SONY PSP REVIEW: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Bond fans are going to be disappointed with the PSP version of From Russia With Love. At best it's a decent, third-person shooter but it falls short of its potential to be another 007: Everything Or Nothing. by Mike Chasselwaite

April 11, 2006 - Exotic locales, stunning babes, guns and gadgets and a sophisticated cheeky countenance are the hallmarks of the James Bond series. The movie version of From Russia With Love is considered by many to be the best Bond movie ever. The same cannot be said for this game.

Part of the problem lies with the storyline. The game only uses it as a general guide, like a map drawn on a napkin, designed to only get you from one point to another. There is no cohesion to the story and the last few levels have nothing to do with it at all. It's as though the developers gave up altogether and just threw together a few levels to fill it out and wrap things up.

For the most part, From Russia With Love, is a decent port of the console version. There are a few additions and a few omissions. The vehicles are missing but there are some mini-games and a couple of multi-player modes which are not available on the console version. These additions don't make up for the missed potential.

There are more than 30 levels in the game. Although the story revolves around subterfuge there isn't much in the way of stealth, which may be a good thing. There is plenty of action as you get to play around with some weapons and the famous Bond gadgets, but as any Bond fan knows it's the personality that makes a Bond movie unique. While the in-game dialog is filled with wise-ass cracks, Bond comes off as a one-dimensional character more akin to a Schwarzenegger movie despite the return of Connery as the voice of Bond.

As the story goes, Bond meets up with a beautiful Russian spy that wants to defect. She's prepared to exchange a Russian decoder machine in order to meet Bond, who she claims is the love of her life after just seeing a photograph of him. Of course this is a story of intrigue, mystery and betrayal. You just can't trust a spy, never mind a Russian spy. The organization formerly known as SMERSH is behind the evil plans to assassinate Bond as he is deemed an enemy to the Soviet Union and must "be killed with ignominy."

The gameplay is like a lighthearted version of Splinter Cell. Like the movies, the game doesn't take itself too seriously, at least as far as the story is concerned but maybe if the developers took the gameplay a little more seriously this might have been a much better game. There are some interesting gadgets but there's not enough places to use them. The Q-copter is a remote surveillance tool that can also be detonated when in the vicinity of enemies. A special belt lets you climb and descend walls and a jetpack allows you to fly while using the built-in machine guns and rocket launcher. The guns have a tendency to run out of ammo quickly so running and gunning is not the preferred method of combat. A targeting system lets you lock-on to enemies or objects. You can move the reticle around for more precision such as taking a headshot. The problem is that when you're locked-on, you can't move and that can be deadly.

Let's face it. The PSP is up against it from the get go. It just can't compete with the PS2's control system. The absence of an extra analog stick can be a big problem when porting a game from a console that utilizes one stick for character movement and the other for the control of the camera or aiming of the weapons. The developers did the best they could with what they had but they could have changed some technical elements of the game such as employing useful, automated camera angles. As it is you have to use the square and the circle button to move the camera. The stick is used to control the character and the face buttons perform the various actions such as ducking, wall hugs, dive rolls and the lock-on targeting mode. The D-pad lets you select weapons and gadgets while the shoulder buttons allow you to fire the weapons or zoom in. It's all a little confusing and not the most convenient method, but it could be a lot worse. The developers were on the right track with content-sensitive moves that are automatically triggered when you are positioned in a specific area. These moves are typically obvious and there's no reason to have a button assigned to execute such a move. You will find that moving into some positions can be a nightmare as the controls seem too touchy in some respects and not responsive enough in others.

Up to four players can engage in Ad Hock versions of Deathmatch and Last Man Standing. You can play them with the jetpacks or just on foot, either way they aren't anything to look forward too. The maps are small and it's difficult to make things out on the screen. A radar system allows you to see the other players' positions at all times, except when they pick up an invisible power-up. The auto-targeting is too effective, and if you happen to be in the enemy's sights first, you're definitely a goner.

Sean Connery has reprised his role as the detective. He's actually re-recorded his dialog which is evident by the older and wiser tone to his voice. I can't say his delivery is brilliant but at least he still sounds cocky and somewhat aloof. You'll recognize some of the scenes from the movie but don't expect a lot of detail. The musical score is definitely top shelf. Who doesn't like the James Bond theme?

The average gamer will be able to complete this in a day or two. I wouldn't suggest sticking around for the multi-player modes. Rent this game, just as you would the movie. If you purchase it, it will leave you shaken, not stirred.

Features

  • Be Bond, Connery's Bond - Step into the shoes of the legendary Sean Connery, the original James Bond.
  • Enter the World of Classic 007 - Drive the vintage cars, meet the beautiful women, and visit the exotic locales, all beautifully rendered in authentic '60s style.
  • The Best Bond Experience Yet - Fully integrated stealth and driving missions, non-linear level progression, a new zoom and focus aiming mechanic, and a deeply immersive living world add up to innovative, non-stop Bond action.
  • Brand-New Multiplayer Mode - Take on a friend and see who makes the best Bond in third-person, split-screen deathmatch mode.
  • Control 007 Like Never Before - A new scoring and rewards system allows you to deeply customize the equipment, skills, and abilities you'll use in action as James Bond.
  • Classic Gadgets Made Modern - Equip yourself with an array of classic weapons and gadgets updated with unique 21stcentury twists.

By Mike Chasselwaite
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
From Russia With Love (PSP)
4.0
Graphics
It replicated the visuals of the movie quite well for a handheld system but there are some dull moments and erratic animations.
3.3
Control
The developers did the best they could but the PSP just doesn't have the bells and whistles that the PS2 controller has.
4.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great music, good voiceacting and realistic sound effects help to increase this game's overall production values.
2.0
Play Value
The multi-player modes are useless and the mini-games are just time trials.
3.1
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: EA
Pub: EA
Release: Apr 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Mike

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best