Video game reviews

James Bond Quantum of Solace comes to a console near you.

Quantum Of Solace

PS3/Wii/Xbox 360

Games based on films hardly have an auspicious track record, with most being thrown together by money-hungry games companies in search of a quick buck. But in 1997 there was one shining exception: Rare’s GoldenEye 007 on the N64, which turned the first Brosnan Bond flick into one of the most celebrated first-person shooters of all time. Now, 12 years on, we have a brand new, jug-eared Bond – and a decidedly old and hackneyed game.

Don’t let those flashy screenshots fool you – Quantum Of Solace is a mess. For a start it’s disappointingly linear. Even the new Call Of Duty outing allows you to choose different angles of attack, but here you’ll be plodding drearily from A-to-B. It isn’t helped by poor controls and a clunky engine. Pressing X allows Bond to hide behind cover while the camera switches to a third-person mode similar to the one in Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway, but far more cumbersome. And despite being a hard-as-nails special agent who could kill a squad of villains while brushing his teeth, Bond is apparently incapable of climbing over a three-foot-high rock. There are attempts to spruce things up with a code-cracking mini-game, but this is a simple Simon-style button pressing and just feels repetitive and functional rather than exciting. You are meant to be James Bond after all.

OK, so some of the levels do look good, and the movie cast does a solid job on the voice work, but its adherence to the film’s wafer-thin plot (with a few flashbacks to Casino Royale) make it a stop-start, wholly predictable affair. Ultimately, this feels like a waste on every level except, perhaps, graphically. Considering that Rare were doing something not too dissimilar over a decade ago, it’s extraordinary to think that Treyarch – the people who made the excellent Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare – would do a little more with this. Just like a ’70s Bond girl, Quantum Of Solace is pretty for a while, but not nearly memorable enough to warrant a return visit once you’ve completed your mission. Matt Pomroy.

Available in stores.

Mirror’s Edge

PS3/Wii/Xbox 360

It’s 1992 and change is afoot. Denmark wins the European Football Championships; Bill Clinton is elected President of the United States and Nintendo launches the SNES across Europe. The age of the console has truly begun and it will be a number of years before home computers will be able to compete again. But like a dinosaur that doesn’t know it’s dead yet, systems like the Commodore Amiga continue to receive some decent games, the best of which are hoovered up by their cartridge-based usurpers. One such title that year was Flashback, in which a lone fugitive, Conrad, ran, jumped and rolled across treacherous, pit-filled levels to escape his captors.

While we can’t be certain that anyone at EA played Flashback, a quick blast on Mirror’s Edge shows some startling similarities. Not only is the fragile lead character, Faith,
on the run from authorities in a dystopian society, but her world is as bold, blocky, stylised and gorgeous as Conrad’s was – albeit now in three dimensions. It really does look extraordinary: you’ll find your breath catching in your throat as you use various parkour techniques to bounce off walls and leap across rooftops, and the cutscenes presented in similarly cool anime style.

Although it’s nominally a first-person shooter, the ‘shooting’ part is strictly optional. You only acquire weapons by disarming the corrupt cops on your tail, and even then you don’t have to shoot them. In fact, in a rare move of modern gaming pacifism, it’s possible to complete the entire game without loosing off a single shot. And since Faith’s hand-to-hand combat skills are pretty feeble, the game makes it clear early on that this is a game about running, not gunning.

Thankfully, running in this game is a lot of fun, even if it can be a bit scary. Mirror’s Edge’s first-person view is so convincing that feelings of vertigo are not uncommon, leaps of – ahem – faith are genuinely nerve-wracking, and the rushing sound as you hurtle ever-lower is disconcerting. Fail to grab onto anything and the fatal crunch is nasty enough to dissuade you from doing it again.

But it’s far from flawless. There are wild inconsistencies in what kills you, whether that be the number of bullets you can take or the height of a fall. And it too frequently feels like a linear rat-run than an exploratory sandbox.The biggest complaint, though, is the brevity of the one-player game: get a clean run and you can finish a chapter in less than 15 minutes – and with only nine chapters in total, that means precious little gaming time.

Still, the game’s frantic, first-person fleeing offers something different, and its sinister universe and game engine deserve a sequel. After all, they gave one to Flashback. Jamie Lafferty.

Available in stores

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