From Russia With Love PS2 Review

Goldeneye. Every single game affiliated with the James Bond series since is compared to the great N64 masterpiece. Since securing the license, EA have tried many things with the James Bond series. Their most successful outings being Everything or Nothing and Agent Under Fire. Although these titles were good, they still paled in comparison to Goldeneye. In search of something different EA decided to return to the Goldeneye series. Using the same first person view as the original, though this time pitting you on the bad side – playing as an agent who was corrupted and given a golden eye (original). Sadly, it was a mistake. Although it sold well, the game bombed critically, with reviewers slamming the game’s weak mechanics and average gameplay.

Moving on from the disaster that was Rogue Agent – EA decided to change things up, and return to the same formula that brought them earlier success with Everything or Nothing. Loosely based on the film of the same name starring Sean Connery, From Russia With Love is a return to the 3rd person style used in Everything or Nothing. It only loosely follows the plot of the film, preferring to re-write some things in order to suit the style of the games. As with any EA game, no expense is spared in production values. EA drafted in pop singer Natasha Bedingfield to provide the voice of one of the lead female characters – the Prime Minister’s daughter. James Bond’s voice is of course provided by Sean Connery; although the quality of it is questionable – more on that later though. Have EA finally came up with a winning formula for their Bond series? It’s time to find out.

The engine used in From Russia With Love is pretty similar to the one used in Everything or Nothing. Although EA have said that the two are completely different, they do have a lot in common. They share a similar use of textures; the textures used for people in the game are normally pretty good and you can quite easily pick out all their features. However, the same cannot be said for the surroundings, as the textures for buildings and roads are pretty average and lack definition, which is something that should not be seen in the latter stages of this generation. The game does not use too much animation, just the stock ones such as Bond using his gun, rolling on the floor, and there are some nice looking ones featured in the driving sections – seeing a car set alight and flying through the sky just after you punctured its tyres is an awesome sight.

One nice aspect of the game is how nice the lip-synching is during the cutscenes, and how detailed the faces of the characters are. For example, seeing James Bond talk, you can almost see each individual muscle moving in his face, as well as his lips moving along to the words perfectly. The load times featured between loading of the levels are rather small so the game does not take long at all to load. I can only imagine it loading even faster on Xbox and Gamecube. There is, however, one major graphical gripe I have with this game, and it just happens to be the frame rate. At times during the game, it will seriously stutter to levels which hamper your enjoyment. The puzzling thing is that it happens really randomly. For example, in one level you find yourself battling against a helicopter on a balcony and the frame rate stays nice and smooth – like you would expect it to. Then you could be walking down a deserted hallway and the frame rate just chugs, it really does stutter to something well below 30 FPS, which is not good enough. The Xbox and Gamecube versions feature improved frame rate, so I would advise you to pick one of those versions up if you can. It is a shame EA did not take the time to sort this out as it can seriously compromise your enjoyment of the game. It is not as if the game had a very short development time, certainly not short enough to warrant the frame rate issues.

As I have already said, this game is very similar to Everything or Nothing, and the controls for the game are no different. The left analogue stick is used to move Bond about, and the right one is used for camera control. The ‘R1’ button will lock you onto the nearest target, pressing it again will cycle through the targets if there are multiple ones. The Circle button allows you to switch between standing and crouching, the Triangle button allows you to put your back to a wall so you can take cover from enemies and still shoot them at the same time, and the Square button allows you to perform rolls in order to dodge incoming fire. The ‘L2’ button allows you to change weapon during the action in the game, incase you need to switch to a heavier weapon. The game automatically switches you to your next weapon after you have used up the previous ones ammunition. A new addition to the to game is the ability to shoot specific targets on enemies. For example, during the early part of the game, you will come across troops that have access to radios, so if they spot you they can call for back-up. The new feature allows you to specifically target their radios, so that they cannot call for assistance.

