The Bourne Conspiracy Review
True to the source material, Conspiracy is a title that Bourne fans can't afford to miss
Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy is a third-person action game developed by High Moon Studios and published by Sierra Entertainment for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game is an adaptation of the first movie in the Bourne series which stars Matt Damon. In general, many gamers consider movie-to-game adaptations to be poor, and rightfully so because the effort is usually below par and the goal is to make more money from the franchise while the film is in theatres. However, in the case of Conspiracy, the movie that it’s based on (Bourne Identity) was in theatres 6 long years ago. Could it be just an attempt to make more money from the franchise, or did it simply take this long to find a studio capable of creating a title worthy of the film that’s also fun to play? I can safely say that the latter seems to be the case, as Bourne Conspiracy is an almost perfect film-to-game adaptation, and is one of the best out there together with Chronicles of Riddick. That, in its own right, does not make it an excellent game but it is well worth experiencing for fans of Bourne.
The game puts the player into the shoes of Jason Bourne, a renegade government agent who has lost his memory and tries to find out who he is while staying alive. The story in Conspiracy is nearly perfect – we get to play through some of the most exciting sequences directly from the movie, and follow the story along with cutscenes that perfectly nail the details seen in the film. But the huge bonus of the game is that the player gets to see Bourne in his early days, performing the assassinations that are merely referenced in the films. This way, the developers got a chance to produce a quality licensed product that follows the film to the tee, while also adding tons more locations and experiences that the movie did not provide. Having said that, if you did not see the movie then putting together the overall story could be difficult for players. What is told via cutscenes closely follows the plot of the film but within the game very little is told. Instead, the majority of the storytelling was put into the flashback missions that Bourne executes, so that the players are able to follow along and experience the past life of our character. So if you’ve seen the movie, I can assure you that Conspiracy gets everything right – by adapting the movie perfectly and letting you play through some very detailed and exciting parts, and also by providing the player with new levels and visualizing Bourne’s past – you are fully immersed in the experience.
The trademark way to take out bad guys for Bourne is hand-to-hand combat, and the game has plenty of it. Fighting bad guys is likely one of the best parts of the game, and it is executed in a very thrilling and fun way while keeping the controls simple. There is only the Light attack and Heavy attack buttons (and block), so you can understand that the combo list is very limited. But don’t be discouraged – action is not focused on endlessly punching bad guys while side-stepping. That would be very boring. Instead, you have an action meter which fills with each punch that you land. With a few punches, you reach the first of 3 notches on the meter – which allows you to perform a takedown. Reach three notches –and you can take down 3 enemies at once in an explosive movement that contains three quick time button presses. Takedowns are insanely satisfying, but also impressive. The game features some nice destructible environments that later firefights do well to showcase, but none are as impressive as the takedown damage to the environment. Decide to perform a takedown near a wall? Sure, Bourne performs a few punches to the stomach to destruct the target, and then slams their head full-force into the wall, leaving a huge hole. Fighting in the kitchen? Let Bourne takedown the enemy by smashing their face into the sink and breaking it half. The game world is absolutely filled with destructible objects that Bourne uses to his advantage when performing take downs, and it is very impressive and satisfying to see how well the world interacts during a fight. If you are in the middle of a room and there are no objects nearby, the takedowns are still a joy to watch at Bourne obliterates his enemy right where he stands with a few quick moves and bone crunches. All of the boss fights in the game also feature these takedowns, but they usually require at least 4 takedowns to finally kill them so prepare for some longer fight sequences. You can also perform a running takedown, but there aren’t many levels where enough space is given to run and perform this.
Bourne isn’t the only one who can perform takedowns though. About midway through the game, enemies become stronger and are now able to initiate takedowns themselves – but you have a chance to stop them. Quick time events are used to alert the player that the enemy attempts a takedown, giving you a chance to stop them. The player is given a musical and visual queue when a QTE is coming, and time slows down giving you a chance to block the enemy’s move. A lot of the game is based around these QTE events, including some action sequences and shooting takedowns. They are not terribly difficult to pull off, and do nicely to break up the gameplay. Another addition to gameplay is the guns, which Bourne can pick up off any dead enemies and use them for his own purposes. The gunplay in Conspiracy isn’t very polished, but it is satisfying enough to keep the action flowing. There are few types of weapons, and you can carry one handgun and one main gun at any time. There are regular pistols, silenced pistols, two types of submachine guns, rifles and shotguns. Interestingly enough, even though Bourne often fights enemies that approach him with melee weapons such as knives and batons, you can never pick up or use any kind of melee weapon. There is also a stealth element in the game, but it does not work as intended as nearby enemies are extremely sensitive and will notice your stealth attack on another enemy even from a sharp angle. There is also a driving level straight from the movie which, like the rest of the game, features very detailed environments directly from the film, but it is disappointing because the level is linear and most of the intersections are guarded off with artificial arrow-pointing walls.
While Conspiracy is a great adaptation of the source material, and a solid game in itself, there are still some lingering issues with the player experience. The camera during fist fights is very awkward, and sometimes has serious issues positioning itself in front of the action. It doesn’t get stuck in walls or anything serious, but it often floats to the wrong side or above of the fight, leaving you practically blind and unable to track the enemy movement so you can counter-attack. If you get close to an enemy, Bourne will automatically enter hand to hand combat, and there is no way to leave it. This becomes problematic later on in the game, when most of the levels focus on gunplay rather than fist fights. As you accidentally get too close to an enemy and enter a fight, you have to take them out before you can go back to shooting – leaving you exposed to be filled with bullets by the other enemies in the level while you fight this one guy. The loading times between levels and checkpoints are acceptable but the mandatory installation to the hard drive was very long.
Since Conspiracy is a licensed title, many fans will appreciate the accurate attention to detail. While the characters portrayed in the game do not match those from the movie, they still do a great job of pulling off the experience. Voice acting is done well enough, and the sound effects that fill the world are believable. The highlight of the presentation in the game is the licensed soundtrack, which provides you with great background tunes the whole game. The graphics in the game are polished, though some of the facial animations feel a bit robotic. There is no texture pop-ins or glitches that we experienced on either console. The destructible environments in the game explode with very satisfactory and realistic results, and the physics are nicely done as well by using PhysX technology.
Although it has arrived 6 years after the film it is based on, Conspiracy is still worth a look for Bourne fans. It is one of the best adaptations of film found in a game, and though there are some gameplay annoyances, they are easily dismissed if you are looking to have a great time with a kickass character. The licensed material provided is used to a great extend and the attention to detail is astonishing. It is highly recommended that you ignore the fact the game arrived so late after the movie, as it is well worth experiencing and does not feel like a simple cash-in on the franchise. Heck, if it took other film adaptations years after the movie to arrive, but it meant that they would match the quality of Conspiracy and Chronicles of Riddick, then we’d be more than happy to wait.