Half-assed handheld ports of console games are nothing new, but with the advent of the powerful PSP, we kind of thought those days were coming to an end. No such luck, if the PSP version of From Russia With Love is anything to go by. In adapting the console game of the same name, it cuts out the driving, many of the gameplay nuances and nearly half the levels, leaving us with a passable, short James Bond shooter that we're still expected to pay $40 for.
If all you're looking for is a third-person run-and-gun game that lets you blast your way through goon squads, though, From Russia With Love isn't a bad choice. As Bond (played here by Sir Sean Connery), you'll spend most of the game running around on foot, gunning down the faceless hordes of the OCTOPUS terror syndicate. The action is fast and entertaining, and the game keeps things interesting by occasionally confronting you with armored enemies (you'll have to find their weak spots), forcing you to puzzle your way around locked doors or enabling you to grab a sniper rifle and cover a comrade from a distance. At certain points, you'll also be able to pilot a jetpack or the remote-controlled Q-copter (good for slipping through air vents to blow up locks on the other side), although these segments are fairly rare.
Rarer still are the points where you'll actually get to use Bond's other gadgets - his laser watch is really only good for blowing up things behind bullet-proof glass, which don't pop up very often, and his serum darts (which briefly stun enemies) are all but useless. Bond's grappling hook is still here, although rappelling up and down walls - which was done manually in the console version - is now automatic.
Also, while stealth played a significant role in the console version, it won't help you much here; you can creep around with your knees bent all you want, but the baddies will usually catch you if you try to get in close for a kill. Sneaking wasn't all that was cut from the PSP version, either; no less than six of the original 14 missions were removed from the game, replaced by 16 mini-challenges that have you doing things like racing through a certain stage in a jetpack, or seeing how many enemies you can kill within a set time limit. These are fun, sure, but they're a poor replacement for driving, boating or outwitting a tank - especially when you consider that this expurgated version can be played through in an afternoon.
In the game's defense, the controls do a decent job of skirting the PSP's limitations. You can control the camera with the face buttons (horizontal movement only, though), and lock on to hard-to-see enemies by hitting the left trigger. You can also use "Bond focus," which lets you zoom in and target body parts (or, on some enemies, grenades or weak spots) for extra style points. However, since nudging the camera left and entering Bond focus are both done with the same button, you'll often find yourself "focusing" accidentally. And since entering focus immobilizes Bond, this is especially bad in the middle of a gunfight.
Above: Bond focus in action. Note little yellow targeting cursor and suggested target spots
If there's a good reason to pick up the PSP version, it's the multiplayer modes. Using the PSP's built-in WiFi, you can take on five friends (or five AI opponents) in four different deathmatch modes - two on foot, two in jetpacks. The options are a little sparse (only two maps for jetpack dogfights?), but the action is fun, even if you can't use the close-up judo moves from the single-player game.
Despite its flaws, From Russia With Love is an overall decent shooter that brings Bond onto the PSP with smooth visuals, cinematic presentation and fun action. However, it has the double misfortune of being an incomplete port, and of being released around the same time as Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror (which does the same things, but better). Unless what you really want out of this game is portability, you're better off sticking with the console version - a much better deal with nearly twice the content for literally half the price.