Late last year, EA released its second attempt at a third-person shooter starring the most daring and dashing of British secret agents, James Bond. Based on the classic film of the same name, From Russia With Love used many of the same ideas and concepts as EA's entirely original Bond adventure, Everything or Nothing. Sadly, something got lost between sequels. From Russia With Love lacks the same sense of visceral thrill that the first game had, not to mention any measure of challenge. The fact that it hacked up the film's plot quite a bit to make it game-ready didn't help matters, either. Now, From Russia With Love is arriving on the PlayStation Portable, and practically every criticism you could lobby against the original game is still an issue here, along with a host of new issues that make this version decidedly less fun to play.
In the movie, the plot follows James Bond as he travels to Istanbul to meet with a supposed Russian defector (of course, a beautiful woman) who wants to turn over a Lektor, a Russian cipher machine, to MI6 in exchange for being able to meet the love of her life (Bond, in this case). Of course, nothing is as it seems. Evil crime syndicate SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion) is behind this trap, and what follows is another traditional Bond escapade filled with adventure, clever one-liners, and attractive women.
The game follows the plot in a fairly loose fashion. It has all the basic story details right, but it rewrites a lot of the key scenarios to suit itself. Big climactic sequences, like the confrontation on the train, are completely changed--and not necessarily for the better. The action sequence where Bond is ducking and dodging a low-flying helicopter that's trying to kill him...that's gone from the story altogether. There are also some weird detail changes, like how SPECTRE is renamed "Octopus" (evidently due to legal issues surrounding the name, but disappointing nonetheless). Furthermore, the first and last levels of the game are completely tacked on, with practically no story relevance whatsoever. The film's ending doesn't exactly come across as fodder for a great last game level, mind you, but what the developers pulled together here isn't satisfying or interesting.
Interestingly enough, the best parts of From Russia With Love are the ones that EA managed to successfully translate from the film. The shoot-out with the Russian soldiers in the gypsy camp, the daring heist of the Lektor from the Russian consulate... These are the sequences that are the most memorable and enjoyable by far, not necessarily because of how great the gameplay is, but because they appropriately stretch out a few minute-long film sequences into a 10- to 15-minute level without sacrificing the great bits from the film. Fortunately, there are several of these sequences in the game, although there are less of them than there were in the console versions. All the driving missions from the console game have been cut here, which is really unfortunate, since some of those were among the most enjoyable levels.
From Russia With Love looks and plays a lot like Everything or Nothing, which isn't surprising since it's running on an engine that seems very similar to its predecessor's. Bond is dealt a variety of weapons and gadgets to use, including a few nifty ones like the Q-copter, a miniature helicopter that provides Bond with surveillance of hard-to-reach areas and acts as a weapon (in that it will explode on command). Bond also has a special belt that lets him rappel and ascend steep areas. There's also the crazy jetpack, which you can use to navigate certain levels and wreak quite a bit of havoc with its machine guns and guided rockets.
The biggest problem with From Russia With Love on consoles was that it gave you these cool gadgets and tools to do things with, but it rarely presented you with situations where you'd have to use them. Not to mention that the game was just stupid easy, making some of the cooler spots--like the "Bond moments," where Bond would shoot a barrel and make a bunch of bad guys explode, and the like--almost entirely unnecessary. This is somewhat less the case on the PSP. The gadgets still feel somewhat superfluous, save for very specific scenarios, but you will find yourself using the "Bond focus mode" more often, simply out of necessity. This is the vision mode where Bond can focus in on a specific enemy while locked onto him. By moving a small targeting reticle around, you can pull off headshots, as well as occasionally nifty moves like shooting grenades off belts and such. You basically have to use this mode here, because running and gunning it in this version of the game leads to quick death, not necessarily because enemies are any smarter than they were in the console versions (if anything, they're a might bit dumber), but because you'll just run out of ammunition otherwise. Once you're out of ammo, you're left with no choice but to run up to a guy and beat him via fisticuffs, which of course leads to you taking a few more bullets than you might prefer. Using the Bond focus mode is fine and dandy, except that Bond can't move around while he's focused on an enemy, which leaves him vulnerable to getting shot.