Review: Bond is now on PSP...Sony PSP
When it comes to international espionage, no one does it better than James Bond, and when it comes to James Bond, no one did it better than Sean Connery. With that in mind, Electronic Arts takes us back in time by releasing From Russia with Love starring the original 007. Based on the 1963 film of the same name, the PSP game captures the classic Bond just like the console versions did late last year. The port to the handheld isn't perfect and the console versions weren't without problems to begin with, but James Bond's first outgoing on the system is at least worthy to check out if you consider yourself a 007 diehard and are more mobile than Bond himself.
Fans of the From Russia With Love may find it slightly disappointing that some of the story was altered for the game. However, they can take comfort in knowing that the basic plot is still intact and that the presentation is just as classy as their favorite Mi6 agent. The well-produced cutscenes in between the movie-based and original levels setup the plot involving a beautiful Russian double agent and her possession of the Lektor, a Soviet decoding device she's willing to exchange for a chance to meet Bond. Of course, with traps and old enemies waiting in the wings, the drama doesn't stop there, and neither do the women or dry martinis.
Bond is given instructions on how to operate Q's latest gadgets before leaving to meet the double agent in Istanbul. Players are given a chance to use the handy laser watch, the inventive Q-Copter and the weaker Q-Dart and Serum Gun. The standard weapons also get the job done, including the Bond's signature PP7, a sniper rifle and a rocket launcher. Selecting different guns is trouble-free because the gameplay stops as soon as you start cycling through the menu. However, this doesn't make up for the fact that when the gameplay is in progress, there never seems to be enough ammo. Dead enemies don't drop extra cartridges like you'd expect, so you must rely on scarce refill boxes. This means the game requires pinpoint accuracy so you don't run out of bullets and lots of punching when you do.
Conveniently, the right shoulder button shoots and performs melee attacks, so when you approach an enemy, it automatically switches over to punching and saves you a little bit of ammo. A random face button will also appear over the head of an enemy in close proximity. Pressing it will execute a time-saving one-hit disable move. You'll probably spend most of that saved time actually moving Bond around, though. Since the PSP has only one analog stick, controlling 007 can take some getting used to. In place of rotating the camera right and left with a second analog stick, the square and circle face buttons do the trick. While this setup can become more comfortable with time, the lack of a button to center the camera behind Bond doesn't help the situation. Also, it would've been nice to have a different context-sensitive activate button and reload button. You'll waste a lot of precious ammo in front of doors and gates when all you really want to do is walk into the next part of the level with a full clip.
Besides running around on foot and killing bad guys behind crates and boxes, Bond can take to the London sky via jetpack and do the same thing in the air. Targeting works the same in both cases; you can automatically lock onto enemies with the Left shoulder button and manually target them with ?Bond focus? by also pressing the square button. The later must be performed in conjunction with the Left shoulder button or else you'll just be rotating the camera since it's an example of yet another button that has more than one purpose.
Flying around on jetpacks, grappling up building walls, sniping to provide cover for allies and shooting through various facilities are all level scenarios that made the cut when the game was ported to PSP. The driving stages, however, did not. Making up for their absence is exclusive challenges that can be unlocked. These skill challenges aren't much, but they'll keep the single-player game going a little bit after you finish the eight missions split into 32 checkpoints.
Ad-hoc multiplayer extends the game's replay value a further for up to six players. Modes include deathmatch, team deathmatch and last man standing, all of which are played on foot or in the air with the jetpack. Best of all, if you don't know anyone else with a copy of the game, you can always battle it out with bots. The multiplayer mode is definitely not as fun as GoldenEye 007 and suffers from the same control issues as the single player mode, but the game does provide a decent multiplayer experience nonetheless.
The level designs depict the Cold War era James Bond and the character models do Sean Connery justice. Although Connery provided his voice for the game's dialogue, you can tell it's not the same man from the 60s, but a man now in his 70s. Still, it's a boon to have those classic lines spoken by the original actor. It's also nice to hear the always-present 007 theme and scores consisting of classy orchestra music.