Ever since the success of Nintendo and Rare's take on the James Bond film GoldenEye, the world's most famous secret agent has been cast in first-person shooter after first-person shooter. It seems as though Electronic Arts has been trying, with varying degrees of success, to recapture the magic of Rare's classic Nintendo 64 game. But for an agent as versatile as James Bond, casting him into a shooter has always felt a little limiting. There's certainly much, much more to the character than just running around with a gun. Electronic Arts has finally come to this conclusion, it seems. Its latest Bond game, Everything or Nothing, is a third-person action game that blends shooting, driving, and other types of action together in a seamless fashion, delivering an awesome experience that puts you in 007's shoes better than any game to come before it.
Though Everything or Nothing isn't based directly on a James Bond movie, the way the story is presented makes it feel every bit as authentic as one of the films. For the first time, actor Pierce Brosnan lends his voice to a Bond game, which lends additional authenticity to Everything or Nothing. In addition, the cast of the game includes John Cleese, Dame Judi Dench, Richard Kiel, Willem Dafoe, Shannon Elizabeth, Heidi Klum, and singer Mya, who both performs the game's main theme and appears in the game as an NSA agent. While using Hollywood talent in games is nothing new, EA has actually based the looks of the characters on their real-life counterparts. So, for instance, Q has not only John Cleese's voice, but also his likeness. All of this combines to make the game feel like a very big production that exceeds what's been done in past Bond games.
The storyline also matches up with the Bond legacy quite well. Willem Dafoe plays the heavy in the story, an ex-KGB agent named Nikolai Diavolo. To tie him in to the Bond franchise, Diavolo is said to have worked with former Bond supervillain Max Zorin, whom fans of the films will remember as the bad guy played by Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill. Further tying the game to past Bond activities is the appearance of Jaws, the metal-mouthed tough guy from Bond's past. The plot of the game centers on nanobot technology--Diavolo wants to use microscopic machines for evil, and it's up to 007 to stop him. Along the way, you'll save the girl, give a massage, break the necks of some henchmen, and blow up as many things as you possibly can.
The majority of the action in Everything or Nothing consists of third-person action with a heavy emphasis on shooting and hiding behind cover. One button lets you lock your aim onto an enemy. From there, you can use the right analog stick to further refine your aim--which is largely important for lethal headshots. Enemies generally take cover once they've spotted you, but they'll occasionally pop their heads out for a look at the action. That, as you might imagine, is the perfect time to strike. From either a ducking position or from hiding around a corner, you can simply hit the fire button to have James pop out, fire off a shot or two, and then get right back into hiding. This mechanic, which shares a bit of the same tactical significance as the hide-and-shoot gameplay of Namco's kill.switch, is fun and works well.
However, it tends to work a little too well at times, as Bond's aim is perfect. This means you can line up headshots like there's no tomorrow and simply dispatch 85 percent of your enemies with one shot, regardless of which weapon you're toting. The remaining 15 percent require some slightly closer action. In these cases, you can resort to fisticuffs, throws, or, if you're stealthy, sneaking up behind guards and breaking their necks. In the navigation department, 007 is armed with a rappelling device, and you'll be doing a lot of climbing on the sides of buildings. But on-foot action isn't all you'll be doing.
Everything or Nothing also contains a fairly robust driving engine, and you'll be in control of a few different vehicles over the course of the game. Most of the driving missions center on giving you a destination and leaving the route up to you. Most of the driving levels have a few different paths, and, more importantly, a lot of the driving feels very open-ended. Early on, you'll be on a motorcycle, trying to catch up with a train. Here you get a lot of different paths to choose from, but you're rarely left wondering if maybe another path would have been quicker or better. Some of your vehicles are armed in true James Bond fashion, so you'll be firing rockets from your Porsche or shooting flames out of the sides of your Q-Bike. It's all very cool and very well done.
