007 James Bond: Everything or Nothing
If aliens landed on our world, what would they think? We vote terrorists as leaders, kill off the environment and worship a British secret agent that hasn’t failed his mission in 20 outings. Hell, the search for a new James Bond is often more popular than the government elections themselves. However, the search for a fairly decent Bond game has been less than straight forward, going way back to when Goldeneye ruled supreme on the N64. Tomorrow Never Dies was too linear and, well, crap, whereas the last two titles to appear on next generation consoles have been stepping stones for something specialÖ something shagadellicÖ
The difference with Everything or Nothing is the game throws you right into the thick of the action right after the opening credits, much like the films and out of character with games. Getting to the press start screen, I was expecting to be bogged down with menus and options, trailers and FMV sequences. Instead, players are whisked away to a secluded location where two ‘made men’ are making an exchange. Yes, you guessed it; one of them has an over-the-top Russian accent. No, it isn’t Roman Abramovich making his latest signing for Chelski, but an equally rich gent buying nuclear weapons (Bush! Blair! We’ve found them!). Overseeing the exchange is ‘top secret MI6 special agent’ James Bond, through his binoculars, and soon after weapons and money have been presented explosions rip put. Each party pulls out guns and start to pump lead into each other, and whilst this entire fracas is undergoing, our James (him, not me) slips in to snatch the weapons. At this point, control is handed over to you, and with a few on-screen tips you embark on your mission.
“Ah ha, zo meister Burnd, ah ‘ave yoo naw!”
Bond feels far more responsive this time round, allowing players to become aquatinted with him far more easily. You can duck, jump, roll and even hide behind objects for cover. The best new enhancement though comes in the aiming, where you hold in the shoulder button to target your foe, and move a small red dot with the right analogue stick for precision aiming. So this means that both newcomers and veterans alike can enjoy the game, with the former just bashing away at the fire button and the latter able to home in on a precarious limb of skull jutting out from behind a crate. Top notch.
It’s after this mission that the customary movie kicks in, with all manner of weird items on screen with the camera pissing about looking fancy. Of particular note are the cast, with Pierce Brosnan, Heidi Klum (drool), Shannon Elizabeth (drool) and John Cleese (drÖoh), which means that only do EA have the atmosphere and feel of a 007 movie, but also the voices behind the main men. And women. EA sure do know how to make a great game. They’re my favourite developer you know, honest. PES who?
In fact, without wishing to spoil things, locked away in there is a small interview with the cast. You get to see Pierce talk about how cool it is to play as Bond, Cleese giving his damning opinion on how impressed with the effort he is, and best of all, interviews with the ladies. Oh god, how I love James Bond movies. Shame my first name doesn’t bring me the girls like it does Bond.
ìNur nur nur nur, nur nur nur nur nur nur nur, nur nur nur nur nur nur nur, nur nur nur nur nur nur nur, nur nur nur nur nur nur, nur nur nur. Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah, dah dah, dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah, dah dah, dah dah dahî ìWill you stop it with the Bond stuff? I mean, you’re not even a patch on Sean Connery!î
The name James Bond does literally guarantee sales though, film or otherwise, and whilst EA have been criticised in the past for cashing in (I must admit that I liked Tomorrow Never Dies on the PSOne, even if it was terribly linear) on a few licences, the profits from the past have been invested greatly on the development side of things. For instance, levels seem to feel ‘foreign’ in the way that you don’t know what’s coming next, but feel no fear what-so-ever. You’re Bond, you’re meant to feel untouchable (well he is), but each destination feels as if it was built for the bad guys and not for you. For example, the second level sees you slowly edging down the side of a building on a wire. Explosions roar out of windows, ledges blow up, debris falls from behind you and random gun fire shoots across the screen. You won’t for one second feel scared, but more ‘holy crap, this is great’.
EA have also tackled the boundaries of linear gameplay, well almost. Whilst all levels require you to go from A to B, and there is a set route, there is almost always a few more ways to get to B. Again, the second level is a great example. You edge down, shooting bad guys, occasionally swinging round to face up to the sky and taking out bad guys from the top then swinging back round to descend more. New gamers will just head on down, but the more experienced will look for the unexpected, and hidden away on the seemingly one-way traffic of the side of a building is another way to make an entrance. Going straight down results in a fierce gun battle to turn off some vents on fire, and whilst doing this you can gather more ammo, going to the immediate left whilst descending means you take out the baddies on the wrong foot and manage to turn out the fire vents. Then you can take cover in a room on fire, picking off the bad guys as they run back through to get you. Genius.
“Do you expect me to talk? Why no, meister Burnd, I expect you to die!”
Of course, James wouldn’t be Bond if he didn’t drive cars and other weird vehicles whilst deploying some state-of-the-art gadget in some way. You get to grips with a cool spider bomb which you send into battle via remote control. Off it toddles without a care in the world, through obscure cracks in walls, and just as the target is rolling his newspaper to hit it, the metal bug explodes. Sweet. Your car, an Aston martin I might add, is fitted with rockets, oil slicks, guns, blow up dolls (if only) and those cool spiky things that burst tires, and later on in the game you get to have fun with the cloaking device, slipping past enemies un-noticed. There is also a helicopter that has you flying in a sweeping, Indiana Jones style canyon with narrow straights, hanging obstacles, rockets and bullets flying at you from everywhere and the odd falling rock.
