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Saturday August 5, 2006 5:46 pm

Bargain Bin Gaming #1: From Russia With Love for PS2, Xbox & Gamecube

From Russia With Love Movie PosterWith months to go until the rest of the next-gen consoles are released, and a relatively slow summer release schedule, I’ve found myself spending more time searching around on forums like Cheap Ass Gamer and going back to look at old reviews for game-buying ideas. Especially given the fact that most of this generation’s PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube games will still be playable on the PS3, 360, and Wii, respectively, there’s no reason to not go sorting through your local game store’s bargain bins for some of the great titles you may have missed. With that in mind, we’ll be hosting a new feature here on Playfeed, currently dubbed “Bargain Bin Gaming”, where we’ll look at whether any of those $19.99 and below titles are worth your hard-earned pocket change.

Here are the two main ground-rules I’m setting for the first issue, and we’ll see how this goes:

1) I will not pay more than $19.99 for any game I review. However, this does not have to be the “standard” MSRP for the game. Well-publicized sales, like Circuit City’s past 4th of July weekend inventory blowout, are perfectly acceptable ways to get gaming deals. If I find a mint copy of Final Fantasy X-2 for $1.00 at a yard sale though, that doesn’t count - I want you, our readers, to be able to pick up a game for the same price I do!
2) For the most part, I’ll try to pick more “questionable” titles that you might not notice otherwise. Chances are if you’re reading this site, you already know by now that RE4 for $19.99 on the Gamecube is a steal. But not everyone knows that Tak 3 might actually be a really good deal for $9.00. A lot of folks know about the “diamonds in the rough”. I want to help you pick out the rubies and sapphires as well.

So with those notes in mind, click below for our first review, which I hope you’ll enjoy - James Bond in From Russia With Love by EA for PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube.

Intro:

When Everything or Nothing came out in 2004, it was nothing short of a revelation. Bond fans hadn’t seen a great 007 game since Goldeneye for the N-64, and nobody was expecting too much from EA’s third-person shooter after a string of relative failures including The World is Not Enough and Agent Under Fire. EON succeeded not only because of its stellar presentation and Hollywood-voiced characters, but also because of its well designed, exciting, and immersive gameplay. This was one of the first games that really made you feel like you WERE James Bond. You could rappel off buildings without a second thought, jump motorcycles over rugged terrain, and use your “Bond Sense” to discover secrets and take out enemies in ways that a mortal man would not have thought of.

So, when EA announced it had secured Sean Connery to work on a videogame remake of From Russia With Love using the EON engine, expectations were high. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see the game then on Circuit City’s 4th of July weekend sale list for $8.96 but a little wary of how it got to be so cheap so fast.

How To Get It Cheap:

If you missed Circuit City’s sale, chances are you can find lots of folks who are now selling their copies on eBay for under $10.00. Also, if you happen to have a paper copy of Circuit City’s ad a lot of stores will match their price.

The Good:

Even after paying off Sir Connery (who does a great job), the producers of FRWL found enough money to spend on making this game look REALLY good. The character models of Connery and his cohorts (including Q, Kerim Bay, and Red Grant) are amazingly detailed and lifelike, especially for this generation of consoles. Even more impressive, though, is the distinct 1960’s-version-of-hi-tech feel of the game. Many of the levels, including the intro level and the Octopus base, really exude that retro-tech feel that is the hallmark of the early movies. The menus and loading screens fit in perfectly with this feel as well.

The gameplay is varied nicely between on-foot missions, driving, and several uses of the infamous jetpack, and the controls are fairly tight as well - gamers familiar with EON will take very little time to adapt to the slight control changes. The camera and targeting system work just as well as before.

One really nice addition to this game is a fairly full-fledged multi-player experience that includes use of all the gadgets you find during the single player game (like the Bond copter, briefcase turret, and jetpack). It’s fast-paced, frantic, and a great chance for some serious trash-talking.

Overall, the game excels because of its high production values and reliance on the solid EON engine. But….

The Bad:

In a lot of ways this game is a frustrating one to review. It had SUCH potential to be an amazing game, but falls just short in almost every category.

Sean Connery is great reprising his role BUT he really sounds like an old Sean trying to fit in a young Sean body.
The gameplay variation is great BUT the driving levels feel unpolished and the jetpack is ridiculously over-powered.
The on-foot missions are solid BUT for some reason Bond runs at a snail’s pace.
The EON engine is used effectively BUT most of the new control additions like “Bond Focus” actually detract from the game.

I’ll grant that I’m a picky gamer, but there are just too many small mistakes and overlooked chances in this game that all add up to a single conclusion: RUSHED PRODUCT. I started keeping a small list of annoyances while playing the game throughout the week and it quickly got too big for a single sheet of paper:

It went something like this:

  • Why can’t I see how much total ammo I have in multi-player mode? Weird.
  • So WHY was that guy shooting me with a AK-47 if he had rocket ammo?
  • Why is the jetpack so ridiculously overpowered in single-player, yet impossible to kill anyone with in multi-player? hmmm…
  • I like how I have to pause the game and navigate through two menus to switch my ammo type. Nice feeling of continuity there fellas.
  • Could you move just a LITTLE bit faster, Jim?
  • Why do I have to spend time watching Bond “Search” through file cabinets to get items? I thought this was an action game!
  • Why is it that shooting an enemy in the gut counts as a disabling hit, but shooting them in THE HEAD doesn’t?
  • For the LOVE of GOD, just because I invert my camera controls DOES NOT mean I want to invert my aiming controls!!! ARGH

etc., etc. You get the idea.

And finally, for those who struggled through 00 agent difficulty in EON let it be known that this game isn’t going to supply you with the same challenge that its predecessor did. With 8-12 hours of play, you should be able to unlock just about everything.

The Bottom Line:

This game has a lot going for it, but in the end it really ends up being a study in what can go wrong when studios rush a game out the door. If you haven’t played EON yet, go pick it up for $19.99. If you already made it through the Brosnan-based game, you might want to give FRWL a shot, but expect to be somewhat frustrated by some of its shortcomings.  You’ll have fun, but EON for $20 is a far better deal than FRWL for $10.


Did you enjoy this review? Is it totally bogus? Let us know how we’re doing in the comments below!

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Comments:

It appears you’re right, good catch… the EON was not actually used for this game, although I don’t feel too bad making the mistake since even some of EA’s own employees got it wrong (see the preview over at <a href=“http://commanderbond.net/article/2780”>this site</a> where they mention that company reps told them “The game is built around the Everything or Nothing engine, but has been dramatically improved.”)

Regardless of whether the engine was the same one though, I think my main point still holds—it’s quite obvious that EA was hoping to capitalize off the success of EON and built the FRWL engine to be nearly identical in every aspect: from the shooting, to the driving-based missions, to even small things like the controls for hiding behind objects or changing weapons. Unfortunately, I felt like it didn’t add anything of substance to that package…

Thanks for the comments though! It’s good to have people keeping you on your toes so that you get your facts straight.


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