Try as it may, Electronic Arts has been unable to shake the legacy of Rare and Nintendo's highly respected GoldenEye 007
, a standard-setting first-person shooter for consoles and fantastic adaptation of the Bond movie. It seems that with each release, The World is Not Enough
and so on, fans of the franchise were always stacking it up to expectations that are almost impossible to meet. This time with the release of James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing
things have changed. EA's internal development team has crafted a hugely entertaining third-person action title that offers up a bevy of gameplay styles, mostly centered on strategic shootouts and gripping driving sequences.
You haven't played a Bond videogame like this before and, yes, we remember that big "oops" that was Tomorrow Never Dies on the PSX. The new third-person perspective for Everything or Nothing is a welcomed change of pace with a caliber of polish and execution that has been long overdue.
EA's new dose of 007 challenges the movies in production values, making for one of the most compelling and faithful Bond games ever created.
There are a few important things to grasp when it comes to this new take on Bond. It's easiest to just call it a third-person shooter, and we could cite similarities to Syphon Filter, Kill Switch, or even Splinter Cell. The truth, however, is that EA has finally mastered its formula for the Hollywood-rooted series. Big production is a birthright and long has the company tried to shake but not stir the gameplay too much, tossing in vehicle-based objectives; but with Everything or Nothing you get so much more than that. Not only has the team designed truly engaging vehicle-based sequences (thanks to using the Need for Speed engine), but it has also given Bond's on-foot gameplay a complete makeover. Sure, there's third-person shooting, but there's also hand-to-hand combat, an integral part of gameplay that is actually important. Rappelling, which sends 007 seamlessly crawling up and down edges of buildings or walls, also alters what can be done. Then there are quite a few gadgets, most notably of which is the Q Spider, a remote control robot that is a strong mode of play on its own. In other words, Everything or Nothing steps up to bring gamers the same wide range of action seen in the movies. And most importantly, it does it competently.
At the top level, Everything or Nothing's story and the execution of it is fine-tuned. Pierce Brosnan, Willem Dafoe, Heidi Klum, Judi Dench, Shannon Elizabeth, Mya, Richard Kiel, John Cleese, and the gorgeous Japanese model Misaki Ito all offer up their presence with face scans and voice talent. This presentation is as important as anything when it comes to the Bond license. Gamers finally interact with Q and M, with their real voices, just like 007 does in the movies, and unlike in NightFire Brosnan's voice work will never clash with the experience. The story has a bunch of nano-sized, metal-eating machines threatening world destruction at the hands of Nikolai Diavolo, Defoe's character; and it's on-par with what we've seen in the most recent silver screen productions. This has a lot to do with the fact that it was written by Bruce Feirstein, who you can thank for writing the movies GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The World Is Not Enough. This became highly evident to us thanks to the countless puns and innuendo offered up on the dialogue. The very last line of the game, in fact, is a pun that will have a few cringing. So the story is genuine and thanks to the sky-high production values it pretty much stands about as tall as the movies, which is a huge accomplishment given that it's an original creation.
The package that wraps the new 007 experience is important because it immerses you and brings you one step closer to believing that you are James Bond. And, let's face it, that's what we all want to be when we're playing these games.
