"Not another movie tie-in!" you all cry. But wait. Vivendi's The Bourne Conspiracy might be based on the Jason Bourne character as made famous by Matt Damon, but this isn't tied to the movies. Matt Damon is nowhere to be seen and that actually came as quite a relief. Jason Bourne is a character that seems tailor made for video games, but the last thing we wanted was a slapped together movie licensed tie-in hurried out to coincide with Hollywood's pre-determined release date. The Bourne Conspiracy has the potential to be so much more.
We got our hands on a near final build of the game recently and put the opening few levels through their paces to see if our hopes had been realised. Although we're a long way from seeing if Vivendi is on to a critically acclaimed smash hit, things look promising, with the gameplay on offer seeming genuinely exciting and in keeping with the main character.
The core gameplay concepts we've encountered so far are gun-play, fast-paced movement and hand-to-hand combat. Getting up close and personal with your enemies seems to be the focus of the combat in the game, and thankfully developer High Moon Studios has designed a system that is simple, yet deep and satisfying enough to keep you wanting more. In the Xbox 360 game we played X is light attack, Y is heavy attack and A is block. Holding down either of the two attack buttons makes Jason perform a more powerful punch or kick. You can chain these moves together for combos, and so far it seems as though timing when to block and when to attack is key.
Jason Bourne is highly trained agent and killing machine, so the game had to get this across in order to accurately reflect him as a character. One of the ways this is handled is through takedown moves, performed by pressing B when your adrenaline meter has at least one of its three segments full. Adrenaline is charged by successfully striking enemies, so it's not hard to replenish if you run out. These takedowns are by far the most entertaining aspect of the game we've seen, as they're fast and brutal, exactly as you'd expect. What's more, they're often contextual, so if you're next to a computer monitor, it's likely that Jason will slam an enemy's head straight through it. Nice.
You can opt to use a takedown move as soon as you have one at your disposal or you can save them, waiting until your adrenaline meter is fully charged. By doing so you can chain together takedowns, taking down up to three enemies at once if they're in close enough proximity to one another. Being a man who likes to run about at high speed, Jason can also perform on-the-move takedowns, simply by holding B while running at an enemy. The effects are suitably brutal.
These takedowns also stretch to gun-play too. By performing a gun takedown Jason will automatically target and kill an enemy, no matter his distance or location. Gun-play on the whole is solid, although the aiming seemed ever so slightly twitchy to begin with. Hopefully prolonged play will make this less of a problem. One of the opening sections of the game required Jason to shoot gas cylinders, causing a big enough explosion to put off an attack helicopter that had him in its sights. How much interaction with objects in the environment there'll be throughout the game remains to be seen.
It's not just Jason who can perform takedowns though, with enemies and boss characters also able to attempt them if they spot an opportunity. Here, like in many situations in the game, a Quick Time Event will pop up, asking you to hit the correct on-screen button in order to counter the attack. So far it seems as if you'll have to be on your toes at all times as these QTE moments crop up during what appear to be normal cutscenes.
The levels we played were set in a dockyard and on board a ship, and both looked very impressive. High Moon Studios has used Epic's Unreal Engine 3 and the results appear to be up there with some of the best looking games currently available. Jason is highly detailed, the environments are well textured and intricate, and for the most part the game runs at a decent frame rate. With most the game still to see, and the game's driving segments still to test out, hopefully the high quality presentation will continue.
First impressions count for a lot, and The Bourne Conspiracy does a great job at making you want to play more. With impressive production values and some exciting and diverse gameplay, we're hopeful that the final game will be worth taking a look. Check back for our final verdict ahead of the game's June 27 release date.