Bond returns to the videogame world with Everything or Nothing for the Gameboy Advance. Not based on any James Bond book or film, Everything or Nothing is an original adventure set in the Bond universe. Everything is set up to look and feel like a Bond film, down to the dramatic opening scene. This game fits perfectly in the Bond legacy - so how does it fare as a gaming experience?
Everything or Nothing is yet another GBA game with an isometric 3rd person view. It seems that every time the GBA counterpart of a home console game is released, it's isometric. This trend is beginning to annoy me, but this game (and Sega/THQ's Jet Grind Radio remake) is good enough that I can ignore some of my qualms about the isometric viewpoint. Graphically, isometric games usually look wonderful, way above average. It's the awkward use of the d-pad that they require that I dislike. I find it to be a pain to have to move diagonally throughout an entire game. I do get used to it after a short time, but that adjustment is usually negated by spending time with other games that use a more traditional control scheme. Some gamers have no problem adjusting to isometric games, but I would be doing an injustice to those who do have trouble by not mentioning this aspect of Everything or Nothing.
The controls make some things difficult, especially gunning down enemies, but more often than not work perfectly. Bond does move a bit slow at first, but you can buy upgrades for 007, including faster movement, by cashing in style points, which you get from using stealth to incapacitate enemies. You need a huge amount of these to get most of the better upgrades, though, and those are the only ones that seem to make a substantial difference. Everything or Nothing is no Metal Gear Solid; there are many situations in which it is very easy to stealthily take out foes. It just takes a lot of these sorts of maneuvers. The style point system should have been managed a bit better, but it is passable as is.
Bond is given detailed missions, but none of the objectives are anything extremely confusing to pull off. The difficulty level is fairly high even on easy mode, but this comes from pure challenge, not muddled moments of confusion. The enemies are hard to take out, but if you get a little practice and make sure to use your head, it's no trouble. The difficulty level is what I like best about this game. It's hard, but not in a bad way. The player is rewarded often for his or her feats.
The portion of the game that I do not like at all is the Spy Hunter-esque car battle mode. The controls are not very precise. It feels as though you are struggling against the game mechanics to get the car to move where you want it to. Also, aiming missiles is an aggravating task - you hold the R button to activate a cursor that sweeps back and forth like a metronome, and when you let go, the missile launches in the direction of the cursor. This system makes the missiles not much more than a distraction from trying to complete your mission. Sometimes they work nicely, but most of the time they do not. The machineguns and oil slick attacks work very well, though. Unlike the missile system, they work exactly as you would expect - a stream of bullets from the front of the car, and a stream of slippery oil from the back. Still, the vehicle controls are not what they should be. I would have preferred for Electronic Arts to leave these portions out of the game.
The graphics are very nice, thanks to the isometric viewpoint. These games usually look good, but Everything or Nothing is especially nice. The animations are smooth, characters and objects look nice, and the backgrounds are done very well. The James Bond universe is representing about as well is it possibly can on the Gameboy Advance. I did not like the large 2-d portraits of the actors from the movies, especially M, but I think their look had more to do with the hardware than laziness on the part of the developers. It would be hard to recognize some of the actors had their portraits been altered too much.
A James Bond game would not be complete without a classic James Bond score playing in the background. Everything or Nothing delivers. The music could have easily been a weak two-track bastardization of the original songs, but Electronic Arts took the time to make it sound good. I'm glad they took the time to do this.
Action games need solid sound effects if the developer has any intentions of instilling excitement into the people who play their game. On the GBA, this can prove to be a challenge, as the hardware is very limiting. Still, it is not as limiting as some developers would like to have you think, because some games have shown us that the GBAs sound hardware can put out surprisingly high quality sound effects and music. Everything or Nothing is one of those games (another recent example would be Medal of Honor: Infiltrator, also published by Electronic Arts). Explosions, gunshots, and voice samples are all here, and all done very well. For the best effect, use headphones on your GBA, or, better yet, play this game on a Gameboy Player.
James Bond: Everything or Nothing is a good, but not great, James Bond experience. Rare's Goldeneye is widely hailed as the crowning achievement of the series (rightly so, in my opinion), but this game doesn't get anywhere near that level of quality or fun. It's a shame that the series has gone so far downhill since its days on the Nintendo 64. I am glad that Everything or Nothing is worlds better than the lackluster Agent Under Fire, though! If the controls were a bit more comfortable, and the car battle mode wasn't so hard to control, it might have made the game a better experience overall, but still not near the magic of Rare's entry. I must say that Goldeneye's existence has nothing to do with the final score I have chosen to give Everything or nothing, since the current Bond games are very different from Rare's vision of the series (if Rare had developed the game, it would be hard for their past achievement to have no effect on my review process), it is just worth mentioning to those of you who are still waiting for a second wind to hit the James Bond series. Everything or Nothing is not that second wind, but it is a good game nevertheless.
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