The game is a third person action game with a large emphasis on hand-to-hand combat and shooting as well as having a single driving level. You play through some of Bourne's previous missions as well as helping him piece together his identity and find out about his past. If you haven't seen the first film, then you will likely find the game difficult to follow as most of the exposition is condensed down into very short cut-scenes which play between the levels.
The game's graphics are generally good, using a version of the Unreal engine. The environments are realistic and there is a healthy selection of different locations; including an airport, a dock and an embassy in Switzerland. The music as well is subtle but familiar from the films, though some pieces don't tend to fit in as well, especially on the final level of the game.
The gameplay itself consist of even parts shooting and fighting interspersed by "action cut-scenes". One of the first things you use is the hand-to-hand combat and it fares pretty well. Whenever anyone engages you for some fisticuffs the camera moves out to the side in a traditional beat ‘em up position. You have a button to block, then heavy and light punches and kicks assigned to two other buttons. After a series of successful blows on an opponent you can build up a special takedown move based on the amount of adrenaline you collect. With a full bar it is possible to incapacitate up to 3 opponents which looks very impressive.
The combat itself captures the brutality and realism of the films very well indeed and is genuinely exhilarating. Throughout the course of the game I beat someone to submission with a hardback book, used an enemy's head to demolish a rather unsightly concrete barrier and transformed someone's arm into a pincushion using a biro. Whilst there isn't a huge range of combos, the system works well and it is easy to grasp the basics. The animation is very slick and impressive and really shows what good motion capture can achieve. Ragdoll effects are also a good addition which just adds another element of brutality to the proceedings.
Sadly the same cannot be said for the shooting mechanics. The third person camera is far too close to your character and is very sluggish to manoeuver. This makes rapid aiming a nightmare. A very basic cover system is also frustrating at times with the action button making you either enter or leave cover which can be fiddly. The lack of weapons is also a problem, with a pistol, sub-machine gun and a series of identical rifles and shotguns rarely making any difference to gun fights.
At times the transition between fighting and shooting is frustrating. Bizarrely as soon as you come within 6 feet, enemies see combat a better option than unloading the rest of their gun into you which shatters the realism. However at times, you can be stuck in combat with an opponent when one of his colleagues will stand and unload a shotgun into you, leaving you to watch as your health plummets and you inevitably die. Similarly, in hand-to-hand, the enemies conveniently queue up to fight you one on one, occasionally chipping in the odd punch, which again doesn't help the realism.
The checkpoint system of the game often makes you repeat large sections again and again, especially on harder difficulties in the later levels. The quick time cut-scenes are also very frequent and can frustrate but usually they can be retried again. Yet this means you just repeat sections twice to learn the correct moments and end up watching sequences numerous times. The game doesn't even let you snipe, instead reducing sniping to a series of button presses, something which I can't recall happening in another game.
Perhaps my biggest issue is that the game seems to miss the point. Bourne was always someone who seemed realistic and believable. He was never some sort of James Bond character who killed hundreds of people and pulled off flashy stunts. Bourne was forced to use his initiative to escape and would flee rather than fight unless he had to. However, in this game you face off hundreds of guards in several sections, mowing them all down and surviving ridiculous odds, which feels out of character. Bourne also was famed for his resourcefulness yet he never picks up the melee weapons of his enemies, which again makes no real sense.
The driving level of the game is also a slight misstep with the car having strange physics and collisions having little or no weight. The checkpoint system works well and puts some pressure on you, but the level isn't too difficult despite there only being one driving section in the game.
Overall, The Bourne Conspiracy is an average action game which has some good ideas but is let down by some strange game design and a few flaws. The short length of 11 missions means it never outstays its welcome, but with limited replay value this is probably best rented rather than bought.
The Bourne Conspiracy (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Since the Bourne films were adapted into the highly successful film series several years ago, I was always surprised that there weren't any game adaptations. However, the Bourne Conspiracy is an adaption which loosely follows the plot of the first film as well as offering some new elements worked into the story as additional flashbacks.