From Russia With Love
System: Playstation 2 (Also on Xbox, Gamecube)
Players: 1-4 (Split Screen Deathmatch)
Ah From Russia With Love. “If I were doing the review I’d probably mention the horrible driving portions of the game and some other bits, but since I’m not, find out for yourself! HAH!” Typed not that long ago by some poor soul. Oh wait, it was me. Ah well, you know what they say. Something about not saying anything if you can’t say anything nice, or was that say everything mean or get out of Washington? Anyway, on with the review.
We take you back to last century. A time of Warsaw Pact and NATO, of spy’s and double agents. Nuclear war was only 5 minutes away, and it took a real man to save the world. It took Sean “You’re the man now dawg” Connery! A letter has been received by MI6. A very curious letter. It states that a decoding machine that the west would very much like to get it’s hands on will be literally hand delivered if only James Bond 007 will be the one to pick up the device. The letter is written by a very attractive Russian secretary. Bond, along with the higher ups, are convinced it’s a trap, but the decoding machine is too tempting to blindly ignore. So 007 is sent to Turkey, where the girl (and the decoder) is stationed. Cue action, romance and drama.
I’ll say this much, Sean Connery never looked better.
EA’s previous attempts at making Bond look like the actor portraying him, Pierce Brosnan at the time, have always been good enough, but never as good as Connery looks here. The rest of the game doesn’t look half bad either. Most of the stars from the movie have been digitized and brought to life (many by now brought BACK to life) to reprise their on screen roles. Among them Robert Shaw of Jaws fame and Bernard Lee (M). Not every character fares as well as 007 of course, but you’d expect that.
Many of the levels are designed to look if not exactly like the movie then at the very least in the spirit of the areas of the movie. Some levels, like the Russian Consulate, are exact duplicates of those seen on screen, while others, such as the underground reservoir beneath Istanbul have been jazzed up to make the game more interesting than the quiet two minute walk James and company take in the film.
There’s nothing really wrong with the graphics. The game runs smoothly for the most part and there were no graphical hiccups that I found, but other than the last level, there’s nothing in the game to really say anything about the levels other than they look ok. And that last level, set on a volcanic island, is interesting to look at but not up to the level of grandeur that other real Bond Villain lair’s had. Compared to Goldfinger or Moonraker, it’s just not up to par.
Of course, it’s one thing to make a digital version of Sean Connery and stuff it into a game. It’s a whole other matter to get the man himself to agree to reprise the role which made him a superstar by having him voice new dialog for the game. I’m sure it took no small amount of money to get the man, so I was looking forward to hearing that trademark Scottish brogue deliver some new lines. And I wasn’t disappointed. Well not TOO disappointed anyway. Face it, the man’s voice has changed quite a bit since he first delivered his lines as Bond James Bond. He’s now somewhere close to 80 years old. So when he first steps on screen and asks for his usual, it’s a bit strange to see young Connery and hear old Connery. But then you’re off blasting OCTOPUS commandos and all is forgotten. I think they grabbed most of the spoken lines directly from the film, and only had Connery voice the new scenes at the beginning and end of the game, as the rest sounds exactly like the man in his prime. They got a sound-alike voice for Q, as he’s in the game for longer than he ever was in the movie, and he doesn’t quite sound the same. But then once again you’re quickly scooted off to shoot henchmen and all is forgotten.
After watching the movie before sitting down to review the game I have to admit I made a mistake when I first stated in my column that the game skimped out on using the theme to the movie. They didn’t, they use the theme, or at least one very much like it. What they don’t use is the song “From Russia With Love” by Matt Monro, which is played during the movie. I’m just so used to hearing actual songs at the beginning of the Bond movies that I forgot it wasn’t always that way.
There are a number of different gameplay types to be found in From Russia With Love. First off you have your running around shooting people mode. Then you have your driving madly around Istanbul mode. Next you have your flying a remote helicopter (similar to Everything or Nothing’s Q-Spider). You will also find yourself sitting in a turret shooting things, be it in a jeep or on a boat. Lastly you will find out where Mr Bond gets the Jet Pack he flew in the intro to Thunderball.
