While growing up, I never really cared much for super heroes. Something about the black-and-white morality of Superman made me think hero worship would send me down the path of joining the boy scouts or becoming an altar boy, and I had this policy of actively avoiding people who wanted to molest me. So barring a slight interest in Batman (fueled by more than a passing interest in my own mental stability), I had to look elsewhere for impressive super-humans. As much as I’d like to say my interest in spies came from picking up Goldeneye 007 for the N64, but honestly, ever since 4th grade I’ve held Get Smart as the pinnacle of television programming. To this day, 99% of the women I’ve fallen for have held more than a passing resemblance to Barbara Feldon. But since this blog focuses on video games….Goldeneye 007, N64, yada yada, cute story about my past, segue into James Bond games.
I love James Bond, from his Batman-like gadgets to his Laffy-Taffy-style wit, his flashy theme songs and cadre of beautiful women. I even bought the July 1973 issue of Playboy on eBay, hoping to see a different side of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Bond Girl (Come on, Barbara, you still have time to make an appearance!) So the fact that they only make new movies once every two or three (sometimes up to six) years, really gets under my skin. Damn it! I need regular doses of Cold War inspired action thrillers! Fortunately, I managed to find a copy of Nightfire….somewhere; I forget where…and I realized that original electronic Bond stories didn’t all have to end up as disappointing as Agent Under Fire. So let me tell you about Everything or Nothing instead.
Everything or Nothing marks Pierce Brosnan’s final and from what I can tell only video game appearance as James Bond. The story follows our super-spy tracking down a load of nano-macguffins from the Green Goblin. If Willem Defoe–whose name literally means “of the enemy”–didn’t particularly look like his entire raison d’etre amounted to playing a Bond villain, they named his character after Satan and gave him a chip on his shoulder because Bond killed Christopher Walken–the only human on earth voted “Most Likely to Play a Bond Villain” by his high school graduating class”–in A View to a Kill. Some girls show up. Bond travels the world. Richard Kiel reprises his role as Jaws, lending his voice to the infamously mute character. Things explode. Bond makes puns that would make Gallagher turn in his grave.
The back of the box tries to sell the game on the merits of having “an unprecedented variety of missions,” which raises some interesting questions. For one, what precedents on mission variety have we already established? Will Everything or Nothing contain action shooter levels, a quick round of Tetris in Moscow, three levels of Bubble Bobble, followed by ten minutes of Goat Simulator? Unfortunately for those of us who always felt James Bond needed a goat sidekick, the purported variety means that in addition to the regular third-person shooter levels, you get to play levels where you drive along a road, drive around a map, drive around a track, drive a tank around a map, and drive along a road in your choice of vehicles. Of course, since I had just finished playing–sorry, attempting to play–Grand Theft Auto III, I couldn’t help but notice some strong similarities, especially on one map where the game literally asked me to steal a car and use it to break into a factory. Naturally, the GTA driving controls in place, this mission–along with several timed segments–turned into a game of Ted Kennedy bumper cars, with Bond’s Aston Martin flopping around the road as though someone had entered a live tuna in the Indy 500.
The character combat…works? I guess. I did rather appreciate the full body view of the character, rather than floating through the game as a disembodied gun with severely impaired peripheral vision. The camera controls work with all the finesse and grace of Ted Kennedy’s Bumper Cars, and I didn’t find any option for auto tracking or even a Z-targeting method like in Zelda. Since no one seems to have told the aiming feature they scrapped the first-person perspective, it will only lock on to enemies if Bond faces the same direction of the camera and the enemy falls within a zone of sight that doesn’t include his immediate peripheral vision; after all, nothing says “international super spy” like unloading six rounds into a house plant because it looks more threatening than the man holding a glass bottle, eying up your head like a recycling bin. Granted, taking control of Bond gives players the chance to immerse themselves in the world of espionage, but can’t we give the character just a little credit for intuition? I mean, Bond may excel at hand-to-hand combat, but when someone shoves the barrel of an AK-47 in your face, you just might have a few more effective tricks up your sleeve than pistol whipping him with your very much loaded shotgun.
Rather than a traditional menu, Everything or Nothing gives you “Bond Senses,” which I guess attempts to make up for the otherwise oblivious senses he displays in combat. By pressing left on the d-pad (Gamecube version), time will slow down, you can cycle through your weapons, and anything in the environment you can interact with will radiate small red rings that you can target to tell you exactly how to interact with them. I found this a refreshing alternative to the standard flipping-through-google-for-a-walkthrough method, and rarely got stuck. I say rarely because I did spend the better part of a half an hour running through an abandoned hotel looking for a fuse box, only to find out later that I had to target a non-accessible area of the map to find it. Also notice I said “slow time down” rather than “stop time.” Note: bullets travel fast. Best to stay on your guard even in Bond Sense Mode if you don’t have a pressing need to aerate your spleen. I found that one out the hard way.
EA retained the idea of Bond moves from previous games. Any time you do something especially clever, witty, or otherwise on the lines of what James Bond would have done himself, the game awards you bonus points. These can include useful tricks like jumping a fence on your motorcycle, or shooting a ceiling connection to drop a catwalk onto a group of enemies. However, I think EA may have run out of creative mojo (crikey!) to think up new Bond moves, as occasionally they awarded me points for things like “hitting the badguy with your rocket launcher” or “touch the girl.” And while, yes, this might fall under the umbrella of “in-character,” it generally doesn’t take super intelligence to go massage the girl when she asks you to.
Generally, I liked the game. The lame accent Willem Defoe adopted made me think he didn’t exactly put his heart into this performance, and while I thought the game challenged me just enough to keep me interested without chucking my controller across the room, the final stage spiked horribly, so that I probably spent a good 10% of my total play time dying over and over again until giving up and dropping the game to easy mode–at which point it still took me three attempts. Everything or Nothing feels a little light in the story department, and even the girls only seem to make appearance out of perfunctory need to follow a formula, but as a game it held together without seeming like the usual movie-licensed cash grab that these games often degrade into. Plus, the game also features Judi Dench and John Cleese (or as I call him, Funny Q), and who doesn’t love to take mission suggestions from Monty Python?