|007: From Russia With Love (2005)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP
UPDATE: Electronic Arts' latest reimagination of everybody's favorite secret agent has officially gone portable. Now available on Sony's PSP handheld system, "007: From Russia With Love" offers the same exact gameplay you'll find on the console versions, as well as a Wi-Fi compatible multiplayer mode that supports up to six players at a time. This may not be worth a double dip for gamers who already own a copy for their Xbox or PS2, but sometimes it's hard to resist saving the world on the go.
The James Bond video game franchise has to be one of the longest running. Even the Atari 2600 had a James Bond game put out by Parker Brothers that managed to bleep and bloop out the classic theme while the player got to play through different levels inspired by various Bond flicks. Indeed, the Bond character itself is the foundation for any secret spy with gadgets game you’d probably care to name. But, like the movies themselves, the Bond games have been either good or really exciting.
EA’s prior Bond adventure, “Everything or Nothing” was not only one of those really exciting chapters, but probably the very last time you’ll ever see Pierce Brosnan associated with the character, since he’s been replaced for the next movie. However, EA’s present move with the franchise features a retro step back in that it features none other than Sean Connery himself playing Bond once again. But before you get images of “Never Say Never Again” in your heads, rest assured that the game version of “From Russia With Love” is classy.
Yes, it’s the original James Bond back in the early ‘60s with an arsenal of gadgets that could actually work (Belt buckle repelling line! Eardrum shattering noisy cufflinks!) and enough trouble with the Commies to keep the Cold War warm and comfy. It’s indeed quite a grand idea for EA to pull this one off, but does “From Russia With Love” pull it off without a hitch? Sadly, no. If you want full-tilt and nearly flawless action, you’re gonna have to stick with Pierce, baby.
So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. Firstly, it just feels like Bond should run a couple steps faster on this game. Maybe I’ve been playing too much “Half-Life 2” lately, but my thumb kept trying to find a button to make Sean run instead of jog. Well, there is no such button, and therefore the action feels a little on the sluggish side. Next, there’s the car chases. “From Russia With Love” has some of the worst car physics ever put into a bond game. The damn things just can’t seem to grip the road too well, making the player feel like he’s driving something that turns on a buck fifty. There’s no smoothness to it, and what’s more, there are definite graphical hiccups when the story is progressing during the chases due to the console accessing the disc. Not pretty at all.
And well, this one might be blasphemy, but hearing the current voice of Sean Connery speaking for a ‘60s young James Bond just doesn’t sound right. The guy’s voice is rawer now, and his accent a whole lot thicker as the years have gone on. However, his character model is so life-like in the face that too many points can’t be taken away here. It’s just kind of jarring every time Bond opens his mouth is all.
All right, so what about the good stuff, then? Well, firstly, there’s the all-new “Bond Focus” maneuver that lets you hit a button and really zoom in on the part of the bad guy that you want to shoot. Say some dudes are coming in through the glass ceiling on ropes. If you really wanna be cool, hit the Bond Focus button and shoot their ropes instead of their bodies, and you’ll be awarded with some special points. It’s a nice touch, and certainly something that works a lot easier than, say, the “bullet time” feature on the “May Payne” games.
There’s also plenty of opportunity to be stealthy and sneak up on your enemies and take them down. Bond will execute some fancy karate-type knockouts when you do, and the visuals are pretty exciting during these moments. You can also knock over tables and hide behind them during fights which is a nice touch, too. Also at your disposable is an impressive array of guns such as pistols, assault rifles, rocket launchers, and shotguns to name a few. You’ll also get to play with some of Q’s toys like the Q copter that you can fly into small remote areas such as air ducts and get to places you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
Also, there’s a nice kind of RPG element here where you get to search through file cabinets and the like looking for extra points. These extra points, along with ones you get for using special stealth moves or Bond Focus actions, can be used to then upgrade your guns, gadgets, and armor. It’s a nice touch that adds a little something else to the game, and is cool in that it’s not hard to get the points needed for the upgrades. In all the game’s action is well-balanced and the single-player storyline will keep you going for a while.
There is no online play, so multiplayer is reduced to the gametap. Not that this is necessarily terrible as “From Russia With Love” truly feels like a single player experience more than something you’d wanna pull out and battle online with the rest of the world. Still, some might find fault here with the fact and therefore there might not be as much replayability for those folks.
Overall, though, “From Russia With Love” is a decent entry into the Bond game history, if a little rusty in places. As stated earlier, the Sean Connery model looks fantastic, and what’s more, the camera control for Bond runs really smoothly in this game. The musical score is classy and right out of the old school music books, and the rest should appeal to all of those who have been looking forward to a classic James Bond adventure. It might not be the best Bond ever, but “From Russia With Love” does its retro dance without tripping too much.