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007: From Russia With Love vs. Blood Stone

I know, I know, I know. Nobody cares about an average, eight-year-old movie tie-in video game that didn’t even make much of a splash when it was released on the Playstation 2. Typically I wouldn’t even play it, never mind spend my valuable time writing a thousand-odd words about it. But, fate conspired to have me spot this title sitting in a shop window with a price tag of literally pennies, and I was compelled to buy and play it by a question which popped into my head immediately upon seeing the cover: I wonder if that one is better than Blood Stone?

For the benefit of those not in the know, James Bond 007: From Russia with Love (which from here on shall be referred to as just From Russia with Love) was the last third-person James Bond video game to be released before Blood Stone came along and left a nasty smell hanging around the genre. It has a lot of similarities to 2004’s Everything or Nothing, which as we’ve established elsewhere was a pretty good little game. Girls, gadgets, cars, explosions – these are things they both share. What they don’t share is source material –From Russia with Love being based on an actual Bond film, albeit one released in 1963 – and, more importantly, the presence of Sir Sean Connery.

Most true Bond fans will probably tell you that their favourite actor to portray everyone’s beloved vodka-swilling womanizer is Sir Sean, and as such his being in the game was always going to be a well-received addition. It helps that his physical reconstruction and mannerisms are both top-notch though, even down to his trademark shooting from the hip. EA actually did a really good job recreating the classic feel of the From Russia with Love movie, and Mr. Connery being in the driving seat helps to bring that nostalgic presentation together.

What doesn’t help is that Sean Connery isn’t a young man anymore. He’s actually an old man, and Christ Almighty he sounds like one. We’re talking granddad delivering catchphrases with his gun-finger pointing at himself in the mirror. It’s really, really awkward. As much of a legend as this man is, as much as he is almost synonymous with the name James Bond, he needs to leave these voice-over roles well alone. It does not befit an action game to have the lines of the protagonist delivered by a geriatric.

Here’s a confession: I actually think Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever. I don’t even particularly like him as an actor, but his cold and emotionless persona is a near-perfect representation of Ian Fleming’s version of the character. I like the books a lot, despite their incredibly ‘50s sensibilities, and the reason I like Craig so much in the role is because he’s the closest we’re ever going to get to a “true” James Bond. Nostalgia aside, Blood Stone draws first blood. How fitting.

From Russia with Love definitely has an advantage in the action department though. For starters it isn’t cover-based, and so is by definition more interesting. Admittedly it does use the classic “lock-on and hammer the fire button until someone falls over” mechanic, which takes a lot of the tactics and challenge away, but I’d rather be untroubled and having fun than frustrated and bored out of my mind. As for the close-quarters combat, From Russia with Love requires two button presses rather than Blood Stone’s one to execute the instant-kill James Bond hug special move, and is a lot more satisfying as a result of being literally twice as complex. If you’re keeping score, that makes things one apiece.

Next up: gadgets. I always find it interesting that the James Bond series is so well-known for its high-tech toys, because I’m pretty sure the literary versions didn’t have any at all. They definitely didn’t have a car which could sprout fins and be driven underwater, anyway. In keeping with those original iterations, Daniel Craig’s Bond has no gadgets in Blood Stone whatsoever aside from a smartphone which somehow manages to do everything and nothing *aha!* at the same time. Every contextual action in the game is carried out by the smartphone, but aside from pointing out important objects in the environment and reading emails – two tasks which can be accomplished just as easily by using your eyes – I have no idea what it does. Except for turning the whole screen black and white, which it does every time you use it.

From Russia with Love, on the other hand, has a number of gadgets. For example, the Q-Copter is a remote-controlled helicopter which allows Bond to reconnoitre areas by piloting the device through certain curiously Q-Copter-sized vents. You can also make the Q-Copter explode, which all good gadgets must. Additionally there is a rappel device, which doesn’t explode. You can use it to swing through a window and land on an enemy’s head though, so there’s that.

And swinging into the lead as a result, From Russia with Love!

All self-respecting third-person James Bond video games must also have vehicle sections, and this is where the competition heats up. Both games have a car chase, and both games have a boat chase. Blood Stone actually has several car chases. It also has better cars, and even – seemingly in a calculated move – has a shinier version of the same car Sean Connery drives in From Russia with Love. That would be the Aston Martin DB5, if you were wondering. Nice motor. All things considered, this should be an easy win for Blood Stone.

Luckily, all things have not been considered. From Russia with Love has jetpacks, which is an automatic victory in this category. For those of you playing along, that’s From Russia with Love 3 – 1 Blood Stone.

Finally, the least important and most intentionally ignored aspect of any James Bond video game: narrative. You might make the reasonable assumption here that From Russia with Love has an unfair advantage in this area, its source material having such a litany of iconic scenes to recreate. You’d almost be right too, if not for the fact that From Russia with Love either ignored or radically altered almost all of them. The helicopter fight is missing, the battle with Red Grant aboard the Orient Express is nigh-unrecognizable, and all we’re really left with is the gunfight at the gypsy camp and that whole business at the Russian consulate. Luckily, Blood Stone only has Joss Stone, so From Russia with Love sweeps the final category by default and with it the whole competition in a dominant 4-1 victory.

And there you have it folks. Definitive, scientific proof that Blood Stone is so stale, so bland and so derivative that even its half-decade older ancestor with a butchered license on an out-of-date system is a substantially more entertaining video game. I don’t even know what to say. I can only be thankful that this travesty has allowed for such culturally important games journalism. Thank you being a part of it.

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