Reviewed: November 28, 2005
Released: November 1, 2005
Let’s face it. There hasn’t been a defining Bond game since GoldenEye on the N64. Even when they tried to repackage the “GoldenEye” name with last year’s Rogue Agent game the results were less than stellar. In fact, the only Bond game worth more than a casual look would have to be the impressive Everything or Nothing in early 2004.
So if you can’t move forward, why not recreate an already proven concept, or at least that is what I assume EA was thinking when they decided to dig through the Bond archives looking for new game ideas. Getting Sean Connery to sign on for the deal was just gravy, although I seriously doubt the game would have been made without him.
From Russia With Love is certainly an interesting choice given the broad scope of material to choose from. It’s certainly not my favorite Bond opus. I’m not even sure I have seen the movie in its entirety, although the game's presentation did spark a few suppressed flashbacks.
By picking a vintage adventure the designers are free to focus on classic cars and authentic weapons and even some dated spy gadgetry. In a world dominated by Sam Fisher and Joanna Dark, I have to admit it’s a bit refreshing to get more down to earth with my spy adventuring.
From Russia With Love returns to the 3D action roots that made Everything or Nothing a glorious success. I think we can all agree that if Rogue Agent is any indication, the days of FPS Bond are over. We now get our classic action shooter complete with flick targeting, exciting car chases, boat chases, and even some flight time in a jetpack.
The game closely follows the story of the film spreading the action across 14 core missions and four bonus missions you can unlock by performing above and beyond in the main game. These missions encompass just about every action element ever put into a game.
You have the walking around and shooting things levels with a fantastic target lock that can be cycled with a flick of the stick. Bond also makes use of available cover by snapping to walls and objects that provide cover while you line up your next shot.
The targeting system is impressive in that you can easily get a generic lock on just about anybody, but then you can go even further using Bond Focus to single out specialty shots like a head shot or maybe shooting their radio so they can’t call for back-up.
Move in close enough and you get some QTE inspired melee moves that will reward you with bonus points. There are also numerous Bond Moments in each level that will all help increase your final score for each mission.
Early in the game, the first level actually, you will get your first taste of the jetpack. This offers some really fun gameplay thanks to the intuitive movements and aiming controls. After a misleading second level and some training back at headquarters you set off in one of the first car levels.
I found the car to be incredibly difficult to handle. The steering is way too sensitive and so is the gas pedal. I ended up bouncing off walls and buildings trying to stay alive long enough to finish the level or at least reach the checkpoint. The boat levels control about the same, perhaps a bit worse given the imprecise nature of controlling a vehicle on water.
Enemy AI is above average but also a bit predictable. You might be surprised the first time a goon rappels from the vaulted ceiling but then you start looking for it and your flick targeting system makes it all too easy to snap on and take down targets. What they lack in style the enemy makes up for in numbers, precision, and excessive firepower.
There is a bit of RPG-lite thrown into the mix as is expected with just about any game these days. By searching through cabinets, drawers and other containers in the game you can find and unlock equipment upgrades for weapons and gadgets. Everything can be upgraded if you are clever enough to find the hidden data sheets, but each item can only be upgraded once, so when you have extended that ammo clip or increased the rate of fire you are done.
Even though this isn’t an FPS game, there is still a good multiplayer component included in From Russia With Love. I have to admit, the target lock makes multiplayer a bit easier than most gamers would probably like, but once you adapt there is a nice assortment of deathmatch and CTF style games, some with jetpacks and cars, for up to four players using split-screen – sorry, no Xbox Live.
With Sean Connery’s name boosting sales it’s no wonder they put so much detail into his character model. The man in the game looks eerily like the man in the film, just as dashing as ever. The facial features and lip synch are impressive. The rest of the cast, including good guys and bad guys all have excellent character models, textures, and reasonably good animations with a few minor quirks here and there.
The levels are suitably complex with plenty of destructible objects and places to take cover. Environments don’t have the same texture detail as the characters and bright colors can make the game look a bit too much like a game at times. There are some impressive effects like fire, smoke, explosions, and some nice lighting effects. Big Ben at night is a sight to see.
The framerate is solid for the single player game but takes a slight hit during multiplayer yet still manages an impressive 30fps at the expense of some loss in texture details and reduced polygons. The action is still fluid and very exciting.
I’m probably going to get a ton of hate mail but I didn’t like Sean Connery’s performance in this game. It was just way too creepy to see a young James Bond image and hear the gravely voice from Finding Forrester coming out of it. Yeah, having Sean’s name on the box will certainly do wonders for promotion and sales, but there are thousands of sound-alikes who can do a “young” Sean Connery impersonation and they should have gone with one of those. There…I said it.
The rest of the cast turn in great performances such as Money Penny, Q, and M, plus plenty of NPC characters that serve as field contacts. There is also a good assortment of enemies, all with suitable, if not exaggerated accents.
The sound effects are solid and include varied gunfire, engine noises for boats, cars, helicopters, or the hiss of a jetpack. There are also powerful explosions and the subtle sounds of the environment when appropriate. It all comes to life in an immersive Dolby Digital mix.
From Russia With Love offers some serious replay potential. The missions are all scored so you always have the quest to better yourself looking at you, and there is a substantial point system that you can use to purchase upgrades for weapons, or unlock bonus levels, or even movies like the making of the game or “Meet the Bond Girls”.
This entire reward system is presented in a nice tally sheet showing just how much you have earned, where you have earned it, and what’s left to be done. And even though you are told what Bond Moments are in each level, you are left with the task of finding when and where to execute them.
Casual gamers can finish the story in 10-12 hours while those looking to unlock every last Bond nugget will spend upwards of 20 hours perfecting the game. And then you have the awesome multiplayer to look forward to.
From Russia With Love is a good Bond game and hopefully a new direction for the series. If this is well received we might be seeing more classic Bond movies going interactive. Maybe Roger Moore can do the voice for a Moonraker-inspired game.
The only thing that was holding this game back was its limitations put upon it by having to follow an established movie. Even so, the designers managed to get all of the Bond trademarks into this game. You have guns, and girls and fast cars and even jetpacks, plus all the gadgets and Bond attitude that only Sean Connery can put into that character.
If you loved Everything or Nothing then From Russia With Love will easily become your second favorite Bond game of all time; third if you are still playing GoldenEye.