When Electronic Arts first announced From Russia With Love I was excited, it felt like my dreams were starting to come true. As a huge fan of the 007 film series I was overjoyed to have another chance to relive a Bond adventure, and the fact that Sean Connery, the greatest Bond of them all, would be reprising his role made it all the better. From Russia With Love is one of the best Bond outings, a story full of cool gadgets and intrigue. But despite having so much going for it EA's video game port of the 1963 movie just couldn't recreate the magic.
It's been six months since From Russia With Love was unleashed on the console market, just enough time for Electronic Arts to port it to Sony's PlayStation Portable. This PSP game is essentially a direct port of what Xbox and PlayStation 2 owners were playing back in November, everything from the graphics to the cinema scenes are the same. But just because this is a port doesn't mean it's the same. The PSP's hardware manages to create a few new problems and EA made a number of questionable edits to the story mode. All this adds up to yet another disappointing adventure for our favorite British spy.
From Russia With Love takes James Bond to Istanbul to meet up with a valuable (and foxy) Russian defector who claims to have fallen in love with the agent. But Bond is being set up, and that means that a lot of action ensues. Soon he's dealing with the evil "Octopus" (or, SPECTRE, as it was known in the movie) organization and their attempts to trap the world's most exciting bachelor. In true Bond style bad guys are killed, bombs are planted, and women are embraced.
All of this story and presentation is fine ... until you start playing the game. The game's shortcomings are apparent right from the very start. For one thing, if you're the type of person that wants to run and gun then you're not going to get very far. Thanks to a ridiculously low bullet count Bond has to line up each shot with precision. This means that every time you want to kill somebody you have to go into what the game calls "Bond Focus". By pushing the square button the camera will jump closer to the target and allow you to use the analog nub to focus your shot. When you use this Bond Focus you will also see enemy's weak spots, making some of the more difficult baddies a lot easier to take down.
This Bond Focus isn't a bad addition to the 007 game play, but the fact that you have to use it every time cheapens the effect. Had the game given players more ammo (or at the very least the ability to hold more ammo) this Bond Focus could have been used more sparingly, but as it is the use of this gimmick is imperative to you staying alive. Unfortunately this is just the start of From Russia With Love's problems.
The real enemy in this Bond adventure isn't Octopus or the Russians; it's the crummy camera system Electronic Arts cursed the game with. From the very first scene until the last boss you are going to be fighting the camera, but since the camera controls (which are mapped to the system's face buttons) are so slow you'll find that you're stuck in a losing battle. To make matters worse, if you aren't looking directly at an enemy you won't be able to lock on with your aimer. Too many times I found myself being shot at from off screen unable to lock on and take them out, leading to a lot of cheap hits and unfair deaths.
Bond does have a healthy selection of weapons at his disposal, all of which can be upgraded at least once. Most of the weapons are your standard Bond fare; you get your trusty PP7, an assault rifle, a shotgun, an even a bazooka. Along for the ride are a few Bond gadgets, like the Q-Copter and the Laser Watch. The problem is that outside of a few specific locations, you won't really have much of a use for these gadgets. They are nice to have around, but it's a shame Electronic Arts didn't go that extra step and pack this game with memorable (and useful) items.
As I said before, every gun in From Russia With Love can be upgraded. You gain experience from simply killing your enemies, the more guys you mow down in a row the higher your experience goes. You also get extra points for shooting bad guys in their weak spot and disposing of them in a timely fashion. By the end of the game you will have upgraded every major weapon in the game as well as a few you probably don't use that often.
One problem people had with the original console version of From Russia With Love was the game's length, a dedicated player could easily bust through it in a matter of hours. Instead of making the PSP version longer, Electronic Arts actually made this game shorter! By cutting out all of the driving sequences this PSP Bond gets rid of the few exciting elements from the original console game. It's not that these driving missions were especially good, but they were a welcome change of pace to the run and gun action that makes up the rest of the game. Considering that some of the PSP's best games are racing titles it seems odd to exclude these missions in this port, and worse yet, it makes the experience that much shorter.
Electronic Arts quickly ports this disappointing console game to the PSP. And guess what? From Russia With Love is a disappointing PSP game that is hurt by poor controls, a lazy camera, and some strange editing decisions!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!