Review: Bond loses a step, or 007, in Solace

Like James Bond himself, cookie dough is sneaky and deceptive.

Sweet and gooey, it tempts an abandonment of the baking process altogether; why finish when something so delicious has already been made? Eat copious amounts, though, and reality sets in with stomach pain and a nagging thought: Why didn’t I just cook it properly?

Quantum of Solace prompts similar questions. And bellyaches.

Based on the new James Bond film of the same name, Quantum of Solace is the first Wii project for Canadian developer Beenox Studios. Flaws aside for now, it did a few things right for its first Wii outing.

Quantum of Solace is a paint-by-numbers first-person shooter. The Wii version maintains most of the core elements of Treyarch’s next-generation design, including a Gears of War-like cover system and action-scene button-prompts like those in Resident Evil 4, but these additions don’t make Quantum of Solace a revolutionary shooter.

Which isn’t a bad thing. Shooter fans should find plenty to like about Quantum of Solace. It’s a fun romp through locales from the movie, and as with any first-person shooter, it benefits from pointer controls. Even with Quantum of Solace’s glaring technical issues and flawed controls, it stills feels better than it would have on GameCube.

I had some fun with Quantum of Solace, but not until I shelved my disappointment with the game’s many shortcomings.

Quantum of Solace’s graphics are remarkably hit-and-miss. Don’t expect Super Mario Galaxy, but some parts of the game look decent, the opening sequence included. Turn a corner, though, and you’ll find graphics every bit as dated as even the worst Wii has to offer.

Forget Super Mario Galaxy. Think Super Mario 64.

This goes to the heart of Quantum of Solace’s problems. The core of a solid game is there; you can feel it and even see it on occasion. But a lack of polish and perhaps development time — movie-based games are notorious for having short deadlines — really hurt what could’ve possibly been a premier Wii first-person shooter.

Quantum of Solace’s decent-at-best ethos bleeds into the game’s every aspect, including presentation and controls. An occasionally chugging framerate, decade-old textures and choppy video sequences impede upon any fun you’d otherwise have firing at henchmen.

Like the framerate, the pointer controls also suffer from occasional slowdown. Your crosshairs often move much slower than your wrist is moving, causing serious problems with accuracy and precision.

But Beenox did some things right with what I assume was its limited development time. When they work, the controls are adequate, and Beenox added adjustable sensitivity so players can tweak the controls to their preference. Prefer the slow turning of Red Steel? Fine. Want a speedy camera like Medal of Honor: Heroes 2? You can do that, too.

Quantum of Solace also runs smooth online multiplayer on Wii, albeit with relatively thin options, and has split-screen multiplayer exclusive to Nintendo’s system. Mii integration into profile selection is also a particularly nice touch, and the game supports the Wii Zapper.

This could’ve been a tasty cookie. Like the dough that made us sick earlier, though, it just needed more time in the oven. Quantum of Solace gets two cookie-induced bellyaches stars out of four on Wii.

Activision handed portable duties for Quantum of Solace to Vicarious Visions, the mastermind developers who have brought Guitar Hero so successfully to Nintendo’s platforms over the last two years.

This experience shows, as the DS version clearly displays Vicarious Visions’ familiarity with the platform. It has a slick interface and shows the developer’s knack for creative solutions on the DS.

Quantum of Solace requires you to hold your DS book-style, controls almost entirely with touch and — different enough yet? — isn’t even a first-person shooter. With a top-down third-person view and Bond running to follow your stylus, it has as much in common with games like Phantom Hourglass as it does with its console cousin.

Unfortunately, the ambition fueling this decidedly different portable version falls just short of smooth realization. The touch-based controls are interesting at first, but they become cumbersome once the action picks up. Tap-to-aim shooting controls work but hardly benefit the player, and entering a menu to reload your weapon feels archaic.

There is also a system of hand-to-hand combat utilizing drawing motions on the touch screen, essentially the DS equivalent of Wii’s pointless waggle. Touch controls should never be less efficient than button presses, and while there are some interesting ideas in Quantum of Solace DS, none of them benefit the gameplay.

While I at first marveled at the design and execution, I later found myself wondering aloud, “If only it were actually necessary.”

It’s great to see developers trying something different with a movie tie-in, but radical ideas alone don’t make a great game. Unfortunately for Vicarious Visions’ take on Quantum of Solace, innovative thinking doesn’t necessarily equate something fun to play.

Clever thinking and ambition become touch-based novelties and innovation just for the sake of it, earning two stars of of four.