"Bad guys jump out from hidden spots, try to surprise you and suck at it. Mission objectives have you finding briefcases and other hidden objects, going on little fetch-quests. It's just really...really...average. "
I remembered two things about From Russia With Love:
1) It starred Sean Connery, who's the best Bond there ever was. Fact.
2) It had belly dancers and catfighting gypsies, which is probably why I have trouble remembering other things about it.
Having Sean Connery, belly dancers, and catfighting gypsies is all you really need to make a kickass movie. But, unfortunately, you need a little more for a game; much to my sadness, From Russia With Love doesn't start with James Bond staring at some girl's gyrating stomach. As a matter of fact, unless I missed something, there aren't any belly dancers in this game at all.
Unless you count the belly dancing load screen. That’s cool.
The game starts off before you know it's even started; the first time you play the game it just drops you right into the action, doesn't even wait for the start screen or the loading menu or anything. What you think is the opening cinema switches into a full-blown action scene, hiding behind walls, shooting people, getting used to the auto-aim system.
But it's just not fun. Not as fun as it should be, anyway.
Maybe it's just the way things always go down; the missions are straightforward, simple, maybe a little too much so. Walk here and shoot this guy. Walk there and shoot that guy. Apparently there’s some rule that all third-person shooters must have some sort of slow-motion effect, because Bond can do that here; twice the accuracy in half the time. Bad guys jump out from hidden spots, try to surprise you and suck at it. Mission objectives have you finding briefcases and other hidden objects, going on little fetch-quests.
It's just really…really…average. There’s nothing to the fighting that hasn’t been done over and over again, no new concepts, nothing that’s not tried and true and old and worn out. But this is Bond, and it just wouldn’t be Bond without gadgets. That's where the spice comes in.
The laser wristwatch, the bane of many a locked door. Fries computer panels, locks, enemies’ foreheads, whatever; it's damn handy and you get a lot of use out of the thing.
The Q-Copter, a little remote controlled whirly bird made for those hard to reach places. Use it to scout ahead, see what you're up against. Use it to distract the enemies, keep them occupied. Or you can make the damn thing explode in their faces, disabling whatever trap they had set up and giving them some damage for the trouble.
And, of course, you can't forget the jetpack…which I could have sworn was in Thunderball, not From Russia With Love, but whatever. It’s fun to screw around with; flying with an overpowered and infinite machine gun, dodging shots from below, raining martini-influenced death from above with your rocket launcher, and, if you're like me, trying to think up a clever Bond-inspired innuendo that can link mass killing to sex.
The jetpack sequences are a rarity in From Russia With Love; they're the only special sequences that don't absolutely suck. When you're not blandly shooting people on foot, you're blandly shooting them in car, going through the streets in car chases that don't even feel like car chases. The car moves slow, the enemies move slow. Your car takes hit like a tank, so that makes it easy. You're required to go to checkpoints that fill the health up, so that makes it near impossible to die. And, since you have auto-aim for your rockets and you have infinite rockets, you can't miss.
Blowing up cars is fun, true. But after driving through the same streets and seeing the same cars and making the same explosions, it wears on you. Big time.
The game tries to apply the same concept to better effect by putting you on a boat, letting you do some on-the-rails shooting, but the boat has the opposite problems of the car: It can't take crap damage, the boat level is too long, the guy who's driving the boat sucks at it, and if you die, you have to start all over. You have to shoot down everyone before they shoot you, you have to know where your gun is supposed to be aimed at every moment, you have hits thing near perfect, and you have to muster the resolve to play the level fives time over and not do something more enjoyable. Like, I don't know, watching the actual movie.
You'd think watching the movie would be redundant with this game; that it should play like an elongated version of the original. There are similarities here, yes; the game follows the same basic plot, same scenes. It adds onto the original so it has more opportunity for action, throws in a few new characters and delves a little deeper into some old ones. Most of the old scenes are condensed for the sake of time, but it doesn't sacrifice any charm in the process, stays true to its source material. Almost.
Instead of just sampling from the original, they redid it with a new cast. Most of them handle their roles well enough, but...
Good news: Sean Connery reprises his role. He’s the man.
Bad news: Sean Connery reprises his role. He's not as young as he used to be.
Perhaps Sean Connery was more concerned with the girls he'd no doubt be snogging later that day, but he doesn't seem to be giving the game his all. His voice is too rough, too haggard for his younger self; it doesn't fit. Sometimes he sounds like he doesn't give a damn and underacting, sometimes he sounds like he's reliving his glory days and overacting.
"BUT I'VE NEVER EVEN HEARD OF A TATIANA ROMANOVA!"
Sean Connery's a top actor, don't get me wrong. I love the Rock, I love the Untouchables, I love Dragonheart. But this isn't one of his brighter moments. I'm happy he's in it, but I would've been happier if they'd borrowed from the classic.
That aside, when all's said and all's done, From Russia With Love is an average shooter that relies on its license to make it worthwhile. If this wasn't Bond, if they'd switched up the plot and the characters and gone totally original, I would not give a damn about it. I barely give a damn about it as is; this was a one-time rental, wouldn't even dream of buying it. Unless you're some crazy-obsessed Bond fan who just has to have this game to go along with his Pussy Galore bedsheets, you shouldn't either.
Oh, and speaking of Pussy Galore: EA, if you're reading, if you ever do another classic Bond game again...GOLDFINGER.
Staff review by Zack Little (March 24, 2006)
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