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007: From Russia With Love

Platform(s): GameCube, PSP, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA


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Xbox Review - '007: From Russia With Love'

by Chad on Dec. 12, 2005 @ 3:12 a.m. PST

From Russia With Love, the game, will be based on the classic Bond film but will also feature some new plot twists, gadgets and characters. Sir Sean Connery, appearing in his first-ever videogame, lent his voice and likeness to the project.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 1, 2005

It's been a while since the James Bond games have used an actual movie starring Ian Fleming's suave British secret agent as a backdrop. After crafting their own original stories in Agent Under Fire, Nightfire, and Everything or Nothing, EA decided to bring the series back to its roots …way back, in fact, to the second James Bond movie ever made. What they give us in From Russia With Love, however, is a game that has plenty of style but not quite enough substance.

From Russia With Love's storyline had to undergo a few changes from that of its movie counterpart in the interest of adding action, but it's a bit more convoluted because of it. The gist of it, as near as I can tell, is that 007 is tasked with retrieving a Russian code machine called the Lektor while also being hunted by an assassin by the name of Red Grant.

James is far from helpless prey, of course, being outfitted with enough weapons to equip a small army: pistols, SMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles, rockets … yes, the gang's all here. Half of what makes Bond so cool, though, are the plethora of gadgets with which Q provides him. The laser watch is handy for blowing up barrels and switches that are behind any shooter fan's eternal foe, bulletproof glass. Then there's the remote-controlled Q-copter, handy for accessing small spaces and detonating at your command. Enemy-stunning sonic cufflinks and a gun turret hidden in an attaché case round out a catalog that would make the Sharper Image blush. By finding schematics in the game, you can earn upgrade points to enhance any of the weapons or gadgets. In an ideal world, you could upgrade your favorite weapons and use them exclusively throughout the game, but some weapons and nearly all of the gadgets are a waste of these points, as they very rarely are needed in the game, and ammo for some of the guns is scarce at best.

The gameplay in From Russia With Love is sadly formulaic, often feeling like a high-tech shooting gallery. Here's how it works: you see a bad guy, you pull the left trigger to lock on to said bad guy, then you just jam on the right trigger to fire until he's no more. Lather, rinse, and repeat. There is a focus mode where James can pinpoint specific areas on the enemy's body, which comes in handy for shooting radios before they can call for backup, knocking off otherwise impenetrable body armor, and the occasional boss fight. However, there will usually be more than one or two enemies shooting you at a time, and they don't take kindly to you selfishly devoting all of your bullets to your favorite one, so it's usually best to go for speed over accuracy in order to prolong your life.

Luckily, you're not limited to mindless gunplay all of the time. Should James manage to sneak up behind an enemy, he can some very satisfying judo chop knockout moves. For these, the camera changes angles and zooms in, giving you a front row seat to the takedown. Every once in a while, you'll happen upon a jet pack. It doesn't really change much from the base gameplay, but being able to fly and shoot missiles helps to ease the monotony. There are also a few driving levels where you can get behind the wheel of a souped-up Aston Martin DB5 that comes with machine guns, missiles, and seat warmers standard! The driving mechanics are a little on the floaty side, but on the whole, these sequences are pretty fun and help alleviate the boredom of the rest of the game.

The graphics are top-notch, on the whole. All of the character models accurately portray the actors who first played these roles back in 1963. None of them hold a candle to James Bond, though. If you were to play the movie and the game side-by-side at the same time, you may need to do a double take to figure out which one is made of polygons and which is Sean Connery. Actually, they're both Sean Connery: The man himself lends his voice to his video game alter ego. Connery's lines sometimes sound phoned-in, but overall, he does a good job reprising his role.

TThe rest of the graphics are spot-on as well. The task of replicating the look and feel of a decades-old movie is a demanding task, but the developers accomplished it. It's difficult to describe, but everything just feels right; you're living the movie, pure and simple. The only complaint in this area is that some of the auxiliary characters look fairly lifeless, but it's only really noticeable during the game cut scenes.

The sound is equally excellent. The music is exactly the kind you would expect from a classic James Bond movie, but with modern quality, of course. All of the sounds are as they should be, but nothing really stands out. The voice acting is excellent, which helps with the movie feel.

Part of me doesn't even want to mention the multiplayer. I mean, why should I when EA barely seemed to care enough to put it in? "Tacked on" is almost too kind. Basically, imagine the monotony of the single-player gunplay, but with three friends whose relationship you're really putting a strain on by subjecting them to it. Seriously: stay away from multiplayer mode. EA should've taken a cue from Half-Life 2 and just left the multiplayer out altogether.

The game will likely run you about eight or 10 hours, but going back and replaying levels is rewarded with award points that unlock three additional levels. These bonuses aren't part of the story and are often more challenging than the regular levels, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. You can also unlock little featurettes that focus on certain aspects of the game such as Sean Connery's involvement, general game development, and of course, a closer look at the Bond girls. A few are these are interesting, but for the most part, it seems like a waste of disc space.

From Russia With Love is an immersive game, but it's just too bad that the gameplay at the core of it is so ho-hum and bland. If you played Everything or Nothing and liked it, then good. Cherish those memories or replay it because other than its classic setting and Sean Connery, From Russia With Love doesn't have anything that you haven't seen before and seen better.

Score: 6.3/10

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