From Russia With Love Single-Player Hands-On

We travel to London and Istanbul as we check out the PSP version of James Bond's latest movie-inspired action game.

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Currently scheduled for release in March, the PlayStation Portable version of From Russia With Love is a third-person action game that's closely based on the home-console games of the same name that were released in November of last year. The PSP game promises an enhanced multiplayer mode for up to six players, as well as a control scheme that's been reworked to better accommodate the PSP's single analog stick setup. We recently had an opportunity to check out a near-finished version of From Russia With Love and can report that the game looks to do a pretty good job of making you feel like James Bond circa 1963--even if some liberties have been taken with the titular movie's storyline.

You'll find much in From Russia With Love that you don't recognize from the movie.

The game's opening sequence is set in London, where you'll be tasked with rescuing the prime minister's daughter from the evil forces of Octopus. This level affords you plenty of opportunities to familiarize yourself with the game's controls, which we're pleased to report we have had very few problems with thus far. Basic movement is handled using the analog stick, while the triangle button is used to crouch and to perform forward rolls. The PSP's left and right shoulder buttons are used for locking on to and shooting at targets, respectively; the circle and square buttons are used to rotate the third-person camera left and right; and the X button is used to reload your weapon. That just leaves the PSP's directional pad, of course, which you'll be using to switch between the numerous weapons in Bond's arsenal. The only minor complaint we have about the basic controls at this point would be that the camera rotates around Bond a little more slowly than we'd like when using the circle and square buttons, although in fairness, those buttons don't get nearly as much use as you might expect.

You won't need to manually rotate the camera often not only because it generally looks to do a good job of keeping up with Bond's movements, but also because it's possible to lock on to enemies even before they're in Bond's line of sight simply by pressing the left shoulder button. With an enemy fixed in your sights, the easiest way to finish them off is to squeeze your right shoulder button until your target has absorbed just enough lead to put them down permanently. One of From Russia With Love's neatest features, though, is the "focus mode" that you're encouraged to use once you've locked on--letting you manually target specific areas of your enemy in order to conserve ammo and earn stars. The most obvious area to target on an enemy is usually his head, but in From Russia With Love you'll notice that certain areas are highlighted as soon as you go into focus mode. Based on our experiences to date, the majority of these highlighted areas are weapons that you can shoot out of your enemies' hands, but we've also had opportunities to shoot at ropes on which enemies are descending into a room and to shoot grenades hanging from enemies' belts. The stars that you earn for performing these particularly satisfying kills are essentially experience points that will let you improve Bond's proficiencies with weapons, gadgets, and body armor.

Switching between the weapons in your arsenal really couldn't be easier.

All of the weapons that we've used in From Russia With Love to date are controlled in exactly the same way, with the exception of the sniper rifle. Supposedly the weapon of choice when covering a colleague from a vantage point on a rooftop, the sniper rifle is the only weapon we've come across that doesn't lock on to targets when you press the left shoulder button. It's obviously conceivable that being able to lock on with the sniper rifle would make the sequences in question too easy, but the problem is that aiming the gun while also using the zoom is tricky without a second analog stick. The default control option requires you to aim your sniper rifle using the analog stick while using up and down on the directional pad to zoom, while the alternate option lets you aim using the face buttons. We found both of these setups to be quite unwieldy, unfortunately, and ended up playing through both of the sniper sequences we encountered using just about every weapon in our arsenal except for the rifle.

Sniper rifle aside, we've enjoyed our time with From Russia With Love's single-player component thus far, and we're looking forward to bringing you a full review once we get our hands on the finished game. In the meantime, we're also hoping to get our hands on some additional copies so that we might bring you our impressions of the game's multiplayer options in the not-too-distant future. Stay tuned.

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