The one thing you can walk away from all three Jason Bourne movies with is a sense of scope and achievement. This is accomplished through the lengths Bourne travels to chase his goals and missions and the subsequent successes of each. What makes this even more compelling is the organic flow and relentless pace the films set up for our hero to win the day through his gritty, epic trials of self-discovery.
The Bourne Conspiracy has the former but lacks utterly in the latter. The same vision of grandiose large-scale journey and deeply compelling story as the books and films can be found wrapped up in the game, but the way in which it is told and executed is so detrimental to the original vision, you may very well never see it through to the bitter end. And I say bitter, because after only an hour with this game in my Xbox 360, I very nearly removed the disc to snap it in half and throw it against the wall in bitter
frustration. Gameplay here is so incredibly archaic and mechanical, I was reminded of those old SNES Ice Hockey games where you would eventually face off against an opponent in a bout of fisticuffs represented pretty much as a 2D version of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots
This is the problem with remaining too close to the source material (especially one now
so visually established thanks to the films); as a developer you're locked into maintaining a level of product consistency, and as High Moon Studios have remained steadfast in the idea The Bourne Conspiracy is the "third tier" on the Bourne shelf (the top being the books and second being the films), it really does seem like they had very little room to branch out the way in which the game played and told its story.
So, here we have a game that actually tries
very hard to look and feel
like the films. However, the problem with this is the film experience is passive, the game isn’t meaning the kinetic pacing of the movies has been utilised here to negative effect.
For the most part, aesthetically the game does have a similar feel to films. The dynamic shaky cam camera is actually really quite good and manages to not
put you off your game. That said, High Moon have tried to keep everything fast paced, allowing very little room to actually get to know the world of Jason Bourne, instead we’re simply dropped into his life and are immediately forced to deal with what’s thrown at us.
On paper, this probably doesn’t sound so bad. After all, it’s similar to what happens in the films; Bourne is given some form of task and is then forced to deal with it in the only way he knows how – it’s reflex for him and so dynamic thinking works in conjunction with whatever action he is performing – the two are fundamentally the same so we know he reacts upon instinct, and that reaction is almost always right. This doesn’t work for the game though, as almost everything you need to do is pretty much lined up for you. You have to run from point A to B and deal with what’s in the middle with a very limited set of tools.
As anyone who has seen the films will attest, Bourne’s charm over Bond is his ability to utilise the world around him as he sees fit. He has no gadgets and no back up. High Moon have thought of this, but instead of offering a dynamic set of real-world tools, there are only a handful of items strewn about conflict areas that Bourne can use. This is where the major problem arises. This is a game that is anything but
what we’ve come to expect from games. There is very little room to think outside the box and as soon as you understand the game’s play formula, you’re just going through the motions. And really, this would only be beneficial to anyone ardently interested in the Bourne chronology.
Every single time I fired this up to give it another chance, I could only think of how the Bourne story and mission-drive would be perfect if married to an open-world game like Assassin’s Creed. The Bourne book and film formula combined with information gathering and decision-making as a result (on a far more robust level than what we saw with Assassin’s Creed) would have been perfect, and given Assassin’s Creed’s combat and movement system are based exclusively
on fast-paced movement and context sensitive action, would have kept the Bourne films’ visual stamp more than intact.
Overall, the biggest problem here is the mismarriage between license consistency and gameplay. As a result of attempting to stay true to the films’ pedigree, The Bourne Conspiracy comes through scathed with a lack of dynamic play, originality and freedom. Every path is riddled with hard fail quick time events where missing a button prompt is an instant fail which, ironically in keeping with the film ethos, completely negates Bourne’s ability to get out of almost every situation regardless.
All of this ends up feeding pure frustration, which in itself is not helped by a less-than-average graphical presentation and the lack of Matt Damon’s likeness (though, that’s hardly High Moon’s fault) and all results in a game that, with the best of intentions, has failed utterly to deliver what it set out to do. I’m not the biggest progenitor of making every single game a sandbox open-world title, but after seeing the ridiculous gameplay and freedom restrictions present here, The Bourne Conspiracy makes a strong case for passing rule most new games should have a reasonably big world to play in.
Fans of this series who felt nothing was fully tied up with the last film or through any of the books might be able to put themselves through this, but it’d be stretch as far as I’m concerned. The kinetic camera and take-down animations are the only
elements redeemable here, otherwise, this game is best left alone.