To fans of writer Robert Ludlum and Matt Damon, The Bourne Conspiracy probably looks like a typo, since it's neither the name of any of the spy novels Ludlum wrote nor the name of one of the Damon-starring films they inspired. The name is neither a mistake, nor some clever marketing person's way or repackaging the books or films into a single volume; it's the name of a Sierra-published game for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 that, according to High Moon's Sean Levatino, the title's Senior Technical Game Designer, will take fans of both Ludlum and Damon further into Jason Bourne's head.
Crispy Gamer: I know a lot has been written about this game already, but for those who missed all that, what is The Bourne Conspiracy? What kind of game is it?
Sean Levatino: The Bourne Conspiracy is a very cinematic action game. The title, The Bourne Conspiracy, doesn't actually exist in the Bourne universe, and the game is actually a companion to both the books and the movie. It takes key moments from the first movie [2002's "The Bourne Identity"] and adds a brand-new backstory.
Crispy Gamer: I was under the impression that the game was entirely set before the movies. Did that change?
Levatino: No, I think it's always been that way. We have the rights to the entire universe, the books and the movies, and we didn't want to just recreate one of the movies, so we came up with this idea.
Crispy Gamer: Mathematically speaking, how much of the game takes place during the movie and how much of it takes place before the movie?
Levatino: I think about 60 percent of the game is set before the first movie. As Jason Bourne moves through the events of the movie, he has flashbacks to things that happened before he lost his memory. The game starts where the first movie began, with him floating in the water, but while the movie went straight into him being rescued, the game flashes back two days prior and you play through the mission that led you to be in the water in the first place.
Crispy Gamer: The game, if we can be overly simplistic, is a mix of third-person shooting and melee combat.
Levatino: Right. Except that there aren't "shooting areas" and "hand-to-hand combat areas," there are just "combat areas." You can choose whether you want to fight or shoot, and you can move between them seamlessly. I can shoot a guy, run towards a second guy and do a takedown, then use him as a human shield while I shoot a third guy.
Crispy Gamer: What third-person shooters would you say your shooting is like, and what fighters do you think your fighting is like?
Levatino: For hand-to-hand, I'd almost say Soulcalibur without the weapons because there are just a couple buttons -- a heavy attack, a light attack, a block button -- but there are a lot of combos you can do, and it's very easy to chain combos together. As for the shooting, Gears of War was obviously an inspiration. We're using the Unreal engine, and so a lot of the cover work came from Gears -- though in Gears you have to always be in cover, and in our game you don't have to do that; you can just use it when you want. Our cover is also destroyable, so it might not always be there.
Crispy Gamer: The Bourne movies also had some cool driving scenes. Will the game?
Levatino: Yes. We have one driving level which is a recreation of the Paris car chase from the first movie, the one with the Mini Cooper. We went for a very arcade-y approach with it.
Crispy Gamer: Are there any other kinds of gameplay types in the game -- stealth sections, puzzles, maybe a rhythmic dance scene?
Levatino: No, there are no puzzles or platforming elements, it's purely an action game. There are moments where you can sneak around, but it's not an espionage game.
Crispy Gamer: Is there anything in the game that calls back to the books but not the films?
Levatino: No, but the books are very different from the movies. The books actually take place in the '60s and the '70s, and a lot of Jason Bourne's character came from the fact that he was a Vietnam veteran.
Crispy Gamer: Paul Oakenfold is doing the game's score, and one of the songs he did features Cee-Lo from Gnarls Barkley. How did that come about?
Levatino: Paul Oakenfold's song "Ready Steady Go" was used in the movie, in the chase scene, so we originally tried to license the song. In talking to him about it, it kind of grew into him doing original music for the game.
Crispy Gamer: You didn't, however, get Matt Damon to do the voice of Jason Bourne for the game, and the character doesn't look like him, either. How come?
Levatino: Well, while we were in development, he came out and said he was done with the character, and since we're not a recreation of the movie, we're trying to be a companion piece to the books and the movies, it didn't make any sense for it. Because if it ends up being like James Bond, and some other actor takes over the role, and we have Matt Damon's likeness... We do have Franka Potente's voice in the game, though not her likeness -- I don't know why -- but she recorded new lines for the game.
Crispy Gamer: Who is doing Jason Bourne's voice?
Levatino: We have a voice actor we've worked with before, but I don't know his name.
Crispy Gamer: The game is single-player only. Was there ever any thought to doing some multiplayer, either co-op or competitive?
Levatino: Oh, of course we discussed it at the beginning, but our big goal was to make a really cinematic, well-paced, exciting single-player action game. As we were working on the game's systems, the hand-to-hand and the shooting, we realized it wouldn't have worked for multiplayer. We didn't want to do multiplayer if it was just going to feel tacked-on.
Crispy Gamer: Finally, Robert Ludlum wrote a lot of books that didn't have Bourne in their names. Has there been any thought to adapting one of them into a game?
Levatino: It's something we've obviously looked at, but it really depends on what happens with The Bourne Conspiracy.