Oh God, EA have gone all Zen. Obviously it's taken advice from some kind of Yogic flyer hovering nearby, perhaps over the swan-encrusted pond bounding their glass-fronted techno-lair near Heathrow. Obviously. In a nearby tower, the shadowy eye sockets of air traffic controllers deepen as they lean closer to their radars. In a distant bunker, faceless secret service men squeeze greasy, standard-issue plastic headphones to their ears, straining through the static to catch the Yogi's words. 'To be more like Bond,' he intones, a small fart rippling the water beneath him, 'first you must SEE Bond!'. The air traffic controllers, the secret service men, the people of EA; they say, 'Huh?'. Obviously.
So what is it James Bond has never done in 20 films? Changed the formula. But that's exactly what Electronic Arts have done here and in doing so have managed to create the most authentic double of double-oh-seven yet. Oh, the bittersweet irony! Let's all have a lie down.
After persevering with the first-person view for some time (Agent Under Fire, Nightfire), only to repeatedly and tragically dumb it down for its target audience, we can only clap politely. That's not to say Everything or Nothing has emerged as some kind of hardcore pad-trasher, though; it's still something of a soft touch. But the change to third person, with little Jamie firmly centre screen, has opened up the scope for a whole load of impressive new secret agentery-ing. Agentizing. Agent... Whatever.
For a start, you can actually SEE Bond in his context now and watch as he hides from roaming guards. Many games offer the back-to-the-wall, pop-out-and-fire move, but here it's actually pretty useful. Enemies take cover behind mounds of boxes and crates, but also advance at quite a pace. This stops you getting bogged down in a stand off, but also makes them easy to kill. Often you can wait for them to walk round the corner and then mow them down.
When things are going well, Bond just shatters an enemy's teeth with his rifle butt as soon as they get within reach. You just keep pressing fire - but not if the camera's swinging like a 50-something couple from Norfolk and you can't keep them in view. You're given control on the right stick, which is fine (so long as you don't want to reverse the left-right axis), but getting close to walls knocks it around. Stroll into a corner and you're not going to be looking where you want. The rest of the time killing is easy (while there are bullets and murders and death there's no blood, kids, and that's what matters) thanks to the unerring auto-target of L1. It's even possible to target fully hidden guards, finely adjusting the laser sight with the right stick to burst their heads when they pop out. Fun in a fast-food kind of way, but perhaps a little too simplistic and unsatisfying for wiser gamers.
Most of the levels are easy to navigate and objectives such as switches are rarely far from the things they affect, so the frequent 'hints' can grate. Actually, they're not hints. For instance, having a heavily armed man rappel down a vertical mineshaft in front of you is a hint. It will occur that you could use this route yourself. Having John Cleese then announce that you should look up and, hey, here's a perfect place to use your rappelling gadget, is just insulting. We're aware the 'MTV generation' is supposed to have an incredibly short attention span, but... look, a red Porsche!
Oh hang on, it's a Porsche Cayenne. Forget about it. It's a stupidly, pointlessly fast soft-roader only millionaires' wives will ever drive, or ever want to drive. And even then only in endless creeping lines through Ascot while their lactose-intolerant kids press cash-softened faces to its electrically child-locked windows, sucking two-pound coins for nourishment and lasering pedestrians in the eyes. Did somebody say 'product placement?' You cynic. Far more entertaining is the latest Aston, imbued with a healthy exhaust snarl and far more of the essence of Bond than his last five movie cars put together. The driving sections, as with the rest of the game, now offer more than one option at many of their turns. Often this is welcome, like when you can pass up the Cayenne and choose a motorcycle instead, but this apparent freedom too often has to be curtailed in unwelcome ways. Getting out of the Aston to answer a pay phone in a park, for instance, is impressively evocative of the GTA games - until you find invisible barriers block everything but the most direct route. Boo. The choices you make rarely have much of an impact either, though when on foot there are often sneakier ways of killing opponents, such as shooting gas canisters or switching on some steam, than just blundering in. Though hackneyed on paper they're still fun in practice.
Careful, thorough play uncovers many moments like these and often they'll be one of various 'Bond moments' lurking in each level. These aren't always that exciting, though they're usually what you'd expect - such as flying a helicopter through a cave instead of round the cliff - but some of the set pieces really are impressive. The first level, for instance, is called 'A Long Way Down' and it really is. Later you'll dive off a cliff and freefall towards the curiously Lara-like Serena, who's been thrown from a helicopter and you must dodge outcroppings, rockets and gunfire... the fact they feel the need to shoot you as you fall off a cliff is so typically Bond.
But, despite the breadth, despite all the cars, motorcycles, helicopters, stealth, shooting, brawling, gadgetry and costume changes, there's little depth. Some sections look and feel superb, while others are just ropey. Personally, we particularly hated the helicopter due to its idiotic control scheme, while the bikes are like eggs in an American diner - over-easy, slightly runny and surrounded by a potato-like hash. The scenery and frame rate are not at their best during the fast sections.
So, the final irony, the third nipple on this game's otherwise normal chest? Everything or Nothing blows up its typically remedial name by falling halfway between both. It's bright, but won't tax a hangover. It's neither entirely memorable nor forgettable. It's 'Quite Good In Places And Has That Scene Where That Thing Blows Up, You Know'. Just like the real thing. And you can quote us on that. Obviously.
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing is out on 27 February