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Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy

It's easy to pass off Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy as too little, too late. That would be a mistake. Possibly the least-anticipated game of the year—the most recent installment in the film franchise vanished from theaters nearly a year ago—Bourne Conspiracy admittedly elicits low expectations, which may be why it transcends them handily. Perhaps arriving late to the table can actually help a game. (See Sega's wretched—and perfectly timed—Iron Man as a counterpoint to this theory.) Instead of feeling like a tossed-off movie tie-in, Bourne succeeds because of its unassuming nature, lack of ambition, and simple but perfectly executed hand-to-hand combat.

Centered around the events of The Bourne Identity—the developers have fleshed out the more memorable scenes from the film, like Bourne's U.S. Embassy visit in Paris, the assassination attempt aboard Wombosi's yacht, etc., while including a few entirely fictional sequences—the game wisely never tries to do anything terribly ambitious. Instead, it offers a mélange of near-primal gameplay staples: fighting, shooting, and driving. The driving fares the worst of the three by far, and it should have been left on the editing-room floor. Shooting is also a relatively pedestrian experience. But in the game's hand-to-hand combat, something exciting happens. Bad-ass moves practically flow off your fingertips—press enough buttons, and something incredibly cool is guaranteed to happen—making you feel, if only briefly, very much like human weapon Jason Bourne.

Beyond the game: The only actress from the films to contribute her voice and likeness is Franka Potente, a.k.a. "Marie." Matt Damon, most notably, is absent, though not unaccounted for: While in negotiations to play the character in the game, he reportedly said it was "too violent" for his tastes, and backed out.


Worth playing for: The aforementioned fisticuffs get even better when you pull off the game's context-sensitive moves. If you wind up near a microwave (or a shovel stuck in the ground, or a fire extinguisher), you can pull off some super-moves that would make even Kimbo Slice cringe.

Frustration sets in when: The driving segments are about as much fun as an eye exam at the DMV. Suffer through them, and get back to the fisticuffs.

Final judgment: The Bourne Conspiracy succeeds for one simple reason: It makes players feel almost obscenely powerful. Though that may sound like an oversimplification, too many game developers neglect this all-too-essential element.

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