The most recent James Bond 007 video game, From Russia With Love was released on Sony PSP in April 2006 to many differing reviews. The most obvious factor drawing in many fans to this Bond game was James Bond himself – Sir Sean Connery. Now, after fans have played the game through and through, CBn takes a look back at the various reviews of From Russia With Love…the good and the bad.
Two very different types of control system are on offer here although we’d urge you to select the former if you want to achieve anything in the game. This controls your character with the analogue stick whilst the other buttons take care of weapons, reloading, crouching and other movements. The other way is the reverse but this makes the whole thing feel considerably less responsive. Overall though the it is a testament to the developers and unlike the majority of console to handheld conversions you don’t feel like you are losing out on too much due to a compromised control system. Upgrades are also available to all your weapons by collecting stars although you’ll have to do some sharp shooting to acquire these.
While many handheld versions of console games suffer from gaming elements either watered down or extracted completely, From Russia From Love arrives on the PSP almost completely intact with added bonus missions and multiplayer to boot. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable action romp too and in some ways it’s superior to its console cousins mostly due to the extras. Where it does come unstuck though is with the final polish and presentation – you do get the feeling that the games latter stages were a little rushed. Nor is there any sign of the famous Bond cars and while the average action fan will no doubt overlook this, fans of the series will be harder to please.
The multiplayer experience reflects the rest of the game, in that it’s fun, simple to pick up, varied and yet a little rough. You can choose four match types, including the classic deathmatch and domination modes, as well as a few jetpack-based modes. Each match is fun, different and easy to set up and start. Plus, you can even play a few of the modes alone by using the game’s AI bots. This in particular helps elevate From Russia with Love from other multiplayer PSP games. Making things even better are the maps, which boast pretty good design, traps and the like. There aren’t many (you can choose four) but three of them are exclusive to the PSP build and they make for good matches.
Having said all of that, From Russia with Love does suffer from a few issues. For starters, the camera tends to get stuck behind walls, tables and the like. Not all the time, but it happens more than it should. Certain levels in the game feel rushed, too, and you’ll therefore notice tears and a bunch of other graphical glitches. Along the same lines, the entire experience suffers from poor performance, so you’ll rarely notice a stable framerate. All in all, these aren’t game-shattering problems. It’s nothing that a little extra development time couldn’t have easily fixed.
Interestingly enough, the best parts of From Russia With Love are the ones that EA managed to successfully translate from the film. The shoot-out with the Russian soldiers in the gypsy camp, the daring heist of the Lektor from the Russian consulate… These are the sequences that are the most memorable and enjoyable by far, not necessarily because of how great the gameplay is, but because they appropriately stretch out a few minute-long film sequences into a 10- to 15-minute level without sacrificing the great bits from the film. Fortunately, there are several of these sequences in the game, although there are less of them than there were in the console versions. All the driving missions from the console game have been cut here, which is really unfortunate, since some of those were among the most enjoyable levels.
The action is wrapped up in a “classic” era Bond aesthetic, with Sean Connery in the lead role shooting his way through the plot of From Russia With Love, re-edited for videogames. As a result, the plot becomes more hackneyed after a few useless scenes/levels are tacked on, a bunch of faceless goons (great for shooting!) are added to the cast list, and you’ll spend a lot of time with a jetpack that wasn’t actually in the movie. Actually, it’s strange that EA didn’t just pick the over-the-top spectacle of Thunderball over From Russia With Love in the first place. The result is that the game walks the line between “retro” and “campy” — frequently crossing over to the camp side for a brisk jog. It’s strange, but the Bond personality can still be considered an asset.
Sadly, the horrible control scheme puts a damper on this dapper British agent. Definitely watch the movie, strongly consider playing the PS2 and Xbox versions, and try out From Russia With Love on the PSP only if you haven’t already had enough Bond moments. Otherwise, this is one James Bond experience you can play without.