Spawned from the hands of seasoned writer Robert Ludlum, the Bourne novels made the world take notice when they jumped to the big screen. Featuring visceral action scenes, frenetic camerawork, and an expert cast, the next and most logical step for the franchise would be to make it interactive. Enter The Bourne Conspiracy on the PlayStation 3. No sequel, no Matt Damon-likeness, but still an attempt to put the player into the roll of the amnesiac killing machine that is Jason Bourne. Would it be awesome to control that kind of power? To have at your disposal the kind of close-range combat skills that previously made movie crowds squeal with sick delight?
If you're looking for a short, straightforward action-adventure based on a great character, look no further than The Bourne Conspiracy
It's this premise that drives Bourne's adventure as he attempts to make sense of his past to gain control over his future. Now here's the kicker: for everything that makes the game interesting, there's something that holds it back. Bourne's most touted game mechanic - the hand-to-hand combat - is a perfect example of this. You engage in standard combat in order to build towards brutal takedowns, and the more meter you have, the more enemies you can incapacitate. While standard and running takedowns are well choreographed and make skillful use of the environment, they aren't enough to make the other parts of close-range combat tolerable: a series of punch combos, a slow but powerful kick, and blocking. That's about it. I found that straight jabbing at specific intervals made it simple to build meter and defeat difficult bosses (who require way too many takedowns to kill). Disappointing, but much easier than dealing with the prescribed order of combat – Bourne attacks, then blocks, then attacks, then takedown, repeat.
So what do I do with my hands when they aren't busting skulls? How about shooting all sorts of high-powered guns? The game offers up plenty of gun variety, endless supplies of ammo, and destructible objects. It also offers glitch-ridden and rather dumb AI and gameplay that has been seen and done better on titles such as Drake's Fortune and Metal Gear Solid 4. For the most part, The Bourne Conspiracy is built for speed. What this means for gunfights is that you don't have to play it safe. Just grab a shotgun or automatic weapon, and recreate your favorite John Woo gunfights. With the addition of Bourne Instinct, you can auto-lock on and cycle through enemies on the fly. If you're having trouble popping a pesky terrorist, blow up the car he's hiding behind. Outside of combat, Bourne Instinct will show you what doors to go through, locks to pick, and alarms to disable. Combined with a map-based checkpoint system, navigating through each level is quick and perfectly mindless.
The problem is you either fight hand-to-hand or with guns. Period. There's no way to disengage enemies in the middle of a brawl and cap them. It's completely counterintuitive to the game's otherwise break-neck pacing because hand-to-hand combat is often much slower than shootouts, and can completely kill your momentum. Even more frustrating is getting shot at while trying to finish off a close-range enemy. In following the new action formula, The Bourne Conspiracy also has its share of quick-time events, previously seen in Resident Evil 4, Drake's Fortune, and basically everywhere. The solid checkpoint system ensures that you won't have to redo entire levels, but it would have been more exciting to actually do the work than just pushing a button. There's also a lone driving level where Bourne zips around in a Mini, which only serves as filler.
I did find The Bourne Conspiracy to be pretty average, though there are glimpses here and there as to what it could have been (or could be in a sequel). The takedowns are bad-ass. The rest of the close-range fighting is stiff and uninspiring. Gun combat is relatively quick thanks to Bourne Instinct, tons of ammo, and destructible objects, but it just isn't that fun, and the transition from shooting to hand-to-hand is too disjointed. If you're looking for a short, straightforward action-adventure based on a great character, look no further than The Bourne Conspiracy. However, you may be better off just skipping this adventure in lieu of superior PlayStation 3 fare.