Each of these modes, with the exception of the driving sequences, feels good if not great, at the very worst adequate. The driving is just horrid though. The steering is far too sensitive. Placement of special weapon buttons is just awkward and the gameplay itself during these sequences just feel like they are designed to lengthen the game as much as possible, as wave upon wave of Russian cars try to attack you. It seems this is the natural response at EA. Just like in some Medal of Honor games before it, if the level isn’t up to snuff, throw more enemies at the player.
Because each actor has portrayed Bond in a slightly different way, EA has gone and included some new features to make this game feel more like Sean Connery’s rough and tumble version, rather than the Pierce Brosnan version we saw in Everything or Nothing. One of those features is something similar to the hand to hand combat found in Metal Gear Solid 3. You get up close to an opponent, attack and then press the button that appears on screen in time, and you’ll be treated to a stealth attack or a combat takedown. I imagine should we ever see a Roger Moore Bond made into a game we’ll see lots of Judo chopping and witty repartee.
EA also went and included a safe cracking mini-game, although in this case it’s attache cases that you crack. You are presented with a number of buttons that need to be pressed before time expires. It starts off easily enough and gets a tiny bit harder as you go. It gets easier when you realize that you don’t have to wait to press a button twice when it’s on screen if you need two of them. In fact later on it’s required.
There are three levels of difficulty, and I found during my time with the game that medium was probably just a little too easy for me. Most of the time anyway. There are a few boss fights, including one really unique fight in the British consulate. The controls are the real determining factor for difficulty. When you are in complete control of your actions (IE not driving) you can progress quite quickly through the levels.
One last thing on the difficulty. The final boss in the game is far too easy to defeat. Seriously. What the hell?
The designers have included the ability to go back and replay missions, similar to the way Goldeneye did things. Beat it on easy within a certain time, beat it on medium doing a few more things in less time, etc. But they’ve gone and added to that by giving you points for beating levels on higher difficulties and on time. You can spend these points on upgrades to your weapons, extra content in multiplayer (new skins, Dr. No and Goldfinger for example) and more. Of course, multiplayer has returned after disappearing during Everything or Nothing, so there’s always that if you have some friends pop by unexpectedly and your brother has absconded with your Xbox and copy of Halo.
Are you looking for a decent rental? A way to relive the 60’s with your parents? Do you really enjoy the Connery Bond and want to see as much of him in that role as possible? Then this here is probably for you.
This isn’t for you however if you’re looking for an epic gaming experience, or even an average one. The game can be beaten in a weekend at worst, and possesses nothing which might keep your attention focused on it for longer than that weekend.
The story is based on a movie that’s over 40 years old (From Russia With Love is the second official Bond movie, it came out in 1963). The movie itself was based on a book by the same name that first saw print in 1957. In spite of all that though, the game does attempt to be original with the source. The end of the movie is not the end of the game. Indeed, the beginning is different from the movie entirely, with Bond rescuing the British Prime Minister’s daughter after they attempt to kidnap her.
The gameplay while on foot is a pleasant enough experience, but the driving and boating really kill it. I’d like to put more here but really when it comes down to it, I’d be wasting my time and yours by continuing. Here, look at a pretty picture instead.
In the movie the villains aren’t Octopus, but SPECTRE. It seems there are some legal issues surrounding the series so they had to change things around somewhat. This actually makes the designers job easier though, as there are a few scenes in the movie, all of them involving SPECTRE, that aren’t all that useful to the game, and they are cut out thanks to this one fortuitous snip.
Replay Ability: 7/10
Short Attention Span Summary
There is a whole generation of people who think that James Bond is by far the coolest character to ever hit the silver screen. The problem is that generation has for the most part had the kids who are currently playing these games. Much like Star Trek and probably even Star Wars, James Bond has been around a very long time, and is starting to suffer from franchise fatigue. By including Sean Connery, who is almost universally regarded as the best Bond of all time, EA conveniently skipped the whole problem of not making a game while MGM figured out who was going to be the new Bond. I know that I personally was hoping EA would spend the money and do exactly what they’ve done here, make games for all of the movies. The fit seemed perfect to me. A franchise in need of exploitation and EA. They may yet continue making the older movies, but this wasn’t the best attempt. The movie deserved a better game.