A familiar face returns to his most famous role in one of the more memorable Bond games. Andy picks up his laser watch and gives it another look.
Who made it?: EA Redwood Shores/Rebellion Developments (Developers), Electronic Arts (Publisher).
Genre: Third-Person Shooter.
Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP.
Format: DVD, Cartridge.
Released: November 18, 2005 (UK).
What happens when you take one of Bond’s least action-orientated films and make an action-orientated video game out of it? You get From Russia with Love for the PS2, Xbox, GameCube, and PSP.
From Russia with Love (1963) was Sean Connery’s second outing as Ian Fleming’s debonair superspy. It was clear that the producers and writers didn’t know what to do with their follow-up to Dr. No. If it was made today (something I’d love the producers to do – make it happen, Barbara Broccoli), it would be a high-tension, slow-burn thriller with three high-octane action sequences across the first, second and third acts of the film. So, why choose this particular motion picture to be translated into a video game? Before we ask too many logical questions to EA and MGM, we should stop. Simply because I doubt any of them had any brain cells. Let us judge the game on its own merits, as we put From Russia with Love through its paces the LICENSE TO THRILL way.
We start our game during a scene completely shoehorned into the plot of From Russia with Love with a shootout between Bond and SPECTRE thugs (you’ll remember them). This is where we get a glimpse of the shooting mechanics of the game. Firing is usually selected for you, which is a nice touch, and you can target individual areas such as grenade belts to blow enemies sky-high. As you progress, you’ll notice that the enemy AI is very generic and of a poor standard, with cronies jumping out for 007 to take care of with ease. Usually, this would be a terrible thing to have in a game, but let’s just pause to think about the source material here:
It was a GameCube/Xbox/PS2 game piggybacking on 2004’s Everything or Nothing. So it was not too shabby for the time.
This is a Bond game. A Bond game set in the 60s era. SPECTRE goons are about as competent as Star Wars Stormtroopers. Thus, a realistic representation of the films.
So, now your and oddly-proportioned and animated Bond (with a dead-on Connery mug) is in what should be an on-rails shooter at best due to the way these SPECRE goons operate! Alongside those poorly-modelled background characters, which make you wish the guy in the gunbarrel sequence could shoot you instead, you’ll think this game is a poor James Bond cash-in. But hold your Walther PPKs! There’s plenty of reasons for why this game is worthy of a purchase, or at least worth borrowing off a friend.
During the first level, we reach a thrilling climax where 007 has to fight a helicopter. Where Solid Snake used stealth and several well-placed stinger rounds, Bond gets to strap on the infamous Thunderball jetpack complete with rocket launchers. That’s right, you are not high right now, I did indeed say COMPLETE WITH ROCKET LAUNCHERS. What more do you want than a jetpack-clad James Bond who can fire rockets? All your schoolyard action toy fantasies have now come to life.
After you take down the helicopter and miraculously save the girl, she asks you who you are, and you calmly reply, “The name’s Bond, James Bond.” This is followed by the famous theme and gun-barrel hello. Bondgasmic! In one fell swoop, this game just completely redeemed itself.
While the plot takes more liberties than the American government, it doesn’t completely stray from the plot. The next level is the famous hedge maze scene from the beginning of the film, where you play the fake Bond (how does this make sense?!) to teach you about the solid stealth and melee combat techniques, which have been improved since Everything or Nothing’s button-mashing. Later, we get training for the laser watch from Q branch and also get to drive around Istanbul – which is near enough impossible due to the way the developers have set-up the controls.
EA have stretched out From Russia with Love into an all-out action thrill ride, and while it doesn’t really constitute as the motion picture anymore, it does its best to create an adaptation of the film. And it does it reasonably well, especially compared to the million and one other shitty film-to-game translations.
The graphics, meanwhile, are nothing to shout about. As I said earlier, it suffers from oddly-proportioned people and a reasonably uninspiring visual presentation which isn’t offensive, but isn’t truly impressive when compared to visuals capable by 2005 on sixth generation consoles. Some of the most impressive moments come in the details such as Connery’s likeness, which is key. One can imagine if the game came out today, something similar to motion-capture and those 3D facial reconstructions used to bring Tupac back from the dead would have been used. In all honesty, the visual enhancements of today would have brought the game up a notch in authenticity and love.
But there’s one thing I have been holding off on during this review and its the all-important voice of James Bond 007 himself. Connery reprised the role one last time as the swinging spy (which was his last major acting role ever). Although his voice doesn’t sound as youthful as it once did, nor does his performance seem as cool, calm and collected as it did in 1963. His presence still manages to add a sense of class to the game, though. Just as Connery bought class to an arguably lacklustre Bond outing, which was made worse by the horrible over-dubbing films suffered from back then. But I cannot stress how good it feels to hear Sean Connery as 007 again! I just wish they made Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice later on for the PS3 and 360.
All in all, 007: From Russia with Love is actually one of the better gaming adaptations there is when you put aside its shortcomings, of which there are many, so it is well worth a spin for the ardent Bond fanatic.
- The game also features appearances from Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), and Desmond Llewellyn (Q). Bizarrely, Natasha Bedingfield also shows up.
- From Russia with Love is the last James Bond videogame EA Games marketed before they lost the rights to Activision in 2006.
- Unlike in the 2004 game, 007: Everything or Nothing, From Russia with Love features a third-person multiplayer deathmatch mode. However, it lacks a cooperative feature that was present in Everything or Nothing.
- Connery said “As an artist, I see this as another way to explore the creative process. Videogames are an extremely popular form of entertainment today, and I am looking forward to seeing how it all fits together.”