The levels that you race on appear as convincing as the on-foot campaigns, with slow sweeping bends urging you to floor the accelerator and tight corners getting you squealing ‘Brake! Brake!’. There is one level that has you chasing a train to rescue a female doctor, so you roar through the enemy complex, blowing up closing doors and making passages to escape through. Once out you’re faced with the rough terrain of what appears to be a canyon, but rather than use this setting to stop you roaming about, EA have created neat little jumps, short-cuts and ramps to vary the experience for each player. Rockets firing at you from the train create huge craters in the ground, and you can either slow down and steer clear of these or go full speed over them, gaining huge air and suprising enemies.
The million-dollar question: how does one man and his six-shooter take out trillions of trained militants with AK-47’s? The Answer: With styleÖ
The infamous storyline is here too; betraying girls, powerful mad men, moles (of the spying kind), backstabbing, love, romance, wealth, fast driving, comedy catchphrases and that music. It’s all there, and whilst it might not be strong enough to keep you on the edge of your seat to see what happens next it is well thought out and is reminiscent of the movies themselves.
But with Bond greatness comes Bond flaws, just like the movies. In Die Another Day, for instance, how does Bond know where his invisible car is? Shouldn’t he be stumbling forward with his arms out in front of him, feeling for the door? Problems with the vehicles in Everything or Nothing are that you have two viewpoints; far and very far. The fact that you can’t drive from inside the car disappointed me the most because most other games have this option and I have grown to it. Driving a car from behind it just doesn’t seem right, and whereas I had moments of fun most of the time I found myself glued to walls and barriers, hammering down on the ‘fire rockets’ button.
Another complaint about the vehicles is they either want to turn or they don’t want to; there is no ‘half way’ turn between straight and full lock-on, which is bloody annoying when you just want to edge away from the edge of a barrier and instead turn 180 degrees. The helicopter seems too restricted in the mobility department, as you can only move the way you are facing. But then again, if where able to bank and spin around then the environment would seem too restrictive, so maybe this is worth leaving as it is.
Whilst stealth moves, like hugging walls and ducking behind objects, can aid you in staying alive and completing the mission, often the camera will let you down. Sometimes you think an area is clear, so progress on and hide behind an oil drum. Only when you are taking cover and reloading do you see the line of bullets slowly creeping from the side of the screen onto your vulnerable body, and by the time you’ve swung the camera round to see the threat you’ll be carving your coffin. What would have been nice is if we could choose between a first person viewpoint for shooting and then back to third person for the adventure bits, so you could quickly swing round and hammer some hot lead into a bad guys torso before he even thinks about squeezing the trigger.
And whilst the multiplayer option will appeal to those at three in the morning, dosed up on alcohol and unable to get the theme tune out of their heads, it won’t do much for the sober dudes and dude-ettes. There are four modes available, with only the bog standard Arena mode supporting four players. If you have a friend willing to play, then you can both jump in the deep end with Co-operative play (you need to complete a mission gone tits-up), Race (get awarded points for quickly completing a mission) and Scramble (One on one deathmatch). All these seem all fair and well until you get down to playing. The levels are far too linear and small to deploy any sort of tactics and there are too many times when you’ll be hiding behind a crate kissing your arse goodbye as bullets fly and you have no idea where from. So rather than Halo style missions where you give each other covering fire, you’ll instead be risking each others lives with one running and drawing the gunners attentions whilst the other takes aim. And too many times do you run around a corner, only for a window to open and a mini-gun get pointed out of it from behind you.
The Arena mode is where it all happens though as four players shoot the living daylights out of each other. Bond star Jaws also wanders round, grabbing unwilling players and beating them which means there’s no room for campers. But thanks to the third-person view and the now smaller portion of the screen (as it’s spit into four) you can barely see where you are going or shooting which makes for a trigger-happy affair and throws all caution to the wind.
ìYou ninny! I said shaken, not stirred!î
Direct comparisons to the holy grail that is Goldeneye were to be expected, but Everything or Nothing is a different kettle of fish. This is more of an action adventure title than a first person shooter so the two would never get on with comparisons anyway. Instead, what we have here is the best 007 game of the next generation era, sitting high and mighty above the dismal efforts that were Agent Under Fire and Nightfire. For once there are barely any rocket launcher-proof doors that detract from the experience, no paths that drag you by the neck down them and nothing that won’t be any fun.
What 007 James Bond: Everything or Nothing gives to the market is an enjoyable Bond adventure with all the trimmings. You snog girls, kill baddies, play with gadgets and drive cars in convincing levels with rockets flying from left to right, explosions knocking the speakers off the TV and various of those close-up comments that will have you wincing in laughter. This isn’t the definitive Bond experience and you sure as hell won’t be grabbed by the story, but for those times when you feel like taking on the world in style, this is it.