From Russia With Love Updated Hands-On
EA shows off an updated version of its latest Bond game.
From Russia With Love is the promising follow-up to last year's Everything or Nothing, EA's excellent third-person action game featuring the one and only James Bond. This latest entry in EA's Bond games gains an extra bit of coolness thanks to the presence of the one true Bond, Sean Connery. The game is actually based around the classic film and expands on its story. While we've seen the game on and off, this latest version was the most polished showing to date.
The demo consisted of four levels: two single-player missions and two multiplayer levels. The first level was taken from the early part of the game and was set in a complex hedge maze that featured a heavy slant toward stealth gameplay with a nice action twist. Your goal is to navigate through a hedge maze while avoiding patrolling enemies. Thankfully you don't have to skulk in the shadows all the time. You can take out enemies by using the focused aiming mode mechanic and shooting out the radios on their chests. Once their radios are taken out you are free to whale on them like only Connery's Bond can. We're especially taken with the way the game switches to hand-to-hand combat based on proximity. The ability to pull off special attacks during melee, if you follow the onscreen button prompts that come up during combat, is especially cool. However, if you try to engage the enemies without taking out their radios, they'll call down murderous mobs that will likely overwhelm you. To make your journey through the dense maze a bit easier, you'll be able to vault over some obstacles and take shortcuts. The only catch is that it's in your best interest to look before you leap, as you may hop smack-dab into trouble. The hedge maze ends with a plot twist we won't spoil, but if you haven't seen the classic film yet you should feel shame. The only other element of note in the hedge level were the pickups that ranged from the expected weapon and armor pickups to detailed schematics that you'll use to unlock the cache of extras being included in the game.
The second level we checked out was based on Istanbul, and it showed off the seamless manner in which the game is blending its driving and on-foot missions. The level is the third one you'll play in the game and the first time you'll get behind the wheel of a car. The driving mechanics are solid and let you fire off a modest, but oh-so effective, arsenal of weapons. We had access to a trio of arms. Front-mounted machine guns come in handy for dealing with enemy vehicles in front of you. Tire rams let you knock any fools to one side who are dumb enough to get close to either side of your car. Finally, you'll be able to fire off powerful missiles that explode with an impressive flourish. Once you've made it through the driving segment, you'll hit a roadblock that will require Bond to get out of his car and take care of business the old-fashioned way. You'll navigate the streets of the city, which have been messed up some by explosions, in order to position yourself to take out an enemy tank that's being a nuisance. This level provided a sharp contrast to the more low-key hedge maze level and focused on the two Rs and one G that are central to the game: running, rappelling, and gunning. The rappel element of the game has changed some from EoN, as you'll now find specific points that will let you use your cable to climb areas. The mechanic has been tweaked to let you swing now, which we did to good effect when we surprised a group of enemies. When we reached the tank we were able to take control of the turret and take out enemies while we focused our fire on the tank. Thankfully, the gameplay balance wasn't tuned to where the team is hoping to have it, so taking out the tank was a walk in the park. (We're naturally dreading the pain of doing it in the final game.)
The two multiplayer levels we saw, Venice and Station T, were solid stages to show off the meaty split-screen multiplayer games being included in FRWL. There will be 10 playable characters when you first hop into the mode, with more to unlock as you progress through the game. You'll find several different game modes to try, such as classic deathmatch. Also included will be: sabotage, a variation on capture the flag using bombs; hitman, a variation of tag, wherein you can only score points by taking out the hitman; and the one that excites us the most, for fanboy reasons, is dogfight, a jetpack-only match that will require you to zip around the air like a madman and take out enemies.
The visuals and audio in the game have come a long way since we last saw it. The visuals in the Xbox game we saw running were looking good. Detail was high and the special effects for weapon fire and explosions were satisfying as always, thanks to a heavy-duty use of particle effects. The frame rate took a few hits when some of the explosions got out of hand, as they often do in a Bond game, and the camera was fussy in a few spots of the close-quarter combat. But given the game's work-in-progress condition, we doubt things are going to be left as is. Connery's voice was in fine form and perfectly captured his 007's unique personality.
All told, we're more than pleased by what we've seen of From Russia With Love. The game is capably following in the winning steps of Everything or Nothing, and the addition of Connery is a total plus. If you're a Bond fan, or just a fan of good action games, we're pretty sure you'll want to check out From Russia With Love when it ships later this year. Look for more on the game in the coming months.
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