Bond is back on PS2 in EAs videogame conversion of the 1963 movie From Russia With Love. Many Bond games have come along before this one and most of these game have been excellent with the most notable being Goldeneye on the N64 a few years back now.
Making a Bond game means you as a developer have a whole universe of guns, gadgets, locations, baddies and outrageous situations to draw from when adding content to the game and an instantly recognisable and known character in the form of Bond, James Bond the quick witted Brit can single handedly bring down any hostile regime and every single member of it while simultaneously successfully seducing any woman on the face of the earth with little or no difficulty, I would like to point out to our non UK based readers that all British men are in fact exactly like James Bond and yes (since you ask) I myself am British.
So there is no excuse for a Bond game to suck really given the wealth of content available to the developer and the fact that Bond is already established as an ultra-badass anyway and From Russia with Love makes the grade perfectly, the Bond theme is used to excellent effect and it does feel like you really are playing as 007 and in his universe.
The game opens up in much the same way that the movie does with a short but over the top action scene during which it is firmly established that Bond is damn near invincible and taking him on is optimistic if not outright insane, in this instance you need to guide bond from a party in the houses of parliament which takes a downturn when it is attacked with missiles through the task of foiling a kidnapping attempt on the prime ministers daughter, naturally as the first scene in a Bond game this features good gun battles, jetpacks, a helicopter and some large explosions as well as the utterance of the line "The names Bond, James Bond" before cutting out to a music-video style introduction just like the games silver screen counterparts.
For Your Eyes Only
The visuals in FRWL are for the most part right out of the top drawer, the scenery looks some of the best seen in a 3rd person shooter on PS2 to date and the character models are of a similar high standard, the Bond models look incredibly realistic as do the other character models although you may not see them as close up as often, I didn't notice any animation glitches either when playing.
The environments are lush with fixtures and fittings which can be used as cover or tipped over and then used as cover and are very detailed, if you are crouching behind scenery Bond will automatically raise up by the required amount to fire over the cover when you shoot and then duck back down again when you stop.
Altogether this is a very slick looking game.
The only gripe I have with the visuals is that if you have subtitles switched on they appear in a great big boxes on the screen instead of being tucked away nicely at the bottom like in all other games which is annoying, other HUD messages appear like this too.
Obviously as you are Mr Bond you have not been sent in to participate in peacekeeping activities, rather you are sent in as a one man army and will despatch hundreds of enemies as you work towards your mission goals.
The combat system is much the same as any 3rd person shooter, you lock onto enemies and fire the equipped weapon or use a free aim mode called 'Bond Focus' which allows you to more quickly kill enemies by hitting them in certain points or you can shoot out their radios so they can't call in backup and so forth.
New weapons are found as you play through and once found will be with you at the start of levels, you may upgrade your weapons in certain areas like clip size, max ammo, firing rate etc by collecting research points as you play, these research points can be found lying around or obtained by hacking open cases that you find in a short sub-game. You will not go short of research points and should be able to upgrade something at the end of each mission unless you want to stockpile the points for later on of course although they way they are handed out means that you should be able to upgrade nearly everything during the course of the game, research points locations are highlighted with a white sparkle so you shouldn't miss too many.
The levels can be made to give up more of their secrets with skilful play, finishing a level on the hardest difficulty (00 Agent) in a quick time, killing a set number of enemies or more and achieving your 'Bond moment' will usually cause the level to reward you will most of what it has to offer, the 'Bond Moments' are set challenges - one per level - which require you to do something Bond-ish like blowing something up or discovering a secret cache of weaponry.
The missions are varied in their structures as well as in their locations, some are a linear run through the level whereas some other missions will have you running around after multiple objectives and how you go about the objectives and in what order is up to you. None of the missions are too difficult though even on the 00 agent setting, most players should get through no problems in a few tries
In full compliance with the unwritten laws of console 3rd person games you can do all the usual moves like pressing your back to a wall and peeking out to shoot, crouch and sneak up on your enemies to perform quick and silent kills, plunder corpses for ammo etc and it all works rather well, the 3rd person shooter genre really does owe the Metal Gear franchise a few big favours in many ways. Some levels will take you out of the 3rd person shooter setting and place you behind the wheel of a typically Bond weaponised car. These driving parts are good and don't feel like they've been tacked on just to add variety to the game. As you would expect your vehicle comes complete with missiles and machine guns as well as a device for popping the tyres on other cars just like in the movies. To me the driving sections have an almost arcade like feel to them, kinda like Crazy Taxi in the handling but with missiles and guns.
The storyline is played out via between level cutscenses as well as scenes during the missions although sometimes the in game 'plot scenes' drag out a bit much or appear to take you right into an enemies line of sight. For the most part the plot of the From Russia with Love movie is adhered to although there are some parts that have been removed or altered, I suspect that this is because they couldn't get all the scenes to work as well in a videogame, also some of the names and faces have had to be changed which is odd as you would expect that having the James Bond license would allow them to use all of the character likenesses and all of the correct names for everything.
In the very early stages of the game as per the movie you meet the Bond universes crazy gadgets expert 'Q' who will furnish you with your first technical toys, one great gadget is the Q-Copter which you may pilot around the levels by remote control down airshafts and the like and then get it to explode and take out door panels or obstructions you cannot reach.
Some of these gadgets can be upgraded like the weapons can for better effect and some can't but all are varied and useful in their own ways.
Aside from the research points gained to upgrade your weapons and gadgets you will be earning skill points for accurate free aim shooting and skilled play, these skill points are used to unlock multiplayer characters and Bond related media, this stuff does not affect the gameplay really and so is not too important but nice to have nonetheless, the main reason you will want skill points is that they can be used to unlock bonus missions.
From Russia with Love is an amazing Bond title, beyond that it is a brilliant 3rd person shooter too.
The Bond theme is used to great effect in everything from the weapons and gadgets though to the music and models, you really do feel as though you are playing through a Bond adventure as you go through the game, the fact that the voice for Bond is provided by Sean Connery also adds to the feel of title in a big way.
Fans of the genre are going to love this game to bits, especially if like me you enjoy it when you are encouraged to complete the levels within certain conditions to obtain more stuff and to facilitate this you can choose to replay any level on any difficulty from the mission menu.
I recommend this game to anyone who likes either 3rd person shooters or James Bond games and movies.