Video Games: Everything or Nothing

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Everything or Nothing (2004, Electronics Arts)

The Bond film franchise took a four year hiatus from 2002 to 2006. Die Another Day had been a commercial success (it was in fact the highest grossing Brosnan movie), but many fans were left disappointed. While the producers and writers brainstormed for ideas that would eventually result in Casino Royale, Electronics Arts, the video game company which owned the gaming licence to 007 at the time filled the gap for dies hard Bond fans  and gamers alike. The result of their efforts, Everything or Nothing, clearly found inspiration in the Roger Moore and more fantastical Brosnan films than in some of the more hard edged adventures. It’s more Die Another Day than Casino Royale if you will. Nonetheless, it would not only end up being a solid and popular game, but EA’s crowning achievement  in the 007 genre.

The first and most obvious characteristic gamers will notice is the effort EA put into producing a high quality movie-like gaming experience. In addition to writing an original storyline, EA wanted to make sure gamers intimately familiar with the Bond universe felt right at home. Wow, did they ever succeed. All the regular cast members from the films at the time lent their voices and likeness to their 3D video game incarnations. That’s right, James Bond looks and sounds like Pierce Brosnan, as do M and Q sound like dame Judi Dench and John Cleese respectively.  EA didn’t stop there however. The Bond girl du jour is played by Shannon Elizabeth, the villainess henchwoman is Heidi Klum, and the evil mastermind Nikolai Diavolo is played by non other than one of my favourite working actors today, Willem Dafoe (who really should play a villain in a Bond film one of these years). To get die hards salivating, Richard Kiel returns as the infamous Jaws. The plot is rather silly and involves Diavolo gathering some nanotechnology to create some good old fashioned weapons of mass destruction in order to dominate the world. During one of Bond’s early missions,  the secret agent is tasked with ‘rescuing’ a scientist in the field of nanobots (Heidi Klum) who has been kidnapped and retrieve some ‘stolen’ nanobot technology. The mission is a success (obviously, since you’re playing Bond), but unbeknownst to MI6, the scientist is in fact in league with Diavolo, meaning she has now delivered him this revolutionary creation. Together they will conquer the world, for Diavolo wants Everything or Nothing! Bond, with the help of geologist Serena St. Germaine (Shannon Elizabeth), must stop them before it is too late.

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So the game looks, sounds and clicks along like a blockbuster Bond movie, but does the gameplay hold any value? The answer is absolutely. The controls are accessible and varied, without being overwhelming, which is crucial for someone such as myself who is definitely is not an avid gamer. What Everything or Nothing succeeds at most in terms of playability is in allowing players to really become James Bond 007, a man who seems to have no shortage of skill sets. Missions propel players into situations that require them to shoot, take cover, drive cars or motorcycles, pilot a helicopter, use grappling hooks to climb up and down building walls, make use of stealth while snooping under the enemy’s nose (which is brilliant because you get to take out almost half the enemies in a mansion Solid Snake style), and of course take advantage of an arsenal of gadgetry supplied by Q branch. Suffice to say that 007 aficionados who take their chances on Everything or Nothing will be rewarded with the full Bond experience. The game’s difficulty level is challenging enough to keep casual gamers occupied for a while without ever becoming frustrating because some level are ‘impossible’ to complete. I only played on the medium difficulty level and it took me a good 4 weeks to complete the story mode (of course, I didn’t quite play every day either).

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I enjoy the game tremendously whenever I play it, this despite the fact that I tend to frown on the films that are more cartoonish and extraordinary in tone, and the plot and missions of this game certainly fit that bill. I suspect the answer to that mystery simply lies in the interactive nature of the product. Watching Bond perform ridiculous feat after ridiculous feat can grow redundant and squash any tension and believability I like to expect in an action movie. Playing through such amazing stunts and battles is completely different because if the player fails, then Bond fails, and no one wants to see Bond fail. It reminds me of how fans tend to shun movie adaptations of their favourite games, only this time it works the other way around. The more implausible side of the 007 film universe is given a video game translation, thus providing fans like myself with the thrill of stepping into the shoes of the famous secret agent. Truth be told, some of my favourite moments in the game are in fact when the player must help Bond perform the craziest and nonsensical stunts. Near the end of an early mission while Bond is in Egypt, the player must catch up with a speeding train while driving the famous (or infamous) Aston Martin Vanish while staving off hoards of enemy vehicles. The train must be caught before the tracks cross over a deep canyon, otherwise Bond plunges to his doom. Another quick mission requires the player to launch off a cliff and save Serena St. Germaine who has been thrown out of an enemy helicopter. As Bond, you must avoid outstretched bits of the mountain, wooden platforms and enemies, all the while playing catch up with pool Mrs. St. Germaine. If you succeed before it is too late, Bond will grab hold of Serena and fire his grappling gun at the last possible second, thus avoiding a terribly messy death below. My personal favourite mission however involves a highway speed chase between Bond and Jaws, the latter whom is driving far ahead on the traffic-heavy road. Once again, you have to catch up with your objective, but this time Bond rides a super powered motorcycle equipped with missiles and machine guns. Avoid traffic and blow the shit of any henchmen who get in your way. I’ve only just noticed it now, but many of my favourite missions involve chases of some kind. Interesting. Well, there is this one level that brings Bond to some ancient ruins in Peru where you get to access some high ground to snipe away at tons of baddies. I always do enjoy a good sniper rifle level.

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I could go on indefinitely about the balls to the wall fun I had with this game. Varied gameplay, attractive graphics, a reasonable level of difficulty and length to provide the player a challenge, and an immersive Bond gaming experience compel me to give Everything or Nothing top marks. Obviously, the quality of the gameplay and the graphics matter, but it’s the little touches by EA which take advantage of the franchise licence that really give me a huge grin. Participation of the film cast plus other heavy hitters in the industry, the banter between Bond and Q, the quintessential Bond moments for which players are actually rewarded for achieving, the fact that the game begins with the gun barrel sequence which introduces us to a pre-title credits tutorial mission, subsequently followed by the eventual credits accompanied by a very Bond-esque music video and an original song performed by Mya (who makes a brief appearance in the game as a CIA agent), etc. I didn’t buy the game immediately upon its release, but had read and heard positive buzz, which eventually prompted me to make the purchase on the PS2 without even trying it out first. I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. While the game Goldeneye has a special place in my heart for its robust and glorious multiplayer capabilities (discussed here) Everything or Northing offers what I consider to be the best single player story mode of all the Bond games I’ve played, which is a decent amount. Electronic Arts’ overall record as James Bond video game producers may have been a bit spotty, but they undoubtedly hit the bull’s eye on this occasion.

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~ by edgarchaput on November 13, 2009.

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