From Russia With Love

Ask me to name my favorite actor to play James Bond and I'll easily fire off the bat, "Sean Connery." In fact, many hardcore fans are known to do this. Sure, many people have filled the shoes of 007, but it seems that the originator, Connery, simply cannot be topped. Roger Moore? Ehh, decent, but A View To a Kill kind of gave you an image of a worn-out superspy. Timothy Dalton? Mostly forgettable, although Living Daylights was more fun than it deserved to be. Pierce Brosnan? Easily second place, especially with his work in the pleasing 007 game effort Everything Or Nothing, still one of my favorites next to the N64 shoot-em-up Goldeneye.

But it's all about Connery being the best Bond that will probably ever be. Daniel Craig probably won't even be able to touch him as the new Bond. And I think EA recognizes this and coaxed to go ahead and take their next Bond game, From Russia With Love, back to the old-school. The game is loosely based on the 1963 film of the same name, where Bond once again battles the evil forces of SPECTRE in order to keep the world a safe place.

Just a couple of things feel out of place with the game, however. While most of the film's events and action sequences are nicely revisited, a couple of sequences are missing that would've been nice here. The battle between Bond and a helicopter? Oh, come on, EA could've done that EASILY. And the final battle on the train? Where's that at? Furthermore, there's no mention of SPECTRE here. Instead, they're called Octopus. Why is beyond me, since EA owns the Bond license and should have access to the name. And besides, who fears an Octopus? Maybe fish, but not a secret agent, I'm sure.

Past those crucial flaws, the game has a lot going for it. There's different play styles that come about, from having Bond move around and shooting enemies through a variety of beautiful settings to strapping on a jetpack and having a thunderous gun battle with a helicopter around Big Ben to hopping in a classic car and shooting the living hell out of the competition. If that's not enough, there's also some great technical scenes involving a Q-copter and some quick-thinking puzzles to move you ahead. There's a lot to do here, just like there was in Everything Or Nothing.

But it all ends too soon. Another big problem with From Russia With Love is its longevity. Most of the stages are drawn out from beginning to end and are too easy to complete, and even the tougher battles in the game can be processed in a matter of minutes, instead of actually putting you to work. Even if you stack the game's odds in its favor by choosing the highest difficulty available, you're through it in a matter of hours. That's too bad. A little more variety in stages (perhaps based on the missing segments from the movie) would've made this more of a keeper.

Furthermore, there's not too much to lengthen the replayability. There are a few bonus missions to take on, but they feel a bit too tacked-on. Same with the multiplayer. Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag are present, but don't seem as fun here as they would be in a first-person scenario. However, to Russia's credit, the dogfight with the jetpacks was quite fun, and is worth a go for the old-school Bond fans. And the "Bond Moments" you can gather, there are quite a few to go after.

The game scores when it comes to the basics, however. The gameplay for each of the scenarios provided is sharp and precise, especially when you're tooling around in the jetpack. The rather cool way you can dodge a charging helicopter is rather nice. The car controls are equally crafty, especially when you're taking out the trash. And the typical combat controls manage, although I prefer Everything Or Nothing just a bit slightly in terms of action level.

The presentation also manages to do well. EA's team has done marvelous work emulating the look of the 1963 film into game format, complete with designs that capture the era perfectly. The animation is solid (if not incredible), and the frame rate barely staggers, even during the more hectic scenarios on the screen. But it's the sound that delivers kudos here. The music is pure Bond all the way, and is wonderfully scored. The sound effects are nicely done, complete with different weapon sounds and the purr of your Q-Copter. And how about that voicework? There are a few actor replacements here and there, but they do an exquisite job with the dialogue.

And, yes, Sean Connery has stepped up to do his voicework for Bond, and it's a strong achievement. Of course, he's older than he was back in '63 when he did the film, but here he manages a neat trick, sounding like his old self without getting too craggy. And absolutely nailing the mood of Bond as if he didn't miss a beat. You folks have to keep in mind, he hasn't done a Bond role since the 1983 Never Say Never Again spin-off. To just pick up and bring back your strongest role, that's a great actor. Atta boy, Sean!

007: From Russia With Love feels completely put-together in some parts, and, yet, in others, a bit disjointed. It would've been great for EA to capture the entire film into video game potential with more action scenarios and a deeper set of challenges. As is, it's merely a showcase game for Bond nuts and action gamers looking to get into the action rather easily. But at least it's a showcase with splendor and enjoyable moments. And anything that offers Connery doing the role he does best, hey, who can beat that?