to any type of James Bond fan, either mild or rabid.