The gameplay itself only benefits from this and has received the same kind of polish. Because it's set in the third-person, you will always see James Bond and that makes a big difference. On the downside, it drastically changes gameplay compared to what the bulk of the videogames have been. After all, we definitely liked Bond being a first-person shooter, preferred it to a point, but it just wasn't working; EA wanted it to be more like the movies and fans expected it to be more like GoldenEye, which really doesn't cover the scope of what Bond films are. The third-person perspective forces players to use a lock-on targeting system that is augmented by a "pipper," which is a small reticule within the target zone that can be moved with the right analog stick -- head shots, arm shots, and crotch shots are all at your disposal. If you just target your enemy and fire, you're going to waste a lot of bullets on their midsection. As you progress, you'll begin completely missing enemy AI, which will run for cover. Meaning, targeting and shooting haphazardly works, but it's hardly efficient. In Everything or Nothing, Bond is equipped with a few tricks to aid him in shootouts. He can hug the wall or duck for cover. This implementation of third-person shooting has been done before, but the little "pipper" is a welcome advancement. The problem is that this is the only option. There is no over-the-shoulder view where you might have a chance to more precisely aim without targeting. Things can get frustrating when there are four or five guys in the vicinity, and you have to keep smashing the L-trigger to cycle through the guys; it's like that scene in Toy Story 2 where Hamm the Piggy Bank scrolls past the channel he wants on the TV and says, "Too late, I'm already on the 40s, gotta go around the horn, it's faster!"
So, yes, the targeting system still needs some work, but once you get the hang of it, you will only find mild frustration occasionally. Thankfully, like James Bond would, you have a number of ways to complete your objective. Crouch down, putting yourself into a quieter stealth stance, and you can sneak up behind enemies to take them out without any commotion. You can complete entire missions this way. Maybe you want to be even more devious, though. You'll find once you earn the Q Spider there are a number of ventilation paths that let you sneak up on groups and blow them to pieces. Since you are rated on how much ammo you preserve and your accuracy, using these other options is imperative. It's also more entertaining to be the better spy and not go running-and-gunning your way through every level (which will get you killed a lot in Everything or Nothing). The game lets you be a smart spy, be creative. These many alternate ways to play expand replay value, but just heighten enjoyment because you're not limited to one linear path.
Rappelling is probably the biggest and coolest new addition, though. The tactile feedback you get from scaling walls and watching enemies do the same -- you'll have shootouts on building sides -- is excellent. One of the first levels that impressed us was the mine, which had enemies lowering themselves like spiders out vertical shafts. If we had one complaint about it, it would be that it wasn't used more. We would have liked to see a great flexibility to get atop objects and avoid head-on conflicts. Plus, it just looks really sweet.
The vehicular levels capitalize on this multiple path concept nicely, too. In one of the first levels you have your choice of an SUV or a motorcycle, and within that there are a few ways to go. It's done in a way that's smart enough to lead the player to the finish line, but also to let him/her be creative. Vehicular stages are also packed with a plethora of explosions; cars are equipped with machine guns and missiles, and later your motorcycle is decked out with dual flamethrowers and your shotgun, which you can use by taking one hand off the bike. It's without a doubt the best integration of vehicles in a 007 title; it's finally something we embrace instead of feeling like we're being forced to experience "varied gameplay." You've probably heard us tout one of the motorcycle levels later in the game, which is an impressive mix of break-neck speed a la Burnout and combat reminiscent of Road Rash. If this is a hint of things to come, we're in for some nice sequels.
And, what would Bond be without an encounter with Jaws or a number of other boss battles? This is yet another area where the new 007 excels. There are a few boss fights, and although they're a little clunky, they are sufficient and further the diversity of play styles offered.
All of these elements, which are tightly guarded by a shell of top-shelf production, add up for a seriously entertaining single-player experience. It is a must-play for fans of the action genre and, especially, Bond titles. It's a really good first step in a new direction and we can't wait to see how EA improves on it going forward.
This is perhaps the most unexpectedly weak area of Everything or Nothing. The third-person perspective has driven four-player split-screen matches out and made room for cooperative play. While the latter is a welcome addition, one with its own levels and objectives, it feels decidedly rushed and can't compare to the single-player experience. It's a much more arcadey setup that will be enjoyable for a while, but doesn't really last. The PlayStation 2 benefits most in this area because it features online cooperative play, and neither GameCube nor Xbox (more disappointingly) do.
