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Volume #1, Issue #3
"Stand By For Mars!"
March 2006
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The Thunder Child: Computer Games
From Russia With Love: Sean Connery Returns to the Role
Review by Ryan Brennan

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It was very exciting news when EA Games announced their game version of the classic James Bond 007 film From Russia With Love. EA's From Russia With Love utilizes the basic plot structure of the film but expands or plays variations on many of the major set pieces of the film. And the real coup was that they got Sean Connery, the original, and best (IMHO), movie Bond to lend his likeness and voice to the proceedings.

The game plays out like a Bond film starting with the 007 gun barrel opening. We are at an important festivity during which there is a kidnapping. Bond must make it to the building rooftop while fighting off terrorists and don a Thunderball jetpack to engage the enemy in the air. A fully-fledged Bond title sequence follows in which we see that the likenesses of the original cast members will be used. Knowing that we will encounter Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendariz, Bernard Lee and others from the original film is thrilling. The one conspicuous omission is Vladek Sheybal, but given the short duration of his role in the movie it?s understandable that someone had to be dropped.

After the main titles we are plunged into what was the teaser for the 1963 classic. Bond must make his way through an elaborate hedge maze and gain entry to the mansion at the other end. Whereas in the movie Bond was playing cat-and-mouse with Red Grant, in the game he must deal with a dozen or more guards while Grant plays with him.

This a third-person shooter game and, like Everything or Nothing, which I think was one of the best of the Bond console games, the creators try to vary the pace so it isn't just constant, repetitive shooting, something that made Rogue Agent: Goldeneye a bit of a letdown. So, in addition to the out-and-out shooting we have car chases (using the Aston-Martin), game levels utilizing the Thunderball jetpack and a player's flying ability, very specific targeting to defeat certain enemies (using Bond Focus mode), and variations on the game boss concept which requires a strategy to produce success. Unfortunately, it is not possible to skip past the narrative sections of the game. I guess they wanted to make sure you saw those expensive segments featuring Connery's voice. His voice is showing its age but it's still great to hear him in the role again. Lenya (who is the Lotte Lenya mentioned in the song "Mack the Knife," a song you may not know but should), Bianchi, Aremendariz, Lee, and Maxwell all sound good but Desmond Llewellyn (Q) is totally wrong and the Robert Shaw impersonation is seriously in and out.

The game creators keep Bond and Kerim?s trip through the Istanbul sewers but now it?s in a speedboat outfitted with a turreted machine gun and there are lots of enemies to kill, floating oil cans to blow up and locks to shoot open. The attack on Kerim?s stronghold is enlarged upon, his building besieged by terrorists who Bond must defeat, hostages who must be freed and bombs that must be deactivated. The gypsy camp sequence remains with similar perils and deadly gas to be faced. The theft of the Lektor is elaborated upon, Bond foraging deeper into the Russian Embassy, rescuing Tatiana, and the two of them facing innumerable enemies before escaping. The escape by speedboat is greatly enlarged upon with enemies in the water, on the shore and in the air. The sequence in which Kerim shoots his old enemy through a billboard is kept (including the original billboard) but there?s a lot leading up to the moment.

Bond gets a workout in Q's lab and there's a huge sequence in a train terminal that eventually pits Bond against Red Grant mano e mano. Eventually, the game moves into You Only Live Twice territory with rocket silos. This makes it appear that EA felt they had only one chance to do this type of Bond game and wanted to get in all the Connery film references they could.

Some new gadgets are introduced -- like a cool little min-copter that can fly through air ducts and detonate on command -- and Bond can upgrade them along with his wardrobe. Humans are difficult to reproduce realistically and while the facial characteristics are generally accurate and pleasing, the bodies themselves are sometimes sorely lacking. But it's nice that there are snippets of John Barry's Bond scores woven into the new scoring. Another nice touch, no doubt designed to pull in the classic Bond fans, is that the jacket art features graphics from the original 1963 poster art of Renato Fratini and Eric Pulford. Here's hoping EA continues this series and brings out another Bond game.

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