Thursday, January 29, 2004
Everything or Nothing marks a turning point in the Bond franchise for EA. Gone is the first-person perspective and in is the third-person view. Also in is the likeness of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, Dame Judi Dench as M, John Cleese as Q and Heidi Klum, Shannon Elizabeth, Mya and Willem DaFoe in supporting roles. Sounds like a movie cast, eh? Even Bruce Feirstein, Bond scriptwriter, wrote this original story! That's the kind of money EA has to land this type of supporting talent. Of course, all of that is easily forgotten if that gameplay sucks. I got a chance to play two short levels (of the PS2 version) and I must say I am mostly thrilled.
The first level has you rappelling down a building while floors are bursting into flames. It's simple, you press forward to rappel and let go to gain balance. Right and left take you right and left. You reach a mid-level rooftop and encounter several enemies. You lock-on with L1 and fire with R1. You can dive with the circle button while square and triangle serve as punches and kicks. This all works very well even though you MUST lock on in order to fire and hit a target, which takes a little getting used to. While locking on you can pinpoint body parts to hit. You can also crouch, hug walls and use Bond Sense to find hidden enemies. From the get-go it feels more Bond-ish than any game before it.
After taking out the slew of minions with both a pistol and machine gun, you plant a mine in a vent, adding to the glorious explosions as you start rappelling further down the building. This time there are enemies rappelling as well. Shooting enemies while rappelling is a great feeling, especially watching them scream and fall once they're defeated.
Another level has you on a motorbike, chasing Jaws in a fuel tanker-truck. The bike controls are responsive and there are a few different paths to take to chase him. You are equipped with a shotgun, flamethrower and rockets to dispose of would-be road-killers. You can ramp off cars, construction and even slide under a big rig while shooting an enemy that's attempting to jump over it. Your bike will eventually accelerate to insane speeds which makes death easier to come by with one wrong touch of the control stick. There are some collision detection issues. If you ramp off a truck to break through some breakable barrier, the game will unrealistically correct your path in mid-jump to finish the scripted stunt. This makes finding the ramp the challenge, not necessarily guiding the bike after the jump.
The two levels were very high on action, so I didn't get to dive into any stealthier missions. EA promises seamless transitions from on-foot exploration to vehicles, over 20 weapons and exotic locales for the final version. The original Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell team worked on this effort and they, I must say, have learned quite a bit since then. For those who found Splinter Cell's controls to be sluggish, have no fear. Bond moves silkily smooth.
With a cooperative mode and four-player arena combat, EON has the potential for great staying power. What I played showed tons of promise and it surpassed my expectations, which were set at a fairly medium level. James Bond: Everything or Nothing hits store shelves February 17. Look for the full review soon.