For over a decade Electronic Arts has been known for developing and maintaining some of the best sports games in the world. But over the last few years, they have steadily been improving on their other genres as well. Whether it was through smart acquisitions like adding Maxis and The Sims’ series, solid movie licensed games like “Lord of the Rings” or through in regular in-house development for games like the Medal of Honor series, each year we seem to be treated to better and better games from EA. In fact EA, controls so much of the software market, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them someday jump into the hardware market. I mean how many people would buy an EA console if that were the only console that could play EA software? But until that fantasy happens, gamers for all platforms will be enjoying the fruits of EA Games. One of which, will probably be the upcoming release of James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.
Everything or Nothing takes a new approach to the gameplay than the previous installments have. This version will now be a third person shooter ala Max Payne or Splinter Cell. This may alienate some fans of the series that love the first person shooter experience, but in my opinion it’s not much of a difference. The pros and cons basically cancel each other out. For instance, you loose some of the manual accuracy and shot placement of a FPS as well as the ability to quickly peer around corners or over boxes. But you gain the ability to see a lot more of your environment at one time, which allows you to better comprehend the challenges you face and the ability to plan out multiple courses of attack. For example, in one of the levels I played, I was in a gunfight with three or four enemies who were standing on the far side of a roof, by a large metal structure. Instead of engaging in a long distance showdown and wasting a lot of bullets, I decided to make my way around the structures to the left to get a closer covered shot. After I got to the far side of the roof and had capped a couple of bad guys that got in my way, I found a steam vent switch on the wall. Noticing that the enemies that I was approaching were standing on one of the large steam vents, I flipped the switch. This clever “bond like” move blinded and disabled my enemies, allowing me to easily dispatch them with my P99 handgun. Had I not been in third person view, I probably would not have been able to see that the enemies were standing on a vent before I got to them, and there is no guarantee I would have been looking towards the switch when I passed it, so I might have missed that too.
Another reason to put the game into third person was so that the player could feel more like they were actually James Bond and not some faceless hero. This version of the game is the first to use the likeness of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. EA is known for having great face modeling graphics for their sport franchises such as Tiger Woods Golf or NBA Live, but nothing they have done compares to the highly detailed, ultra realistic face modeling of Pierce Brosnan. Check out our screen specs and you might think the actor was really on the set of the video game. It’s a very impressive technical achievement and one that hopefully will make it into other EA games.
The rest of the graphics are also highly detailed. Fires show off some nice particle effects, explosions look more realistic than in most games, lighting effects dynamically change well with the environment that you are in, and the cars and motorcycles in the game are fantastic thanks from help from EA’s Need For Speed team. During one of the levels you get to ride a motorcycle through traffic on a crowded highway. This level uses a nice blurring effect much like Moto GP2, to give you that sensation of insane speed. However, during this level, I did notice some screen popup in the distance. But this was only apparent after I slowed down to screw with the traffic, so I don’t really expect it to be a problem that will plague the whole game. Hopefully the rest of the game will pay as much attention to detail as the few levels that I played.
This game also features great character models of its other featured actors. William Defoe plays villain Nikolai Diavolo, a former KGB officer looking for global domination. Shannon Elizabeth plays Serena St. Germaine an American Geologist who is a smart as she is beautiful. Heidi Klum plays Dr. Katya Nadanova the overseer of a top secret Nanotech project. The previous characters are all new original characters for this game, which coincidently follows a brand new original storyline that is portrayed to be good enough to actually be a Bond movie. There are also some of your other more famous Bond movie actors in this game too. Richard Kiel plays the famous hitman Jaws, John Cleese plays the comical and gadget/weapon genius Q, and Judi Dench plays the boss of James Bond, M. Unfortunately, the sample of the game that I played did not showcase many of these actors. So hopefully all of this proven movie talent will translate their acting skills well to the game.
The story of the game has Bond trying to stop the delusional Nikolai Diavolo who is unhappy with the way that Russia has changed since the cold war has ended. He is hell bent on world domination and has devised a plan to use the world’s smallest army to do so: Nanobots. Nanobots are small computer controlled robots that are basically microscopic. Nikolai has programmed his army of nanobots to take control of every computer in the world, thereby giving him ultimate power. In order to keep Bond from getting in his way, Nikolai has also bought the services of Jaws, a nemesis that Bond has done battle with before. You will play as James as you try to stop Diavolo while at the same time finding time to “entertain” the ladies
The game has 23 levels of nonstop action to play through and if each one of them is as intense as what I have played, then Bond fans will be in for a treat. One level starts as James has just repelled off the side of an exploding building. This is where you take over. You must repel down the side of the building in the midst of explosions and flames until you get to a lower rooftop, a few hundred feet down. Here you must fight through some resistance and drop a charge down a specific vent shaft before repelling down more of the building. Your main goal is to get off the burning exploding skyscraper, but Diavolo’s men will be after you. They will repel down the sides next to you, appear around corners and be waiting for you on every ledge. At times, it reminded me of a light gun game the way enemies drop through burning holes in the ceiling and empty elevator shafts right as you approach them. There are different ways to navigate the level, and there are also harder to reach areas, that might reward you with an extra armor or a different weapon.
The level objectives are put together nicely in a very flow oriented kind of way. You may start the level with one objective and after you complete it, a new objective might appear. This helps you prioritize what you need to do without wasting time trying to do something you can’t. For example, in trying to repel down to the bottom of the exploding building, if you take a certain path you will come to a level in which a gas line has ruptured and caught fire near the edge of the roof. As you reach the rooftop, a new objective will flash telling you to extinguish the flames. This prevents you from looking to hard for a way around the flames that isn’t there. At times, after completing one of these mini-objectives you might watch a little cut scene. These cut scenes are usually short and flow nicely without load times to enhance the gameplay and to make it feel more cinematic.
