Latchkey Games is a weekly column that takes a look at games that perhaps didn’t quite get the amount of love they deserved: whether it was a game that was panned on its initial release only to become a cult classic, one that stirred the ire of series fans, or simply a game that fell through the cracks and was forgotten by time or overshadowed by a more popular release. This week I’ll take a look at EA’s Jame Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, one of the few James Bond games to step out of Goldeneye’s shadow.
Goldeneye for the N64 was a great game. While the FPS genre has evolved and changed a great deal since Goldeneye’s initial release, a lot of gamers still herald Rare’s pioneering shooter as one of the best games in the genre. It defined a lot of peoples’ expectations for what a console shooter is supposed to play like and what a multiplayer experience should be. Unfortunately, it also defined and codified the formula that most of the James Bond games made after it would follow.
Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with cribbing ideas from a successful game — for example, the Darksiders series is noteworthy for how effectively its developers were able to crib innovations from a multitude of other games and combine them into a single, cohesive experience — but the problem with most of the post-Goldeneye James Bond games is that they spend so much time trying to recreate Goldeneye that they neglect all the other unique aspects that have made Bond so iconic and popular for the last fifty years.
As great as Goldeneye was, there’s no denying that it offered a very simplified portrayal of Bond’s job: while you occasionally had to plant a bug somewhere or sneak around unnoticed, the majority of the game was based around simple corridor shooting where all you had to do was gun down every simple-minded Russian thug that got in your way. By focusing on the gunplay, Rare managed to create one of the best console FPS’s of all time, but they also forgot a lot of the Bond staples: there were no exciting car chases, no ridiculous stunts involving jet packs or sharks, no high stakes games of poker, no scenes of Bond acting like a completely man-whore. The game was all shooting, all the time, and while that was acceptable in Goldeneye’s case because of the limitations of technology at the time, most modern Bond games, including the most recent 007 Legends, have been reluctant to make any significant changes to Goldeneye’s simple formula, despite the fact that we now have gaming consoles that should be powerful enough to emulate the entire 007 experience, not just the shooting bits.
Ten years ago though, there was one ambitious game that did try to create the definitive Bond game: EA’s tragically under-appreciated James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.
While nobody really remembers or talks about it now, Everything or Nothing was a big deal back in 2003. There had been plenty of Bond games between Goldeneye and EoN’s release, and to be honest, most of them where either completely forgettable or downright terrible, and Bond-branded video games had become synonymous with shovelware. Everything or Nothing was an ambitious attempt at reinvigorating Bond’s gaming rep, and EA spent a lot of money making sure that EoN was a legitimate 007 experience: the recurring cast from the Bond movies were all hired to reprise their roles, supermodels Heidi Klum and Misaki Ito were cast as the latest Bond girls, the game’s story was written by legit Hollywood screenwriters, and singer Mya (remember her?) even sang an original theme song for the game.
Getting the movies’ cast and crew on Everything or Nothing was a smart move by EA (keep in mind that this was back in 2003, and seeing real celebrities in games was still something of a novelty back then,) but the smartest move EA made in regards to the game was to abandon the Goldeneye formula completely: rather than being just another FPS, Everything or Nothing was a third person action game that featured a myriad of separate, distinct styles of gameplay designed to represent every aspect of the 007 franchise.
Car chases, tank battles, Starfox-esque helicopter dogfights, gunfights while base jumping, driving around in an invisible car — if it was ridiculous enough to appear in a Bond movie, then chances are there’s a playable facsimile of it in Everything or Nothing. Usually when a game attempts multiple play styles you end up with a lot of half-assed and poorly executed minigames that you wish you could skip, but EoN’s diversions are usually genuinely fun, have the good sense to end before they overstay their welcome, and lend the game a great feeling of variety.
The bulk of Everything or Nothing is still made up of on-foot shooting segments, but despite featuring similar subject matter to Goldeneye, EoN’s gunplay is a completely different experience entirely: instead of simple corridor shooting, EoN’s third person action segments put as much focus on Bond’s chop-sockey fisticuffs and his penchant for ridiculous stunts as it does on the shooting. In true Bond fashion, you often spend as much time brawling with enemies as you do exchanging bullets with them, and the game even rewards you for doing things in the most bombastic and audacious way possible: for instance, if you decide to rappel out of a window with guns blazing instead of taking the more sensible escape route (i.e. the nearby stairs,) the game will reward you with a “Bond Moment,” which improves your final mission rating and allows you to unlock bonus content. The game constantly encourages you to find new (often insane) ways of dispatching your enemies over simply shooting your way out of every situation.
Of course, no game is perfect, and EoN certainly has its fair share of flaws: EoN came out long before Gears of War and Resident Evil 4 defined what a third person shooter is supposed to play like, so its controls are pretty archaic by modern standards. Instead of using the dual-stick set-up that most modern shooters use, EoN’s control mechanics are closer to Zelda or Metroid, in that you have to manually lock onto a single enemy at a time during combat. It takes awhile to get used to, and it makes handling crowds of opponents more difficult than it should be, but the game is still well designed enough that most experienced gamers should be able to adjust after a few stages. EoN is also pretty short: you can probably beat it in a single afternoon if you’re dedicated, but the short length is forgiveable nowadays since you can now pick up a copy of the game for a few dollars. There’s also a fair bit of unlockable bonuses for players who want to go back and get perfect ratings on every level.
Niggling flaws aside, Everything or Nothing is still my favorite Bond game. Goldeneye was great, but I’d have to give EoN the edge for being a game that genuinely feels like an interactive James Bond movie, and not just a random FPS that happens to have James Bond in it. Last year’s 007 Legends flopped (for good reasons, mind you,) and I think it’ll be awhile before any publishers commit to creating another Bond game… but when they do inevitably decide to create another one, they should definitely look to Everything or Nothing for inspiration.
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing was published by EA in 2003 for the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube. You should be able to find copies of it for less than $10 anywhere used games are sold.