From Russia With Love - PSP - Review

In a world filled with Sam Fishers, Solid Snakes, Gabe Logans and even Jack Baur, when it comes to secret government agents it's James Bond that brings charm and class to the spy game. While EA has brought us a few Bond titles, two of them featuring Pierce Brosnan, this is the first time it will bring back the actor that first donned the fancy tuxedo back in the early '60s. That’s right, Sean Connery is back in the role of 007 and the game is based on the most exciting chapter in the long line of James Bond movies. From Russia with Love has already been released on home consoles but now PSP owners will get their chance to play out Bond’s most daring adventure yet.

 

Starting in classic Bond style, James Bond finds himself on a mission to protect the beautiful daughter of an Ambassador only to find himself going up against the usual SPECTRE goons. Once again, he saves the day and gets the girl but his adventures don’t end there. It seems that a gorgeous Russian double agent (played again by Daniela Bianchi) has defected and has requested Bond to meet up with her in Istanbul. She claims to have in her possession a Soviet decoding device, codenamed Lektor, and plans to deliver it to him and him alone. It isn’t too long before 007 becomes involved in an intricate and dangerous plot that will have him go up against a number of enemies.

The game’s story is told in stages that pretty much cover the key events in the movie while adding extra scenes with characters not seen in the movie, as well as omitting some classic scenes in the process. How fun would it have been to play out the scene where the main villain piloting a helicopter is chasing Bond? Unfortunately, scenes like that are missing from this game but then again some other memorable scenes have been included in the game, like the gun battle in the gypsy camp or the train ride sequence. These scenes make for the best classic moments in the game. You’ll even get to interact with Miss Moneypenny and M in MI6 headquarters for a quick briefing and to test out Q’s various gadgets.

Speaking of gadgets, you’ll have in your inventory useful items that help you throughout various stages in the game. You’ll have a Laser Watch that can cut through glass or ignite flammable objects, a Q-Copter that is used to get to those hard to reach areas or can be used as a mobile bomb and the Q-Dart that explodes into several little darts to take out more than one target. The Serum Gun is used to confuse your enemies, allowing Bond to take out enemies using his melee attacks (an action that earns you points good towards upgrading your weapons and gadgets). You’ll be thankful for these gadgets as well as the ability to perform several melee attacks since ammo is scarce in this version. Even in the opening level you’re forced to go up against armed bad guys with nothing but your charm and fancy melee attacks.

 

When you do have ammo, you’ll have a hard time shooting enemies thanks to the targeting system. The shooting reticule also doesn’t manage to lock on the threats that are a lot closer so you’ll be thankful for the Bond Focus feature that gives you control over your aim via a small yellow circular reticule. The controls are actually not bad at all considering the fact that a second analog stick is absent. Bond can crouch for cover, press against the wall and even perform an evasive roll. When performing a melee attack, a button will flash and if you press it on time Bond will knock out the enemy and earn points. The familiar Bond Challenges are back, highlighting specific moments that also earn you points. Think of Bond Challenges as secret secondary objectives. 

The game also adds plenty of variety and you will get to do things like strap on a jetpack and take on a helicopter to heading up a roof to take out enemies with a sniper rifle. Unfortunately, a number of flaws ruin these great concepts. The camera, for example, doesn’t give you the best view and if you’re not quick enough to manually swing the camera around you’ll get killed by an unseen enemy. The framerate is also not the smoothest, often stuttering heavily enough that the enemy that was in the back suddenly is standing a lot closer. Even the game’s multiplayer mode is a disappointment.

On the graphical front, From Russia with Love is pleasant to look at … that is until the ugly graphical glitches pop up. While there’s the usual clipping issues found in the PS2 version, the worst part is the framerate stutter that makes enemies suddenly pop up closer. What the game does right is the environments that feel straight out of the movie and, of course, gives the game its 1960s charm. The real treat comes in controlling a Bond that looks exactly like a young and dashing Sean Connery. The characters in the game look good during the in-game action as well as the cutscenes even if it doesn’t look as good as the console version.

 

As far as the sound is concerned, though, Bond may look like Connery but in terms of the newly recorded dialogue, his performance sounds phoned in. The other performances, especially those from Daniela Bianchi, Natasha Bedingfield and Maria Menounos, are done beautifully. There’s voice clips from the late Bernard Lee (as M) and Pedro Armendariz. The soundtrack is straight from the film itself and its wonderfully vintage. The sound effects are wonderfully loud and work beautifully throughout the game.  

Unfortunately, From Russia with Love is a poorly translated portable action game that doesn’t rise above its various faults. Despite its classic star and the occasional fun Bond moments that are scattered throughout the game, the framerate problems, the elimination of the driving portions of the console version and a few awkward control problems make this a 007 game you might just want to skip.

Review Scoring Details for From Russia With Love

Gameplay: 6.5
The controls are simplistic but sadly this portable version runs into a number of faults that get in the way of the action. Never mind the framerate stutters, unlike the console version you’ll find a lot less ammo in this version and many of the levels are chopped into short segments. Still there are some great moments in this game that truly pays homage to the movie.

Graphics: 7.5
That’s Sean Connery all right and he looks good on the PSP’s small screen. While the cutscenes are a bit choppy and the occasional graphical glitches pop up during the game, the environments and characters look nicely sharp. Even the visual effects are impressive.

Sound: 7.5
When Entertainment Tonight co-host Maria Menounos does a much better voice acting job than Academy Award winner Sean Connery you know something is wrong. Yet wooden voice acting aside, the voice clips sound good as does the sound effects. The film’s score was magnificent then and is just as magnificent now. 

Difficulty: Medium
The toughest challenge you’ll face in this game is the framerate stutter, awkward targeting and the poor distribution of ammo. You’ll be grateful for the checkpoint saves because you will die a lot in the game especially in the beginning and towards the end.

Concept: 7.5
No offense to Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan but the best Bond in my book will always be Sean Connery and this game brings the younger Mister Connery back in all his suave, sophisticated glory. The Bond Moments are good in this game as are the mini-games and the various neat Q gadgets. While most of the key moments from the film are present, they’re bite-sized compared to the console. The wireless multiplayer mode leaves much to be desired.

Multiplayer: 6.0
Up to six players can play wirelessly using the Ad Hoc connectivity but it’s mainly different variations of the same free-for-all deathmatches. The real treat comes in Flying Ace mode where everyone is using jetpacks and unlocking classic Bond villains to use in multiplayer. Other than that, the multiplayer experience is a pretty bland one.

Overall: 6.9
A step backwards for the 007 franchise, From Russia with Love for the PSP has all the makings of a classic portable action game but it falls short in all the things that could have made this a true joy to play. While it’s great to play through the most exciting moments of such a great Bond film, the game’s various faults just get in the way of enjoying this one. If you’re a true fan of Bond, I suggest you rent the console version instead.

Above Average

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