Each level also seems to have a place where you might have a “bond moment”. Some of these might be optional like when you unleash steam on unsuspecting enemies, or they might be forced on you, like when you are chasing Jaws on a motorcycle and encounter a gas truck that has spun and blocked the highway. Speaking of which, this was one of the coolest sequences I have played through in a long time. On this level, you are on a motorcycle trying to stop Jaws from getting to the city. Along the way Jaws, hits a gas tanker and sends the tanker jackknifing out of control. Cars flip and the tanker crashes into them and other objects on the highway. As I approach the tanker, I hit the slide button and put the motorcycle on its side. The game goes into slow motion as one of my fellow motorcycle pursuers, still firing machine guns at me, runs up the bottom of a flipped car and jumps over my sliding bike. As I’m sliding in slow motion, I change my motorcycle’s weapon from the front-fired missiles to the side-fired flamethrower. As the pursuer motorcycle passes over me I fire the flamethrower, which now, due to the bike being on it’s side, was pointed into the air. I fry the motorcycle pursuer, while at the same time sliding under the gas tanker. As I come out from under the tanker it explodes into a fiery ball and pieces of the truck, some still on fire, shower down around me. The game then resumes normal speed and the chase continues. It plays much like a small part of the game Chase: Hollywood Stunt Driver, but is ten times more satisfying, and for that split second, it looked and felt like I was in the movie.
The previous example also kind of shows how good the controls are. Most items in your inventory are a couple button presses away like changing weapons on the motorcycle. Also the ability to pull off a daring move, like the motorcycle slide, is as easy as pressing the right button at the right time. Repelling down the side of a building is a breeze. All you have to do is run of the side of the rooftop. In true James Bond fashion, these types of things just happen automatically or are very easy to execute by a single button press. The motorcycle was the only vehicle I got to drive, but its controls were smooth and responsive. They reminded me of the controls in Moto GP 2 complete with separate buttons for both front and back brakes and a blur effect for very high speeds. Hopefully, the cars and helicopters that you can pilot will feel just as solid. Switching weapons on foot is as easy as pressing the D-pad during play to scroll through them. Firing the weapon accurately seems impossible to do manually, but if you use the left trigger as your auto-lock aiming feature, then you should have no problem becoming a deadeye like Bond. This auto lock feature also gives you additional information. When you are close to your enemy the lock will turn red, and fewer bullets are required to make the kill. The further away you get, the lock will turn yellow and green and each will take more shots to hit and drop your enemies. So if you are rationing bullets you will want to pay attention to the color. Of course, Bond is not incapable without a weapon. This game features a very robust hand-to-hand combat system for James. If you get too close to your enemy, put away your weapon, and beat your enemy senseless with a variety of punches and throws. You can even pick up the occasional miscellaneous weapon such as a wrench or a bottle.
The biggest question mark about the game so far looks like the enemy AI. So far the game is beautiful, engaging, fun, and exactly what you would expect from a Bond movie including the actual actor’s voices and likenesses. But all of that could go down the tubes if the enemy AI is lame and too easy. Unfortunately it was a little too hard to tell from the levels I played. On one end, I had enemies just standing in a corner waiting for me to come through the front door, but when I showed up through the back door behind them, they didn’t move. I even walked right in front of one, and it didn’t even acknowledge my presence. Of course as soon as I fired a bullet into his brain, then he responded, by slumping to the ground. Also, most of the enemies seemed to be planted in cement. I could appear from around a corner, shoot them once and go back. Did they come after me? No. They just stood right where they were. Once in a while one would run, typically through a door or somewhere I couldn’t go. I hope that these actions are either a representation of the level or an unfinished product. There were however times that did surprise me. At one point, two bad guys repelled from the floor above me, firing machine guns right as I walked by. Others at least ducked behind creates as I fired on them. But eventually they popped up to fire, and then got a face full of lead. Another, aspect that caught me off guard was when I went to collect their guns from their dead bodies, at times they would lift an arm and fire blindly in a last ditch effort to take our their assassin. In all, the enemy AI is suspect but will most likely be much better in the final release and throughout the entire game.
For those gamers that still love the days of GoldenEye on the N64, there are four different multi-player modes to play in. One of which is a multiplayer co-operative mode. In this mode you do not play as Bond, but as two of four new characters. Using these characters you can play through 13 unique levels of multiplayer action. There is also a race mode that will incorporate multi-play with the vehicle levels, a scramble mode to see who can get the highest score, and an arena mode that will feature up to a 4-player deathmatch.
The music and sound seem to be coming along well. Musically, you can expect to hear the familiar theme, as well as other music that sounds like it belongs in a Bond movie. As mentioned earlier, the extensive amount of Hollywood talent used for dialogue in the game will hopefully make for a more enjoyable experience. From what I have heard, the sounds effects of the game are also done well. Guns have distinct sounds, screams can be heard when repelling enemies are shot off the sides of the buildings, and explosions are loud and booming. Most of the effects and music probably sound good just because the game supports THX surround sound.
Overall, the demo I played was one of the better demos I have played in a while. While the game will not be incredibly ground breaking or innovative, it is beautiful with excellent production qualities. The ultimate feeling I got while playing the game is one of total immersion into the Bond world. Those who are fans of James Bond will surely like to pull off “bond moments” as well as the intriguing story. Those who like action games will love the detailed graphics and solid controls of the game. While the game still has more to prove, based on EA’s current track record, it does look very promising that Everything or Nothing will turn out to be the most engrossing, best looking, best sounding, best playing Bond game on any system to date.