Sony’s PSP continues to amaze me with its ability to (mostly) handle console ports with ease. Its beautiful display, for example, proves that games can look not only bright but amazingly crisp even on a three-inch screen, and that handheld games can actually nearly resemble their PS2 counterpart. The hardware’s missing one key ingredient, though, and for console ports it’s an important one: a second analog stick.
I’m hardly the first person to point this out. Nor is EA’s newest PSP game, 007: From Russia with Love, the first game to suffer because of it. In fact, From Russia with Love proves the strengths and weaknesses of the PSP in every regard: nearly console-quality graphics, a mostly complete port of the source material and snap-the-system-like-a-twig controls when you need a second anlog stick.
Since the game is essentially a port of the console version (minus the vehicle chases), I’ll simply refer you to our Xbox review of From Russia with Love for a general gameplay and plot overview. The performance-based weapons upgrades (think RPG-style assignable points) are still intact, as is the focus mode for aiming, and except for the vehicle sequences it feels like you’re playing the console version, just on a smaller screen. But the minute you try to turn a corner as Sean Connery, you’ll know all too well that you’re playing the PSP.
Without the second analog stick to manipulate the camera, the game quickly delves into the realm of near unplayability. James Bond can walk into a room and be the slickest, most debonair SOB on the planet. But the minute he crashes into a wall because the camera was apparently taking a long, hard look up his knickers, he looks like any other schmuck who’s had a few too many drinks shaken, not stirred. EA tried to compensate for the lack of easy camera control with its use of the face buttons, but using the buttons is not only awkward but incredibly slow to react.
Aside from being frustrating during the normal course of the game, the sketchy camera doesn’t exactly help when you realize that you’ve got about half a clip of ammunition at your disposal. The console version had plenty of ammo scattered about each level, and it was easy to keep your guns loaded by simply picking up rounds from fallen foes. EA must have thought ammunition was a bit too plentiful in the console version, because they overcompensated a bit in the PSP version, a fact that’s only compounded by the camera’s inability to let you swing around quickly and explore your environs.
Single-player mode aside, the camera also doesn’t bode well for the multiplayer aspects, another of the PSP’s normally strong suits. Although ad-hoc multiplayer is supported with the PSP, there’s really very little reason to play online other than to show the rest of the world just how stupid Bond looks running into walls because his user doesn’t have a grasp on the camera.
And with that, 007: From Russia with Love perfectly illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of Sony’s handheld. Graphically the game holds up well, save for a few framerate issues, it supports ad-hoc multiplayer, and the core content is essentially the same from the console versions as well. But the lack of a second analog stick to control the camera breaks this game like Bond breaks ladies’ hearts.
- Gameplay: 7
- Essentially the same as the console versions, but with much less ammo and without the cool vehicle sequences.
- Graphics: 4
- Nice crisp visuals, but the camera (something we always group with graphics) is just plain awful.
- Sound: 7
- Sean Connery returns, but other than that, there’s not much here.
- Replay: 6
- Yeah, there’s multiplayer…if you want to see people walking into walls.
- Overall: 6
- A decent game that’s absolutely massacred by the lack of a second analog stick.