This is one area where devotees of the addictive GoldenEye-style deathmatches will be disappointed. But, again, it seems to be a first step. The next third-person Bond title could benefit from having a stronger cooperative mode, but more than anything it really needs compelling four-player value. We were surprised to see there aren't any applications of the Need for Speed engine in this area. We would have been very pleased to see something akin to the aforementioned Road Rash-esque biking combat available. It's something to shoot for
If we had to award a medal to the eye-candy seen here in Everything or Nothing, we'd have to say it's an eye that is golden. From the accurate recreation of the Hollywood talent to the believability of the environments, Bond has never looked so brilliant. The need for 60 frames per second gameplay is somewhat lessened with the third-person gameplay -- it runs at half that -- but you can rest assured that the engine makes good use of the extra rendering time. The most outstanding thing is that every level is consistently huge and effective with what it offers. As you move from one area to the next, everything flows seamlessly. Textures are not uncommonly high-res, but they are artistically solid; lighting, while not dynamic but instead preset, is smartly used to set just the right mood; and particle effects in addition to all the little extra touches got grand treatment. Notably for the latter, Everything or Nothing owes much of its beauty to the extra polish that makes explosions, shattering glass, crumbles of dirt, and the gunfire look authentic. Gone are the soft-looking peanuts that seemed to float out of gunfire in Agent Under Fire. Animation on Bond's movements seem a little pre-packaged, but he reacts to explosions, looking over his shoulder and covering his face, as well as enemies, and that earns extra points.
EA's use of the Need for Speed engine (a tweaked one from Hot Pursuit 2, it seems) is very well done. The driving levels are absolutely gorgeous. Car models are fleshed out with polygons, specular lighting effects, and reflections. The Aston Martin, the reflective, silvery Russian tanks, the Porsche Cayenne, and the whole armada look pretty close to coming right off the lot. The driving objectives also feature the same slick presentation. One of the most jaw-dropping levels in the entire game is a seriously high-speed chase across a traffic-packed bridge, where a deep orange sun reflects off the sweaty pavement. The speed effect, heightened by small particles that streak through the air, combined with all the lighting and constant explosions is extremely impressive.
When you think Bond, you can't help but think of the dazzling, high-production movies. EA has finally captured that same glory, almost flawlessly. The framerate isn't completely reliable, making it sporadically problematic. Likewise, the integration of FMV is questionable; the company decided to use the in-game modeling spiced up in a pre-rendered environment, giving it more lighting effects and especially explosive effects power. The problem is that when you start using face scans from the real life actors, you can't help but expect things like facial animations and general presence to reflect that. So, this sort of middleground FMV works, and we agree with its use to a point, but it almost seems that going all the way (think Final Fantasy quality) or sticking with in-game might have been a better choice. Or perhaps just blending FMV right into gameplay moments, like Final Fantasy has recently, could have helped.
The entire package, however, is only slightly marred by this. As a whole, the new Bond is the most visually stunning of the franchise yet (though, admittedly NightFire is still impressive for its own reasons). Much of this thanks to the Hollywood-caliber production values.
Needless to say, we think you'll be pretty pleased with the results.
The voice talent is probably the biggest and most impressive thing when it comes to the audio. Brosnan, Dench, Defoe and the whole cast offer up solid voice work. It's not as strong as what we saw in the Lord of the Rings titles, but then again it doesn't have quite as passionate dialogue. It does the job, though, and without it the presentation would be awkward -- the roster here was a huge score.
In-game music is excellent as well. It mixes orchestrations with techno themes, changing dynamically at points, and does a satisfactory job of setting the mood. Mya even offers up her lungs for a killer theme song, which, incidentally, plays over the arcade modes you unlock after beating the game. Not too shabby.
The surround experience can be sweet, too. A few of the driving levels impress, but simply for the atmospheric stuff -- explosions, metal gears churning in the distance, a mechanical hum -- it earns points. Enemies even communicate with each other. The only issue is that over the 10-20 hours of gameplay, you're going to get tired of the repetition of phrases like, "Hey, that guy's a spy!"
Nonetheless, it's an overall above-average audio experience.
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