When it comes to cool, James Bond is certainly one of "cool's" classic definitions. There's a lot more to the suave secret agent than just shooting people and driving cars. Everything or Nothing tries to capture this additional level of the character with what the game calls "Bond moments." Each level has a few Bond moments that you can trigger. Some of them are as simple as making a rooftop-to-rooftop jump on your motorcycle. In one case, you'll find a woman lying on a massage table, and if you pause for a second to give her a rubdown, you'll see a cutscene you wouldn't have seen normally. In one bar sequence, you can find a switch to drop a lighting rig from the ceiling onto your enemies instead of just taking them out with your shotgun. Some of these optional sequences are cooler than others, and some in particular stand out as just awe-inspiring.
You will get additional points for finding and pulling off the Bond moments. Points are tallied at the end of every mission, and each level has a point goal that, when satisfied, gives you a gold rating for the mission. Additional factors in your score are the game's three difficulty settings. Once you've beaten a mission on the "00 Agent" setting, you can go back for a platinum challenge. Getting gold on a mission helps you unlock extras like production stills and weapon upgrades. Scoring platinum unlocks cheats, such as slow-motion driving, a golden gun power-up, and more.
In addition to a stellar single-player game that will take you in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 hours to complete, the game has a very interesting multiplayer component. With the exception of the competitive arena mode, the game's multiplayer is cooperative. So your team of two will have to work together to achieve the goals. Some of this is as simple as hitting two buttons simultaneously to open a door or gate, but it gets more complex as you move along. This definitely adds a very different aspect to the game, and it works really, really well. The co-op game can be played in three different modes. Cooperative mode is the basic "finish the mission" mode. Race puts your mission up against a clock. Scramble puts a score into the mix, and though you're still cooperating with the other players, you're also trying to achieve the highest score. Arena is a pure competitive mode that pits you against your fellow agents and allows up to four players. It's a nice addition, though the co-op is really much, much better. On top of that, the arena missions are locked initially, and you'll have to play the cooperative mode to unlock arena levels.
The split-screen multiplayer works very well, but the PlayStation 2 version goes the extra mile and offers online play too. Since communication and timing are key to the game's co-op levels, you'll really need to use a headset to relay information to the other players. The online play option is a really nice touch that adds a little more replay depth to an already option-heavy game.
Graphically, James Bond has never looked better. Though previous games have gotten Pierce Brosnan's likeness, this rendition of the actor looks more lifelike. Even the PlayStation 2 version has a crispness to its textures and models that you don't normally expect from the system. The other platforms, as you might expect, look a little bit cleaner, but the differences between versions are really quite minimal. The game moves at a good, smooth speed and frame rate, with the lone exception being a few of the game's effects-heavy cutscenes. Specifically, when you see Bond jumping a motorcycle through a waterfall or riding while things are exploding around him, the frame rate and movement are less than optimal. And you'll occasionally see some weird movement or clipping when using the rappel device. But these are minor things in light of how great the rest of the game looks.
The voice acting, most of which is provided by the aforementioned voice talent, is nicely done, particularly from the seasoned actors and actresses of the bunch. Since some of them are reprising characters they've played on the big screen, that's not a huge surprise, but it's always nice to hear quality voice acting. The music, complete with a theme song from Mya and yet another new take on the famous Bond music, fits the action like a glove and really gives the game part of its cinematic feel. Finally, the game's sound effects are also well done, from rocket launches to dramatic explosions to the sounds of motorcycles racing up the road.
When you add it all up, Everything or Nothing isn't without a few faults, but it's still a really great game--perhaps the best James Bond game ever made. While some may still hold nostalgia-filled memories for the classic first-person shooting of GoldenEye, Everything or Nothing does an amazing job of including a lot of different gameplay elements and making them work. It also does a fantastic job of capturing the different sides of the James Bond character, which a lot of the previous games have either overlooked or simply tacked on in the cutscenes. If you've ever wanted to spend a day in 007's shoes, Everything or Nothing is about as close as you can get.