TBT: A Look Back on 007: From Russia With Love
12 years ago, EA Redwood Shores reimagined what it was to play a Bond game. Gone were the days of the first person experiences in games like Agent Under Fire or the crowd favorite GoldenEye, and a dynamic third person view was introduced in From Russia With Love.
Based on the 1963 film of the same name, this game essentially took the player through a playable version of the movie. Bringing back all the memorable characters from the film such as M, Q, Tatiana Romanova, Money Penny, the Spectre organization (renamed OCTOPUS in the game), even the original Bond himself, Sean Connery, who voiced his character. Although the game does write off much of what made the movie great, it is still incredibly easy to have fun playing it. If you only plan on playing the story once that is.
The plot of the film follows Bond traveling to to Istanbul to meet a Russian defector (Tatiana Romanova) who wants to turn over a cipher mine called the Lektor to the British intelligence agency MI6 in exchange for meeting the love of her life, who is of course, James Bond himself. Of course nothing is that simple and Spectre has set a trap for our dashing hero and the rest that follows is a traditional Bond escapade.
The game has all the basic details of the plot correct, although it rewrites most of the key plot points to suit itself. For example the sequence in the film that sees Bond dodging a low flying helicopter that is trying to kill him is completely absent from the game although it would have made a great action sequence in a video game. On the flip side, the best moments in the game are the ones that EA successfully pulled from the film. The gypsy camp shootout, the Lektor heist at the Russian consulate, and the boat chase with the agents of Spectre (oh yeah, it’s OCTOPUS for some reason in the game). It’s these moments that made the game memorable, not particularly for the great gameplay, but more so for the way they stretched out a few minutes of film into a 15 minute video game sequence so successfully.
Gameplay is reminiscent of Everything or Nothing, which is not surprising considering it runs on a very similar engine. Bond has a few new nifty gadgets this time around, like the Q-Copter, which is a small RC helicopter that acts a surveillance tool, but can also be used as a weapon, as it will explode upon command. The rappel belt makes a reappearance, however unlike in Everything or Nothing the belt won’t be used in big action sequences, as it is now more of a quick mechanic to get around. Frankly this is the big problem with the game. The game gives you plenty of ideas and situations which could normally be thought of as viable options, however the game too often gives you too easy a route to your objective, as you usually just have to run, shoot, and move on.
The game doesn’t overstay it’s welcome however. The game can be completed in about 8 hours on the normal difficulty setting. Which is okay, because the simplistic gameplay would likely get boring if it lasted any longer. There are a few bonus missions to unlock by finding specific items within the various levels. You can even upgrade your weapons because that definitely matters.
There is a multiplayer mode to be had here, although it is just about as simplistic as the story is. With only three distinct modes, standard deathmatch, capture the flag, and dog fight, where everyone has a jetpack. Games can be played in single, or survival royale, in which you play several events in rapid succession. But all in all, its mostly just an aim, spam the shoot button and dudes die, kind of multiplayer. Even in dogfight. All you have to do is lock on, shoot, and that’s about it. All your opponent can do is dodge and even that only works half the time.
Graphics is where this game comes in strong. Sean Connery looks like he did in the 60’s. Models are quite realistic all things considered, and animation is top notch as far as Bond games go, and the explosions are visually stunning, especially on the PlayStation 2 version. Apart from that, the two versions are pretty much the same. The sound is another strong point, having Sean Connery to voice 007 was a nice but at times annoying touch. Nice for the nostalgia, and annoying due to the fact that while he looks like he did in the 60’s, he doesn’t sound it. The Scottish actor’s thick accent is far more prevalent than it ever was in the films and he doesn’t sound at all committed to the role in the game.
All said and done, From Russia With Love, while enjoyable plays it way too safe and that works to it’s disadvantage. So much more could have been done with this game to make it just as great as the movie was. It has it’s thrills, however most of them are very spread out and are usually presented in a shooting gallery format requiring absolutely no skill from the player. I personally had fun playing this game, mostly for the accurate movie scenes, but I can see how one who is not a Bond fan would not enjoy this game. However if you are a Bond fan like me and never did play this game, I would definitely recommend you give it a go.