The game is split into various levels, each being unlocked after the previous one is completed. EA have introduced some new RPG elements into the game, allowing you to upgrade the ammo, your weapons and armour throughout. You do this by searching for various things throughout levels, each will award you with points that can then be used to upgrade your weapons. It is a nice touch, but I rarely found myself using it, as the difficulty of the game does not warrant any extra weapons over the ones supplied. You can also collect different uniforms throughout your adventure, and although most are just for show, some are vital to the completion of a level. The main story is made up of three core elements. For the most part, you will find yourself controlling Bond on foot. However, the levels are mixed up allowing you to take in some driving and use the infamous jetpacks. I have to say I found the jetpacks a fun part of the game; they are easy to control and look pretty neat suspended high in the air. I found myself disappointed by the driving sections, however, in particular the handling of the cars. The analogue stick is very sensitive and a little touch will see you spin the car pretty violently. This had an annoying tendency to cause me damage as I was always crashing into the scenery, and turning corners is no easy thing with Bond behind the wheel.

One of the areas in the game that has not really improved since Everything or Nothing is the enemy AI. It can act incredibly dumb sometimes. For example, you could be surrounded by six enemies, yet only one would bother to shoot you. As soon as you take him out the others just sit and watch until you cap them. Another example is if you are in stand off, and you seek cover, the enemy will just randomly charge out into the open trying to kill you. I often found myself just waiting for them to come and then whacking them with melee attacks, which are pulled off using a combination of buttons that flash on screen. The AI a couple of years ago was okay at best, so it is a shame to see it just the same here. Even on the highest difficulty it wont test you to the limit. In addition to the main single player adventure, the game also includes a multiplayer mode, which is pretty similar to the one featured in Rogue Agent, allowing for split screen action, using different modes such as death match. It is a nice touch that EA added the ability for you to fight out using jetpacks and cars, but it does not disguise the fact that the multiplayer is a passable extra. The game features a plethora of boss fights, most of which are repetitive and just see you ducking for cover and hitting the odd shot until the boss is down. The levels lack variety and feature some shoddy car sections, in which the handling and the speed of the cars is rather off. These levels are nothing better than the ones featured in Everything or Nothing. I would go as far to say they are probably worse; they are repetitive and dull.

The sound department is another mixed bag. It is nice to have the voice of Bond provided by Sean Connery, but you can clearly tell he is not the man that he used to be. He does sound old, and the Scottish twang in his accent is definetly more noticeable. Some of the killer one-liners just sound flat and uninspired, and, as much as I hate to say, it seems Sean Connery was more interested in picking up his paycheque than delivering killer vocals. Natasha Bedingfield does as well as can be expected; she does sound very stereotypically English however, making a rather odd spectacle when she and Bond speak. The sound effects are mostly spot on, with the sound of gun fire and the revving of a car engine all on the money. One of the early boss fights in particular sounds impressive; the quality of the sound produced by the helicopter blades is really defined and has a lot of clarity. The music score is basically an updated version of the original film, with EA getting the trademark Bond tune down to a tee.

This game is easy; there is no getting away from it. No matter which difficulty it is played on, it will only take you around ten hours to complete all the main objectives in the single player. For players wanting to upgrade all their weapons, it will take some time to collect all the available research points; many are out of the way and take considerable effort to reach. Collecting the research points also offers another incentive, as each time you unlock a certain amount, you will unlock a special feature – such as a ‘making of’ video. It’s a nice addition but I doubt the majority of gamers will be bothered enough to put the effort in that is required in order to get them. The multiplayer mode is enjoyable for a few rounds before it starts to get repetitive, even though the jumpacks are a nice addition, and make for some pretty neat overhead battles.

Would I recommend this game to you? It depends really. If you are after a quick action game for a little bit of fun, then you may easily enjoy this game. Still, if that is what you are after I suggest you rent it first, before splashing the cash. No doubt, the majority of Bond fans will need no convincing in order to pick this up. As far as how well it stands in the overall scheme of things, I would say it is the third best Bond game of all time, coming behind Everything or Nothing and obviously Goldeneye. So if you are up for a quick action title, I would suggest you look into this. If it is a detailed game, with a steep learning curve and insane difficulty levels, I would suggest you give this a miss.

7.2 out of 10

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