There's a strange allure to James Bond videogames. It's probably a direct result of GoldenEye, with my mind thinking every subsequent Bond release will be as good as Rare's classic Nintendo 64 title. Sadly, that has never been the case, but EA have at least made one good stab at it with 2004's Everything or Nothing. After the abysmal GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, they've returned to the moderately successful third-person action formula, and delivered an entertaining, but somewhat lacklustre take on From Russia With Love.
From Russia With Love is the first modern Bond Game (PS2 era) that hasn't featured Pierce Brosnan as 007, with Sean Connery taking the role as he did in the original movie. The game follows the movie's storyline loosely, with artistic license being used to make things more game-friendly where possible. EA has also made the game more appealing to game hungry teenagers by featuring the cat-like pop star Natasha Bedingfield as a Bond girl. While Bond fans may loathe the changes to their beloved film (and the plot has been hacked up a lot in places) it works well as a videogame; just don't expect to play through a 100 per cent accurate rendition of the movie.
For the most part you'll be playing as Mr Connery from a third-person perspective. Rather than giving you the ability to freely aim your weapon, you must make use of the targeting feature, making combat ridiculously easy. You can zoom in slightly and apply a modicum of precision, but even this is made easy by the limited range of your aiming reticle. As in Everything or nothing, you can make use of the environment for cover, before coming out and taking down a pre-targeted enemy. Sadly, not every potential place for cover can be used, but you can make your own on occasion, knocking over a table and then crouching behind it for example.
Throughout each level you'll often get to use gadgets, such as a mini helicopter that can fly through ventilation shafts, and the obligatory laser watch that can fire through glass without breaking it. These can be used whenever you like, but you're often given rather large tips on what to use and when. The main objectives are also marked on the map in the top-right corner of the screen, and any context sensitive locations where an action can be performed have a jewel-like sparkle in the 3D world to indicate that there's something you can do. The game doesn't so much as lead you by the hand, but give you gentle nudges in the right direction.
When not on foot, you're in Bond's car, which happens to control like an 80's videogame sports car. That is perhaps a little too harsh, but the car is far too twitchy, jutting from one side of the road to the other. Firing a weapon from inside your car is painless enough though, with missiles easily locking on to enemy vehicles, and the machine gun also doing its best to fire at whoever's in front of you. You'll also get to fly using a jetpack from time to time (not that these were in the movie at all) and fire from a gun turret aboard a speed boat, and while these sections are fun, they're just as simple as the rest of the game, meaning you'll blast through them in next to no time.
You're not going to get a lot of longevity out of From Russia with Love; even when set to the highest difficulty setting you can run through all the levels in about eight hours. You can try some bonus missions and go back and replay some levels to try and get some unlockables, but there's really not much point. EA has included some basic multiplayer modes for up to four players in split-screen, but it feels like a throwaway addition seeing as it's not fun at all. The gameplay mechanics just don't work well when translated to a competitive shooter, and it's best to give multiplayer a miss.
The whole game also feels eerily similar to Everything or Nothing, using a nigh on identical control scheme and the same gameplay mechanics. Were it not for Sean as Bond and the 1960's appearance, it might as well have been a sequel. Sadly, the game just isn't as fun as the aforementioned game, with nowhere near as many cool moments, and an over reliance on mindless running and shooting.
EA has gone to town on presentation though, with voice work from Connery himself and plenty of stellar performances from the supporting cast. The musical score is also excellent, and is used to great effect during the many action sequences that the game delivers. While Connery's visual likeness isn't stunning, it looks pretty good for a current-gen game. Environments are nicely detailed and enemies are well modelled, plus there are plenty of impressive explosion effects and other moments that make playing the game all the more enjoyable. The frame rate does hitch up from time to time, but for the most part EA have created a very solid looking game.
From Russia With Love is a rather unimaginative Bond title that simply goes through the motions. What it does, it does pretty well, but when the now two-year-old Everything or Nothing boasts a better overall gaming experience, something has gone a little wrong. Fans of the movie will probably object to the butchered plot and you'll often wish for a little more variety in the gameplay, but the package is sleek enough to provide some solid entertainment throughout its short duration.