Monday, November 21, 2005
Good: Connery, 'Bond Focus', Music, Jetpack levels
Bad: Length, Boat levels, AI, 'Special Ammo'
Worst voice actress ever: Maria Menounos
Like anyone that was between the ages of 10 and 25 back in 1997, I was absolutely obsessed with Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64. Much homework was neglected thanks to long nights of proximity-mine filled battles. I remember a videogame magazine ran a cheat code that supposedly unlocked "All Bonds" for multiplayer. I was thrilled, because I would have loved to play as Sean Connery. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of the magazine's annual April Fools jokes, and no such code existed. Thankfully, EA made a great decision by casting Connery as the voice and likeness of Bond in From Russia With Love. While it may be a little jarring to hear an obviously aged Connery voice a younger likeness of himself, it's still great to see him back as 007.
Based on the 1963 film of the same name, it's all typical Bond: shoot henchmen, play with gadgets, drive cool cars, etc. The gameplay should seem very familiar to fans of Everything or Nothing, although this title is a little less exciting. You'll find nothing in FRWL that is half as intense as EoN's thrilling motorcycle level. The actual on-foot shooting sections are nearly identical, however. Some areas can benefit from the use of stealth, but the majority of the game is straightforward action and gunplay. A new feature in FRWL is the "Bond Focus" ability. This has unlimited use and allows you to zoom in on vital attack points on the enemy's body. For example, if an enemy is wearing a bulletproof vest, zooming in with Bond Focus will allow you to shoot the shoulder straps off, causing the entire thing to fall off. My favorite use of this ability is definitely shooting grenades off of enemy's belts. Most enemies wear these grenades, and it's a great way to clear out a closely-grouped bunch.
As always, there's a virtual buffet of firearms at 007's disposal. Magnums, assault rifles, a laser watch, a briefcase turret, serum guns and sonic cufflinks are all available. The game also provides you with liberal amounts of ammo and body armor. For some reason, each weapon has "Special Ammo", which is slightly more powerful. It's more of a pain than a help though, considering you have to go into the inventory screen and switch it back and forth every time. The special ammo really doesn't add anything new or useful to the gameplay, and could have easily been omitted. Enemy AI is borderline retarded, and has no idea how to take cover properly. Every time they try to duck behind a table or get cover of any sort, there's always a good chunk of their head in plain view of your gun. There's also a problem with the targeting system, as your gun will frequently lock onto items and enemies that you don't intend it to.
Like EoN, there are several vehicle levels in FRWL. The car levels are a fun diversion, especially the new "tire punch" ability. They're fairly straightforward, and generally involve chasing down enemy cars and shooting tons of rockets at them. Speedboat missions aren't nearly as entertaining, thanks to the slow targeting reticule. Each of these levels features Bond manning a turret on the back of a boat, while tons of enemies attack from all directions. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to rotate the turret, and you'll end up getting unnecessarily shot frequently. There are a large number of areas that make use of the new jetpack, and these portions of the game are great. Controls are basic, and you basically just move around and shoot rockets. As simple as this is, it's a blast in action.
Multiplayer is somewhat entertaining, but nothing near the infinite replay value of Goldeneye. There are typical deathmatch scenarios, but the most fun is easily the "Dogfight" mode. In this, all characters start with a jetpack. Classic Bond villains like Dr. No and Goldfinger are unlockables.
The presentation is very solid, and everything is pure Bond. All of the in-game music is great, and you'll hear frequent use of the legendary 007 theme. The cutscenes are well-produced, although "ET on VH1" host Maria Menounos is apparently a terrible actress. Connery sounds great, and the likeness is dead-on. Graphically, this doesn't introduce anything superior to the already-solid Everything or Nothing. Explosions in particular look great.
Although it won't take long to beat the game, there's always the option of playing through on a higher difficulty level (as well as trying to get all of the awards). There are also three bonus missions to unlock if you receive enough awards. For fans of the classic 60s Bond movies, this is well worth checking out, despite its flaws.
First Play: A-
Last Play: B
Overall: 83% B