Quantum of Solace is Activision's first Bond title, and we were invited to an event in London where we had the chance to try out the game for ourselves, interview one of the team from Treyarch and grab a stash of never-before-seen images for your viewing pleasure.
The PR event was held in Kingsly Street, a stone's throw from SCEE's offices and - ironically I thought - three doors down from Lasenby House! Did they plan that? Who knows...
We got a chance to speak with the very accommodating Adam Gascoine, Co-Design Director for Treyarch.
[PS3A] Adam, thanks for sparing us some time. This is Activision's first Bond game, and it's one of those franchises that has hardcore fans who want everything to be 'just so'. How did that pressure affect the development?
[AG] Actually, it's been a hindrance and a benefit. The real benefit is that since people can give such great feedback on forums these days, we can gain information you would usually have to spend a huge amount of time an money garnering.
First and foremost, we wanted to make sure this really felt like you were playing Bond. Bond is a marksman. If you want to shoot someone in the chest, that shot really ought to smack them dead in the chest. If you want to shoot their arm, you ought to be able to do that with deadly accuracy.
To get the mix right we made sure that each member of the team was a Bond fan first and a game developer second. It really helped us ensure that the game was built with the right feel and attention to detail. We also made sure that the team had people that really know how to 'hold' a camera, so that we're not just creating an FPS but something that has cinematic presence too.
Whenever we think of Bond games everyone always mentions Goldeneye, of course. The thing is, if you look at Goldeneye now it doesn't look that special, so we quizzed fans to find out what it was about Goldeneye 'back then' so we could learn why it was so good for it's time. We think that shows in the final product.
[PS3A] The game is built with the CoD4 engine, as is your other title Call of Duty: World at War. Do you think the iW engine is going to be as big as Unreal over time, with dozens of titles in development all at once?
[AG] I'm not sure it'll go as far as Unreal. With that engine, all they do is develop the engine all the time, whereas we're using iW's engine whilst developing the games.
However, although we're using the CoD4 engine it's pretty much a modified and tweaked version in any case. We've pulled in all the best bits from iW's engine but then played around with it to ensure it feels right in this context.
For example, we have the third-person view and cinematic moments to help tell the story. The biggest difference is probably the AI system. In Cod4, the enemies were programmed to pop-up in certain places, but we've spent a lot of time adding in enemy AI so that they don't always do exactly the same thing every time.
Sure, we've got enemies that appear in the same places when you play the levels through, but the AI means that they may decide to attack you in a different way when you've chosen the same cover spots, keeping the game fresh each time through.
We're also pushing things much further. Some of our scenes have over a million polygons going on all at once, which is way more than was used in CoD4.
[PS3A] The camera is interesting to us. Did you put a third-person view in specifically to remind people they were actually Bond himself? Is it there to ensure people realise they are playing the part rather than just another FPS?
[AG] Absolutely. Whilst it wouldn't be a bad thing to have 'Call of Duty 4 with different maps' in some ways, we really wanted to make sure you got a different experience with Quantum of Solace. I've become a big fan of the SOCOM series of late. I didn't really like tactical shooters before that, but it has opened up new doors for me personally and we wanted to give the game a new look and feel rather than just being yet another FPS.
You're not just any old hero in Quantum of Solace, you're a very specific hero and we needed to make sure the player was reminded of that regularly to make the experience more immersing.
[PS3A] Bond is all about the 3 G's - Guns, Gadgets and Girls. If we add in Games as a fourth, what priority would you put those in?
First and foremost we're a games developer, so I'd have to make Games my number one!
Guns comes second. We've put some really fun weapons in Quantum of Solace.
Then Girls. Actually, I think we've done a great job with the models we've created for the girls in the game. I think they look pretty damn hot, and we're featuring the real likenesses of key actresses like Olga Kurylenko.
Finally, Gadgets has to come fourth. When the makers of the Bond movies talked with us about the new Bond, they explained that Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace didn't really feature the gadgets any longer. Bond is a more visceral, athletic character, relying on his expertise and experience rather than watches with lasers, and we wanted to ensure we followed their lead on that. Of course, he's a technical wizard, but you won't find the gadgets of old appearing in the new movies or games. We really do believe in the licence and it's important to match the movies, so if they decide to bring them back in the future, we'll follow that direction.
[PS3A] So did you get to stick ping-pong balls on Olga yourself?
[AG] Unfortunately not, but we did have her in a stocking cap and stuck dots all over her head to capture here face and expressions!
[PS3A] Talking of Casino Royale, and after having seen the 'construction site' level in our playthrough, I'm guessing that movie makes an appearance in this game and it might involve some parkour?
[AG] Definitely. Quantum of Solace is the first ever Bond sequel and is designed to start off where the last film finished. We come back to that scene in Casino Royale as a flashback at a pertinent moment in the game to explain why Bond is the person he is, and it does involve free running as you suggested.
We had to be careful with that because you have Mirror's Edge coming out, so our free running is paced differently. The game is an FPS at heart, so we bring the parkour in as a 'pacer' to mix up the action and provide narrative, much like the AC-130 gunship provides that break in Call of Duty 4.
A standard movie licence would have probably brought in a driving game at that point, but we found that we couldn't do it really well or that it was fun, so we went a different route and made sure the quality of the game stays high. Not just another shoddy movie licence, basically.
[PS3A] So there's no vehicles at all in Quantum of Solace?
[AG] No. They were in the original design but when we prototyped them, we found that they just didn't add anything to the gameplay. We had gadgets in the original design too, but they didn't make the cut because we wanted to stay true to the licence.
Removing vehicles is a risky one for a Bond game, just because most people expect to drive an Aston Martin at some point throughout the campaign. We hope that gamers will appreciate this would have been less fluid and would have felt 'tacked on' instead of the experience we've been able to create without them.
[PS3A] So what is your favourite Bond movie?
[AG] Honestly, it is now Quantum of Solace because I've seen it, but until that it was the last one. Casino Royale was brilliant, and I've seen it loads of times now. Daniel Craig is definitely my favourite Bond now. I don't know whether it's just that I'm a 'new is good' type of guy, but I really feel he has taken the character much further than anyone before, even Sean Connery.
[PS3A] Did you have to push all those extra polygons just to model his pout?
[AG] Actually, yeah we did, but not in the way you're thinking! This character went through some unbelievable changes during development, and the movie studio were great in giving us really honest feedback on how to make him look better. It was actually hard for us to hear some of the things they said about the early models, but it was good to get such direct and incisive feedback on how Bond should look.
Our thanks to Adam for a great interview.
Quantum of Solace does play and feel like Call of Duty 4 when you're in a multi-player match, and this is no bad thing considering it was everyone's Game of the Year. The cover system works well and allows you to use tactics not offered in CoD4, and some of the game modes are really good fun.
We particularly liked The Golden Gun, where you fight to gain control of said weapon. The Golden Gun in question is a super-lethal handgun that obliterates anything close to it's hit point, and it makes for a great game mode that keeps you on your toes at all times.
Other MP game modes we tried out include Bond vs. Bond team deathmatches and Territory, which plays like Headquarters in CoD4.
The action is slick and smooth, the weapons are great and varied and the addition of the third-person cover mode ups the ante over CoD4. We'll have even more on Quantum of Solace soon, but in the meantime we think Activision and Treyarch are on to a real winner, especially for those people that have had enough of rotating through Prestige Mode for the fifth/tenth/twentieth time.
Check out the gallery below for never-before-seen screenshots and concept art.
You can pre-order Quantum of Solace now
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Labels: news, Playstation 3, PS3, Quantum of Solace